The Life of Major General George H. Thomas
by Thomas Van Horne, 1882
< Part 1 < Part 2
Page 311 - CONTINGENCIES OF THE CAMPAIGN
The situation at Nashville was, therefore, from first to last, complicated with Sherman's march to the sea. General Canby was patrolling the Mississippi to prevent the transfer of troops from the west bank of that river to Hood; and General Thomas was required at first, to fight before he was fully prepared, and then, when an action was impossible, in order that Canby might move to the support of General Sherman when he should touch the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, or make a diversion somewhere in the South to prevent a concentration against his army of more than sixty thousand men. It was not enough that this great army should have been eliminated from western operations, detailing upon Thomas a campaign overcharged with embarrassments; but he was also commanded to fight a battle against his own judgment, to release Canby from duty on the Mississippi that he might cooperate with Sherman in the outcome of his march through a State where there was no great army to offer resistance, and but few organized troops to witness his progress, except from safe seclusion.
In his despatch to Thomas, of December 8th, General Grant mentioned three armies as the support of the rebellion. These, doubtless, were Lee's at Richmond, Hood's at Nashville, and Kirby Smith's, on the right bank of the Mississippi. Two of these were then making effort to unite in order to change the military status in the West. After the battle of Nashville, Grant informed Thomas that he was pursuing one of the two armies upon which the Southern Confederacy rested.
Badeau has given great prominence to the fact that the lieutenant-general had plans, the execution of which General Thomas' delay was defeating. The following quotations will show how damaging this delay was supposed to be:
In the meantime the situation at Nashville was
daily more humiliating and dangerous. *
* Mil. Hist. U. S. Grant, Vol. III., p. 230
Page 312 - THE LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
In reference to the rupture of telegraphic communication with Chattanooga, this author laments:
"And this was the mortifying sequence, to the great campaigns of Grant and Sherman for Chattanooga and Atlanta."*
It was far from being necessary to risk the security of Tennessee, or the upsetting of Grant's plans at the South and East, as well as the West, in order to raise or equip another thousand or two of horse.+
Thus the delay of Thomas might defeat operations a thousand miles away.++
It was not only Nashville that Grant was considering but Louisville and the country beyond the Ohio. +++
When it is considered that General Grant had said to Thomas, that if he destroyed Hood's army there would be only "one army left to the so-called Confederacy, capable of doing us harm," it seems incredible that Grant had plans of operations that did not have their centres at Richmond and Nashville. If he had plans that looked in other directions, they were extremely vicious. On the supposition that the two armies - Lee's and Hood's - supported the rebellion, General Grant had, in permitting the march to the sea, eliminated Sherman's large army from the final problem, unless that army by a long circuit was to appear at Richmond. If it was anxiety for Sherman, as apart from the relations of his movement to the operations in Virginia, that prompted Grant's urgency for an immediate battle at Nashville, then he turned away from one of the two dominant objectives, to give attention to an incidental military enterprise.
The peremtory order to Thomas to fight regardless of weather and reenforcements, suggests the question: What is the degree of independence ordinarily given to army commanders, conducting operations on fields remote from the stations of the commander-in-chief?
*Mil. His., U. S. Grant, Vol. III. page 231.
+ Ibid, p. 220. ++ Ibid, 220. +++ Ibid, p. 221.
Page 313 - HIS SELF RELIANCE
The refusal of Thomas to fight when under positive orders to do so, was either an act of insubordination, or one of legitimate independence as an army commander. But whether he was insubordinate, or contending for the independence inherent in his position, General Thomas did refuse to fight; from the 6th to the 10th of December, because, in his judgment, his preparations were not adequate, and from the 10th to the 15th, because upon trial he had found that he could not safely move his troops to position for battle. He was conducting operations far from the station of General Grant, and as this fact enhanced his responsibility as an army commander, it gave corresponding independence.
When General Rosecrans was peremptorily ordered, in August l863, to move against the enemy, he indignantly inquired of General Halleck whether his order was "intended to take away my discretion as to the time and manner of moving my troops.''
