John E. Cook, who could successfully have escaped had he not, against the advice of his comrades, been reckless in his search for food, was born in the summer of 1830, in Haddam, Connecticut. He was of a well-to-do family, and studied law in Brooklyn and New York. He went to Kansas in 1855. His movements from the time of his first meeting with Brown, just after the battle of Black Jack, in June, 1856, until after his capture, are set forth in his "Confession" made while in jail (published at Charlestown as a pamphlet in the middle of November, 1859, for the benefit of Samuel C. Young, who was crippled for life in the fighting at Harper's Ferry). For this confession Cook was severely censured at the time by the friends of Brown; he was even called the "Judas" of the raid. But the document, when examined to-day, obviously contains only facts which are of great historical value, and whose promulgation at the time in no wise injured the case of his fellow raiders. Had it not been made, the result of the trial would have been the same. Cook preceded John Brown to the Harper's Ferry neighborhood by more than a year, there sometimes teaching school, and again living as a lock-tender, while in the registration of his marriage to a lock-tender, while in the registration of his marriage to Mary V. Kennedy, of Harper's Ferry, April 18, 1859, he was described as a book-agent. He was captured eight miles from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, October 25, 1859, and hanged on December 16. He was a remarkably fine shot, and had seen much fighting in Kansas. He was reckless, impulsive, indiscreet, but genial, generous and brave.
Oswald Garrison Villard, John Brown, 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910), 680-681.