THE COX FAMILY IN THE CIVIL WAR
When General Beauregard's troops fired on Fort Sumter on 12 April 1861, Joseph Cox had been dead for almost 12 years, his wife Mary for a little over two. While their youngest grandchildren were still being born, their oldest grandchild, Charles Epperson Cox, was 27. It was thus their grandchildren's generation, offspring of their ten children, who were destined to be most directly involved in the war.
While Sandford's family was in Lafayette, Indiana and Sarah (Cox) Kirby and her family had left for California about 1855, all of their children were too young to participate in the war. All of the cousins, then, who were young adults or on the threshold of adulthood had grown up in or near Rock Island County, Illinois and all knew one another well.
There were 18 male cousins at least aged 13 in April 1861. Fourteen of these cousins were to see service before the war ended in 1865. Of the four that are not known to have served, two were married before the war started and one was 17 when it ended. While this is obviously a very high rate of participation, it may not have been that unusual. Illinois was the land of Lincoln and support for the Union was strong, especially in the northern and central parts of the state. On the other hand, five cousins did not enlist until February or March 1865, when the war was obviously near its end, although one of these was Hill Cox, who was a month short of 16 and had to lie about his age to get in.
None of the Cox cousins died in battle, although three died as a result of the war. Both Augustus B. Cox and Washington R. Cox were taken prisoner. Washington enlisted in August 1862 and was captured at Stone River or Murfreesboro, Tennessee on 31 Dec 1862. He was confined at Richmond, Virginia on 16 Jan 1863 and paroled into Union hands at City Point, Virginia on 3 Feb 1863. He died in hospital at Annapolis, Maryland on 6 Mar 1863 of typhoid. Gus also enlisted in August 1862, but was not captured until 23 Apr 1864, at Decatur, Georgia. He died on 16 Sep 1864 in the prison at Charleston, S.C. of phthisis pulmonalis.
Joseph Rue Cox did not die during the war, but his death in 1869 was clearly a result of his service. He suffered from lung disease, probably tuberculosis, contracted the night of 13 Feb 1862, at the siege of Fort Donelson. The army spent that night in a freezing rain without shelter and he was never well afterward.
Most of the Coxes served in the Army of the Tennessee. None served in the battles in Virginia. For those interested in the campaigns in the west, I would recommend Bruce Catton's Grant Moves South (published by Little, Brown), which covers the period up to Vicksburg. The sequel, Grant Takes Command, is also very good and begins with the Battle at Chattanooga, although after that point the main focus shifts to Grant's command of the Army of the Potomac, with some coverage of Sherman's campaigns in Georgia. If you want to determine what battles your own ancestor fought in, you can use Frederick Dyer's A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion to determine the actions in which his regiment was engaged. That should be checked against the muster rolls, however, as absences in hospital or on furlough are not uncommon.
The chart included with this article summarizes some basic information. All the soldiers shown, but the first two and the last two, are grandsons of Joseph and Mary Cox. The first two soldiers, Crittenden and Alfred Cox, are nephews of Joseph, among the youngest members of the third Cox generation (from Joseph's father John). The two Hickmans are sons of Joseph's niece, Mary (Cox) Hickman. The average age at enlistment for the group was 21. Their average height at enlistment was 5 foot, 7b inches. Nearly all were farmers when they enlisted.
Most of those who served eventually applied for pensions. The pension files are very informative. The criteria were gradually liberalized as the Civil War generation started to die off, but the applicant had to show that he was at least partially disabled. At least in the early years, there had to be some sort of evidence that the disability was related to the applicant's military service (although just about all the applicants eventually got a pension). The files will often recount the places the applicant had lived since leaving the service and, beginning in the 1890s, will usually state who he married and the names and birthdates of his children. There will be descriptions of his wounds and illnesses in the service and descriptions of the effects since. Relatives, neighbors and old comrades often submitted affidavits in support of the application. In close or unusual cases, an examiner would be appointed to go around and take depositions by way of investigating the application. These can be quite extensive. Finally, there will be a record of the pensioner's death and, if he left a widow, she will often apply for a widow's pension.
