Camp Cooper By: Trent McKnight
Camp Cooper was a military post set up by the Federal
Government in the mid-nineteenth century to oversee a
newly organized Comanche Indian Reservation. The camp is
located on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, ten miles
north of Fort Griffin, in the southern part of what is
now Throckmorton County. It was named in honor of Major
Samuel Cooper of the US Army who later became Adjustant
General of the Confederate Army. Even though Camp Cooper
is rich in a colorful history of engaging occasions,
like many other military posts of the time, much of its
history has been lost and forgotten. Hopefully we can
recap some of its most exciting moments.
By January 1856 a newly organized United States Calvary
regiment was on the march to bring stability to Clear
Fork country. The Indians arrived a year earlier than
the soldiers and were finally alerted that they were to
receive military help. The regiment, under the command
of Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston had marched from
Jefferson Barracks, Missouri through Indian Territory
and then southward through Fort Washita and Fort
Belknap, to Clear Fork River where they arrived January
third to begin its occupation of Camp Cooper. Johnston
accompanied by his wife and children arrived in the
middle of a raging blizzard. They were leading two
companies of calvary and two foot soldiers.
Johnston did not stay in command very long. He moved
southward to Fort Mason by way of Fort Chadbourne
leaving Captain William J. Hardee in command. Major
Hardee put the soldiers to work by building tents. Here
officers and troops alike lived in these canvas houses.
The hospital, guardhouse, bakery, and arsenal were also
tents and storehouses were roofed with tarpaulins over
frames. The fine cavalry horses were kept on picket
lines, as there were no stables.
Yet, Hardee's command was only temporary. On April 9,
1856, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Edward Lee arrived to
take his place. Hardee scarcely had the camp in order
when Lee came. Therefore, Lee was left with hardly
Here Lee was far from his wife Mary and his children,
but he wrote them quite often. He didn't like this so
called "desert land," but he would have to live with it
for nineteen months in what he called his "Texas home."
In one letter he wrote to his baby daughter, he said
teasingly, "My rattlesnake, my only pet is dead. He grew
sick and would not eat his frogs and died." Rattlesnakes
made life hazardous around the post. Because of them,
Lee had to build his chicken coop well above ground.
In the winter when food was scarce the Indians would go
to Camp Cooper and the government would feed them. But,
when spring came and game was plentiful the Indians
would become savage enough to kill those who helped
One notable engagement with the Comanche's occurred on
December 18, 1860 when Governor Sam Houston commanded
Captain L.S. Ross to take sixty men from a strong Texas
Ranger force (aided by First Sergeant J. W. Spangle) and
take the field against the Comanches. To this number of
men a detachment of Company H, and Second Calvary, sent
from Captain N.G. Evans at Camp Cooper, surprised and
destroyed a large Nakoni camp. The Indian camp was near
the junction of Mule creek and Pease River, a few miles
northwest of present-day Margaret, in Northeastern
Texas. In the Fight, Ross killed a warrior, mistakenly
thought to be Pete Nacona.
One of Ross's men grabbed an Indian woman with a baby
around her neck running from the camp. Suspecting the
Nakoni female could be the lost Cynthia Ann Parker they
took her back to the camp with them. At Camp Cooper,
Ross sent for her uncle, Isaac Parker. When he arrived,
he interviewed her. She sat on a box with her baby,
little Prairie Flower and her chin on her knees. When
Isaac Parker could get no satisfactory replies, he said,
"She isn't Cynthia Ann Parker!" With her face aglow, she
said, patting her breast, "Cynthia Ann! Cynthia Ann!"
One man noted, "A ray of recollection sprang up in her
mind that had been obliterated for twenty-five years."
She was then taken to live with her relatives in Parker
County. She died in 1864 and is buried in Oklahoma.
On February 18, 1861, Brevet Major General W.A. Twiggs,
commanding the Department of Texas, agreed to surrender
all the federal military posts in Texas to Confederate
troops. But, the surrender of Camp Cooper however, was
not affected until three days later.
Weeks before the firing on Fort Sumter, at Camp Cooper,
Captain S. D. Carpenter with 250 men had to make a
fateful decision of peace or war. Confederates
surrounded the camp. Fortunately, Carpenter decided to
surrender his post without resistance, there by
postponing the outbreak of the War Between the States.
Carpenter headed north with his men to Fight in that
tragic event, The Civil War.
Among the famous Generals of the Civil War stationed at
Camp Cooper were:
Union— "the Rock of Chickamauga" George H Thomas*, I. N.
Palmer, George Stoneman**, Denner Garrad, and R. W.
Confederates— Robert E. Lee, William J Hardee, N.G.
Evans, Earl Van Dorn**, E. Kirby Smith*, John B. Hood*,
Charles W. Field, and Sidney Johnston*.
What other military post would put off such fine
* - separate biography in World Book Encyclopedia
**- under Civil War in World Book Encyclopedia
R. E. Lee, A Biography: Douglas Southall Freeman
Fort Griffin on the Texas Frontier: Carl Coke Rister
Lambshead Before Interwoven: Francis Mayhugh Holden
Semi-Weekly Farm News, Sep. 3 1926: Henry C. Fuller.