Major Davis Cossitt

(1825 - 1909)

It is April of 2020 and the world is at war with the COVID-19 coronavirus.  Some people can stay home and try to avoid contracting the disease, while First Responders and those in the Medical field must risk their lives to save others.  This is the story of Major Davis Cossitt who risked his life to see that a fallen comrade at arms got a proper burial.

Major Davis Cossitt was one of the grand old men of this county. He came of Revolutionary Stock - Ancestors, Pioneers in Onondaga - A Brave Soldier Beloved by His Comrades - Patient Sufferer From Wound Received in War.

Major Davis Cossitt, a well known and honored resident of Onondaga Hill, died at 10:30 o'clock this morning on the farm on which he was born in 1825. Mr. Cossitt had been in declining health for more than a year and suffered from a general breakdown of his constitution, the result of a wound received in the Civil war in 1864, which had greatly troubled him all his life. The end was not unexpected and he passed away as one who had been studied in his death.

Major Davis Cossitt was born on the farm upon which he died in Onondaga October 15th, 1825 and had always been a resident of that place. He came of a distinguished family the first of which came to America from France during the seventeenth century. One of his ancestors, Martin, was the grandfather of Major Cossitt and settled in Marcellus in 1794. Major Davis Cossitt purchased the farm on which he was born at the early age of 17 years and by indomitable perseverance, strict economy and close attention to business cleared the estate of encumbrance entirely through the earnings of the farm and without outside speculation.

Major Cossitt as a young man took a leading part in the affairs of the town in which he lived. He never sought political office but was an active supporter of the Republican party. He consented, however, to accept the position of Supervisor from Onondaga which he held for three consecutive terms. He also was sheriff of Onondaga county. In August 1862, Major Cossitt enlisted for the Civil war in Company D, One Hundred and Twenty-second New York volunteers, being the first man to sign the muster roll of the company which he with a few others was instrumental in raising. He was mustered into the company as lieutenant, which position he held four months, when he was promoted to the captaincy of the company. He was a brave and capable soldier, not a "dress parade" man.

He was severely wounded at the battle near Fort Stevens, July 12, 1864, the bones of one of his feet being badly shattered, and the wound made him lame for the rest of his life. He was in the battles of "the Wilderness," ending with the investment of Petersburg and in the fierce conflicts at Spottsylvania Court House. He was of a cheerful disposition and was the funmaker and the life of the officers' quarters.

At the Battle of Cold Harbor, Major Cossitt displayed remarkable calmness and bravery. Lieutenant Wooster, a great favorite with officers and men, fell dead but a few feet from the Rebel lines and Captain Cossitt saw him fall and determined to bring the body of his friend within the lines that he might have Christian burial. Andrew D. Wilkin, a comrade in arms, relates the following incident: Calling upon another officer to assist him, the two crawled noiselessly over the crest and down the slope to the place where the body of Lieutenant Wooster lay. They tried to lift him, but their strength was not equal to the task. The slight noise they made so near the enemy's line was enough to startle the nervous and watchful foe and they opened fire and this was responded to from behind. Hugging the ground, the two officers waited until the firing subsided. Again they tried to bear off their fallen comrade, but in vain. Taking from the body of Lieutenant Wooster his personal effects, they crawled back to the Union lines.

Captain Cossitt knew well the danger of another attempt, but he could not bear the thought of leaving the body of his friend in that exposed position between the lines. Later in the evening with the aid of two or three brave men he succeeded in his undertaking and today the body of Lieutenant Wooster lies beneath the sod of Onondaga county, rescued at the risk of his friend's life.

Major Cossitt was brevetted Major for meritorious service and received his discharge in December, 1864. For two years after the close of the war Major Cossitt was unable to work, owing to the wound he had received in the war. He married Mary, daughter of the late George Geddes who died on April 25th 1891, aged 57 years. Major Cossitt enjoyed to an unusual degree the confidence and esteem of the people of his town and county. He was a man of gentle disposition and of quiet and unostentatious manners. He never uttered a complaint but patiently and in silence endured the life-long sufferings from the wound he received while fighting the battles of his country.

He leaves A. C. Phillips and Davis C. Strong, nephews, and Mrs. William V. R. Kipp of New York, a niece.

Davis Cossitt            Davis Cossitt older