Wednesday’s Child-Snatched From His Mother’s Arms by Death

Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, NC

James (Jimmy) Battle Cox, son of William Ruffin Cox and Penelope Bradford Battle Cox, was born Saturday, November 19, 1859 in Wake County, North Carolina. James was the couple’s third child, the first having died while the couple still lived in Tennessee. (The Cox’s second child, Olivia, was also mentioned in the death notice below.)

Jimmy’s father was an attorney and plantation owner during the the infant’s short life, but William would go on to be a Brigadier General during the Civil War and later a Congressman, so there is quite a bit of information available about Jimmy’s parents, but very little about him other than that he died from diphtheria. Diphtheria was referred to as the “strangling angel of children” because victims often suffocated due to swelling of the lymph nodes and “bull neck“. Jimmy died on Thursday, October 25, 1860 and was buried in the Battle family section of Oakwood Cemetery.

Jimmy’s poignant obituary in the Weekly Standard reads more like a eulogy than a death notice, which wasn’t uncommon in the 19th century. 

Weekly Standard [Raleigh, NC] 31 Oct. 1860

     “October 25th, of diphtheria, James Battle, infant son of William R. and P.B. Cox, aged eleven months and six days.
     Seldom has the All-merciful allowed death to inflict a more cruel pang than when suddenly, from his mother’s arms, he snatched little Jimmy Cox. Entwined among her parents’ heart-strings was their first-born, little Olivia. She came into the world with autumn flowers. Through winter and spring and summer she brightly bloomed, and as the autumn flowers came again and faded she too drooped, and soon the pattering of her little feet was stilled, and hushed forever was the music of her lisping tongue.
     God tempered the wind to the shorn lambs, and little Jimmy took his sister’s place in her parent’s hearts, and their tendrils ceased to bleed as they clung to his beautiful form. Like her’s his cheek was dimpled and rosy, his ways winsome and graceful, his heart loving and tender. Like her, he bloomed with the autumn flowers. Like her, even as he learned to lisp sweetly his father’s name, and could totter smiling to his mother’s knee, he drooped and withered with the falling leaves-and his parents again are childless.
     Ye fathers, around whose table the olive branches thickly cluster- ye mothers, whose ears are gladdened with the melody of your childrens’ voices, as they sport in health and merriment, forget not that hearts loving as yours are desolate. And oh ye stricken ones, in whose soul the iron has entered, when the blackness of midnight has given place to the sombre twilight which precedes the coming of the sun again-when the wildness of grief has been calmed into sadness, remember that your darlings are in company with the Angels in Heaven. They are ‘not lost, but gone before!’ You may join them, if you will.”

Dr. Alfred Hughes’ description of diphtheria symptoms, Daily Intelligencer, 28 Feb. 1860

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3 thoughts on “Wednesday’s Child-Snatched From His Mother’s Arms by Death”

  1. “the strangling angel of childhood” — interesting! I hadn't heard that before, but since it claimed the lives of many children, it makes sense. Nice post! and Happy New year!

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