Cook & Brother of New Orleans


The lockplate of a New Orleans-made Cook & Brother Enfield rifle produced in 1862 shows the fine craftsmanship that became the hallmark of the maker throughout the Civil War. Note the stars and bars flag at left, an emblem used on C&B's production throughout the war and the Cook & Brother, N.O. 1862 markings. Earlier production weapons at New Orleans had the flag located just above the maker's name while later weapons produced in Athens, Georgia would have a modified flag and Athens on the plate followed by the serial number. 

    In the spring of 1861, two English-born businessmen, Ferdinand and Francis Cook of New Orleans, perceived the need for the South to have its own domestic production of firearms and 
set out to prove "that rifles could made here as well as in Yankee land or in Europe." The brothers elected to produce copies of the British Model 1856 .577 caliber Enfield rifle as this was considered the benchmark longarm at the outset of the war. Opening their firm on the corner of Common and Canal Streets in downtown New Orleans, the two men diligently assembled and developed the required machinery to produce rifles and soon found a willing customer in the state of Alabama.  Utilizing a stout walnut stock, wrought Swedish iron for the barrel, and brass barrel bands, by the time C&B wrapped up production in New Orleans in April 1862, they were turning out 25 completed weapons per day. In addition to rifles, the factory also produced 22-inch saber bayonets of the Enfield pattern to go along with the rifles and some examples of C&B marked Bowie knives exist as well.

    Superb craftmanship and painstaking attention to detail became a hallmark of Cook & Brother and one Confederate arms inspector noted that "New Orleans turns out the best rifles I ever saw in the South." The brothers produced four patterns of Enfield rifles during the war including a three-band 39-inch barrel rifle musket version, a 33-inch short rifle (most of the New Orleans production were short rifles), a cavalry carbine with a 21-inch barrel, and and artillery carbine with a 24-inch barrel. Another curiosity was that the firm also converted civilian shotguns for military use by adding a bayonet lug to carry the firm's Enfield sword bayonet; some of these arms were supplied to the Louisiana militia as late as April 1862. 

Images of a New Orleans-produced Cook & Brother saber bayonet for use on their Enfield rifles. (College Hill Arsenal)

    It has been variously reported how many rifles Cook & Brother produced in New Orleans (anywhere from 1,100 to 2,200 to 7,200 weapons in total depending on the source cited), with the most likely estimate being that the firm produced roughly 200 carbines and about 1,000 short rifles in New Orleans, then another 1,000 rifles in Selma, Alabama utilizing the New Orleans-produced components giving a total of roughly 2,200 New Orleans-marked arms.  Alabama purchased nearly all of the firm's New Orleans production for distribution to their troops, the 22nd Alabama receiving 700-800 of the rifles when they mustered into service in October 1861 while Co. I of the 21st Mississippi also received a supply of C&B rifles as did Co. K of the 27th Mississippi.

    C&B arms met with such general approval that on April 1, 1862, the brothers struck a deal with the Confederate government to supply 30,000 rifles with the first deliveries to commence on July 1st of that year. C&B agreed to provide a rifle, saber bayonet, sheath, and frog for $30 per set, but the tides of war soon prevented the firm from making good on the agreement. As the Federal navy passed Forts Jackson and St. Philip on April 24-25, 1862 and approached New Orleans, the two brothers frantically packed up their factory equipment and set out for safety. Ferdinand Cook commandeered a steamboat to haul his gun-making machinery to safety and supplied 200 rifles out of his new stock to local defense forces before sailing north for Vicksburg, Mississippi. The firm operated in Selma, Alabama for a time before moving on to Athens, Georgia where they operated for most of the remainder of the war. 

    In November 1861, the New Orleans Bee newspaper ran a lengthy article describing the Cook & Brother establishment and while the original New Orleans Bee article is lost, we can extract a few digests from what was copied into other newspapers of the South. "These enterprising manufacturers started producing weapons in the spring of 1861 in the face of the greatest discouragements and unaided by capitalists. By his own skill and ingenuity and such mechanical aid as he could command, Mr. Cook has succeeded in making the necessary machinery to turn out first class weapons. Beginning on a small scale, his orders have so increased and his business is so expanded that he now occupies a large building 140 feet square, employs 500 operatives, and very soon according to the Bee, he will be able to arm a regiment, officers and all, every 15 days, equivalent to 20,000 stand of arms a year."

Colonel Zachariah Deas, a wealthy Alabama cotton merchant, had served on General Joseph Johnston's staff at First Manassas and returned to his home state to raise what became the 22nd Alabama in the fall of 1861. Colonel Deas paid Cook & Brother in gold to acquire the firm's Enfield rifles which he then issued to the regiment. 

    "This enterprise is worthy of the highest commendation. In no other way could the projector of this successful work so nobly serve his country and second the great struggle our people are making for independence. Not only is he supplying the great desideratum of the war- effective weapons- but he is showing by a great practical example of what the South is capable of in the way of mechanical ingenuity and art. Such men deserve a civic crown. A specimen of the arms manufactured by Cook & Brother may be seen here in the hands of Colonel Zach Deas' regiment arriving in this city [Mobile] from their rendezvous at Opelika. Seven hundred of Colonel Deas' men are armed with the Cook Enfield rifles and sword bayonet."

English-made .58 caliber Enfield bullet

    In the fall of 1861, Colonel Zachariah Deas commanding the 22nd Alabama Infantry purchased 700 of the Cook & Brother Enfield rifles and saber bayonets with his own gold to arm his regiment. The regiment had been raised throughout the state and organized for service October 6, 1861 at Montgomery; the regiment had companies such as the Frank Lyon Rifles (Co. B), the Brownrigg Warriors (Co. C), the Calhoun Boys (Co. E), and the Arbeecoochie Rangers (Co. F) among their ranks. The regiment spent the winter of 1861-61 on guard duty at Mobile under the overall command of General Braxton Bragg. Placed in the brigade commanded by General Adley H. Gladden, the 22nd first saw action action at Shiloh, going into the fight with 31 officers and 404 enlisted men; by the end of the first day's battle, there were only 18 officers and 124 men fit for duty. 

    One veteran of that engagement, Captain Hugh William Henry of Co. K recalled that "early in the morning, we surprised the Yankees in camp eating breakfast. They soon rallied, however, and made a stand behind their tents and in the woods in their rear. If we had continued our advance, the affair would have been over in a few minutes, but our brigadier general and many of his staff were killed or wounded under the first fire. So we stood in line and fired some 30 rounds of cartridges and probably would have stood there all day with no other result than a long list of killed and wounded had not some officer of the 1st Louisiana, an Irish regiment, given orders to charge when we soon scattered the enemy."

Cook & Brother $1 bill dated December 16, 1861; note the two rifles at left advertising what the firm was producing to support the war effort. 


Edwards, William B. Civil War Guns. Seacaucus: Castle Books, 1962, pgs. 382-383

"Rifle Factory," Pickens County Herald and West Alabamian (Alabama), November 13, 1861, pg. 2

Auction listing for Cook & Brother Rifle Saber Bayonet from College Hill Arsenal 

Captain Hugh William Henry, Co. K, 22nd Alabama Infantry, Confederate Veteran, July 1914, pg. 306


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