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

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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, https://civilwarhistory-geneschmiel.com

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ANTIETAM: GRASPING DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY: MY UPCOMING TALK TO THE BULL RUN CIVIL WAR ROUND TABLE, FEBRUARY 14, 7 PM

Civil war historians have posited that the Union came extremely close to destroying Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Antietam. Stephen Sears wrote in Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam, “The major disadvantage of the battlefield as far as the Confederates were concerned was the restricted Potomac crossing at Boteler’s Ford in their rear should they be broken and have to retreat; defeat could easily turn into disastrous rout on the riverbank.” Stephen Woodworth wrote in Davis and Lee at War, “Lee could well face ruin if his line was broken…the decision to accept battle at Antietam was audacity run amok.”

But Lee and his army barely survived, and nearly three more years of bloodshed ensued.

Among the many reasons why the Union did not win was that during the Maryland campaign, McClellan’s command structure was riven by conflict, bad judgment, and rivalries. Unity of command, historian David Hartwig has written, is essential for military success, but, “McClellan set about undoing that” on September 15, just two days before the Battle of Antietam.

My talk on February 14 will discuss the background and implications of the lack of unity of command. Below are images of the key actors:McClellan, Fitz-John Porter, Burnside, and Jacob Cox.George-Mcclellan-Image1200px-Fitz_John_PorterAmbrose_Burnside2general cox

Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson in My Backyard

A few hundred yards from my house in Gainesville, VA, there is an obscure and hidden Civil War “monument” which is likely among the least visited in Virginia.  The three foot high red sandstone edifice has a bronze plaque stating that Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson met there at 12:30 PM on August 29, 1862, just as the Battle of Second Manassas was unfolding.

The monument was erected in 1917 by the Haymarket (VA) Agricultural Club.  Because it was visible at the side of State Route 29 just a few hundred yards from the edge of the battlefield, it was an important tourist site.  However, when the road was widened, the monument was in the median.  That and several car accidents convinced officials to move it in 1985 to a safer — but quite obscure — place inside the neighboring Conway Robinson State Forest.

The monument can still be seen from Route 29, but only if you know it’s there.  Plus there is no place to park.  I’ve driven by this part of “my backyard” hundreds of times, and have never seen anyone visiting the monument.   Now you readers can at least give it a look.

Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson Meeting MarkerLee, Longstreet, and Jackson Meeting Marker

The Meade Memorial’s Strange Journey

The George Gordon Meade memorial, a statue of the famed — but controversial — Civil War general with several allegorical figures behind him, has been on on Pennsylvania Ave.  in Washington within site of the  U.S. Capitol since 1983.  However, it went through a strange journey to get to its final location.

One of the last Civil War monuments in the city, the memorial was funded by the state of Pennsylvania in 1913 after members of the GAR and Society of the Army of the Potomac petitioned it for support.    It took 14 more years before the memorial was dedicated, a time of contentious wrangling over designs and location.  President Calvin Coolidge dedicated it on October 19, 1927, and it stood at its first location on 3rd st. near Independence Avenue until 1969.  That year, because of construction on the National Mall, the memorial was dismantled and sent to its second location, a storage facility in northeast Washington.

There is sat until in the 1980s Pennsylvania congressman William Goodling and the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table petitioned the National Park Service to return it to public view.  The formal re-dedication of the memorial at its third location was on October 3, 1984.

The memorial features Meade surrounded by several allegorical figures, and “Loyalty” and “Chivalry” are seen removing the cloak of battle from him.  Above Meade’s head is the gold finial of the seal of the state of Pennsylvania, and below his feet on the pavement is the inscription, “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to General George Gordon Meade, who commanded the Union forces at Gettysburg.”

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Grant and Garfield Remembered on Capitol Hill

Of the six men who became president after the Civil War, five were born in Ohio, fought in the Civil War, were Republicans, and, with one exception, sported beards.  They were, in order, U.S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley (the one without a beard).   Grover Cleveland, the other president, was neither born in Ohio, nor fought in the war, nor was a Republican, nor had a beard.

Two of these men are the subject of statues at street level in front of the West side of the U.S. Capitol Building, Grant and Garfield.

The Grant statue — actually several statues surrounding Grant on horseback — is centered on a line leading from the center of the Capitol Dome, to Grant, to the Lincoln Memorial.   The figure of Grant, holding firmly as he faces forward, as if into a stiff wind, is a superb example of the statuary art.  The Grant “group” has no “explanatory” information inscribed on the statues  — perhaps it isn’t or wasn’t needed.

