Salient facts about Army of the Cumberland
1. Robert Anderson 2. William T. Sherman
3. Don Carlos Buell 4. William
S. Rosecrans 5. George H. Thomas
1. Robert Anderson (1805-71).–
hero of more than Ft. Sumter
- Capsule biography
- Born in Ky. near Luoisville in 1805 into a solid family tradition
service - southern, slave-holding, but devoted to national service.
- West Point 1825.
- Wounded in Mexican War, 1 brevet.
- Taught artillery tactics at West Point to many of the future
on both sides of the Civil War, including Thomas.
- Acquired a reputation for extreme circumspection and attention to
- Liked to say that he lived by his father's religion and General
politics, and that he needed only three documents to guide his path:
Ten Commandments, the Constitution, and the book of army regulations.
- In the secession crisis sided with the North apparently without
- In 1860 took command of defenses of Charleston Harbor. He was put
by Buchanen because of supposed Southern sympathies. He surprised
- Lacking clear instructions of any kind, he prudently transfered
from exposed Ft. Moultrie to more defensible Ft. Sumter 26 dec. 1860,
Southern public opinion even more, but buying time for Lincoln.
- Hoped personally that the Confederacy would be allowed to secede
war, but did his duty to the Union anyway. Said: "Our errant
at some future time be won back by conciliation and justice."
- Hero of Ft. Sumter. Through his restraint almost singlehandedly
blink (fire) first. Sustained its bombardment on 12-14 April 61.
when supplies and ammunition used up. Got everyone out alive except for
2 men who died from accident during gun salute at surrender ceremony.
the flag with him when he left.
- Not all Southerners present shared general enthusiasm. James
"...we are on the road to ruin."
- Promoted to brig. general of regular army 15 May 61.
- Commanded dept. of Ky. 28 May - 15 Aug. 61 and dept. of the
15 Aug. - 8 Oct. 61. Although at first he didn't have a single soldier
at his disposal, he laid the groundwork for keeping Kentucky in the
- When he accepted command in Kentucky, he insisted on having
and assigned him to Camp Dick Robinson - the nation's
first modern basic training camp.
- Approved Thomas's plan to occupy East Tennessee.
- Was an early advocate of engineer units, a concept which later
- Lincoln to Stanton 17 Aug. 63: "At the request of
General Rober Anderson, I have concluded to appoint George H. Thomas of
the 2nd cavalry a Brigadier" [of volunteers].
- Citing "the mental torture of his command", he resigned on 8 Oct.
retired from active service 27 Oct. 63, whereupon Lincoln
Thomas to assume Anderson's commission as regular army brig. general.
- Used his influence in Washington to get Thomas supplies, tried to
promoted to major general of volunteers.
- Began the tradition of shielding Thomas from political intrigue,
when politicians tried have Thomas replaced by Mitchell. Anderson to
Sherman: "I am
very anxious that Thomas shall have charge of the advance upon
Gap and hope that Gen. Mitchell will not be allowed to supercede him."
- Promoted to brevet maj. general 3 Feb. 65.
- Presided at ceremony when the shell torn Union from 1861 was
raised above Ft. Sumter on 14 April 65.
- Translated French army manuals. Died in Nice, France 26
2. William T. Sherman (1820-91)
– his brother was US senator
- Capsule biography
- West Point 1840
- During Mexican War stationed in California.
- Left army in 1853 to go into banking. Didn't do too well.
- In 1859 became head of a military school in Alexandria, La.
- 28 Aug. became 2nd in command in Ky. under Robert Anderson, took
on 8 Oct.
- His outspoken criticism of the administration's policies and his
of depression almost ended his military career. He correctly estimated
the forces he needed, but greatly overestimated the forces of the
- In a moment of panic he stopped Thomas from occupying East
Union sympathizers were then hung. Cameron fired him and sent him to
who saw Sherman's possibilities, that his brother the U.S. senator.
