Brigadier General William Ruffin Cox

Nov 8, 2018
William Ruffin Cox was born on March 11th (either in 1831 or '32; it seems there are discrepancies in this regard) in Scotland Neck in Halifax County, North Carolina. His aristocratic family had been tied with the state since the colonial days. His father died when William was only 4. His mother moved her family to Nashville to give her kids a good education. He graduated from Franklin College and went into law, working as a partner to a prominent Nashville attorney. The venture flourished.
In 1857, after ceasing the practice, Cox got married and moved back home to North Carolina, buying a plantation in Edgecombe County. He went into politics in Raleigh, running in 1859 as a state legislator for the Democrats. He lost by only 13 votes.

(Cox in the War Years)
When North Carolina joined the secession, Cox first raised a company of artillery (the "Ellis Artillery Company"), then an infantry company, joining Colonel Charles Tew's 2nd North Carolina Regiment and immediately made Major. Cox and the 2nd North Carolina would serve in the brigade of G. B. Anderson and Stephen Ramseur, which soon would become one of the best brigades in the AoNV under the latter brigadier.
When Colonel Tew was killed at Antietam, Cox was promoted first to Lt. Colonel, and then Full Colonel in March of '63 when the previous Lt. Colonel (promoted to Colonel after Tew) resigned. 2 months later, at Chancellorsville, Cox was wounded 3 times. He remained in command until exhaustion forced him to head back to the field hospital for treatment. Because of his wounds, he would miss out on the Gettysburg Campaign.
He would return to field duty in the fall of '63. He'd serve temporarily as the brigade commander while Ramseur was on leave to get married. On 7th November, 1863, in a skirmish at Kelly's Ford, Cox would recieve wounds to the face and right shoulder, resulting in his needing a 40-day furlough to recuporate. When he returned, he took part in the Overland Campaign, first at Wilderness and conspicuously at Spotsylvania, where his actions resulted in Lee personally commending the Colonel.
Despite him being junior in rank to the other colonels in the brigade (namely Bryan Grimes of the 4th North Carolina, himself promote BG but transferred to command Daniel's Brigade; and Risden Tyler Bennett of the 14th North Carolina; both had been Colonels at and prior to Antietam, when Cox was only a major), Cox was promoted to Brigadier General and would command Ramseur's old Brigade for the rest of the war.
He led the brigade at COld Harbor, and then during Jubal Early's Valley Campaign, most prominently taking part in the Battle of Monocacy. It was during this campaign that his division commander, Robert Rodes, and his former Brigadier, Ramseur were killed.
His men took part in Gordon's attack on Fort Stedman. He would surrender with the remnant of his brigade at Appomattox. During the war, he would receive a total of 11 wounds.
He returned home to Edgecombe after the war, taking up law again and later president of a railroad company. He would become the Chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party from 1874 to 1877. He'd then surve as a judge, and then as a Representative in the U.S. Congress, serving for 6 years, from 1880 to 1886. He pushed heavily for civil service reform, a stance which alienated him from prominent Democrats, and would result in him losing the nomination for reelection.
His wife died in 1880. After his time in Congress, he remarried and was retired in Edgecombe County, until in 1893 he was appointed Secretary of the U.S. Senate to replace former Union General Anson McCook. He served until the turn of the century, when he retired back to his plantation, this time for good.
He died 26th December 1919. He was the last surviving general of the Army of Northern Virginia.

(Cox, later in life)

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