Early life and career
Cooper was born November 1, 1815, most likely in Amite County, Mississippi.[a] His father, David Cooper, was a physician and Baptist minister. His mother was Sarah Davenport. Cooper attended the University of Virginia from 1832 until 1834; his classmates included future Civil War generals Carnot Posey, Lafayette McLaws, and John B. Magruder. Cooper returned home to take up farming on "Mon Clova", his plantation in Wilkinson County, Mississippi in the Cold Springs community, which was a tiny village between Woodville and Natchez. He married Mary Collins of Natchez and had 7 children. Entering politics, he was elected in 1844 to serve as a Whig in the Mississippi State Legislature.
Cooper helped to raise a regiment during the Mexican–American War, the 1st Mississippi Rifles, and served as a captain under the command of Colonel Jefferson Davis, participating in the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista. He was cited for bravery and gallantry at the Battle of Monterrey.
In 1853, through the influence of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who served with Cooper at the Mexican–American War Battle of Buena Vista, President Franklin Pierce appointed Cooper as the Federal agent to the Choctaw tribe. Cooper helped peaceably remove them to Indian Territory. Three years later, he also became the agent to the Chickasaw tribe, who respected and trusted Cooper and soon officially adopted him as a full member.
In 1858, he led a militia composed of Choctaw and Chickasaw volunteers against Comanche marauders.
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Cooper pledged his allegiance to the Confederacy. In May, Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker sent Cooper a letter authorizing him to "take measures to secure the protection of these tribes in their present country from the agrarian rapacity of the North." He raised a regiment known as the 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles and was commissioned as its colonel. Given brigade command, Cooper pursued the Creek Indian leader Opothleyahola in November and December, when the latter led his loyal Union followers toward Kansas. Cooper's brigade fought at the battles of Round Mountain and Chusto-Talasah, winning a decisive victory at Chustenahlah.
In 1862, Cooper led Confederate troops at the battles of Elkhorn Tavern, Newtonia and Honey Springs. He was promoted to brigadier general on May 2, 1862, and was named district commander of the Indian Territory on September 29, 1862. This promotion put him in command of all "... (Confederate) Indian troops in the Trans-Mississippi Department on the borders of Arkansas." Rumors circulated that the Indians were dissatisfied with Cooper. To refute this, letters of support from Indian leaders were sent to Richmond, Virginia, to President Jefferson Davis. Cooper commanded the "Indian Brigade" in Indian Territory during Maj. Gen. Sterling Price's second invasion of Missouri in 1864. In 1865, Cooper was appointed Superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Confederacy's collapse accelerated after General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox in 1865. The Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes surrendered in April 1865, and their troops returned home immediately. Cooper ordered the surrender of all white Confederate troops in Indian Territory in June, 1865. Afterward, he swore allegiance to the United States government, and was formally pardoned in April, 1866.
After the war, Cooper continued to live in the Indian Territory and was an ardent supporter of Choctaw and Chickasaw land claims against the Federal government. He died of pneumonia on April 29, 1879, at Fort Washita (in what is now Bryan County, Oklahoma) and was buried in the old fort cemetery in an unmarked grave.
- Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1.
- Sifakis, Stewart. Who Was Who in the Civil War. New York: Facts On File, 1988. ISBN 978-0-8160-1055-4.
- Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. ISBN 978-0-8071-0823-9.
- U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 70 volumes in 4 series. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.
- Delashaw, Corie. "Cooper, Douglas Hancock (1815 - 1879)." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Accessed October 26, 2016.
- "This Week in the Civil War: Douglas Hancock Cooper Biography." Civil War Week. August 28, 2011. Accessed October 26, 2016.
- On this date in Civil War history - November 19, 1861 Battle of Round Mountain
- On this date in Civil War history - December 9, 1861 Battle of Chusto-Talasah
- On this date in Civil War history - The Battle of Chustenahlah Dec. 26, 1861
- "This Week in the Civil War: Douglas Hancock Cooper biography." Civil War Week. August 28, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2013.