- His request on 8 Nov. that McClellan relieve him from his
was granted. Sent out west to Halleck.
- At Shiloh concurred with Grant that there was nothing to worry
capably on 6 April when it turned out they were both wrong. After
Sherman helped Grant get through a period of emotional depression.
- On 27-29 Dec. at Chickasaw Bluffs north of Vicksburg Sherman
attacks through swamps against fortified position. He survived,
although many of his men didn't.
- At Jackson, Miss. 14 May 63 and Champion's Hill 16 May 63 he
the inability of Pemberton and Joseph Johnston to work together, or
of Johnston's inability to work with anyone..
- On 19 and 22 May 63 participated in 2 of Grant's 3 frontal
assaults on Vicksburg.
Got nowhere. He survived, but many of his men didn't.
- During the Meridian campaign in Miss. 3 Feb. - 5 March 64 he
sweep to Mobile and rehearse for his war against civilians in Georgia.
Didn't get very far at all.
- For a detailed analysis of his part in the battle of Chattanooga
see my article "Politics in the Union army
at the Battle for Chattanooga". He ruined Grant's flawed plan but
promoted afterward anyway. His brother John was a U.S. senator and
father-in-law was a former U.S. senator.
- For his part in the campaign for Atlanta see my 2 battle
Days and Atlanta. Out of hesitation he
a bunch of chances to surround Johnston's army or significant portions
- Conducted from Atlanta to Savannah 15 Nov. - 21 Dec. 64 the most
raid carried out in history by U.S. troops against his own people.
Andersonville and Petersburg could and did wait.
- Outdid himself during the Carolinas
campaign 1 Feb. - 23 March 1865. Violence against civilians increased.
- Named Lt. General 25 July 66.
- Was put in charge of the western command and supported Sheridan
genocidal operations against the Indians. They both reported in turn to
Grant and Schofield. Four peas in a pod.
- Promoted to full Gen. 4 March 69. Succeeded Grant as Commander in
of the army 1869-83.
3. Don Carlos Buell (1818-98)
– methodical organizer
- Capsule biography
- West Point 1841.
- Mexican War hero. Wounded in action, 3 brevets.
- Helped organize the Army of the Potomac under McClellan Sept.-
- A conservative Democrat in an increasingly radical Republican
- Commanded Army of the Ohio 15 Nov. 61 - 24 Oct., 62.
- Created the organizational basis for the future greatness of
of the Cumberland, i.e. turned a mob into an army.
- Took on Gov. Morton of Indiana, freed his army from civilian
an enemy for life.
- Occupied Nashville 16 Feb. 62.
- Given an impossible assignment by an insistent Halleck:
liberate East Tenn., defend Nashville, protect Louisville, defeat
and maintain and guard 500 miles of railroad.
- Saved Grant at Shiloh. Grant never
- Brought charges in May 62 against Col. Turchin for the pillage
of Athens, Alabama.
- Built the first blockhouses to protect key railroad points.
- Sincerely believed that the Civil War was a war about territory
He was a "soft war" soldier in a "hard war" conflict. He understood
you can win as surely by disrupting the organization of an opposing
as by attempting to massacre it. The "soft" way is cheaper.
- Made mistakes at the battle of Perryville,
but so did Bragg who had to withdraw into Tennessee. Kentucky was thus
secured for the Union.
- Removed from command twice, 30 Sept. 62 in favor of Thomas who
and then 24 Oct. 62 in favor of Rosecrans.
- Buell's conduct of the war in Ky. and Tenn. investigated by a
commission (24 Nov. 62 - 10 May 63). Halleck does his best to blacken
record. Commission's findings inconclusive, not published. Buell's
War career finished.
4. William S.
(1819-98) – brilliant tactician
- Capsule biography
- West Point 1842.
- Supervised military construction, taught at West Point.
- Left the army in 1854 to pursue a career as
- Instrumental in liberating western Virginia.
