Major General George Thomas


Although only twice in command of a field army during battle Kentucky in June 1862 and at Nashville, December 15, 1864, Thomas played a significant role in the Union army.

Thomas was born July 31, 1816 to a slave holding family in Virginia eight miles from the N.C. line. His father died when he was 13, leaving financial problems. In 1831, they had to hide in the woods in Nat Turners slave rebellion. He saw that slavery was so vile that it forced slaves to rebel and that the idea of a contented slave and benevolent overlord was a myth.

He graduated 12th in a class of 42 from West Point in 1840 and served with Braxton Bragg in the Mexican War. He instructed cavalry and artillery at West Point under Superintendent Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee

His decision to remain in the U. S. Army created a deep life-long rift with his family, none of whom attended his funeral on March 28, 1870. Back in June 1861, his former student and Virginian, J.E.B. Stuart, wrote to his wife, Old George H. Thomas is in command of the cavalry of the enemy. I would like to hang him as a traitor to his native state. It was Stuart, not Forrest who coined the term:get there fustest with the mostest

Thomas was known for accurate judgment and thorough knowledge of his profession. Historians such as Bruce Catton, Carl Sandburg, and others consider him one of the top three Union generals of the war after Grant and Sherman. He had an uncomfortable relationship with Grant, who favored Sherman. The cadets at West Point called Thomas, Slow trot Thomas. He moved slowly due to his injured back, but his nickname stuck.

He fought in many battles but became famous for future President James Garfields report to Rosecrans, Commander of the Army of the Cumberland, that Thomas, commander of the XIV Corps, was standing like a rock on Horseshoe Ridge where he prevented a significant Union defeat from becoming a hopeless rout after the Union right line had collapsed by Braggs onslaught. The name stuck and he became known as the Rock of Chickamauga,

In November 1863, he succeeded Rosecrans as commander at Chattanooga, where his troops stormed up the mountain without apparent orders, beneath the cannon fire, and captured Missionary Ridge. Thomas answered Grants question as to who ordered the advance with, I dont know. I did not.

In the spring of 1864, Thomas staff provided the logistics and engineering for Shermans entire army group in their advance into Georgia and the Siege of Atlanta. At the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Thomas's defense severely damaged Lt. Gen. John B. Hood's army in its first attempt to break the siege of Atlanta. As Sherman embarked on the March to the Sea, Thomas stayed behind to fight Hood in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign. Thomas, with a smaller force, raced with Hood to reach Nashville, where he was to receive reinforcements. At the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, a large part of Thomas's force, under command of Maj. Gen. John M Schofield dealt Hood a strong defeat and held him in check long enough to cover the concentration of Union forces in Nashville. Thomas attacked on December 15, 1864, in the Battle of Nashville and effectively destroyed Hood's command in two days of fighting.

After the war, he was in the Reconstruction movement to protect freed men and occasionally used troops to protect blacks from violence by the Klan. He turned down President Andrew Johnsons offer to be a Lt. General and follow Grant eventually as President. He declined the offer, did not publish memoirs, and died in 1870. Sherman concluded that Grant and Thomas deserved a status like Wellington and Nelson in London. There have been three new books about Thomas in the last two years, available at Amazon and bookstores.

The Civil War Round Table of Augusta
275 Robert C. Daniel pkwy., Augusta, GA