In January 1865, after having played a key role in destroying the Confederate Army of Tennessee, General Jacob Cox was granted his first furlough in nearly two years. His homecoming was probably like that of thousands of men seeing their families after a very long interlude.
Cox took several days to get home to Warren, Ohio. His eldest son and namesake described the event in his own memoir, Building an American Industry: “I opened the door to see a very tall man with big bushy beard in a soldier’s uniform. He stepped in and asked if Mrs. Cox was home, and I flew off to the nursery to tell mother that there was a big soldier in the front room…Imagine the surprise of her children when the big soldier soon came back into the nursery and routed us all out of bed. It proved to be father home on a furlough.” The happy family spent a week together.
These events almost did not happen because, as is often the case in war, the exigencies of combat almost kept Cox in the field that January. He wrote to his wife in late December, “Last night my trunk was packed for home, & my leave of absence for thirty days was snug in my pocket.” when all leave was cancelled. Washington had ordered George Thomas to continue his pursuit of Hood’s remaining forces, but Cox riposted unhappily to his wife, “Here we know for an absolute certainty that the army is stuck in the mud, but the administration would not believe General Thomas…I am getting ragged & barefoot. My boots are worn out, my coat is worn out, my waistcoats are worn out, my hat is worn out…if I ever get near civilization again, I shall be obliged to hide in bed somewhere till I can get some clothes made.” A few days later the campaign ended, and Cox finally got his furlough orders.
Note: Cox’s eldest son was the founder of the Cleveland Twist Drill company, which was a leading manufacturing enterprise in that city for many years. In 1912 this son gave $100,000 to Oberlin College for the construction of the school’s administration building. This Italianate structure, named for General Cox, remains today the administrative hub of the college.
Below are pictures of Cox’s son’s book, my biography of Cox, and the Cox administration building of Oberlin College: