Jacob D. Cox

From Ohio History Central
Cox, Jacob D. (1).jpg
Governors portrait of General Jacob D. Cox that hangs in the Ohio Statehouse. He served as governor of Ohio from 1866 to 1868.

Jacob Dolson Cox served as Ohio governor from 1866 to 1868.

Cox was born on October 27, 1828, in Montreal, Canada. 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. After the project was complete, the family returned to New York. Cox's father was descended from German immigrants, whereas his mother's family came from New England. One of her ancestors was Puritan William Brewster.

Most of Cox's early education was informal. He briefly attended a private school in New York, but he achieved most of his education by reading and studying privately. He spent two years working as a clerk in a law office, starting at the age of fourteen. At sixteen, Cox began an apprenticeship at a brokerage firm. It was during this time that the Reverend Samuel D. Cochran, a graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio, came to New York to start a church. Cox attended some revival meetings led by the Reverend Charles G. Finney and decided to join Cochran's church, along with his mother and sisters. He decided to study for the ministry, attending Oberlin College and graduating in 1850. During his years of study at Oberlin, Cox worked as a baker for the college and tutored algebra to pay for his tuition, but he also took time to participate in a number of student societies on the campus. The Reverend Finney was president of Oberlin College at this time, and Cox fell in love with his daughter, a young widow with a small child. The two were married on Thanksgiving Day, 1849, and the couple lived with Finney after their marriage. Cox and Finney eventually disagreed with each other over theological matters, causing Cox to leave Oberlin in 1851. At the time, Cox was a graduate student in theology.

Cox moved his family to Warren, Ohio, and became the superintendent of schools there. At the same time, he began to read the law, gaining admittance to the Ohio bar in 1853. Cox was a well-respected member of the community. He soon became involved in local politics, helping to organize the Republican Party in Trumbull County in 1855. Because of his reputation and experience, Cox successfully ran for the Ohio Senate in 1859.

As a senator in the state legislature, Cox gained a strong reputation. He made an alliance with James Monroe, another Oberlin graduate, and James A. Garfield. The three men worked with Governor William Dennison to pass legislation in the months leading up to the American Civil War. Cox, Monroe, and Garfield gained the nickname "the Radical Triumvirate" because of their influence. In addition, Cox became involved in the state's military life during this time, becoming brigadier-general of the state militia in early 1860.

When the Civil War began, Cox did not hesitate. He immediately left the state senate to recruit and lead Ohio volunteers. Cox then was appointed commander of Camp Jackson. Volunteers from all over the state gathered at Camp Jackson before making their way to their field assignments.

Cox soon was commanding troops in the field. He remained in service for the duration of the war, rising from brigadier-general to major general. During the Civil War, Cox led troops into battle in western Virginia in the Kanawha Valley campaign, at South Mountain, and at Antietam. On April 16, 1863, General Cox assumed command of the district of Ohio, where he remained for the duration of the year. In 1864, Cox assumed control of the Twenty-Third Army Corps and participated in the Atlanta, Franklin, and Nashville campaigns. He united his forces with General William T. Sherman's army in North Carolina in March 1865. Cox's military service officially ended when he resigned on January 1, 1866, having successfully run for Ohio governor.

Later in life, Cox would borrow from his military experiences in the war to write a number of military histories. His works included Atlanta (1882), The Battle of Franklin (1897), The March to the Sea (1898), and Military Reminiscences of the Civil War (two volumes), published just before his death in 1900. In addition, he served as the military book critic for the magazine The Nation.

Cox's reputation as a competent military leader propelled him into state politics at the end of the Civil War. The Union Party, already beginning to lose its cohesiveness by the latter half of 1865, chose Cox as its gubernatorial candidate for the election of October 1865. Cox campaigned hard, making Reconstruction policies and African American civil rights key elements of his platform. Although Cox had been somewhat supportive of abolitionist goals prior to the Civil War, he adamantly opposed granting African Americans the right to vote. In his speeches, he also advocated separating whites and African Americans in the South, putting former slaves onto reservations. Cox supported President Andrew Johnson's plan for Reconstruction, which was a conciliatory policy towards the South. Cox won the election by a wide margin, defeating Democrat George W. Morgan. He served one term as governor, from 1866 to 1868. During Cox's term, Ohioans revoked their support of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which sought to give African Americans equal protection under the law. Ohioans also rejected a statewide referendum that sought to give African American men the right to vote. Cox decided not to run for reelection in 1867.

Cox briefly retired from politics when he left office in early 1868 and moved to Cincinnati to establish a law practice. In March 1869, he became secretary of the interior in President Ulysses S. Grant's administration. After only a year and a half, Cox resigned as secretary of the interior because he did not like the "spoils" system that operated in Grant's administration. He returned to his law practice in Cincinnati until he became president of the Toledo and Wabash Railroad Company in 1873. In order to fulfill his new duties, Cox moved to Toledo. He remained as president of the railroad until 1878, in the meantime serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from the Toledo district from 1877 to 1879.

After leaving Congress, Cox turned to academic pursuits. During his years in Toledo, Cox had developed an interest in microscopy. He became prominent within this field, publishing papers in professional journals and serving as a fellow of the American Microscopial Society throughout the 1880s, ultimately becoming its president in 1892. In 1881, Cox became the dean of the Cincinnati Law School. He held this position for sixteen years and simultaneously served as president of the University of Cincinnati from 1885 to 1889. Cox retired as dean of the Cincinnati Law School in 1897. President William McKinley asked Cox to become the United States minister to Spain at this time, but Cox refused his offer. Instead, he decided to write his memoirs. Cox died at Magnolia, Massachusetts, on August 4, 1900. He was interred in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

See Also


  1. Aufr, J. Jeffery. "Jacob D. Cox: 1866 - 1868." The Ohio History Connection. Ohio Fundamental Documents Searchable Database. http://www.ohiohistory.org/onlinedoc/ohgovernment/governors/coxjacob.html.
  2. Cox, Jacob D. Military Reminiscences of the Civil War. New York, NY: Scribner, 1900.
  3. Cox, Jacob Dolson, (1828 - 1900). Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=C000833.
  4. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  5. Jordan, Philip D. Ohio Comes of Age: 1874-1899. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1943.  
  6. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  7. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.