Civil War Talks on the Life of Jacob Cox, the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Franklin, and the War in West Virginia


My Civil War Blog

This is the post excerpt.

A picture says a thousands words — here is an example. This is the official portrait of Jacob Cox as Governor of Ohio. He was elected in 1865 while still in the Volunteer Army. He chose to be pictured as what I call the consummate “citizen-general.” A self-trained military man, Cox the private citizen had an outstanding military career in the Civil War, but then chose to return to civilian life. In the painting he wears his dress uniform as a two-star Major General, but in his hand is his commission as Governor. On the table behind him is his commission as a general, his sword and scabbard, and his binoculars. The latter are symbols of what he has left behind, but also reminders that they are available if the nation calls again. This is among the reasons why I put this picture on the cover of my biography of Cox, “Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era.” The book is available via amazon. com. See also my web-site,

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MLK and the Civil War

At the end of my latest speaking tour aboard the American Cruise Lines ship “America” on the Mississippi, I took the occasion to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.  The building was erected to connect with the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was tragically shot in April 1968.

The museum not only has an excellent collection of artifacts, but it also documents the African-American experience from its early days to today.  The tour of the displays ends outside the motel room which King was occupying when he was assassinated.

The museum also, via its displays and film, provides critical context for the causes and effects of the Civil War.     Highly recommended.

Below are photos of the museum/hotel and a close-up of the room where King was shot — the wreath indicates the exact location.


National Civil Rights Museum housed in the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.20191101_142714

“Targeting” “Beast” Ben Butler in Vicksburg

During a recent visit to a home on the southern Mississippi River, I found a memorable artifact of the war.

General Ben Butler was the Union military commander who took New Orleans early in the war and then remained its military commander for some time.  During that period he implemented several improvements in the city’s operations, including efforts to reduce the threat of malaria and yellow fever.  However he is best known for implementing an order that any woman in that city who disparaged Union troops would be arrested as a “lady of the town” (i.e. a prostitute) and imprisoned.  This did not make him very popular!

One result is that almost from the day of his departure from the city, “Beast” (his local nickname) Butler has been the “target” of abuse from this city’s citizens.  Below is a photo of the device (found in this home) in which the object of the user’s’ “target practice” is Ben Butler’s picture at the bottom of a chamber pot.  No mistaking the opinion of the maker of that device!


butler chamber pot

“OHIO HEROES” ON SALE FOR $1.99!! is having a sale this week only, so you can now buy my new book (ebook version)  about the Battle of Franklin for only $1.99.  This week only!  Thanks for taking a look, and I look forward to seeing  your thoughts about the book on

Click here to buy the book:



Two Days of Missed Opportunities: Antietam

As we commemorate the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam on September 17, we shouldn’t forget that on both the 16th and the 18th a Union attack of any size would have decimated Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.  On the 16th almost half of his forces were not in place in Sharpsburg, but McClellan let the fog and indecisiveness stop him from attacking.  On the 18th Lee’s forces were bloodied, unbowed, but ready to be overwhelmed because of the massive casualties of the previous days.  McClellan, with major reinforcements on the way and many troops still fresh (not active the day before), instead did nothing and let Lee escape.

Had McClellan attacked in force either day, Antietam could have been THE turning point of the war as Lee and his men would have been overwhelmed.  Instead we had two more years of death and destruction.

Yes, “what if” is always an interesting discussion.  In fact, that’s why I wrote my second book about just such a scenario.  But it describes a Union victory on the 17th.  Victory on the 16th and 18th, in k20-20 hindsight, admittedly, were there for the asking.




Battle of South Mountain: Who Won the Day?

Although it is little remembered now, for at least a few hours, the Battle of South Mountain, September 14, 1862, was almost one of the most memorable of the Civil War.  As historian Scott Hartwig put it, “thanks to Jacob Cox’s early initiative and aggressive generalship, McClellan had nearly won Fox’s Gap and Turner’s Gap cheaply and early in the day.”

That is, Cox and his men of the Kanawha division (including future presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley) almost pushed the Confederates off South Mountain — and would have with better support (which arrived too late).  As it was, the Union victory that day caused Robert E. Lee to decide to return to Virginia, ceasing his movement to the North at least for a time. Ultimately he reversed that decision and the Battle of Antietam three days later was one result.





The paperback version of my newest book, “Ohio Heroes of the Battle of Franklin,” is now available for sale for 13.99 at

Note: the cover and colors of the book have a unique meaning.  The title and the images of Cox, Opdycke, and Casement appear on a field of green leaves.  These leaves symbolize the Orange Osage plant (pictured below), a prickly bush with clinging leaves and sharp thorns.  The Union forces under Cox and Casement, on the advice of the farm boys among the Union soldiers, who had used this plant as a hedge to control their livestock.  placed large amounts of the bushes in front of their defensive lines.  The Confederates who charged into those lines at the Battle of Franklin were startled to find that what looked like an innocuous bush was in fact a briar patch which held them, scratched them, and made them easy targets for the Union.

The title page is surrounded by a field of Orange to symbolize the Orange Osage plant, though admittedly it is a misnomer since the Orange Osage fruit in fact is not orange when it ripens.  See for a description of the “Maclura Pomifera” plant — also known as the “hedge” or “hedge apple” tree.”




The paperback version will be on sale soon at the same web-site, but you can now buy the ebookfor only $4.49 at the site below.  This unique re-telling of the Battle of Franklin underlines how the Civil War was truly a “citizens war,” as these three men, none formally trained in the military arts, helped ensure a Union victory in the West that fateful day, November 30, 1864.  Please, after you have read it, feel free to  comment about it on the page.  Many thanks.