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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Zeppelin(s) and the Civil War: Extract from “Civil War Immigrant Leaders”

Among the many thousands of immigrants who participated in the Civil War, one of the most famous — ultimately — was Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin. The following is the first of several extracts from my book, “Civil War Immigrant Leaders”

              Born into an aristocratic family in Germany in 1838, Zeppelin was tutored privately until he attended military schools in the 1850’s.  He was a Lieutenant in Wurtemberg’s army in 1863 when he requested leave to come to the United States to observe the Civil War.  He reportedly requested and got an appointment with President Lincoln, who issued him a pass to the Army of the Potomac.  It appears that Zeppelin spent only a few months as an observer before deciding to go off on a trip to see more of the United States.  However, at least one source states that during his time with the Union army, he observed Thaddeus Lowe’s ballooning activities in support of the army. 

       Zeppelin traveled through New York and went to the West via Buffalo.  He apparently spent some time wandering in and around Lake Superior and up and down the Mississippi River.  On August 17, 1863, he arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota.  On that day an itinerant German immigrant balloonist named John Steiner was going to display his talents.  The latter had served with Lowe in the army, and that plus their German descent allowed the two men to quickly become friends.  The two men took several ascents, and Zeppelin wrote later, “While I was above St. Paul, I had my first idea of aerial navigation strongly impressed upon me and it was there that the first idea of my Zeppelins came to me.”

       Zeppelin returned home later in 1863 to resume his military career.  He would ultimately rise to the rank of General in the united German army.  He resigned from the army in 1891 and spent most of the rest of his life working on designs for airships.  In 1895 he received a patent for an airship whose design would be the model for future Zeppelins.  He made his first test flight in 1900, and by the time of World War I, his designs were seen as important weapons by the German army.  The latter used Zeppelins to make air raids over Britain during that war. 

       Zeppelin died in 1917 and is considered one of the most important pioneers in aviation history. 

Below is a photo of Zeppelin (second from right) and other Union army staffers, including Ulric Dahlgren (standing)

“Civil War Immigrant Leaders” Now Available for Purchase

This newest book in my series, “Civil War Personalities: 50 At a Time,” is now available at

Of the tens of thousands of immigrants who played key roles for both the Union and Confederacy, this book focuses on a representative 50. Here are short descriptions of those on the cover, from top left:

  1. Patrick Cleburne, Ireland, Confederate General, “Stonewall of the West.”
  2. Thomas Meagher, Ireland, Union General, the “Irish Brigade.”

3. Sister Anthony O’Connell, Ireland, Union nurse

4. Friedrich Hecker, Germany, Union General

5. John Nicolay, German, Lincoln’s White House Chief of Staff

6. Heros von Borcke, Prussia, Confederate Cavalryman, JEB Stuart’s aide

7. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, England, Medical Pioneer, Initiator of the Sanitary Commission idea

8. Allan Pinkerton, Scotland, Union Detective and Intel Chief

9. Marie Tepe, France, Union Nurse and “Vivandiere”

James Garfield Home Site of Talk about Irvin McDowell

On May 6 I visited the President James Garfield House (National Park Service) to give a talk about my new book, “Searching for Irvin McDowell.” I was hosted by acting Superintendent, Allison Powell. The arrangements had been made by Superintendent Todd Arrington, who is on another assignment.

Attached are two photos of me with Allison, whose staff was very helpful and supportive throughout. Many thanks to that great group.

The book (see below) is now on sale at the Garfield House and on-line via and Savas-Beatie:


Over the last few years, I have written seven books in my series, “Civil War Personalities: 50 at a Time” about leaders from seven states (actually six states and one region). They are: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and the Low Country (South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida). They are available on at:

I have several more in mind, but please consider these as a starting point and a means to learn about the men and women from various states who made a major impact on the Civil War.


This first biography of Civil War General Irvin McDowell, who commanded the largest army in American history to that time at the First Battle of Bull Run, has been published by Savas-Beatie and will be issued later this month. It is available for pre-publication orders now.

My co-author, Frank Simione, Jr., and I are very pleased with the final product which Ted Savas and his skilled team put together with us. Thanks Ted!!

Read details about the book, the first chapter, and some advance reviews at:

My talk on Thursday Feb. 9 about General Irvin McDowell

This Thursday at 10:30 AM, at the Hylton Center, Prince William campus of George Mason University, I will be speaking about “The Forgotten Union Commander Who Almost Won the First Battle of Bull Run, Irvin McDowell.” This event is part of the Manassas Lifelong Learning Institute’s spring program, and is open to the public.

