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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Statuary Hall: Replacing Confederate and Union Military Men?

The ongoing debate about statues and memorials of the Civil War era, especially of Confederates, has recently been focused on Statuary Hall.  That area within the U.S. Capitol building is the home of, among other things, two statues from each state and the District of Columbia.  Each state is permitted to choose its subjects, and there have been some changes over time.  Recent years have seen growing interest in replacing some of the statues of Confederate leaders, and even one of the Union generals is on the verge of being removed.

There are more Confederate military men than Union in this particular group.  On the Confederate side are: Robert E. Lee (Virginia); Edmund Kirby Smith (Florida); Joe Wheeler (Alabama); James Z. George (Mississippi);  Zebulon Vance (North Carolina); and Wade Hampton (South Carolina).  Some would say Jefferson Davis (Mississippi) belongs in this group as commander in chief of the Confederacy.

On the Union side are : Lew Wallace (Indiana); James A. Garfield (Ohio); and Philip Kearny (New Jersey).

This is the latest status about replacements of these men :

  1. Helen Keller replaced Jabez Curry, yet another Confederate military man, as one of Alabama’s two  representatives in 2009.
  2. Mary McLeod Bethune is scheduled to replace Smith as one of Florida’s representatives.
  3. Alice Paul has been proposed by the New Jersey legislature to replace Kearny.

(Johnny Cash is scheduled to replace Uriah Milton Rose as one of Arkansas’s representatives, but Rose held no military position during the war, though he was an avowed Confederate supporter;

Billy Graham is being considered to replace Charles Aycock of North Carolina, who was born in 1859, but as Governor (1901-5) supported legislation ending black suffrage.)

The procedures for replacing a statue can be found at the link below.  I think we can count on more efforts to make changes and, inevitably,  more controversy in the days ahead.

Below are images of the statues of Lee, Davis, Garfield, and Kearny

Lee r.jpgJefferson Davis Statue.jpgGarfield NSHC.jpgKearny.jpg


The War in my Back Yard: First and Second Manassas

Living in Gainesville, Virginia near Lee Highway brings home the fact that the Civil War passed through here several times.

One particularly peculiar fact is that at both battles of Manassas, it was the movement of Confederate troops from Thoroughfare Gap, through Gainesville/Haymarket, and on to the area around Henry Hill which was crucial to Union defeats.

At First Manassas it was the transport, by rail for the first time in the war, of Joe Johnston’s troops which allowed him to hit McDowell at a critical time.   At Second Manassas it was Longstreet’s troops, the ones about whom Pope was notified several times but refused to believe existed, who smashed into the Union left and nearly destroyed Pope’s army.

Below are pictures of 1) a placard describing those two and other troop movements,  2) a placard in Centreville summarizing First Manassas,  and 3) the monument where Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson met to plan the final assault at Second Manassas


Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson Meeting Marker

McClellan, Mosby Move On near Marshall

It was clearly a day for “M“s.  We took a drive on the John Marshall Highway yesterday just to get out of our self-containment for a while, and we passed through the city of Marshall, Virginia, which, like the highway, was named for the esteemed Supreme Court Justice.

At one intersection we found the sign, below, advising that four miles to the north, in the city of Rectortown, on November 7, 1862, General George McClellan had been removed from command of the Army of Potomac and replaced by Ambrose Burnside.

When we turned the corner to head for Rectortown, we stopped abruptly because, no more than 200 yards from the first sign, was a second one announcing that on that site, Colonel John Mosby’s  Raiders had been disbanded.

At our final stop in Rectortown, just across from the RR tracks, was a placard describing the process of Burnside replacing McClellan, colorfully describing it as “McClellan’s Demise.”  The same placard also said that nearby “Mosby’s Raffle” had taken place.  It seems that after seven of his men had been executed by Union forces, on November 6, 1864, (by coincidence, two years after McClellan was replaced), Mosby and his men decided to execute the same number of Union prisoners in Rectortown.  They were to be “raffled,” i.e. chosen by lot.  Eventually Mosby and Sheridan agreed to cease such treatment of prisoners.

