This Day (L’édition de Vivandière)

Published:January 9, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

On this day in 1580, John Smith, the son of farmer George Smith and his wife, Alice Rickard Smith, was baptized at Saint Helen’s Church in Willoughby, Lincolnshire, England.

On the same day in 1862, Lucy Ann White married James A. Cox in Fredericksburg. Cox was a member of Company A, 30th Virginia Infantry, and according to some accounts, Miss White had been accompanying him to the front since the beginning of the war, perhaps even at the First Battle of Manassas. It was not until they were married, however, that she permanently joined the regiment as a vivandière, or daughter of the regiment. In said role—which, as you might imagine, originated with the French—she likely acted as a cook, laundress, nurse, and general helpmate for her husband and his comrades-in-arms. Not much else is known about Lucy Ann Cox, although this tidbit does stand out: she was widely known by the nom de guerre Pawnee.

Finally, on this day in 1886, Giles Buckner Cooke, a former Confederate officer who joined the Episcopal ministry after the war, transferred from Saint Mary’s County, Maryland, to the Diocese of Kentucky in order to work with black congregations in Louisville. Twenty years earlier, Cooke had become principal of Elementary School Number 1 in Petersburg, reportedly the first public school for black children in Virginia. He later organized another school for blacks, Big Oak Private School, which merged with Saint Stephen’s Church school.

Our entry goes on to complicate what is already an interesting portrait: “Cooke was proud of and won praise for his educational work among the freedpeople, but he may have shared with other white southerners some low opinions of African Americans generally. In undated notes for an address, he described former slaves as ‘ignorant, credulous, superstitious, deceitful, emotional, religious, grateful.’ Cooke intended his educational work to change that characterization.”

Of course, the headline of his obituary (shown above) emphasizes what’s really important: “He knew Lee and Jackson.”

IMAGES: first row (left): An image from John Smith Escapes Again (2006) by Rosalyn Schanzer; first row (top right): This photograph purports to show Lucy Ann Cox (center), with former soldiers of the 30th Virginia Infantry, Company A, at a reunion in 1886 (Order of Southern Gray, Lucy Ann Cox Chapter #4); first row (bottom right): a clipping from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, February 5, 1937, the day after Giles Buckner Cooke’s death; second row: La jolie vivandière (Le Petit Journal illustré, October 17, 1909); third row: Vivandière (1855) by Roger Fenton (Library of Congress)