Halleck's reply was: "The orders for the advance of your army and that its progress be reported daily are peremptory."
But Rosecrans, afterwards had full freedom, as to maneuver and time of battle. And instances are rare, if any can be found, wherein a distant superior denied discretion to .an army commander as to preparations and time of battle. General Thomas' view of his own case was well expressed by him to the writer:
"I thought, after what I had done in the war, that I ought to be trusted to decide when the battle should be fought. I thought I knew better when it should be fought, than any one could know as far off as City Point, Virginia."
This was a strictly personal view, but doubtless underlying it,
was a clear perception of such independence for an army commander as
with his responsibility for results. He did not ask for a long delay,
Page 314 - THE LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
was ready for battle in seven days after his last infantry force arrived at Nashville. After that time he was ready, but for five days more a general movement of' his troops to position, or an attack in force, was impossible,
General Grant certainly distrusted Thomas in the peculiar situation at Nashville. He said to Thomas, "It has seemed to me you have been slow;" and said of him, "I fear he is too cautious to take the initiative." But whatever was the degree of Grant's distrust, so long as he retained Thomas in command, he should have given him the discretion which has been generally, if not always, awarded to army commanders, not in the presence of superiors. If Grant meant by stating Thomas was slow, that he was reluctant to fight a battle until he was prepared, Grant was right. If he meant that Thomas was slow in preparing for the battle, Grant was wrong. Thomas was not over cautious at Nashville or any where else. He was bold always, without being rash; and cautious without being timid. No general was more cautious when there was need of caution, and no one ever bolder or more forceful when the time for action came; nor was there ever a general more stubborn when required to act against his own judgment. And it may well be doubted if any general ever did so much in so short a time, towards organizing, equipping and mounting his forces for battle, as did General Thomas between the 1st and 10th of December.
With full knowledge of the situation in its interior embarrassments
and exterior complications, General Thomas made his preparations and
for attacking Hood's army. He was calm and strong, in resisting the
from Washington and City Point, and in his attitude no general has ever
been more heroic or patriotic. He was heroic in his independence, and
and in his promise to submit without a murmur to loss of command, and
calmly bearing the burden of responsibility, resulting from a state of
affairs that had not been regarded as possible by the people of the
Page 315 - HOOD IN FRONT OF NASHVILLE
General Hood took position on the hills south of Nashville on the 2nd and 3rd of December. His main line extended from the Hillsboro' turnpike on his left to the Chattanooga railroad on his right. His right was well offered, his left somewhat refused. The railroad embankment, gave protection on his right flank, his left rested on isolated hills partially fortified, and defended by artillery. In his centre was an advanced entrenched line to strengthen his grasp of the Franklin turnpike, his direct line of retreat. The left of this line, almost touched the salient of Thomas' line, held by the Fourth corps. Hood's line was nearly seven miles in length, but did not touch the Cumberland River at either end, and consequently Nashville was not invested even on the south side of the river, though, it is fair to say, all communication between Thomas' army and the country south of it was suspended.
