Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rootbound in the Hills #212:
15 Oct 1991

by Rocky Macy

Rootbound's earlier column which suggested that Dr. John Hunt COLE of Southwest City, MO, may have actually been General John Hunt MORGAN, a hero of the Confederacy, continues to generate interest. Please read on...

June COLE (Star Route, Tussy, OK 73088) related the strange deathbed claim of her husband's great-grandfather, Dr. John Hunt COLE, to Rootbound. Dr. COLE told his stunned family that he was, in reality, General John Hunt MORGAN, a famous Confederate who was thought to have been killed during the Civil War. He had fled, the doctor stated, to the sanctuary of an entirely new identity. June and her husband, Darrel, have worked diligently for the past several years to prove or disprove the physician's strange tale.

After that column ran, June received a most interesting letter from one of our readers in northwest Arkansas. Margaret HUNT (111 Woodside Lane, Rogers, AR 72756) posed the theory that Dr. COLE might have been someone else who was hiding under an assumed identity. Specifically, she thinks that Dr. John Hunt COLE was possibly Captain Charles COLE, a convicted traitor who confessed to his crime, signed an amnesty oath, and was released "never to be seen again."

Citing material published in Confederate Agent, a book by James D. HORAN, Margaret HUNT describes Captain Charles COLE as a Confederate officer who had served with both Morgan and General Nathan Bedford FORREST. COLE volunteered his services to Captain Thomas HINES who had also served under General MORGAN. In September of 1864 HINES was plotting to capture the USS Michigan which was patrolling Lake Erie. He seems to have been planning the release of the Johnson Island Confederate prisoners who would then march on Sandusky, OH, and capture that city's Federal arsenal. They (the newly freed prisoners) would then form the nucleus of an army that could be used for greater things.

Captain COLE moved to Sandusky and pretended to be a wealthy Philadelphia banker. He met the captain of the USS Michigan and became friendly with the commander of the Johnson Island Camp and visited it with him. Captain COLE also set up contact with the local Copperheads in Sandusky. They were supposed to storm the prison from the outside while the prisoners attacked from within. Unfortunately for the Confederate cause in general and Captain COLE in particular, the plan was uncovered - resulting in Captain COLE's subsequent arrest, conviction, and self-banishment.

Margaret HUNT contends that there is a strong possibility that Dr. John Hunt COLE of Southwest City was really Captain Charles COLE rather than General John Hunt MORGAN.

June and Darrel COLE have yet to find any information on Dr. COLE prior to the end of the Civil Was, so it is possible that he could have been either General John Hunt MORGAN or Captain Charles COLE. In her response to Margaret HUNT, June COLE relates that she and her husband are familiar with the "Northwest Conspiracy" and have read extensively on Thomas HINES and Captain Charles COLE. For a variety of reasons, the current COLEs still believe that it is more likely that their ancestor was General John Hunt MORGAN rather than Captain COLE. In a recent move to establish a positive identity on Dr. COLE, June and Darrel have sent all of their photographs of the doctor and the general to a computer specialist in Virginia who developed the program that ages photographs of missing children and criminals. They are anxiously awaiting the results of that examination.

We are again asking our readers to search through those old family records for any mention of Dr. John Hunt COLE of the Southwest City, MO, area. Something as simple as a signature or a prescription could be the key to unlocking one of the strangest mysteries of the Civil War era. Dr. COLE had to have left a medical paper trail...but where is it?

Happy hunting!

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