Reading a lot of pension files leaves one with the impression that the most significant effect of the war was neither the preservation of the Union nor the end of slavery, but chronic diarrhea and its seemingly inevitable companion, disabling hemorrhoids. At first I suspected the extent of these problems might have been exaggerated in order to procure public assistance. While such doubts have not entirely subsided, I think other factors were also at work. There were very few soldiers who were able to remain healthy throughout the war. When one considers the problems of providing clean water to armies in the field at the time, it is clear that dysentery was quite widespread. Many affidavits from people at home attest to the generally emaciated and sickly condition of the returning soldiers. While some files contain terrible stories of chronic conditions that lasted for years after the war, others seem to reflect disabilities not truly traceable to service 30 years earlier, but problems caused by age, hard labor and accidents. Either way, it is obvious that a lot of our forebears had to struggle pretty hard to make a living.
Two of the files that were most valuable from a genealogical perspective were those for Alfred and Crittenden Cox. Alfred B. Cox was a son of Moses Cox (Joseph's brother), the location of Moses's family in Cedar County, Iowa as of 1850 having been reported in the last Newsletter. Alfred's file has not only provided considerable information about him, but permitted tracing of his brothers, David M. Cox and William H. Cox. Alfred enlisted in November 1861. He weighed 165 pounds at the time and was 5 feet, 11 inches. On 19 Sep 1862 at Iuka, Mississippi, Alfred received a seemingly minor wound on his left hip from a shell fragment. The following May, he came down with typhoid, contracted on a march in Louisiana. It was July before he was able to return to duty. By 1864, he had lung problems and was coughing blood.
Alfred got home to Davenport about Christmas 1865. By that time, he was down to 140 pounds and his brother and sister-in-law, David M. and Mary E. Cox, later testified to how run down he was when he returned from the service. The hip wound eventually abscessed and made Alfred partially lame. He had recurrent lung problems and, in 1879, applied for a pension. He had lived with his brother David part of the time on his farm in LeClaire township, north of Davenport, and also worked for others as a laborer. In 1878, both David's family and Alfred moved to the vicinity of Avoca, Pottawatamie County in western Iowa. The doctors had considerable trouble figuring out what was wrong with him, but it was clear that he was debilitated. By 1881, his weight was down to 130 pounds. By 1900, he weighed 120 pounds.
Much of the detail available in Alfred's file is contained in an investigation of his claim launched, at least in part, because of a negative report received from a Dr. James Gamble of LeClaire, his brother's family doctor. Gamble stated, "Both physically and mentally [Alfred] was of low degree -- given to excesses in sexual indulgence -- by his own confession." This was a problem, as one of the requirements of a pension application was to show that the alleged disability was not due to "vicious habits," meaning, basically, alcohol or women. No other evidence turned up that Alfred's disability had any such origin. David Cox said: "I dont say so because he is my brother but I dont think there is a man in the State of Iowa who is less with women than he is. I never knew him to dissipate in that or any other way at any time."
Crittenden Cox's was a particularly sad case. Crittenden was a son of Dr. David Cox, Joseph Cox's brother. He had grown up at New Paris in Preble County, Ohio and enlisted in Company D, 35th Ohio Infantry in September 1861, aged about 17. He was only about 5 foot, 5 inches in height and had been working as a clerk. By February 1862, he had pneumonia and was in the hospital for more than two months before being furloughed home for convalescence. He hadn't been back long when, in July 1862, he contracted "camp diarrhea" (probably a form of dysentery) at Tuscumbia, Alabama. On the march back into Tennessee, he was very weak, but determined to keep up with his company. At first his comrades assisted in carrying his equipment and, finally, the Colonel let him ride his horse. He was sent to an invalid hospital at Nashville and given a disability discharge in September. After a year, his condition improved sufficiently that he enlisted in the Navy's gunboat service. His problems with diarrhea continued, however, and he was assigned light duties as the ship's painter. He spent most of his off-duty hours lying on the canvas stores in the storeroom, convenient to the water closet.
Crittenden never recovered from his army diarrhea. After the war, he settled in the river town of Jeffersonville, Indiana, but one of his acquaintances remembered that he was often worn out and wouldn't go "about of evenings as was the custom of other young men of his age." He married in 1870 and had a son. Most of his jobs were with railroads, but he had great difficulty keeping them due to his frequent bouts of illness. About 1885, he moved to Chicago and got a job as secretary to the President of the New York & Ohio Railroad Co. The President later remembered that Crittenden would be confined to his bed for weeks at a time. Once, in New York City on a business trip, the President feared that Crittenden was so sick he would die. Affidavits in Crittenden's file from three of his sisters revealed that two had moved to Kansas City and one to Chicago, which permitted further tracing of them that might otherwise have been impossible. Crittenden died of a stroke in Chicago in 1900. His widow gave Seattle as her forwarding address, which proved to be where their son had moved.