8. Edwin Stanton McCook was a Civil War hero, but an assassin’s bullet brought his political ambitions to an abrupt end
The “Fighting McCooks” rose to prominence during the American Civil War. The soldiers of the Union Army respected and admired the brothers, while the men of the Confederacy feared them. In all, they numbered 15: Daniel McCook and his brother John, as well as 13 of their sons. Of these Edwin Stanton McCook was one of the most talented. Indeed, he looked set to enjoy a notable career in politics to follow on from his decorated career in the military. However, an assassin’s bullet ensured that this would never happen.
McCook was born in Carrollton, Ohio, in 1837. After graduating from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, he was well-placed to join the Civil War as an officer. He took charge of the 31st Illinois Infantry and then got promoted to lead the division. He fought with distinction at the Siege of Vickburg, winning the approval of Ulysses S. Grant and then President Andrew Jackson. His star was high and so, when he left the army at the end of the Civil War, McCook looked destined for great things.
In order to further his career, McCook moved west, to the Dakota Territory. Here, he was named acting governor in 1872. Since he had been appointed to replace the crooked John A. Burbank, hopes were high that the new man could finally bring stability and then prosperity to the region. Indeed, had he been able to do so, McCook could have established himself as one of America’s brightest political prospects, while his connections in Washington DC and stellar Civil War reputation would have also helped him rise to the top. But that wasn’t to be. On September 11, 1873. Tempers flared during a public meeting on railroad expansion. held in a saloon. McCook was shot and killed by a political rival. Rather than going on to become President, McCook is now largely forgotten, though McCook County in South Dakota is named in his honour.