In the 1980s, the name of David L. Cockley and tales of his heroism on the battlefield of the American Civil War, were largely forgotten. Efforts to organize records and sprucing up of Shelby’s Oakwood Cemetery in that period resulted in the recognition of just who he was.
Cockley was born in 1843 and entered the Union Army on October 20, 1862 as a private, quickly advancing to the rank of Full Lieutenant.
It was at the Battle of Waynesboro on December 4, 1864 that Lieutenant Cockley did something truly admirable and for which he was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In that media citation, it read: “While acting as aide-de-camp to a general officer, he 3 times asked permission to join his regiment in a proposed charge upon the enemy, and in response to the last request, having obtained such permission, joined his regiment and fought bravely at its head throughout the action.”
It was not until August 2, 1897 that the actual Award was made to Cockley.
Originally from Lexington, Cockley spent his adult, post-War life in Shelby, where he helped to organize the Shelby Mill and Shelby Street Tube companies. He is listed as a “salesman” in the 1870 census of Shelby with his wife Eunice and first two sons, Willard and Clayton.
When he died in December 1901, Cockley left an estate later valued at $300,000, a remarkable sum for the time. He was buried in Shelby.
Over the years, his status as one of only five Congressional Medal of Honor winners in Richland County history was somewhat forgotten. He is apparently the only person interred in the family mausoleum; speculation is that his widow and children moved west after his death.
Sources: Shelby Daily Globe; Mansfield News Journal; Bucyrus Evening Telegraph; Richland County Veterans Index; Photo: Creative Commons License