The advance of Hood to Nashville, to drop the offensive before his
objective, would have been a mystery if he had not himself explained
He knew that he was not strong enough for further offense, and that
re-enforced his campaign must fail before its purpose was well
He had had dreams of commanding a great army in Kentucky. He had in
established his army in that State, with his left at Richmond, covering
by its extension to the right, the gaps in the Cumberland Mountains and
the roads into Virginia. In expectation he had defeated Thomas and all
other commanders in Tennessee and Kentucky, and had brought support to
General Lee in Virginia, in advance of Sherman's aid, by way of
to Grant. But, in reality, Hood had seated himself to await his
reenforcements from the right bank of the Mississippi River, hoping, in
the meantime, that through a successful defensive he might follow a
Page 316 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Nashville. And if his own estimate of his strength is accepted as true, he was to achieve this crowning success with less than twenty-five thousand men. The plan upon which he was operating was doubtless a good one for a large army such as had existed in his imagination, when first he thought of an advance through Tennessee and Kentucky to Virginia. But it was inviting the doom which soon fell upon him and his people, to sit down before Thomas. Hood's movement through Tennessee had brought no recruits to his army. The watchfulness of General Canby prevented the coming of reenforcements from Kirby Smith. And if Hood had made a hopeful advance from Franklin, the sight of the fortifications before Nashville, and of the forces holding them, had thrown him upon the defensive with no thought of attack, turning movements, or further, advance, except in the remote possibility that a successful defensive and reenforcements should give reality to his visions of victory in the West, and afterward in the East. The army at Nashville was too strong to be attacked and too strong to be put in his rear, by his own advance into Kentucky. If he had anticipated its strength, he would doubtless have waited for his promised reenforcements at Florence. His plan had miscarried, and yet he did not retreat, but waited before Nashville in semblance of offense, until Thomas sallied from his entrenchments to crush him.
Hood's advance to the Tennessee River, as the first step in the
of a great plan, had been justified by its success. His advance from
river to Nashville, without strength to continue the offensive,
by himself as imperative, under the circumstances, resulted in a
in striking contrast with his first success. Had he marched first to
his expected reenforcements, and forced for them a passage over the
his subsequent northward march might have resulted in victories in
and Kentucky. But to offer himself in his reported weakness
Page 317 - HOOD'S HOPES AND PLANS
to Thomas, was the extreme of folly. The issue of the combat at Franklin should have arrested his advance, until at least, his reenforcements had joined him. It is utterly incredible, however, that he could have hoped for success by any turn of fortune with an army of twenty-five thousand men, or that he would be permitted a long waiting for reenforcements.
It is not easy to get the true history of a campaign of such issue from him who planned or conducted it, especially when its failure carried with it, the cause for which the war had been waged. But weak as Hood represented himself to be, he nevertheless acted as if he felt secure on Brentwood Hills. Before the battle he sent a part of his cavalry into Kentucky, and another greater part, with two brigades of infantry to operate against Murfreesboro. And this he certainly would not have done, without strong confidence in his army, and the advantages of the defensive.
In Hood's official report this passage is found:
"On the second of December the army took position in
of Nashville, about two miles from the city. Lieutenant-General Lee's
constituted our centre, resting upon the Franklin pike, with Cheatham's
corps upon the right and. Stewart's on the left and the cavalry on
flank extending to the river. I was causing strong detached works to be
built to cover our flanks intending to make them enclosed works, so as
to defeat any attempt of the enemy should he undertake offensive
against our flank, and rear. The enemy still held Murfreesboro with
six thousand men strongly fortified. His also held small forces at
and Knoxville, It was apparent that he would soon have to take the
to relieve his garrisons at those points or cause them to be evacuated,
in which case I hoped to capture the forces at Murfreesboro and should
then be able to open communication with Georgia and Virginia. Should he
attack us in position I felt that I could defeat him and thus gain
of Nashville with abundant supplies for the army. This would, give me
of Tennessee. Necessary steps were taken to furnish the army with
which the people were ready and willing to furnish. Shoe shops were in
operation in each brigade. We had captured sufficient railroad stock to
use the road to Pulaski,
Page 318 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
and it was already in successful operation. Having possession of that State we should have gained largely in recruits and could sit an early day have moved forward to the Ohio, which would have frustrated the plans of the enemy as developed in his campaign towards the Atlantic coast."
And from his book; "Advance and Retreat," written afterwards, the following passage is quoted:
"After the failure of my cherished plan to crush Schofield's army before it reached its strongly fortified position around Nashville, I remained with an effective force of only twenty-three thousand and fifty-three. I was therefore well aware of our inability to attack the Federals in their new stronghold with any hope of success, although Schofield's troops had abandoned the field at Franklin, leaving their dead and wounded in our possession, and had hastened with considerable alarm into their fortifications which, latter information in regard to their condition after the battle I obtained through spies. I knew equally well that in the absence of the prestige of complete victory, I could not venture with my small force to cross the Cumberland River into Kentucky, without first receiving reenforcements from the Trains-Mississippi Department. I felt convinced that the Tennesseans and Kentuckians would not join our forces, since we had failed in the first instance to defeat the Federal army and capture Nashville. The President was still urgent in his instructions relative to the transference of troops to the Army of the Tennessee from Texas, and I daily hoped to receive the glad tidings of their safe passage across the Mississippi River.
