Major-General George H. Thomas
the Army of the Cumberland
..(prototype of the modern army:  28 May 1861 -  24 May 1865) 

"The Federal army that assembled [before Dalton in the spring of 1864] - and particularly the Army
 of the Cumberland - was the most modern of the Civil War, so advanced was it in technology and organization" (Thomas Buell, The Warrior Generals, pg. 359).

by Bob Redman
redmanrt at yahoo dot com

Dedicated to George H. Thomas, William S. Rosecrans, Don Carlos Buell, and
  Robert Anderson: "soft war" commanders who really won the war while
  or because they took care of their men.
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Robert Anderson
Robert Anderson 1805-71
Cmdr. 28 May - 8 Oct. 61
Recruited the right man.
William T. Sherman
William T. Sherman 1820-91
Cmdr. 8 Oct.- 9 Nov. 61
Troubled visionary
Don Carlos Buell
Don Carlos Buell 1818-98
Commander 9 Nov. 61 - 29 Oct. 62
Not quite up to the job.
William S. Rosecrans
William S. Rosecrans 1819-98
Commander 30 Oct. 62 - 20 Oct. 63
Architect of the masterpiece Tullahoma

George H. Thomas 1816-70
Commander 20 Oct. 1863 - 27 June 1865
Solid as a rock at Mill Springs, Murfreesboro, Hoover's Gap, Steven's Gap, McLemore's Cove, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, 100 Days Campaign, Peachtree Creek, and Nashville.
At Mill Springs, Chattanooga, and Nashville he was a swift hammer.
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, left the road to his soldiers.

Read the 1882 biography Major General George H. Thomas by Thomas Van Horne,
and my essays Bring Thomas Home (with photos) and Practitioner of Emancipation.

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

"Damn the fellow, he is a mere pounder after all."
No, this isn't Thomas about Grant, but rather Wellington's assessment of Napoleone Buonaparte during the battle of Waterloo. If you want to study the antecedents of modern U.S. military doctrine, forget the campaigns of Grant and turn to Thomas. If you want to go further, have a look at Wellington who first beat Ney, Soult, Masséna, Marmont, Victor and Jourdan, and finally the Corsican thug himself. It is fair to say that Thomas was Wellington's direct successor. Of course, Wellington could well have learned something from George Washington.

BBeware of the pounders who propose to send (not lead) you to glory.

An act of faith: Commit to the future by understanding the past.
See my essay Causes of the Civil War.

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Quick tour
The commanders Anderson, Buell, Rosecrans, Thomas, and even Bragg to some extent, stand out because of their pursuit mostly of military, rather than personal/political objectives. They first took care of their men who then took care of them. Each made an essential contribution toward turning the Army of the Cumberland into the most highly trained and most effective force on either side - the prototype of the modern army. Building on the work of his predecessors, George H. Thomas determined the outcome of the Civil War. Bragg tried to establish a modern command organization in the Confederate Army of Tennessee, and he tried to take care of his men, but he was limited by inherent structural deficiencies of the Confederate government.

1. Robert Anderson, hero of Ft. Sumter and Kentucky as well. He started in Kentucky without a single soldier, but he recruited the right man (Thomas) and put him in the right place (Camp Dick Robinson). See short biography.

2. William T. Sherman owed his position to the political power of his relatives. He was commander of the AotC for only one month before requesting to be removed, amid charges of a mental breakdown. In that short period he made some poor decisions based on gross overestimates of the strength of the Confederate forces in Kentucky. See short biography.

3. Don Carlos Buell was a methodical organizer and a poor politician. He turned the tide at Shiloh and saved Kentucky for the Union at Perryville. He was then hauled before a politically motivated court of inquiry which ended his military career. See short biography.

4. William S. Rosecrans was a brilliant tactician and a rather poor politician. He did pretty good work at Iuka and Corinth, held on at Murfreesboro, and was the architect of the military masterpiece Tullahoma which effectively took Tennessee out of the Confederacy. His subsequent flanking movement pushed the Army of Tennessee into Georgia and established Union control over the crucial East-West railroad. However, he overreached himself at Chickamauga. See short biography.

5. George H. Thomas, an astute non-politician, won every one of his engagements 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 solid beforehand under Rosecrans, and afterward during the Dalton to Atlanta and Atlanta campaigns. He was at his most creative at Chattanooga and Nashville. Finally, Thomas planned the largest cavalry raid of the war which took Selma and captured Davis. See short biography. Available also the complete 1882 biography Life of Major General George H. Thomas by Van Horne.

6. Joseph Hooker, an honorary member of this group. He came from the east with the 20th Corps to reinforce Thomas at Chattanooga and provided the intelligence and drive which allowed Thomas to carry out his original plan of turning the Confederate left at Rossville Gap. This then made possible the famous charge by Thomas' troops up the center of Missionary Ridge. All of this succeeded in the face of mismanagement on the part of Grant and Sherman's failure at the other end of Missionary Ridge. Thomas managed the battle behind Grant's back, saving Grant's career. Grant never forgave him for that.

7. Braxton Bragg, the determined opponent of Buell, Rosecrans, and Thomas.

8. Ulysses S. Grant, the determined opponent of anyone who could possibly get between himself and higher command.

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