LCCWRT June meeting – Eugene D. (Gene) Schmiel

June LCCWRT Meeting Notice. We welcome all guests with the hopes that they will join, so please consider bringing someone to the meeting this month. Join us in June to hear Gene Schmiel explore Jacob Cox and his role as a Union political general. 

Meeting time: Tuesday, June 9, 2015; 7:30 p.m.

Location: Thomas Balch Library, 208 West Market Street, Leesburg, Virginia

Topic: “Jacob Cox and the West Point–‘Political General’ Divide in the Union Army”

Few people know that Union General in Chief Winfield Scott decided, at the beginning of the Civil War, to create a two-part army: regulars and volunteers. Presuming that the war would only last a few months and reflecting his distaste for volunteers from his Mexican War experience, Scott foresaw volunteer soldiers and officers primarily guarding while regulars did the fighting. This decision hampered the Union effort after thousands of volunteer officers and men filled the ranks in what became a major conflict, and as jealousies emerged between regulars and volunteers. To this day, the term “political general” is one of disparagement, despite the fact that some generals from the private sector performed well.

Jacob Cox, along with men like “Black Jack” Logan and Joshua Chamberlain, is considered by most observers as one of the best Union “political” generals. His achievements include securing “West” Virginia as it was created; commanding the Union left wing at the Battle of Antietam; and commanding the Union forces on the line at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. Perhaps the best evidence of his military capabilities is that W. T. Sherman offered him a brigadier generalship in the regular army at the end of the war. He did not accept, but rather was elected governor of Ohio in 1865. His official portrait as governor depicts him in his Major General’s uniform, a true “Citizen General.”

Eugene D. (Gene) Schmiel is a retired U.S. Department of State Foreign Service Officer, who now works part-time at the Department of State as an analyst in the Political-Military Bureau. He was an assistant professor of history at St. Francis University (in Pennsylvania) and has taught at Marymount, Penn State, and Shenandoah Universities. Schmiel has a Ph.D. in history from The Ohio State University, and he coauthored with his wife Kathryn a book about life in the foreign service. His book, Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era, was published by Ohio University Press in 2014.

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