Thus, unless strengthened by these long-looked for
the only remaining chance of success in the campaign, at this juncture,
was to take position, entrench around Nashville and await
Thomas' attack, which, if handsomely repulsed, might afford us an
to follow up our advantage on the spot and enter the city on the heels
of the enemy.I could not afford to turn southward unless for the
purpose of forming a junction with the expected reenforcements from
and with the avowed intention to march back again upon Nashville. In
our army was in that condition which rendered it more judicious, the
should face a decisive issue rather than retreat in other words, rather
than renounce the honor of their cause without
made a last and manful effort to lift up the sinking fortunes of the
I therefore determined to move upon Nashville, to entrench, to
Page 319 - HOOD’S BLUNDERS
accept the chances of reenforcements from Texas, and even at the risk of an attack in the meantime by overwhelming numbers, to adopt the only feasible means of defeating the enemy with my reduced numbers viz. to await his attack and if favored by success to follow him into his works. I was apprised of each accession to Thomas' army but was still unwilling to abandon the ground as long as I saw a shadow of probability of assistance from the Trans-Mississippi Department, or of victory in battle, and, as I have just remarked, the troops would, I believed, return better satisfied even after defeat if, in grasping at the last straw, they felt that a brave and vigorous effort had been made to save the country from disaster. Such, at the time, was my opinion, which I have since had no reason to alter." *
General Hood's first blunder in the conduct of the campaign was in not attacking General Sherman at Gaylesville when he had only sixty thousand men; his second was waiting so long at Florence without effort to help his promised reenforcements across the Mississippi River; the third was his failure to crush Schofield at Spring Hill; and the fourth was his offer of himself to Thomas, to be crushed.
On the whole, though entrenched, Hood's army grew weaker day by day. It was not well supplied, and the outcome of this semblance of a siege was doubtful in the extreme in the view of all the thoughtful men of that army. The dropping of the offensive by an army which was to have been inspired by constant advance and success, of itself impaired the morale of the Confederate troops.
With the National army the case was radically different. Organization, discipline and conscious advance in preparations for battle and pursuit, gave spirit and purpose to the soldiers within: the entrenchments at Nashville.
The corps commanders at Nashville, were Major-General John M.
commanding Twenty-third corps; Major-General Andrew J. Smith,
Sixteenth corps; Major-General James B. Steedman, commanding a
corps, comprising his own forces from the District of
* " Advance and Retreat," pp. 899, 300.
Page 320 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
the Etowah, the garrison of Nashville under Brigadier-General John F. Miller, and the employees of the quartermaster's department, under Brigadier- General James L. Donaldson; Brigadier General Thomas J. Wood, commanding Fourth corps; and Brevet Major-General James H.Wilson, chief of the cavalry of the Military Division of the Mississippi, commanding the Cavalry corps of that military division.
These generals were called together for consultation twice, before the battle of Nashville. The first meeting was called by General Thomas even alter he received his peremptory order to attack the enemy. He then made known the nature of the orders which he had received from General Grant, and that he had decided that obedience was impracticable. This meeting was informal and not in all respects in the form of a council of war. The commanding general, contrary to the custom or law which obtains in such councils, opened the conference with an announcement of his own decision. The other generals, however, observed the authoritative usage of councils of war, and expressed their view's in the inverse order of their rank unanimously sustaining General Thomas in his purpose to withhold battle until the ice should melt.