Union General Irvin McDowell was a major actor in the Civil War for a short, but critical time.  At the First Battle of Bull Run, this Ohio-born general commanded the largest army in American history to that time.  He was a dutiful, dependable, and diligent military officer.  But in hindsight he may have been called upon to perform duties which were beyond his capacity and which served to enhance his peculiarities, including impulsiveness. 

My talk will be based on the book, “Searching for Irvin McDowell, The Civil War’s Forgotten General,” which Frank Simione and I wrote. This is the first full-length biography of McDowell, and it is going to be published this spring by Savas-Beatie publishers:

Bio: Gene Schmiel is a retired U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer who also was an Assistant Professor of History at St. Francis University (PA).  He holds a Ph.D. degree in History from The Ohio State University. Gene has written 20 books about the Civil War.  His first, “Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era,” was published in 2014 by Ohio University Press.  Gene is a native Ohioan who lives in Gainesville, Virginia, on the border of the Manassas battlefields. 


The 16th book in my series, “Civil War Personalities, 50 at a time,” entitled, ‘”Civil War Pennsylvanians,” was published earlier this week on Pennsylvania produced some of the most famous Civil War personalities, including Meade, Hancock, Meigs, and, for different reasons, John Pemberton. In this book you can read about these men and 46 other personalities from the Keystone State. And, as always, I include suggestions for further reading for in-depth studies.

The book is available in paperback or ebook form at:,

or either of these via my web-sites:

civilwarhistory – geneschmiel.comhtt

Below is the cover of the book, depicting eight of the personalities, from left: Montgomery Meigs; George Meade; David Dixon Porter; Marie Tepe; the Pennsylvania monument on the grounds of the Gettysburg battlefield; Winfield Scott Hancock; Jonathan Letterman; John Pemberton; and Sallie Broadhead.

“CIVIL WAR MISSOURIANS” available now!!

The fifteenth book in my series, “Civil War Personalities 50 At a Time,” entitled, CIVIL WAR MISSOURIANS, is now available in both ebook and paperback formats.

It was a real education writing this book. Missouri was a border state where all the forces which brought and wrought the Civil War came together and created an internecine conflict likely unmatched in any other state.

On the cover I’ve featured nine representative individuals: Sterling Price; Mark Twain; Nathaniel Lyon; Dred Scott; Mary Meachum; Claiborne Jackson; the James Brothers, Frank and Jesse; and Franz Sigel. In the center of the cover is the Missouri monument at the Vicksburg Battlefield Park. It underlines the divisiveness of the war in the state as it, unlike the other state monuments, is dedicated to both sides in the conflict since its citizens fought on both sides.

Please check on the web-site,, to get this book. Thanks!!

“CIVIL WAR IN STATUARY HALL ” revised again as Monument Momentum Continues

On Sep. 29 a statue of President Harry Truman was unveiled in Washington’s Congressional Statuary Hall. Truman’s memorial replaces that of 19th century political leader Thomas Hart Benton as one of the two chosen by the state of Missouri.

This event was the fourth in the last few months in which statues of important figures from the Civil War era have been replaced in Statuary Hall. This “monument momentum” began with the removal of the statue of Virginia’s Robert E. Lee in December 2020, which will soon be replaced by Barbara Johns. In July 2022 statues of two men, staunch Unionist James Ingalls of Kansas and Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith of Florida, were replaced by two women, Amelia Earhart and Mary McLeod Bethune, respectively.

Several legislatures have decided to replace other Civil War era figures, but have yet to formalize the process by providing a new statue. Among those new figures will be Billy Graham of North Carolina and Johnny Cash of Arkansas.

As before, I have updated my book, “Civil War in Statuary Hall” to reflect the changes. The only book ever written about this topic, it is available at:


Most historians agree that the United States army could (and some have said “should”) have won a decisive victory at the Battle of Antietam and devastated the rebel army. Several times during the day Robert E. Lee made and won desperate gambles to save his beleaguered army. His opposite number, George McClellan, fixated on the chimera of over 100,000 troops facing him, failed to take advantage of several opportunities to win that overwhelming victory. The war went on, and tens of thousands more died.

My book, “Lincoln, Antietam and a Northern Lost Cause” discusses one of those opportunities, a “What If” scenario. It is available at:

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