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Fort Cocke

Fort Cocke (also spelled Cockes, Cocks, or Cox) was a French and Indian War fortification constructed by Capt. William Cocke’s ranger company under the supervision of Lt. John Bacon in October 1755. Forts Cocke and Ashby were the first two Virginia frontier forts, part of a frontier defense system, to be constructed under orders of Col. George Washington, commander of the Virginia Regiment. Washington ordered each of the two forts to be built as “a Quadrangular Fort of Ninety Feet, with Bastions.” Excavations at Fort Ashby showed that its curtain walls were 62 feet long, rather than the 90 feet ordered by Washington, so it is possible that Fort Cocke was also smaller than ordered.

Fort Cocke was located on Patterson Creek about a mile south of present Headsville, Mineral County. Like Forts Edwards, Pearsall, and Ashby, Cocke was located on the “old,” or southern, road between Fort Loudoun, Virginia (Washington’s headquarters), and Fort Cumberland, Maryland, and was an important way station, supply depot, and escort position for convoys, messengers, and troops traveling between these larger forts. Since the settlements along Patterson Creek had already been abandoned when Forts Cocke and Ashby were constructed, their function did not include protecting local setters.

From fall 1755 until winter 1758, Fort Cocke was garrisoned by Cocke’s ranger company, by members of Capt. Robert McKenzie’s and Captain David Bell’s Virginia Regiment companies, and by militiamen. In April 1756, Fort Cocke was attacked by Indians, but its garrison successfully defended it. Fort Cocke, like most of the Virginia frontier forts, was probably abandoned soon after Fort Duquesne was burned in December 1758.

Written by Stephen McBride and Kim McBride


  1. Ansel, William H. Jr. Frontier Forts Along the Potomac and its Tributaries. Parsons: McClain, 1984.

  2. Abbot, W. W., editor. The Papers of George Washington: Colonial Series 2-6. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983-1988.

  3. McBride, W. Stephen and Kim A. McBride. Excavations at Three French and Indian War Forts: Insights into Fort Design and Construction. Journal of the Middle Atlantic Archaeology, 26, 2010.