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

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.


Franklin, TN Civil War Round Table Speech on February 9, 2020

I will be speaking to the Franklin, Tennessee Civil War Round Table on Sunday February 9.  The notice about the talk is below.  All are welcome.

Franklin Civil War Round Table presents former Foreign Service officer and historian – February 2020
Author and Historian Dr. Gene Schmiel Franklin Civil War Round Table’s February 2020 Event – After the November 1864 Battle of Franklin, several federal commanders including Generals John Schofield, David Stanley, Jacob Cox and Emerson Opdycke all claimed credit for their “victory.” Opdycke and Cox, especially, conducted a post war debate which ultimately ended their friendship. At the February 2020 Franklin Civil War Round Table, Dr. Gene Schmiel  is presenting, “Jacob Cox, Emerson Opdycke, and Competing Memories of the Battle of Franklin.”

Gene Schmiel is a student of the Civil War whose book, Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era, was published in 2014 by Ohio University Press and presented in Franklin in 2014.This work, a History Book Club selection, was deemed “best biography of the year” by Civil War Books and Authors.

Schmiel’s second book, Lincoln, Antietam, and a Northern Lost Cause, was published in April, 2019. It is a speculative history about the Battle of Antietam and how an overwhelming Union victory there ironically could have resulted in the preservation of slavery. Also in 2019 he released, Ohio Heroes of the Battle of Franklin.

Schmiel holds a Ph. D. degree from The Ohio State University and was an Assistant Professor of History at St. Francis University (PA)  before becoming  a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State which included service as a US Ambassador. He resides in Gainesville, Virginia with his wife, Bonnie Kathryn.

This Franklin Civil War Round Table presentation will be Sunday, February 9th at Carnton’s Fleming Center in Franklin. We start at 3:00.  The public is invited. For additional information, please contact


Below is a picture of me speaking to the Franklin group in 2014 and also of my  book about the Battle of Franklin.51JftAytKYLcropped-three-heroes-at-franklin-1.jpg

155th Anniversary of House Passage of the 13th Amendment

On January 31, 1865,  the House of Representatives had its final debate about the 13th amendment, which would abolish slavery, passing it late in the day.  (The recent movie “Lincoln,”one of the better Civil War movies, in my view, depicted that event relatively realistically).

General Jacob Cox, who had been active in the Western campaign which destroyed the Confederate Army of Tennessee under John Bell Hood, was in Washington that day on his way to his final campaign in North Carolina.  He was also consulting with Ohio’s Republican congressional leaders about his running for Governor of Ohio later that year — an election which he would win.

Cox was in the House gallery as the debate and vote took place.  He wrote to his wife that the bill “finally passed amid the most tremendous excitement.” As a graduate of the intensely-antislavery Oberlin College and a staunch opponent of slavery, Cox was likely among those applauding the loudest, as were the blacks who were allowed to sit in a separate section of the gallery for the first time in 1864.  He met with Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase and Henry Ward Beecher, and commented later, “the great historical event was, of course, the central subject of conversation.  The forecast by such men of the effect upon the country and upon the world made a blending of solid wisdom with brilliant eloquence not to be forgotten….[throughout Washington] there was something almost unreal, though fascinating in the contrast of the excitement of the field with the totally different but scarcely less absorbing excitement which I saw in every face. ”

Below is an image of the House when it voted for the 13th amendment.

(I would appreciate readers sharing this item and others with their colleagues on various social media).

13th Amendment Passes Congress 2

Did Union Military Resistance to New Weapons Prolong the War?

One of the stereotypes about military organizations/bureaucracies is that they are always planning for the last war and are reluctant to adopt new, untried weapons or methods.   In the Civil War one of the strongest proponents of that attitude, General James W. Ripley, was the Union army’s Chief of Ordnance from the beginning of the war until September 1863.  Early in the war he opposed the purchase of additional stocks of muskets because the army had a large supply of smooth bores, which he thought should be used first.  He also adamantly opposed the use/purchase of breech-loading rifles and repeater rifles, among other reasons because he believed volunteer soldiers were undisciplined and would waste ammunition.

Would the war have been much shorter if Union soldiers had had repeaters (not to mention other innovations like the Gatling gun) as early as 1863 in large numbers?  We can only speculate — but it certainly would not have been longer!

Below are images of the a Repeater Rifle, the Gatling Gun, and General Ripley



Thanks for the High Rank

My book, “Lincoln, Antietam, and a Northern Lost Cause” is now ranked in the top 5 in’s listings of History of Abolition and 19th Century American History.  The book is now available in e-form at a reduced rate, so I hope many others will give it a look.   Thank you, readers!

Below is the link to’s ratings:

Copy of Lincoln, Antietam (4)

Book reviews

Thanks to those who have bought my books and to those who will do so in the future.  I very much appreciate your interest, and look forward to your feedback/reviews.  It would be especially helpful if you would write your review on, which is the place to which most people go — it is also where my books are for sale:

Below are pictures of the books:

51PnXL-3woL._SY346_Copy of Lincoln, Antietam (4)41Q7OgzDrQL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

54th Massachusetts and MLK

Yesterday we visited the National Museum of Art in Washington and took a picture of the superb St. Gaudens sculpture of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment of the USCT and their commander Robert Gould Shaw.  This was the group featured in one of the best Civil War movies, “Glory.”

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day, and I thought it appropriate to link the picture of the 54th Mass. and the image of the National Civil Rights museum in Memphis.  The museum was built around the Lorraine motel where MLK was assassinated.  A very moving experience to visit.

National Civil Rights Museum housed in the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
Memphis, Tennessee, United States, North America