Book Review: Major General Alexander M. McCook, USA: A Civil War Biography


by Wayne Fanebust

Jefferson, NC:McFarland, 2012. Pp. vi, 282. Illus., notes., biblio., index. $35.00 paper. ISBN: 0786472413

A life of the most notable of the “Fighting McCooks of Ohio.”

Altogether 17 members of the McCook family of Ohio served the Union in the Civil War, either as soldiers or surgeons, six of whom rose to general, and three of whom died in the war.  Alexander M. McCook (1831-1903) was the only member of the clan who was a professional soldier.  He graduated from West Point in 1852; 11 of the 43 graduates rose to general, one side or the other, among them Henry W. Slocum, John H. Forney, and George Crook.  After graduation, McCook served on the frontier and later as an instructor at the Military Academy until the outbreak of the Civil War.  Early in the war he commanded a 90-day Ohio regiment at Bull Run, where the youngest of the McCooks was killed in action.  McCook quickly rose brigade and then division command in the Western Theatre, and after a stellar performance at Shiloh became a major general of volunteers in 1862.  McCook went on to corps command at Perryville, Stones River, Tullahoma, and Chickamauga, then became commander of the defenses of Washington, and ended the war as a district commander in Arkansas.  Oddly, despite excellent service, McCook’s finest moment in the war was Shiloh, however, and he never rose to national prominence.  He ended the Civil War with a brevet as a major general
in the Regular Army, in which his substantive rank was lieutenant colonel.  In the post-war era McCook rose to major general in the Regular Army, and end his career in command of the infantry and cavalry school at Fort Leavenworth.

This treatment by attorney and independent scholar Fanebust not only gives us a very good look at the general’s life and military career, but also profiles the lives and service of his kinsmen in the war.  Full of often fine detail about military operations and some interesting analysis, this book is a useful read for anyone interested in command during the Civil War.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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