The author with the John Esten Cooke
Award for Fiction, standing beside a
portrait of Col. John Mosby who was
the inspiration for the main character
in the novel Noble Cause.

As some of you may know, I recently received the John Esten Cooke Award for Fiction from the Military Order of the Stars and Bars.

This fraternal organization is made up of documented descendants of men who served as commissioned officers in the Confederate military during the War Between the States.

Founded in 1938, it is now a non-profit, non-political, educational, historical, patriotic, and heritage group that is dedicated to preserving Southern history

The award is presented annually to encourage writers of fiction to portray characters and events dealing with Southern history, Confederate heritage and the War Between the States in a historically accurate fashion. Other John Esten Cooke Award winners include New York Times bestselling author Donald McCaig, as well as renowned writers Robert Macomber and Harry Turtledove.

John Esten Cooke

It is such an honor to receive this award since I have read many of Cooke’s works. One of the most important literary figures of nineteenth-century Virginia, Cooke was the author of historical fiction and romances in the tradition of Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper. His work holds a significant place in Virginia’s literary history and in nineteenth-century American literary culture.

A relative by marriage to General J.E.B. Stuart, Cooke served as a cavalryman with the officer and wrote biographies of generals Thomas Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. His romance novels and historical fiction books read like memoirs in some instances because he served on many of the battlefields he writes about.

In the spring of 1862, Cooke served as a volunteer aide-de-camp to General J. E. B. Stuart, who had married Cooke’s first cousin. Cooke received a commission as first lieutenant of artillery on May 19, 1862, joined Stuart on his celebrated ride around the Union army on June 12–16, and won promotion to captain on August 8, to rank from July 25. He became chief of ordnance for Stuart’s cavalry division later that year. In October 1863 he was temporarily assigned to duty in the adjutant general’s department of Stuart’s command, and beginning in May 1864 he served as assistant inspector general of the Army of Northern Virginia’s artillery corps.

Cooke was arguably the most famous Virginia writer of his period, and definitely skilled in penning historical romance novels. His writings embrace a breadth of subject matter in a wide variety of genres that gives his books enduring interest. In part because of his success in gaining recognition from northern editors and readers, his career illustrates connections between northern and southern publishing in the nineteenth century.

John Esten Cooke died, probably of typhoid fever, at the Briars on September 27, 1886. He was buried in the Old Chapel Cemetery, in Clarke County.

Noble Cause has won other literary awards,  but none mean as much as this one. To be judged by a panel of readers that value Southern heritage and possess such a deep understanding of Confederate history is an honor above all others.

Jessica James


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