The second meeting was held at 3 P. M., on the 14th. The
ice had melted and a battle was practicable on the following day. This
meeting was in form a council of war. The commanding general requested
suggestions as to a plan of battle, and the corps commanders spoke in
inverse order of their rank. But insofar as it was in reality a council
of war, It was a departure from General Thomas' usual course in forming
plans. It is not, therefore, probable that had he been in command of
own army, he would have invited his ranking subordinates to suggest a
of battle. No general ever sustained more cordial relations with his
of all grades, but no commander was more independent of their aid in
Page 321 - HIS PLAN OF BATTLE
his plans. It is probable, if not certain, that had the Army of the Cumberland, in its unity, been at Nashville, he would have announced his plan to his corps commanders before inviting suggestions from them. But having three corps commanders, from three distinct armies, he requested suggestions, although from his official mention of this meeting, it is evident that his chief object in calling them together, was to make known his own plan and give the necessary instructions for its effective execution. At this time, and ever afterwards, he regarded General Schofield as unfriendly to himself, and this conviction may have moved him, to defer in full measure to his subordinates.
In nothing was General Thomas' independence and self reliance more fully manifested than in his habit of forming plans in all situations, and his boldness in suggesting them to his superiors in rank. To himself, in advance of experiment, his own plans were always demonstrably practicable. And no plan of his was ever put upon trial with resultant failure. For his superiors to adopt his suggestions was to succeed, to reject them was to fail.
In this meeting at Nashville, General Wood proposed a plan, which General Thomas said would be adopted with some added details. He approved General Wood's plan, doubtless, because it harmonized with his own previously formed. He expected to deliver battle on the 10th, and his plan for it must have been matured before that day.
Immediately after the adjournment of the conference, or council of war, General Thomas announced his plan of operations with unusual precision, as follows:
"Major-General A. J. Smith commanding detachment of
Army of the Tennessee, after forming his troops on and near the Harding
pike in front of his present position, will make a vigorous assault on
the enemy's left. Major-General Wilson commanding the Cavalry corps
Division of the Mississippi, with three divisions will move on and
General Smith's right, assisting
Page 322 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORG H. THOMAS
as far as possible, in carrying the left of the enemy's position, and be in readiness to throw his force upon the enemy the moment a favorable opportunity occurs. Major-General Wilson will also send one division on the Charlotte pike, to clear that road of the enemy and observe in the direction of Bell’s Landing to protect our right rear until the enemy's position is fairly turned, when it will rejoin the main force. Brigadier-General T. J. Wood commanding Fourth corps, after leaving a strong skirmish line in his works from Lawren's Hill to his extreme right, will form the remainder of the Fourth corps on the Hillsboro' pike to support General Smith's left and operate on the left and rear of the enemy's advanced positions on the Montgomery Hill. Major-General Schofield commanding Twenty-third army corps will replace Brigadier-General Kimball's division of the Fourth corps with his troops, and occupy the trenches from Fort Negley to Lawren's Hill with a strong skirmish line. He will move the remainder of his force in front of the works and cooperate with General Wood, protecting the latter's left flank against an attack by the enemy. Major-Gen. Steedman, commanding District of Etowah, will occupy the interior line in rear of his present position, stretching from the reservoir on the Cumberland River at Fort Negley with a strong skirmish line, and mass the remainder of his force in its present position to act according to the exigencies which may arise during these operations. Brigadier-General Miller with troops forming the garrison of Nashville, will occupy the interior line from the battery on hill 210 to the extreme right, including the enclosed work on the Hyde's Ferry road. The quartermaster's troops, under the command of Brigadier-General Donaldson, will, if necessary, be posted on the interior line from Fort Morton to the battery on hill 210. The troops occupying the interior line will be under the direction of Major-General Steedman, who is charged with the immediate defense of Nashville during the operations around that city. Should the weather permit, the troops will be formed to commence operations at 6 A. M. on the 15th, or as soon thereafter as practicable."
General Thomas subsequently slightly modified this plan by directing Genera Steedman to make a feint against the enemy's right to veil the effort to turn his left.