Fifty yards away is a statue of Garfield, pictured standing as he was as president.  The statue’s inscriptions include one noting that it was built by the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, in which Garfield had served.  (The statue was commemorated on May 12, 1887, but the inscription reads “May 12, 1867.”  Not sure why it hasn’t been corrected).  Another inscription notes Garfield was a “Major-General, USV.”  That is, unlike Grant, Garfield was never in the U.S. army, but rather in the U.S. Volunteers, the parallel army Winfield Scott created, unwisely, at the start of the war.  20190106_10043620190106_10063520190106_101141

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Lincoln, Hay, and the “Church of the Presidents”

Just across from the White House on Lafayette Square, St. John’s Episcopal Church is often referred to as the “Church of the Presidents.”  Beginning with James Madison, every sitting president has attended services there — and there is a tradition that the incoming president attends a service just before going to the Capitol to be inaugurated.  Pew 54, about seven from the front oddly enough, is designated as the “President’s Pew.”

The very last pew in the back is “Lincoln’s Pew.”  It is documented that President Abraham Lincoln would walk over from the White House for evening services periodically.  He would unobtrusively slip into the church, pray silently, and then go back to the White House — or often the telegraph office next door for the latest war news.

Directly across from St. John’s church is the Hay-Adams hotel.  But during the Civil War that location was filled with several townhouses, two of which were later owned by John Hay and Henry Adams (thus the name).  Adams was a descendant of the line of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.  Hay came from more humble beginnings, but he was an up-and-coming lawyer in Springfield, Illinois when he met an up-and-coming politician named Lincoln.  Later, Hay and his friend John Nicolay (whom Lincoln referred to as his “boys” — they were both in their twenties) became Lincoln’s presidential secretaries — the entire White House staff!  Nicolay and Hay’s ten-volume biography of Lincoln is a key element of our memory of that president.  Hay later became Secretary of State under McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt.

Here are pictures of St. John’s church, the presidential pew, Lincoln’s pew,  John Hay as an older man, and a description within the Hay-Adams hotel of its history.

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Lincoln, Hay, and the “Church of the Presidents”

Just across from the White House on Lafayette Square, St. John’s Episcopal Church is often referred to as the “Church of the Presidents.”  Beginning with James Madison, every sitting president has attended services there — and there is a tradition that the incoming president attends a service just before going to the Capitol to be inaugurated.  Pew 54, about seven from the front oddly enough, is designated as the “President’s Pew.”

The very last pew in the back is “Lincoln’s Pew.”  It is documented that President Abraham Lincoln would walk over from the White House for evening services periodically.  He would unobtrusively slip into the church, pray silently, and then go back to the White House — or often the telegraph office next door for the latest war news.

Directly across from St. John’s church is the Hay-Adams hotel.  But during the Civil War that location was filled with several townhouses, two of which were later owned by John Hay and Henry Adams (thus the name).  Adams was a descendant of the line of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.  Hay came from more humble beginnings, but he was an up-and-coming lawyer in Springfield, Illinois when he met an up-and-coming politician named Lincoln.  Later, Hay and his friend John Nicolay (whom Lincoln referred to as his “boys” — they were both in their twenties) became Lincoln’s presidential secretaries — the entire White House staff!  Nicolay and Hay’s ten-volume biography of Lincoln is a key element of our memory of that president.  Hay later became Secretary of State under McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt.

Here are pictures of St. John’s church, the presidential pew, Lincoln’s pew,  John Hay as an older man, and a description within the Hay-Adams hotel of its history.

20190106_103613-120190106_12313820190106_12365220190106_10411820190106_103830-1

Grant and Garfield Remembered on Capitol Hill

Of the six men who became president after the Civil War, five were born in Ohio, fought in the Civil War, were Republicans, and, with one exception, sported beards.  They were, in order, U.S. Grant, Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley (the one without a beard).   Grover Cleveland, the other president, was neither born in Ohio, nor fought in the war, nor was a Republican, nor had a beard.

Two of these men are the subject of statues at street level in front of the West side of the U.S. Capitol Building, Grant and Garfield.

The Grant statue — actually several statues surrounding Grant on horseback — is centered on a line leading from the center of the Capitol Dome, to Grant, to the Lincoln Memorial.   The figure of Grant, holding firmly as he faces forward, as if into a stiff wind, is a superb example of the statuary art.  The Grant “group” has no “explanatory” information inscribed on the statues  — perhaps it isn’t or wasn’t needed.

Fifty yards away is a statue of Garfield, pictured standing as he was as president.  The statue’s inscriptions include one noting that it was built by the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, in which Garfield had served.  (The statue was commemorated on May 12, 1887, but the inscription reads “May 12, 1867.”  Not sure why it hasn’t been corrected).  Another inscription notes Garfield was a “Major-General, USV.”  That is, unlike Grant, Garfield was never in the U.S. army, but rather in the U.S. Volunteers, the parallel army Winfield Scott created, unwisely, at the start of the war.  20190106_10043620190106_10063520190106_101141

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