Gene Schmiel speaks to the Civil War Round Table of the District of Columbia about "Citizen-General Jacob Dolson Cox" on June 14, 2016, at the Fort McNair Officers' Club in Washington D.C.

Questions and answers follow the presentation.

A copy of the PowerPoint to his presentation is available at


About the Topic:
Our topic for this month's meeting will spotlight Jacob Dolson Cox of Ohio. Cox rose from humble beginnings to become an abolitionist, a polarizing political figure, a major general for the Union Army, an educator, and an author historian. As a young man, he worked as an apprentice in a legal firm and as a bookkeeper in a brokerage firm. Cox moved to Ohio and enrolled at Oberlin College. He graduated in 1851, studied law while he served as a school superintendent, and was admitted to the bar in 1853.  An abolitionist sympathizer and a supporter of the antislavery Whigs and Free Soil Party, Cox was elected to the Ohio State Senate in 1858. Although a rising political star, Cox entered the Union Army as a brigadier general of the Ohio Volunteers in April 1861.

Cox served under General George McClellan in western Virginia, helping to secure the region for the Union. Reassigned to Washington DC to protect the capital, Cox’s division was sent from there to join the Army of Virginia for the Maryland Campaign of 1862 where they were instrumental in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. Cox then returned to western Virginia and routed remaining rebels in the area. The year 1863 proved a relatively quiet one for Cox, as he was assigned to command the District of Ohio and then the District of Michigan. 1864 found him back in the thick of things, commanding a division under William T. Sherman in the Atlanta Campaign.  When Confederate General John Bell Hood withdrew from Atlanta and moved into Tennessee, Cox was part of General George Thomas’ pursuit. Cox’s men engaged the Confederates at Spring Hill and were at the center of the most violent fighting at Franklin. His success led to Cox’s appointment to major general in December 1864 and he ended his Civil War service by helping to secure the port of Wilmington NC for the Union.

After the war, Cox was elected governor of Ohio in 1865. As his reelection approached, his views on black suffrage angered his formerly loyal constituents and he lost the election. Cox believed, from personal observations during the war, that blacks and whites could not live together as equals. Despite the loss, he would go on to serve as Secretary of the Interior in 1869, under Ulysses S. Grant. The two did not agree on policy, and this disagreement as well as the corruption Cox believed was inherent in the political system led him to resign in the fall of 1870. Not yet finished with politics, however, Cox ran for and was elected to Congress in 1875. His political career finally ended when he declined to seek reelection in 1878. 

Cox’s next vocation was in academia, and he served as Dean of the Cincinnati Law School, President of the University of Cincinnati, and finally as a trustee of Oberlin College. After he retired in 1897, Cox became a prolific writer, discussing all manner of military topics related to the Civil War. His writings remain a valuable resource for serious Civil War scholars to this day. 

About Our Speaker: 
Eugene D. ("Gene") Schmiel, although retired from full-time service as a Foreign Service Officer, continues to work part-time the US Department of State. Schmiel has served overseas in Sweden, South Africa, Djibouti, Kenya, and Iceland.  He was also appointed Charge’ d’Affaires at three embassies and Consul General in Mombasa, Kenya. Prior to joining the State Department, Schmiel was an Assistant Professor of History at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Schmiel earned his Ph.D. from Ohio State University. While there, he met his wife, Bonnie Kathryn, with whom he collaborated in 1998 to author a book about their life in the Foreign Service entitled, “Welcome Home: Who are You? Tales of a Foreign Service Family.” Schmiel's latest book, "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," was published in 2014 by Ohio University Press.  It is the first biography of this highly respected Union general whose accomplishments in the war belie the myth of the incompetent "political general." Dr. Schmiel resides with his family in Gainesville, Virginia.


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