Cooper was the lieutenant commandant, or “captain lieutenant,” of Col. John Neville’s company of the 4th Virginia Regiment. This was a new rank for the Continental Army modeled on British practice that resulted from a cost-saving reduction in the number of officers. As the regiment’s senior lieutenant, Cooper led a company nominally under the direct command of the colonel. Perhaps Abraham Kirkpatrick, the man who shot him, thought Cooper was putting on airs.
Whatever his reason, Kirkpatrick was clearly the aggressor. He attacked Cooper with a stick. Cooper apparently had a more peaceful temperament and showed no “disposition to demand satisfaction.” The era’s code of honor, however, required him to make the challenge. His peers could not abide Cooper’s reluctance to stand up for himself and told him that “unless he did, he must leave the Regiment, as they were Determined he should not rank as an Officer.” Cooper reluctantly complied. He and Kirkpatrick faced off with pistols and the hapless lieutenant took a ball of lead to his leg. The limb was amputated and he was transferred to the Corps of Invalids. He was one of the very last men discharged from the army at the end of the war.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
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