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Confederate Calamity: Dinner in Jefferson

Captain John Esten Cooke was a Confederate staff officer serving under famed cavalryman J.E.B. Stuart. After the war, Cooke became a popular and well known writer, but in late June 1863, he was just another saddle-sore, dusty, tired soldier making his way northward through western York County in a futile effort to rendezvous with the Army of Northern Virginia. Stuart’s cavalry, after riding almost around the Union army while collecting supplies and prisoners, was trying to locate Rebel infantry known to be operating near York.
After the Battle of Hanover, the vanguard of Stuart’s column passed through the crossroads village of Jefferson, where Cooke paused for much needed rest and refreshment. He met a “pretty Dutch girl,” who willingly prepared a bountiful supper. The captain later recalled, “She could not speak English–she could only look amiable, smile, and murmur unintelligible words in an unknown language.” Cooke sat down at a table in a side apartment, where she presented him with a large meal of fresh bread, ham, and savory eggs fried with bacon, all washed down with fresh, cold milk and hot coffee. He blessed his good fortune.

However, before the captain could begin to eat, a courier arrived with news that General Stuart wanted Cooke to pass somebody through the picket line. He rose from the laden table and excused himself. When he returned to his young hostess’s house, to his dismay, the entire feast was gone. A door in the apartment opened onto the street and, tempted by the aroma, a sneak thief had entered the house. Every morsel had vanished down some other hungry cavalryman’s throat. Despondently, his belly still empty, Cooke mounted his horse and trotted ahead to catch up with Stuart’s main column.

To read more about Stuart’s ride, please pick up a copy of my book Confederate Calamity.