In outline this plan did not depart radically from the type most
adopted a feint to conceal the real attack, - but in the details, in
tactical combinations, in the close relation of the various assaults,
in the determination
Page 323 - NASHVILLE -- FIRST DAY
of the strength of the various attacking columns, there was displayed generalship that will bear comparison with the skill of the most famous soldiers of the world. For the first time in his career, Thomas was permitted to plan a great battle for himself, and it was historically meet that the general who had never failed to originate plans of operations, or to suggest modifications of those formed by superiors in rank, which were not exactly coincident with the conditions necessary for their successful execution, should for his last and greatest battle, form a plan which with only slight modifications, made by himself, was carried out with transcendent results.
Seldom has a battle been fought in more exact conformity to plan,
the battle of Nashville, and this is true, not only in comparison with
the great battles of our civil war, but also in comparison with those
Europe, fought by the great masters of war. The leading features of the
plan, and of the battle itself, were the feint upon the enemy's right,
and the combinations of infantry and cavalry in overwhelming' attacks
his left, resulting in doubling up successive portions of his line, and
finally dislodging him altogether. It was unlike the typical battle of
the Confederate commanders -- massing so heavily against a flank as to
forbid a strong general line of battle. Thomas made provision for a
line of battle throughout its entire length, for overwhelming attacking
columns, for a feint which might have been easily changed to a
turning movement, and for security to his rear in the event of
offense. Hood's hope of following a defeated army into the city of
would not have been realized had he repulsed every attack made upon his
entrenched army. In these respects and others, the battle of Nashville
was distinctive, illustrating generalship which comprehended the
details, as well as the grandest combinations.
Page 324 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
The morning of the 15th was foggy, and under the veil of densest mist, the cavalry and infantry made the movements required by the orders of the commanding general, though the cavalry were delayed by the march of Smith's infantry, to the left, across their front instead of their rear, as was understood and agreed between Wilson and Smith.
About 8 o'clock the fog had so far lifted, that it was deemed advisable to open the battle, and Brigadier-General W. D. Whipple, chief of staff; bore an order to General Steedman to move in feint against the enemy's right. This feint was vigorously executed by Colonel Morgan's brigade of colored troops, and Lieut.-Colonel Grosvenor's provisional brigade, producing the impression upon General Hood that his right flank was in danger. He consequently sent troops thither from his centre and left.
In the meantime, the cavalry divisions, some of them by a long
had reached the rear of the enemy's left flank. This device having
Hood to concentrate on his right, the movement to turn his left by a
of infantry and cavalry was put upon trial. General Smith's corps had
formed with Garrard's division on the left of the Harding turnpike,
on the right of that road, and Colonel Moore's in reserve. General
had connected Hatch's division of cavalry with McArthur's right, and
Croxton's brigade on the right of Hatch, holding Knipe's division in
These forces, thus formed, wheeled to the left, and carried several of
the enemy's advanced positions. The cavalry, after getting within reach
of the enemy, assaulted on foot, and fell upon him, in flank and rear,
simultaneously with the direct attack of infantry in front. In this
assault, four guns and one hundred and fifty prisoners were captured. A
second position was carried in the same manner. The cooperation of
and cavalry was so perfect, that while each force claimed the captured
guns and prisoners, they were rightly common property. Subsequently
Page 325 - NASHVILLE -- FIRST DAY
independent movement carried a position farther to the right, and captured a battery without the direct aid of infantry. Garrard carried a. position on the left of the Hillsboro' road and Wood was equally successful. His corps had been. formed with Elliott's division on the right, Kimball's in the centre, and Beatty's on the left, each division providing its own resent. Wood first carried Montgomery Hill, with Post's brigade of Beatty's division supported by Streight's; and afterwards each division of the Fourth corps carried the enemy's entrenched line in its front.
