Dan McCook Jr. was the son of Dan McCook, patriarch of the Fighting McCooks of Ohio. In his 20s, Dan Jr. studied law with future Secretary of War Edwin Stanton at the Stanton & McCook Law Firm in Steubenville, Ohio. Later he joined the partnership of Ewing, Sherman & McCook in Kansas, with future Union General William T. Sherman.
In May 1862, at the request of Ohio Governor David Tod, McCook was appointed as colonel of the new 52nd Ohio Infantry regiment. On August 5, while Dan McCook Jr was crossing southern Ohio recruiting for his new regiment, his brother, Brigadier General Robert Latimer McCook, was killed in Alabama. Frank Gurley’s Rebel guerrillas had ambushed Robert McCook and a small detail of soldiers near New Market, Alabama. Northern newspapers howled that the already wounded Robert McCook was ruthlessly and needlessly murdered as he lay helpless in the back of an ambulance. Dan Jr., swore vengeance against Gurley, and against all Southern rabble. He gave his regiment the name “McCook’s Avengers,” and used it as a recruiting tool.
The charismatic McCook was loved by the men the 52nd Ohio. He led the unit from its inception in August 1862, through the major Battles of Perryville, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge, and finally to Kennesaw Mountain, and the climactic charge up Cheatham’s Hill. On June 27th, 1864, at 8 AM, at Kennesaw Mountain, McCook and his men stood in formation and watched as a massive Union artillery barrage blasted the battle-hardened Rebel defenders at the top of the hill. The Rebels waited just 400 yards away, in a network of fortified trenches behind four overlapping rings of cheveaux de frise, spiked logs whose deadly, sharp points extended at a chest high level.
When the shelling stopped, Col. McCook turned his back to the enemy, faced his brigade, and loudly quoted a stanza from the poem “Horatius at the Bridge” by British historian and writer, Thomas Babington Macaulay.
“Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods”
He then turned and led his men in a fierce attack straight into the worst part of the fighting, inside the “The Dead Angle,” atop the treacherous slope a on a hill that would become known as Cheatham’s Hill. The Dead Angle was a salient in the line, filled with Major General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham‘s, tough, battle-hardened 1st/27th Tennessee combined Regiment. Leading a swarm of his men over the obstacles, the Gallant McCook leapt atop a chevaux de frise in true swashbuckler fashion, waving his sword and cheering his men on. Balanced on the deadly spikes and slashing the enemy with his sword, he was shot in the chest by a barrel just inches away. McCook died several weeks later on July 17, just one day after being promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, an honor he declined.
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