Jacob Dolson Cox (October 27, 1828 – August 4, 1900)

Updated: November 18, 2017

Jacob Cox was a nineteenth century American political and military leader who served as a brigadier general in the U.S. volunteer army during the American Civil War.

Jacob Cox was born in Montreal, Canada, on January 8, 1866. Although his family lived in New York, Cox's father was a construction contractor and had taken his family to Montreal while he oversaw a construction project. When the project was completed, the family returned to New York, where Cox received most of his early education through private tutoring. At fourteen years of age, Cox accepted a clerkship with a New York law office. Two years later, he learned bookkeeping while working at a New York brokerage firm.

While Cox was a teenager, his family joined the Congregational Church, and Cox became acquainted with the reverends Samuel D. Cochran and Charles Grandison Finney, who were associated with Oberlin College in Ohio. Cox decided to pursue a career in the ministry and moved to Ohio to enroll at Oberlin. While in college, Cox met and subsequently married Finney's daughter in 1849. The couple lived in Finney's home, while Cox finished his studies, graduating in 1850. One year later, Cox and his father-in-law became estranged over religious differences, prompting Cox to move to Warren, Ohio, where he served as superintendent of schools. While living at Warren, Cox studied law and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1853. During that time, he also became active in local politics, and he helped to organize the Ohio Republican Party. In 1859, Trumbull County voters elected Cox to the Ohio Senate.

While serving in the Ohio Senate, Cox privately undertook the study of military science and joined the Ohio Militia. In 1860, Ohio Governor William Dennison commissioned Cox as a brigadier general in the state's militia. When the American Civil War began, Cox joined the volunteer army as a brigadier general and was placed in command of Camp Jackson, a recruit depot in Columbus, Ohio. Soon thereafter, Cox was given a field command with the Department of the Ohio. As commander of the Kanawha Brigade, Cox participated in the Western Virginia Campaign (June - October, 1861) serving first under Major General George B. McClellan and then under Major General William S. Rosecrans. Cox's brigade was instrumental in driving Confederate forces out of the Kanawha River Valley and cementing Federal control of western Virginia. By August 1862, Cox's brigade had grown to division size and was transferred to the Eastern Theater in preparation for the Battle of Bull Run II, where it played only a minor role. After the Union defeat at Bull Run, Cox and the Kanawha Division were assigned to the Washington Defenses. During the Maryland Campaign, Cox commanded the Kanawha Division, attached to the 9th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, at the Battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862) and at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862).

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln nominated Cox for promotion to major general, but Congress rejected the nomination because the Union Army had too many officers holding that rank. Cox returned to the West for most of 1863, serving as commander of the District of Ohio and, later, the District of Michigan, in the Department of the Ohio, under Major General Ambrose Burnside.

In 1864 and 1865, Cox participated in the Atlanta, Franklin-Nashville, and Carolinas Campaigns, as commander of the 3rd Division of the 23rd Corps of the Army of the Ohio. His performance was particularly noteworthy at the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864), where his troops held back a Confederate assault on the center of the Union line. After that battle, Cox was promoted to major general of volunteers on December 7, 1864. The following November, Cox was elected as governor of Ohio while he was still serving in the army. He was mustered out of service on January 1, 1866.

Cox was inaugurated as the twenty-eighth governor of Ohio on January 8, 1866 and served until January 13, 1868. During his term, he fell out of favor with Republican supporters due to his views on Reconstruction. Cox supported Andrew Johnson during the President's impeachment proceedings and generally favored Johnson's conservative approach in the South. Cox also opposed giving African Americans the right to vote and went so far as to suggest that they should be placed on reservations. With his views so far out of alignment with the mainstream of his party, Cox chose to not seek re-election in 1867.

After his term as governor, Cox moved to Cincinnati and practiced law, but his absence from the political arena was short lived. In March 1869, President Grant appointed Cox as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Cox served until November 1870, when differences with Grant over the President's patronage practices prompted Cox to resign.

Cox returned to Cincinnati and joined the Liberal Republican Party in 1872. Liberal Republicans opposed the re-election of President Grant and supported the end of Reconstruction. In 1873, Cox accepted a position as president of the Toledo and Wabash Railroad and moved to Toledo. While living there, Toledo voters elected him as a reform Republican to the United States House of Representatives in 1876. Cox served one term in Congress, from 1877 to 1879, and declined to be re-nominated.

In 1881, Cox accepted an appointment as dean of the Cincinnati Law School. He held that position for sixteen years and simultaneously served as president of the University of Cincinnati from 1885 to 1889. When Cox retired as dean of the Cincinnati Law School in 1897, President William McKinley offered him an appointment as U.S. minister to Spain, but Cox declined. Instead, Cox devoted his remaining years to writing about his experiences in the Civil War.

Jacob Dolson Cox died while on summer vacation at Gloucester, Massachusetts on August 4, 1900. He is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

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"Jacob Dolson Cox," Ohio Civil War Central, 2017, Ohio Civil War Central. 16 Dec 2017 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=472>

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"Jacob Dolson Cox." (2017) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved December 16, 2017, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=472

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Ohio Civil War Central: An Encyclopedia of the American Civil War