Citizen-General — 2014

Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era

By Eugene D. Schmiel

A History Book Club Reading Selection

“This is a comprehensive biography of … a very important figure, not only in Civil War military history but also in political and religious matters. This book makes a significant contribution by relating in a thoughtful, analytical way the life and career of one of the most important Ohioans of that era. The author has clearly done his homework, and the text is not only well researched but very polished.”

Steven E. Woodworth, professor of history, Texas Christian University

Citizen-General is an important biographical treatment of a man whose rather modest place in the popular imagination belies an enviable record of notable influences on 19th century America.”

Civil War Books and Authors

“Jacob Cox was not just a significant figure in the Civil War and the writing of its history, but an important player in postwar politics as well. In Citizen-General, Eugene D. Schmiel provides an account of Cox's life and career, and the forces that shaped them, that is informative, impressively researched, and consistently interesting. This is a book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in the Civil War and its aftermath.”

Ethan S. Rafuse, author of McClellan's War

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The wrenching events of the Civil War transformed not only the United States but also the men unexpectedly called on to lead their fellow citizens in this first modern example of total war. Jacob Dolson Cox, a former divinity student with no formal military training, was among those who rose to the challenge. In a conflict in which “political generals” often proved less than competent, Cox, the consummate citizen general, emerged as one of the best commanders in the Union army.

During his school days at Oberlin College, no one could have predicted that the intellectual, reserved, and bookish Cox possessed what he called in his writings the “military aptitude” to lead men effectively in war. His military career included helping secure West Virginia for the Union; jointly commanding the left wing of the Union army at the critical Battle of Antietam; breaking the Confederate supply line and thereby helping to precipitate the fall of Atlanta; and holding the defensive line at the Battle of Franklin, a Union victory that effectively ended the Confederate threat in the West.

At a time when there were few professional schools other than West Point, the self-made man was the standard for success; true to that mode, Cox fashioned himself into a Renaissance man. In each of his vocations and avocations—general, governor, cabinet secretary, university president, law school dean, railroad president, historian, and scientist—he was recognized as a leader. Cox’s greatest fame, however, came to him as the foremost participant historian of the Civil War. His accounts of the conflict are to this day cited by serious scholars and serve as a foundation for the interpretation of many aspects of the war.


Eugene D. Schmiel is a retired U.S. Department of State Foreign Service officer. He was an assistant professor of history at St. Francis University (PA) and has taught at Marymount, Shenandoah, and Penn State universities. He holds the Ph.D. degree from The Ohio State University and coauthored, with his wife Kathryn, a book on life in the Foreign Service.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1: Citizen of the Western Reserve
    Maturing in Peace, Girding for War
  • 2: A Citizen-General Secures (West)Virginia
  • 3: Citizen-General on the National Stage
    The Maryland Campaign
  • 4: Citizen/Political General
    PoliticalWars outside the Mainstream
  • 5: Division and Army Commander
    The Atlanta Campaign
  • 6: Citizen-Warrior
    The Franklin-Nashville Campaign and War’s End
  • 7: From Citizen-General to State and National Political Leader
  • 8: Citizen-Statesman
  • 9: Civil War Historian
  • 10: Renaissance Man in the Gilded Age
  • Notes
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index
Cover of 'Citizen-General'

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