My Dearest Lilla

Letters Home from Civil War General Jacob D. Cox

  • Author(s): Gene Schmiel
  • Series: Voices of the Civil War
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2023-10-01
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $34.95 | Buy Now

Jacob D. Cox experienced more facets of the Civil War than most officers: by land and sea, in both Western and Eastern Theaters, among the inner political circles of Ohio and Washington, DC, in territories hostile and friendly, amidst legal conflicts both civilian and military, and in the last campaigns in Tennessee and North Carolina. The Union general capitalized on his experience by penning his two-volume Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, one of the war’s finest memoirs and arguably the best by a nonprofessional soldier, as well as Atlanta and The Battle of Franklin, both definitive studies for nearly a century. In 2012, Gene Schmiel, Cox’s biographer, learned of a cache in the Oberlin College archives of 213 letters Cox wrote to his wife, Helen, during the war. Schmiel recognized these documents as a ready resource for Cox as he wrote his histories, and many stand as first drafts of Cox’s analyses of the military and sociopolitical events of the day.

Helen Finney Cox (her husband affectionately referred to her as “Lilla”) was a mother of six and the daughter of Oberlin College president Charles Finney. These intimate and insightful wartime letters show both the fondness Cox had for his spouse and his respect for her as an intellectual equal. To Helen, the stoic, introverted statesman revealed—as he did to no one else—his inner thoughts and concerns, presenting observant, lucid, and informative reports and analyses of the war, his changing life, and his ambitions. This collection illustrates the life of a Gilded Age Renaissance man as he made the transition from untested soldier to respected general and statesman.

GENE SCHMIEL has a PhD in history from The Ohio State University. He was an assistant professor at St. Francis University, Pennsylvania, and a Department of State foreign service officer. His books include Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era and Searching for Irvin McDowell: The Civil War’s Forgotten General.