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COOPER, DOUGLAS HANCOCK (1815-1879)

Douglas H. Cooper

Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian agent and a Confederate Civil War general, Douglas Hancock Cooper was born to privilege on November 1, 1815, in Wilkinson County, Mississippi. He was a son of Dr. David Cooper and Sarah Hancock Davenport and attended the University of Virginia. In 1834 Cooper married Frances Martha Collins, by whom he fathered seven children. He served as a Whig in the Mississippi Legislature in 1844 and twice campaigned unsuccessfully for the Mississippi Senate as a Democrat and a state's rights candidate. He was a captain in the Fifth Mississippi Militia Regiment under Col. Jefferson Davis during the Mexican War and participated in the battles of Buena Vista and Monterey.

In 1853 Secretary of War Jefferson Davis appealed to Pres. Franklin Pierce on Cooper's behalf, and Pierce appointed Cooper U.S. agent for the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. Cooper's initial report outlined problems that included a possible Choctaw and Chickasaw political separation and a Choctaw claim to remuneration based on the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. The latter issue led to the Net Proceeds claim to Congress, while an 1855 treaty ameliorated the former with Cooper acting as agent for both nations beginning in 1856. A new Choctaw and Chickasaw agency was thereafter located at Fort Washita.

Cooper led a volunteer Choctaw and Chickasaw militia against raiding Comanche in 1858. That same year the Chickasaw Legislature requested he represent them with Mississippi land claims to the United States, and the Choctaw asked him to gather information to satisfy the Net Proceeds claim pending before a U.S. Senate committee. He swore allegiance to the Confederate States of America as a supporter of slavery and state's rights in 1861 and remained Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian agent for the Confederacy.

Confederate Secretary of War LeRoy P. Walker asked Cooper to raise a regiment of Choctaw and Chickasaw volunteers, a unit that fought Opothleyahola's pro-Union Creek and Seminole followers at the Battle of Round Mountain in November 1861. Cooper's Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment of Mounted Rifles saw action in numerous battles including those at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, Newtonia, Missouri, and Honey Springs and Perryville in Indian Territory. Promoted officially in 1864 to brigadier general, Cooper commanded all "Indian troops in the Trans-Mississippi Department on the borders of Arkansas," and in 1865 he was appointed superintendent of Indian Affairs in Indian Territory and commander of the District of Indian Territory. When the Confederate cause was lost, he surrendered the white troops in Indian Territory in June 1865. He swore allegiance to the United States, and his pardon application was approved in April 1866.

After the war he assisted the Choctaw and the Chickasaw in reconstruction negotiations that kept viable the Choctaw Net Proceeds claim. He became embroiled in the claim hearings and was accused of misusing monies that had been appropriated while he was agent before the war, but he proved his innocence. Cooper died of pneumonia at Fort Washita on April 30, 1879, and was buried there in an unmarked grave.

SEE ALSO: CIVIL WAR ERA.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Angie Debo, The Rise and Fall of the Choctaw Republic (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934). Arrell M. Gibson, The Chickasaws (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). Grant Foreman, ed., "A Journal Kept by Douglas Cooper, with Introduction and Footnotes," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 5 (December 1927). Muriel H. Wright, "General Douglas H. Cooper, C.S.A.," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 32 (Summer 1954).

Corie Delashaw

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