Below are our pictures of the three placards:


James K. Polk and the Civil War

On a recent trip to Franklin, Tennessee, we visited the James K. Polk House in Columbia, Tennessee.  Polk, who was President from 1845-1849, actually only lived there for a few years, but it is the only remaining Polk residence which also has family artifacts.

Polk’s determination to go to war with Mexico was in many ways one of the key determinants of the Civil War.  The new lands the U.S. won, plus Texas, were the inevitable subject of political debate as to the expansion of slavery.   The Compromise of 1850 stemmed the tide toward secession for a while, but the election of Lincoln heading a party which opposed the expansion of slavery in the new territories led to the war.

Pictured are the house, placards in front of the house, and the monument on the Capital grounds in Raleigh, North Carolina depicting the three presidents born in that state, Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson.  Note that on Polk’s part of the statue it states, “He Enlarged Our National Boundaries.”


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Revising the Re-Telling of the Civil War: A Success Story in Franklin, Tennessee

As the debate over the  memory of the Civil War and the status of memorials and statues rages on, I have been encouraged to hear of efforts to find common ground and reach compromises on these contentious issues.   My latest post suggested that the placement of a statue of Arthur Ashe on Richmond’s Monument Avenue near to statues of Lost Cause stalwarts Lee, Davis, Stuart, and Jackson is one of the earlier examples.

A recent example took place in Franklin, Tennessee, where a series of  historical markers were unveiled on October 17, 2019 on and near that city’s central square.  This followed a series of public meetings over two years seeking ways for, as the group’s creators put it, “telling a fuller story.”  (Until recently Franklin had given the appearance of being a “Confederate town,” with only a large statue of a Confederate soldier in the middle of the square and many streets named after Confederate generals — and none after Union generals).  The result was a series of plaques added to the square and in front of the nearby courthouse about the U.S. Colored Troops, the 1867 Downtown Riots, Reconstruction, and the Courthouse and Market House.  In addition, the group is raising funds to have a statue of a U.S. Colored Troops soldier placed in a designated spot on the square near to the monument to the Confederate soldier — who is nicknamed “Chip” because part of his hat is chipped.

The Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was a key to the ultimate success of the Union army on the western front.  The Battle of Franklin Trust has has made a herculean effort to create a battlefield park which memorializes the battle and the men who fought there.  The Trust is also a key partner of the group which has changed the face of Franklin’s square, a step which one hopes will be an example of how compromise and  broader vision can tell a fuller story without diminishing anyone’s memory or memorialization.

Below are my pictures of the new plaques and Franklin’s square before these additions:


Monument Avenue Revisited

On my way to Franklin, Tennessee to give my talk to the Round Table there February 9, we stopped in Richmond to take a stroll/drive down Monument Avenue.

As readers know, this road is by any definition the best exemplar of a triumphal paean of praise to the Lost Cause — or at least it used to be until 1996 when a statue of Arthur Ashe was added to the avenue.

The first and most important (or at least the largest) statue is that of Robert E. Lee astride his horse.  It was inaugurated in 1890.  To its east and west two monuments, one to J.E.B. Stuart and one to (non-Virginian) Jefferson Davis, were inaugurated in 1907.   Further to the west, the monument to “Stonewall” Jackson was inaugurated in 1919, and one to Matthew Maury to its west was inaugurated in 1929.

In some ways the addition of the statue of Ashe to this particular avenue can be said to be the beginning of the modern re-thinking of the Confederate statue/memorial issue.  In recent years the debate has become rancorous, though that in turn has led to some sensible compromises.  My next blog post will cover one example of that welcome new approach to this difficult problem, in Franklin, Tennessee.

Below are my photos of the monuments, from east to west, and an overall photo of the tree-lined avenue.