The Life of Senator Francis Cockrell

We have a lot of things laying around our shop and today we wanted to delve a bit more into a letter we have here written by Francis Marion Cockrell in which he discusses his reelection as Senator in 1886.

Francis Marion Cockrell was an American politician from the state of Missouri and a Confederate military commander. He served as a United States Senator from Missouri for five terms. He was a prominent member of the famed South–Cockrell–Hargis family of Southern politicians.

Cockrell was born in Warrensburg, Missouri to Nancy (Ellis) and Joseph Cockrell, the sheriff of Johnson County. He had an older brother named Jeremiah Vardaman Cockrell, who was a congressman in the 1890s. Francis Cockrell attended local schools and Chapel Hill College in Lafayette County, Missouri. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1855, practicing law in Warrensburg until the outbreak of the Civil War.

At the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, Cockrell joined the Missouri State Guard as a Captain. After being mustered into the Confederate States Army in the 2nd Missouri Regiment in early 1862 he was promoted to colonel. Cockrell commanded a brigade in the Vicksburg Campaign. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Champion Hill, launching a counterattack that temporarily ousted troops of XVII Corps off the hill. He also took part in the Battle of Big Black River Bridge. His brigade was able to escape just before federal troops seized the bridge.

Cockrell was promoted to brigadier general on July 18, 1863. He went on to fight in many of the battles of the Atlanta Campaign, and participated in Hood’s Tennessee Campaign later that year. In 1865 Cockrell commanded a division in defence of Fort Blakely, Alabama. On April 9, 1865, shortly before the war ended, Cockrell was captured there but was paroled on May 14. After the war Cockrell returned to his law practice in Missouri.

In 1874, Cockrell, who became a member of the United States Democratic Party, was elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri by the state legislature. His first and only elected office, he served in the Senate from 1875 to 1905, when he retired. He held several committee chairmanships, including the chairmanships of the Claims Committee, Engrossed Bills Committee and Appropriations Committee during his senate career. He received 42 votes for President of the United States at the 1904 Democratic National Convention, but was defeated by Alton B. Parker.

He was appointed to the Interstate Commerce Commission by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905, serving in that capacity until 1910. In 1911, he was appointed commissioner to negotiate the boundaries between the state of Texas and the New Mexico Territory, which was about to become a state. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson appointed him as the civilian member on the Board of Ordnance and Fortifications for the War Department, where he served until his death in Washington, D.C.

The letter we have reads:

July 10th 1886

E. M. Davidson, Esq.,

My Dear Sir: –

I shall be detained here till after your nominations are made. I must rely upon friends to care for my interests. I have tried to do my whole duty honestly and faithfully and if reelected shall continue to do so. I will gratefully appreciate and remember the valuable services and influence you and render and exert in securing for my reelection the votes of your County Representative and State Senator. All I ask is a free and fair and full expression of the preferences of our Democratic voters and for them to decide whether it is for their best interests to reelect me or to choose a new man. The people are the sovereigns and have the right to require their agents – their County Representative and State Senator – each by his vote to reflect the preference of those who elect them. I had hoped that the question would have been left to voters at the primaries when and where each Democrat would have declared his will and preference. Please see our Democratic voters and get them actively and earnestly so that they will make known to the candidates their preference and will learn the views of the candidates. I shall be glad to hear from you and to serve you when I can.

With best wishes, your obedient servant and friend,

Patriotism Through Postage: Civil War Envelopes


The first official US postage stamps were issued in 1847, and decorative envelopes were not far behind them. By the middle of the 19th century, such covers were used to spread Union and Confederate sentiments. These political envelopes began to see use in the 1850s as divisions between Northern and Southern states were shaping up, though the earlier envelopes usually focus on images without slogans.


american-civil-war-envelope-1393774341GFaUnion envelopes often favored a 34-starred flag, a symbol of the illegitimacy of the Southern secession. Slogans often accompanied these designs, such as “we must keep the Flag where it e’er has stood,” and “Not a Star Must Fall.” Not all sentiments were so lofty. Some envelopes had designs with messages like, “If anyone attempts to haul down the flag, shoot him on the spot!” and “Hemp is better for traitors than cotton.”



Confederate senders preferred phrases like “Liberty or Death,” “Fast Colors…Warranted not to run,” and “Southern Independence.” Poetry was popular as well, with such lines as “stand firmly by your cannon. Let ball and grape-shot fly. Trust in God and Davis, and keep your Powder dry.”


In the northern states, the Union flag took on special significance, as its 34 stars implied that the Southern states had no right to secede. Putting the flag on an envelope, then, was a clear message about the sender’s feelings regarding the legitimacy of the Confederate government.



Prominent soldiers often found themselves on these envelopes. Generals Grant and McClellan were particular favorites, but Colonel Michael Corcoran of the 69th Regiment (the “Fighting Irish”) found popularity when he was captured by the Confederates for a year. Envelopes featuring Corcoran read “Sons of Erin — Let the watchword be Corcoran! Rescued if living. Avenged if dead!”





Destruction_of_Merrimac,_May_11,_1862.pngMilitary images also came into vogue. Corps insignia, flags, battle scenes, and more were pictured on these envelopes. Corner designs spread until they covered the entire envelope (and were the forerunner of the postcard, which became popular a few decades later.) Some envelopes ran designs in series to depict major events of the war, like Shiloh and the Battle of Gettyburg. Even the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack found its way onto these envelopes.



800px-Civ_war_union_Patriotic_cover2By the time war began in 1861, people on both sides were collecting the envelopes as mementos, often never sending them through the mail at all. According to an article in a 1943 issue of American Collector, “Car Bell, the Hartford printer, issued a cover to promote this hobby. It showed a top-hatted gent, with carpet-bag, reading a newspaper which advised: ‘A collection of Union envelopes in a few years from now will form a most valuable and pleasing curiosity, and will be sold at double the original cost.’”



Over 15,000 unique patriotic designs are known, most of which express Union sentiments. These envelopes were created by 116 known printers, working in 39 cities. Charles Magnus (in New York) and James Magee (working in Philadelphia) were the two leading producers of collectible envelopes. Magnus worked next door to the famous Currier & Ives, and his work was similar to that of the famous duo. In fact, since it is known that Currier & Ives did artwork for other firms who put their own imprints on the design, some believe that most of the designs issued under Magnus’ imprint were actually done by Currier & Ives.


James Magee, on the other hand, had an eye for profit, and realized that collectors in Northern states would pay high prices for Confederate souvenirs. He began printing fake designs in Philadelphia and selling them as genuine rebel items.


Use of these envelopes declined as the war came to an end, though they are still highly prized as collectibles, particularly the unused envelopes.