- Drove Price out of Iuka,
19 Sept. 62. Absentee Grant (supposedly unaware of nearby battle due to
shadow") blamed Rosecrans for letting Price escape.
- Repulsed Price and Van Dorn at Corinth
on 3-4 Oct. Grant first blamed Rosecrans for not pursuing with
vigor, then blamed him for pursuing too far. Grant wasn't there either,
routinely provided himself with a scapegoat, just in case.
- Assumed command of Buell's army on 30 Oct. 62,
"Army of the Cumberland".
- Applied newest technical principles to the
administration of a new kind of army for a new kind of war.
- Had his officers wear "battle", i.e.
- Challenged Stanton's strategy of victory
(the substitute for military imagination).
- In his first major battle at Murfreesboro
(Stones River) he fought Bragg to a standstill. Bragg had to retreat.
- Planned and conducted one of the greatest military marvels of the
War - the Tullahoma campaign of 22-29 June
63. The Union army advanced 100 miles at the price of 500 casualties.
- Was the first high level commander to recognize the value of
of mounting infantrymen and arming them with repeating Spencers.
Forced this concept on the War Department at the risk of his military
made military history at Hoover's Gap on
- Crossed Tennessee River below Chattanooga on 29 Aug. 63 and began
flanking movement against Bragg in Chattanooga.
- In early Sept. 1863 encouraged and authorized the wealthy
George Stearns to establish in Nashville a recruiting center for
- Driven by ambition, also under incessant pressure from Halleck
Rosecrans engaged Bragg too soon at Chickamauga
on 19-20 Sept. 63, one of the most costly blunders of the war, if men's
lives count for anything.
- The evening of 20 Sept. 63, despite more than 30,000 Union and
casualties, Rosecrans still held Chattanooga.
- On 19 Oct. 63 relieved of command
of Thomas. He advised Thomas to accept the order.
- Served in no significant capacity during the rest of the war.
5. George H.
(1816-1870) – did his homework
- Capsule biography
- Born 31 July 1816 on family farm near Newsom's
Depot, Southampton County, VA.
- For his Army of the Cumberland career see Chronology AotC
. He won every engagement or segment thereof where he commanded.
- West Point 1840.
- 2 brevets in the Mexican War. "Artillery man holding the angle"
Vista. He was later to hold many angles.
- Artillery and
instructor at West Point. He was called "slow
because he tried to keep the cadets from killing the broken-down
The sobriquet later proved useful to his detractors.
- At first Manassas he was under the command of Robert Patterson
to keep Joseph Johnston at Harper's Ferry. Thomas warned Patterson that
Johnston was leaving, but Patterson ordered no engagement in order to
Johnston. It is true that Johnston had the interior line due to Scott's
order placing Patterson too far from Washington.
- As a boy he gave the slaves on his family farm bible and reading
- While stationed in Florida he conducted botanical studies.
- While stationed at Ft. Yuma he conducted zoological studies which
praised by experts.
- While stationed at Ft Yuma he compiled a 70-word dictionary of a
Indian language, a work praised by ethnologists.
- He was wounded by an arrow through the flesh of his chin and into
during a skirmish with Comanches in 1860 in Texas. He pulled it out and
went back to work. He also learned something from their tactics.
- Won the first major Union victory of the war at Mill Springs (19 Jan. 1862).
- Carried Rosecrans's concept of the technical army even
- The techniques of economy of force he used in his defense of
Hill at Chickamauga are today one of the basic tenets of the United
Marines' assault doctrine.
- He helped introduce the use of map coordinates into battle
- He introduced the concept of remote fire control at the battle of
using his model signal corps.
