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For a half century, John Ellis Wool (1784–1869) was one of America’s most illustrious figures—most notably as an officer in the United States Army during the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. At the onset of the Civil War, when he assumed command of the Department of the East, Wool had been a brigadier general for twenty years and, at age seventy-seven, was the oldest general on either side of the conflict. Courage Above All Things marks the first full biography of Wool, who aside from his unparalleled military service, figured prominently in many critical moments in nineteenth-century U.S. history.
At the time of his death in 2016, Harwood Hinton, a scholar with an encyclopedic knowledge of western history, had devoted fifty years to this monumental work, which has been completed and edited by the distinguished historian Jerry Thompson. This deeply researched and deftly written volume incorporates the latest scholarship to offer a clear and detailed account of John Ellis Wool’s extraordinary life—his character, his life experiences, and his career, in wartime and during uneasy periods of relative peace. Hinton and Thompson provide a thorough account of all chapters in Wool’s life, including three major wars, the Cherokee Removal, and battles with Native Americans on the West Coast.
From his distinguished participation in the War of 1812 to his controversial service on the Pacific coast during the 1850s, and from his mixed success during the Peninsula Campaign to his overseeing of efforts to quell the New York City draft riots of 1863, John Ellis Wool emerges here as a crucial character in the story of nineteenth-century America—complex, contradictory, larger than life—finally fully realized for the first time.