Major-General George H. Thomas Source Page

He was the most successful commander on either side in the Civil War,
and also the founder of the modern U.S. army.



General George H. Thomas 1816-70
Commander 19 Oct. 1863 —
Solid as a rock at Mill Springs, Murfreesboro, Hoover's Gap, Stevens' Gap, McLemore's Cove, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, 100 Days Campaign, Peachtree Creek, and Nashville.
At Mill Springs, Chattanooga, and Nashville he was also a swift hammer.

An astute non-politician, he won every one of his engagements in the Civil War.

Born in the South, fought for the North. A man of the "angle," he was too good to get rid of, and a thorn in the side of generals turned politician. He did his homework, and left the road to his soldiers.

Read the 1882 biography Major General George H. Thomas by Thomas Van Horne

Click here to read the photographic essay "Bring Thomas Home."

Click here to read the article "Practitioner of Emancipation."

My article that got this project started (no other CW website would post it):
Politics and the Battle of Chattanooga.

For more information contact Bob Redman - redmanrt at yahoo dot com


                                                                      Last updated 21 Jan. 2016

Visit my other website about the German author and journalist Erich Kuby.
Like Thomas, Kuby was a thorn in the sides of the power hungry.

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The other commanders of the Army of the Cumberland:

Robert Anderson
Cmdr. 28 May - 8 Oct. 61
Recruited the right man.

William T. Sherman
Cmdr. 8 Oct.- 9 Nov. 61
Troubled visionary

Don Carlos Buell
Commander 9 Nov. 61 - 29 Oct. 62
Not quite up to the job.
William S. Rosecrans
Commander 30 Oct. 62 - 20 Oct. 63
                                               Architect of the masterpiece Tullahoma                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


George H. Thomas, an astute non-politician, won every one of his engagements where he commanded, starting with Mill Springs which was the first major Union victory of the Civil War. He is known as the Rock of Chickamauga where he saved the Union army, but he was equally immovable beforehand at Murfreesboro (Stone's River), and afterward during the Dalton to Atlanta and Atlanta campaigns. He was at his most aggressive at Chattanooga and Nashville. Finally, Thomas planned the largest cavalry raid of the war which took Selma and captured Davis. See short biography. Read also the complete 1882 biography Life of Major General George H. Thomas by Van Horne.

He was born on 31 July 1816 in Southampton County, VA and died on 28 March 1870 in San Francisco. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, NY in 1840, George H. Thomas served in the Mexican War (1846-48) and as an artillery and cavalry instructor at West Point. Despite his southern birth he remained loyal to the Union when the Civil War broke out. In command of an independent force in eastern Kentucky, Thomas defeated the Confederates under Crittenden on 19 Jan. 1862 at Mill Springs and gained the first important Union victory in the war, thus undermining the entire western defense of the CSA general Albert Sydney Johnston. Thomas then served under General Don Carlos Buell and arrived too late at Shiloh in order to participate in the second day of the battle. After the battle Halleck put Thomas in command of Grant's Army of the Tennessee while Grant was apparently sidelined as second in command under Halleck with no responsibility. After the campaign, Thomas voluntarily returned to Grant his 4 divisions, perhaps in order to devote himself to his own division, or simply to get rid of Grant's poorly disciplined troops and officers. Later, when politically motivated complaints against Buell's lack of initiative against Bragg become more and more strident, Thomas was offered but refused the chief command. At the battle of Perryville Thomas was second in overall command but was assigned to Crittenden's corps which was not engaged in the brief evening battle. Bragg was forced to withdraw into East Tennessee, but Buell was faulted for lack of pursuit, and he was replaced by William S. Rosecrans. Under  Rosecrans Thomas was instrumental in holding the center with his artillery at Murfreesboro (Stones River), Tenn. on 31 Dec. 1862 and 2 Jan. 1863. Thomas was in charge of the most important part of the maneuvering during the Tullahoma Campaign on 22-29 June 1863 and of the approach to Chattanooga. On 19-20 Sept. 1863, after two days of battle along Chickamauga Creek in Georgia 12 miles south of Chattanooga, General Thomas steadfastly organized Union defenses after the collapse of the Union right wing and withstood all afternoon long violent attacks on the left wing by the entire Confederate army until the arrival of reserve units under Granger allowed an orderly withdrawal of Union troops back to Chattanooga. For this action Thomas was called the "Rock of Chickamauga" and later promoted to brigadier general of the regular army (maintaining his rank of major general of the volunteers). Thomas succeeded Rosecrans in command of the Army of the Cumberland on 19 Oct. 1863. Thomas and his Army of the Cumberland played the determining role in the great victory at Chattanooga on 23-25 Nov. 1863, thanks in large part also to Hooker's capture of Lookout Mountain (24 Nov. 1863) and breaking Bragg's left flank at Missionary Ridge (25 Nov.  1863). This battle opened the door to the deep South and made possible the subsequent capture of Atlanta on 2 Sept. 1864 which helped assure Lincoln's reelection. Before Sherman's march to the sea in the autumn of 1864, Thomas was ordered back to Nashville to deal with the threat to Union communications by the Confederate forces of General John B. Hood. Thomas had achieved his objective by Christmas, checking the enemy army at Franklin, Tenn. on 30 Nov. 1864, and finally at Nashville, Tenn. on 15-16 Dec. 1864. At that historic battle, Thomas inflicted on Hood the worst defeat sustained in the open field on either side during the war. It was also the only decisive Union victory of the war in which colored troops played a meaningful role. Thomas then directed the forces which captured Selma and pursued and captured Jefferson Davis on 10 May 1865. Thomas was made a major general of the regular army and received the Thanks of Congress. Toward the end of the war and afterward Thomas was the military governor in charge of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Thomas wholeheartedly supported the reconstruction policies of Lincoln and Johnson and is recognized as being the most effective of all of the military governors. In 1869 Thomas accepted the onerous command of the Division of the Pacific with headquarters at San Francisco although his health had already begun to deteriorate. He complicated matters greatly for future biographers by destryoing all of his personal papers, saying: "All that I did for my government are matters of history, but my private life is my own and I will not have it hawked about for the amusement of the curious." He died of what was probably a stroke at the age of 54 in his office in San Francisco.

Facts about George H. Thomas:

Other information about Thomas:

1) Politics in the Union Army at the battle for Chattanooga by Bob Redman

2) George H. Thomas - Practitioner of Emancipation by Bob Redman. He was the only Union commander to use colored troops as real soldiers. They played an integral part in the battle of Nashville.

3) Essay Bring Thomas Home by Bob Redman - a plea to everybody, but especially Virginians, to restore Thomas to his rightful place in history.

4. The Life of Major General George H. Thomas by Van Horne, 1882.

To see photos of Thomas click here.