- He was a pioneer (along with Rosecrans) in the use of combined
On 24 June 63 Wilder's mounted infantry secured Hoover's
Gap for Thomas's infantry. Wilder
had equipped his brigade with repeating Spencer
and had the firepower of a division. Never in the history of warfare
so much firepower covered 12 miles so quickly. At Nashville
Wilson's super-division of 9000 dismounting cavalrymen armed with
Spencer carbines (thus with the firepower of an infantry corps)
rode around to the rear of Hood's left. It was the only time during the
Civil War in which an entire army was effectively destroyed on an open
field of battle, unless you also count Mill Springs. The distinction
from other famous cavalry units of the
war is that Wilder and Wilson were not in any way independent from
- He had folding, portable pontoons (called Cumberland pontoons)
- Together with his chief topographical engineer, Col. William
expanded Buell's blockhouse concept into the "Cumberland blockhouse" -
a miniature fort at key railroad points consisting of double walls
by 6 feet of earth and housing several cannons. Linked by telegraph to
HQ, it could withstand siege until reeinforcements arrived.
- He had the most highly developed telegraphy service of any army
side. At Nashville his service
possible the coordination of dozens of widely scattered units during
concentration prior to the final battle. See photo of one of his field telegraph
- Together with brevet Maj. Gen. Daniel McCallum he perfected what
the world's first successful movable railway base and repair center
closely followed the advance of Union troops.
- He had a wide-ranging secret service with a spy network
South which even reached into Johnston's HQ. The service collected
data, data on the opponent, broke codes, carried out sabotage, and
Confederate units. It supplied many commanders in other theaters
Grant) with information. Maybe his service sent the Frenchman Noquet to
the Army of Tennessee in order to disrupt it (he absconded with funds
then escaped behind Union lines). It was this secret service which
to track down and capture Davis on 10 May 1865 in Georgia.
- He had the Civil War's most efficient hospital service where the
chloroform was standard practice. Railroad cars were built to serve as
field hospitals. His mobile field hospital system saved countless
lives, Union and Confederate, at Chickamauga.
- He established a service for providing his troops with magazines
- He established in Mill Springs, Ky. the first National military
at a battlefield, cared for his men in this respect also. He then
one in Chattanooga on 24 Dec. 63. Said, when asked if the remains
be interred according to state origin: "Mix them up. I'm tired of
rights." Also established the National military cemetary at
- He made sure that the Confederates taken prisoner at the battle
of Chattanooga were fed.
- He hired the first female doctor in the army (Mary
Walker) who later received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
- He established the Civil War's most efficient mess service for
which later included full time cooks.
- In one way or another he always recognized the outstanding work
- He constantly prepared his men for battle through "real life"
small units rather than with parade ground drill.
- He said: "We are all cowards in the presence of immediate death.
overcome that fear in war through familiarity."
- Dealt with the problem of "absenteeism" by setting a good example
than with executions. He didn't take a day of leave during the entire
- On the move he and his staff, whenever possible, rode at the side
road and left the road to the troops.
- He also devoted himself to the training of colored troops and was
commander under whom colored troops played a key role in a decisive
vistory. The battle of Nashville was won,
part, because of the efforts of colored troops who held the Confederate
right while Wilson and his dismounting cavalry went around the
- B.G. Emory Upton, division commander under Thomas and Wilson at
learned the principles which he would codify in his book "The Military
Policy of the United States", basis for the future development of the
- At the end of the war, as military commander of most of the
after the war, as military governor of 5 Southern states with his
in Nashville, he tried to make contending parties see reason and to
local citizens from doing violence to his colored troops. It was a
job, but he won the respect of most of the people in Tennessee at
He was granted honorary citizenship there, having lost it in Virginia.
- Around 1868 Thomas's health began to fail. Grant assigned the
to Sheridan and Meade, leaving Thomas to take the Pacific command or
it. He took it, and in the last year of his life Thomas logged 11,000
of official travel. He died of a stroke on 28 March 1870 in his office
in San Francisco.
- Thomas, along with 14 other generals, was accorded Thanks of the
in his case for the battles of Franklin and Nashville, not for
- Thomas is not mentioned with one word in
the college level textbook on
American history "The Enduring Vision" (Heath, 1996), nor in the middle
school textbook on American history "The American Journey"