Book Review: Courage Above All Things: General John Ellis Wool and the U.S. Military, 1812–1863


by Howard P. Hinton & Jerry Thompson

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2020. Pp. xviii, 522+. Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $45.00. ISBN: 0806167246

A Neglected American Commander

In this, the first ever biography of John Ellis Wool (1784-1869), Professors Hinton (Arizona) and Thompson (Texas A&M) have produced an outstanding work. They not only give us a full look at the general’s life and deeds within the framework of his times, but also tell us much about the history and culture of the United States and of the U.S. Army in the half-century following the outbreak of the War of 1812.

The diminutive Wool (“barely five feet”) had an impressive career. In the decades leading up to the Civil War he saw combat against the British and Mexicans, served several tours as one of the Army’s two inspectors general, had a role in “Indian Removal”, and held various command and staff assignments, while working to modernize and reform the army, which actually takes up the bulk of this volume.

On the outbreak of the Civil War Wood was the third highest ranking, and oldest, of the army’s generals, arguably the fittest, and probably the wittiest. He played an important role in the war, holding Fort Monroe for the Union, securing Maryland, and later commanding at New York during the so-called “Draft Riots”, before being retired, arguably due to Army politics.

Courage Above all Things is a very good biography of a largely overlooked officer, which will prove valuable reading for anyone interested in the Army and its wars from 1812 through the 1865..



Note: Courage Above all Things is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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