"His dear lady did not suffer me to quit the house until I had promised to watch over her husband in the hour of battle." The words of Maj. Heros von Borcke, one of Stuart's most famous staff officers, describe Flora's admonition to him as he and her general prepared to once again leave
and return to the war. Flora's words speak of her love and devotion to her husband, but there is no hint that she expected him to refrain for her sake from placing himself before the enemy. She was a soldier's wife and like so many other soldiers' wives, mothers, and sisters, North and South, she bravely faced a farewell that may have been the last farewell with a courage women have shown for as long as men have marched off to war.
Flora Cooke, daughter of Lt. Col. Philip St. George Cooke of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons, and Lt. J.E.B. Stuart first met at Fort Leavenworth in the summer of 1855. Her deft handling of a skittish horse caught the young cavalryman's eye. She soon demonstrated she could also handle a gun and play a guitar. Rides together and long talks soon saw attraction blossom into love. A September engagement was followed by a November wedding, and Flora and Jeb settled into the life of a soldier's family on the frontier. Flora knew what it meant to be an army wife, having been raised by one. She immersed herself in her duties as Jeb
immersed himself in his. As the family grew with the addition of a daughter and a son, so did her role as wife, mother, and homemaker. Then everything changed.
The coming of the war brought Stuart and his family east. From the conflict's beginning Stuart played an important part, and Flora and the children had to suffer long separations from him. Her strength of character saw her through many trials, including the shuffling of her family from one
place to another, the death of her first daughter, and the constant fear of losing her husband. She endured them all, even the worst - the death of her beloved Jeb. Courageously Flora faced an uncertain future. Determined to keep her family together and to support herself and her children,
Flora, like Robert E. Lee, devoted herself to the education of Southern youth, teaching school in Saltville, Virginia, and the Virginia Female Institution in Staunton, Virginia. From 1880 to 1899 Flora helped shape the lives of many young women and did so in such a manner that the school was renamed "Stuart Hall" in her honor.
Tragedy struck again in 1899 when Flora's second daughter died in childbirth. Duty called Flora once more. Resigning from her position at the school, she undertook the responsibility of raising her grandchildren, a task she saw to a successful completion. On May 10, 1923, Flora died at the age of
eighty-eight. She did not live her life in the shadow of her great husband, but rather, she had stood with him and cast one of her own. They laid her next to her general in Hollywood Cemetery. There would be no more farewells.
Robert J. Trout
This sign is a gift of
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Berch of Howell, Michigan
In Memory of Daphne Goforth - Our Southern Grandmother