Gen. Cox witnesses political division from winter camp

General Jacob Cox established winter quarters along the Ohio River near Marietta in January 1863. The camp was near the end of the railroad line from Cincinnati near Parkersburg, along the Ohio River, with connections to the B&O Railroad.

He was able to receive and send messages to all parts of the district and department headquarters. The Baltimore Road came from the east, near Grafton, W.Va. The Ohio River was not frozen, so supplies could be brought by boat.

The Confederate Army did not attempt to re-enter West Virginia, and except for some guerrillas and bushwhackers, the winter camp was quiet. Drilling and instruction were seldom interrupted.

This January was quiet compared to the past two years when partisan groups gave no quarter or killed messengers and made frequent raids on the Union Army as well as civilians.

These bands were organized by the Confederate government under authority of law, but were free of Confederate Army command, thus unrestrained by the checks upon lawlessness.

They were supposed to hand over to the Confederate Army supplies either military or any food supplies they had raided, but the wagons were often relieved of the supplies by individual soldiers. They could keep all the horses that they found, a compensation for not getting regular Army pay.

These men sometimes wore uniforms but more often did not. The regular Confederate Army did not like these partisans and considered their actions not proper conduct of war.

Complicating matters, the governor of Virginia, Gov. Letcher, did not recognize the new state of West Virginia and authorized recruiting to form more partisan groups to harass the Union Army.

Mosby was a leader of a group of partisans, working often in the area surrounding their home, and they received help from sympathetic civilians, in the form of food, resting places and information.

In West Virginia, which had strong Union feelings, Home Guards were formed for the protection of the loyal Union civilians and, with the help of the Union Army, tried to rid the state of these partisans, but in conflicts no quarter was given and neither side came back with prisoners.

There was a re-organization of staff. Lt. Gen. McElroy, who had been adjutant-general, became inspector-general with the responsibility of supplies, instruction and drill of all the soldiers in the district.

The commissary department gained Capt. Barriger, helping Capt. Treat because of added troops. Supply depots were established at Wheeling, Parkersburg and Gallipolis.

Gen. Cox’s brother Theodore, who had volunteered to serve him in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, then appointed lieutenant in the 11th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, also was added to the general’s staff. Theodore was Gen. Cox’s constant companion until peace was declared.

An incident between Gen. Milroy and Frenchman Gustave Cluseret illustrated the significance of political friends. Milroy had praised Gustave, getting him an officer’s position. Something happened between them and Milroy generated paperwork against Gustave, who was deprived appointment by the Congress.

Milroy had powerful political friends in Congress, making Gustave resigned. Gustave gained worldwide recognition as military chief of the Paris Commune in 1870.

During January, the Congress was questioning President Lincoln’s military appointments, demanding a decrease in officers. The Congress felt the president had exceeded the law in military appointments and promotions.

Two resolutions were unanimously passed, directing the secretary of war to release the names of major generals and brigadier generals, when and where they are employed. Secretary of War Stanton replied that in the interest of the state, he could not release all the information.

This troubled Cox for he wanted to serve. He was not regular Army but had been appointed from civilian life.

Cox was good friends with Gov. Dennison and had supported him in his senatorial bid for Congress against Sen. Sherman, brother of Gen. William T. Sherman. Cox was also good friends with Salmon P. Chase, secretary of the Treasury, but at this time, both Chase and William Seward, secretary of state, had given Lincoln their resignations under pressure from politicians who thought Chase and Seward were too conservative.

Lincoln denied both resignations, but there was an uneasy relationship with Chase, who wanted to run for president. Rep. Hutchins had been supported by Cox but he had not been re-nominated and Garfield, who had been elected to fill his seat, was still in the field.

So Gen. Cox was without strong political backing.

Cox wrote Chase, giving an example of a captain who forced a lieutenant to resign because of general inefficiency. This lieutenant a few months later became lieutenant colonel of a new regiment and was commanding soldiers.

Secretary of War Stanton said the ineffective officers would be selected out of service. Cox argued that volunteer soldiers were fit enough to decide great wars, and the regular army should be flexible enough to adapt and increase army size.

Lincoln eventually had to resort to the draft to increase soldiers and fill in regiments who had lost soldiers.

General Cox saw the strength in the volunteer soldier and had great confidence in his men. General Cox served until peace was declared.

Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren’s Sutliff Museum.