The lines of advance were converging, and General Thomas, after the first successful assaults, made new dispositions. He moved Schofield's corps from reserve in rear of Wood and Smith, to the right of the latter. Schofield then advanced beyond the redoubts first captured by Wilson and Smith, crossed the Hillsboro' road, and a valley beyond, and drove the enemy from hills overlooking the Granny White turnpike. On the extreme left, Steedman was equally successful; Colonels Morgan and Grosvenor turned the enemy's right flank, and Colonel Thompson, commanding a brigade of colored troops, crossed Brown's Creek, and carried the left of Hood's fortifications on the Nolensville turnpike.
In this action the enemy was forced from his first and second lines and pressed back to an entirely new position, where he spent the night in making defenses. General Thomas was successful in every operation, and although the victory was not yet decisive he and his army felt the strongest assurance of the utter defeat of the enemy when a new day should give opportunity to renew the conflict.
In accordance with his disposition to underestimate his own
General Hood, in his report of the battle and in his book, only
that, towards evening, he lost the outposts on his left with the
and small force holding them, while in fact he gave up his entire
Page 326 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
advanced line and his main line, - and he lost seventeen guns and twelve hundred men by capture. He thus mentioned his change of position.
"Finding that the main movement of the Federals was directed against our left, the chief engineer was instructed to carefully select a line in prolongation of the left flank; Cheatham's corps was withdrawn from the right during the night of the 15th and posted on the left of Stewart -- Cheatham's left flank resting near the Brentwood Hills. In this position the men were ordered to construct breastworks during that same night."*
Lieutenant-General S. D. Lee's report furnishes evidence of the abandonment of their first position:
"During the night Cheatham's corps was withdrawn from my right and moved to the extreme left of the army. The army then took position about one mile in rear of its original line, my corps being on the extreme right."
General Hood, in taking a new position and preparing for further
expressed confidence in his army, although he complained that its morale
had been impaired by General Johnston holding it to the defensive for a
long period behind fortifications. Had Hood so elected he could have
during the night of the 15th, far more easily, and with less
demoralization to his troops, than after a second defeat; that he did
then retreat gives proof of the wildest infatuation. No general with
prudence, with an army of such reported weakness, would have taken
for battle, against an army such as Hood's own belief gave to Thomas.
it taxes the most expansive credulity to put the least faith in Hood's
statements, that during the action of the 16th, he formed a.
plan for offense against such an army. If his army was not stronger
he represented it to be, nothing but the expectation of reenforcements
from the southwest justified his remaining
* " Advance and Retreat," page 302.
Page 327 - NASHVILLE -- FIRST DAY
before Nashville until Thomas was ready for battle. To continue the conflict after the action of the 15th with the expectation that ulterior offense would be possible, evinced madness rather than generalship.
It was not known on the evening of the 15th, whether Hood would retreat or await another attach, General Thomas, therefore, gave instructions to his corps commanders, which had reference alike to battle or pursuit.
Thomas and his army thought only of decisive victory as the issue of
further fighting, and in this belief the authorities at Washington,
Grant and the Northern people fully sympathized. The
en route to Nashville, halted at Washington, and in common with the
and the Secretary of War, sent official congratulations to Thomas.
Logan turned back from Louisville, because the condition upon which he
was to take command of the army had passed away. And throughout the
the rebound from extreme anxiety intensified the joy which the news of
battle and success produced.
ACTION OF DECEMBER. 16th – DEFEAT AND ROUT OF HOOD'S ARMY – RELATIVE STRENGTH OF THE TWO ARMIES – THE ISSUE THE VINDICATION OF THOMAS.
HOOD'S new line, shorter by two and a half miles than the former one, coursed over the detached hills in front of the main Brentwood range. A series of hills on the east, trending south west, and another on the west, trending southeast, form at their termination in these directions the Brentwood Gap, through which the Franklin road passes. His left having been driven back so far, was necessarily well refused, bending back at right angles at a point near Schofield's position. This angle was upon a. fortified hill, and from that point the line extended southward to another hill, also fortified. The right rested at Overton Hill, another entrenched position.
