McCook House Civil War Museum

Admission to the McCook House Civil War Museum is $3 for adults, $1 for children age 6-12, and free for those under age 6.

  • Location: (Map It) 15 South Lisbon Street in Carrollton, Ohio
  • Open: Memorial Day through Labor Day Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p. m. From Labor Day through the first weekend in October it is open Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 1-5.
  • Phone: 1-800-600-7172 or 330-627-3345
  • Web: Click here

Welcome to the McCook House Civil War Museum.
Excerpt from a past edition of
OhioTraveler

The Fighting McCooks

The McCook clan was not known as a cantankerous bunch, but no one questioned their courage or their fierce defense of the Union cause. When the War Between the States broke out, they volunteered. All fifteen of them.

The Civil War was personal. What kind of men rush into a conflict knowing they might have to fight their own neighbors or relatives? What goes through the mind of a man who encourages his brother and sons to join the fight knowing the odds are that some, maybe all of them will fail to return? It has been said that it is “the passion of fools, and the most foolish of passions.” Patriotism.

To whatever instincts that were imbedded in the genetic code, it was definitely a passionate response by the McCooks—the fighting McCooks, as they became known.

Recollection of American history frequently summons heroic names from both sides such as Sherman, Grant, Jackson and Lee. However, from schoolbooks the McCook name barely jingles a distant bell, but it should chime with clarity—there was hardly a Civil War battle, north or south of the Mason Dixon line, without the participation of a McCook.

But now you can discover what academia left out. The saga of the McCooks is related through chronicled accounts and memorabilia displayed at the antebellum McCook House Museum in Carrollton. The house is owned by the Ohio Historical Society and managed by the Carroll County Historical Society.

The house recently reopened after a $300,000 renovation kept it shuttered the past six months. It’s easy to recognize. It’s the large building on the southwest corner of the Carrollton town square, notable for its Federalist architecture—meaning a two-story red-brick box-like structure with prominent chimneys on either side, no porch or portico, and numerous windows.  The house was built by Daniel McCook, a Carrollton attorney, in 1837 and occupied by his family that included eight sons and three daughters until 1848.  The other part of the clan was Daniel’s brother John and his five sons, hailing from Steubenville (as did President Lincoln’s Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.)

You may explore the house at your leisure, but guided tours are more rewarding, especially for Civil War buffs. Downstairs you will see the parlor, Daniel’s law office, dining room (now a Civil War display) and the original small kitchen. Then head upstairs to view the four large bedrooms.

Manager and tour guide Shirley Anderson says, “People are always surprised at the amount of items displayed here.” There are five Civil War swords belonging to the McCook sons; Daniel’s Henry rifle; GAR medals, period furniture; and a large set of china purchased in Paris in the 1860s. There’s also a large painting of Daniel and his sons (it is a copy of the original hanging in the Statehouse in Columbus).

When the war began Daniel McCook was 63 years old—elderly by the standards of that era—but he volunteered as a nurse. Early in the conflict, he was present at the battle of Bull Run where his son Alexander commanded the 1st Ohio regiment, and his eighteen-year-old son Charles fought in another regiment.

Outnumbered, it was a humiliating defeat for the Union and Charles joined his father who was tending the wounded. When the field hospital was overrun by Johnny-Rebs, Charles set off to rejoin his company, dispatching the first Reb with a well- placed shot, but was quickly surrounded and ordered to surrender. Seeing the futility, Daniel called upon the boy to submit, but Charles refused, calling back, “Father, I can never surrender to a Rebel. I will never surrender to a traitor.” At that point he was shot in the back.

Word of the young man’s brave resistance traveled fast—told and retold hundreds, possibly thousands of times, plus the various accounts in print, but the premise never deviated.  Charles McCook became the cause celebre—his death the resulting harmony among those irrational impulses driving the war.

John McCook and his five sons, all of whom were officers, were in for the duration, fighting every battle that came their way, and safely returned home. Daniel and his sons—five of whom were generals—possibly because of displaying extraordinary valor, did not fare as well.

Daniel’s son, General Robert McCook was seriously wounded but returned to the battlefield while still debilitated and issued orders from an ambulance wagon. When Rebels attacked the ambulance he was unable to defend himself and was killed.

In 1863 Daniel who was not a cavalryman, but by then an aged paymaster, spontaneously seized a vacant command and led an advance party in an attempt to intercept marauders who had crossed the river near Cincinnati, and died in the skirmish.

A quote by an unknown officer of the time exemplifies the McCooks: “They were born leaders; they were all men of noble bearing, such man as would naturally be selected in conflict requiring valor, judgment, and influence with men.

Nothing more epitomizes that statement than the actions of Dan McCook Jr. Perhaps in a lapse of judgment, General William Tecumseh Sherman in his march across Georgia, ordered a near-suicidal assault on a Confederate stronghold atop Kennesaw Mountain. Colonel McCook, leading one of the three prongs of attack, quoted to his men inspirational historic verse about “how better to die than against fearful odds,” before making the charge up the mountain where he fell.

Displayed in the museum are two original military commissions for Alexander McDowell McCook. One has the signature of Abraham Lincoln—the other usually found more interesting—is signed in 1854 by Jefferson Davis, at the time Secretary of War. Of course, later, Davis was President of the Confederacy against which commissioned officers were sworn to fight. It was a deliberative and confusing time.

Much has been said about the present understanding of honor and responsibility, compared with the concept a century and a half ago. Willingness to fight one’s neighbors and relatives, even over the most serious of disagreements, seems today, a distortion of duty. But through all the mistakes, it can be said that they did what they thought was right. Where the McCooks were concerned, the simplest explanation may be that they just didn’t know when to quit.

The McCook House Civil War Museum is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p. m. Admission is   $3 for adults, $1 for children age 6-12, and free for those under age 6. Call 1-800-600-7172 or 330-627-3345 for more information click here.

By Robert A. Carpenter