Douglas Hancock Cooper (1815-1879)

Douglas Hancock Cooper (November 1, 1815 - April 29, 1879) was an Indian Agent in what is now Oklahoma, and later a Confederate general during the American Civil War.

Early life and career

Cooper was born November 1, 1815, most likely in Amite County, Mississippi. His father David was a physician and Baptist minister. Cooper attended the University of Virginia from 1832 until 1834, where his classmates included future Civil War generals Carnot Posey, Lafayette McLaws, and John B. Magruder. Cooper returned home to take up farming in Wilkinson County, Mississippi. He married Mary Collins of Natchez and had 7 children. Entering politics, he was elected in 1844 to serve in the Mississippi State Legislature. Cooper raised a regiment during the Mexican-American War, the 1st Mississippi Rifles, and served as its captain. He was cited for bravery and gallantry at the Battle of Monterrey.

In 1853, through the influence of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who had served with Cooper at the Mexican 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.

Civil War

In 1861 with the outbreak of the Civil War, Cooper sided with 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 free state 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, 1863, and given the district command of Indian Territory on September 29. 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 Maj. Gen. Sterling Price's second invasion of Missouri in 1864.

Postbellum activities

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 April 29, 1879, at Fort Washita (in what is now Bryan County, Oklahoma) and was buried in the fort cemetery in an unmarked grave.