During the night General Schofield felt uneasy, being on the right of the infantry and not far from the enemy, and requesting reenforcements, Colonel Moore's division of Smith's corps was sent to him and placed by him in reserve. The entrenchment of his position gave additional evidence of Schofield's disquietude.
Hood's right had been withdrawn so far during the night, that the
of the 16th was spent in developing his new position in that
quarter. Early in the morning Wood, in compliance with the order of
Thomas, advanced to the Franklin road, and formed his corps with
division on the right of that road, Beatty's on the left of it, and
in reserve. He then advanced three-fourths of a mile and encountered
Page 329 - NASHVILLE – SECOND DAY
enemy's skirmish line, behind barricades a half mile in front of his main line. In concert with Wood's movement, Smith on his right and Steedman on his left, advanced to the immediate presence of the enemy. To protect the rear of the left flank of the army, Steedman ordered Colonel J. G. Mitchell's brigade of Cruft's provisional division to advance and hold Riddle's Hill. Wilson moved to the rear of Hood's left as rapidly as practicable. He had his corps in hand, Johnson's division having removed to the Hillsboro' turnpike from the extreme right towards Bell's Landing, in consequence of the retirement of the enemy from his front during the night. Hood's forces in front of Hammond's brigade were very demonstrative early in the day, and skirmished sharply to resist Wilson's advance.
The rough and slippery ground and the dense forest between the
and Hood's left flank greatly retarded Wilson's movement, it being
for his men to dismount and advance on foot. But by noon he had formed
a continuous line of skirmishers in front of Hatch's division and
brigade of Knipe's division, while Croxton's brigade was in readiness
support Hatch or Hammond. This line of cavalry was parallel to the
line of infantry, facing towards Nashville, or to the north, its left
with Schofield's right. General Schofield's line faced to the east,
a part on the left, which curved around the angle in the enemy's line.
The remainder of the line of infantry - Smith's Wood's and Steedman's -
looked directly to the south. The enemy's flank, therefore, was in a
our lines facing it on the north, west and south.
Page 330 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
General Thomas gave in his report a full account of the preliminary operations of the 16th, in compliance with his instructions of the previous evening.
"At 6 A. M. on the l6th Wood's corps pressed back the enemy's skirmishers across the Franklin pike to the eastward of it, and then swinging slightly to the right, advanced due south from Nashville, driving the enemy before him, until he came upon his new main line o f works, constructed during the night on what is called Overton's Hill, about five miles south of the city and east of the Franklin pike. General Steedman moved out from Nashville by the Nolensville pike and formed his command on the left of General Wood, effectually securing the latter's left flank, and made preparations to cooperate in the operations of the day. General A. J. Smith's command moved out on the right of the Fourth corps (Wood's) and, establishing connection with General Wood's right, completed the new line of battle. General Schofield's troops remained in the position taken up by them at dark on the day previous, facing eastward and towards the enemy's left flank, the line of the corps running perpendicular to General Smith's troops. General Wilson's cavalry, which had rested for the night at the six-mile post on the Hillsboro pike, was dismounted and formed on the right of Schofield's command, and by noon of the 16th, had succeeded in gaining the enemy's rear and stretched across the Granny White pike, one of his two outlets towards Franklin. As soon as the above dispositions were completed, and having visited the different commands, I gave directions that the movement against the enemy's left flank should be continued. Our entire line approached to within six hundred yards of the enemy's at all points. His centre was weak as compared to. either his right at Overton's Hill, or his left on the hills bordering tho Granny White pike, Still I had hopes of gaining his rear and cutting off his retreat from Franklin."
General Thomas rode to the six-mile post on the Hillsboro' turnpike, and met General Wilson between 9 and 10 A. M. Wilson was then endeavoring to carry out the original plan of battle, by making efforts to gain the rear of the enemy's line of battle, but meeting stronger opposition than he had anticipated, he suggested to General Thomas that the cavalry should be transferred to operate against Hood's right flank. General Thomas, however, directed him to continue his movement, as already begun, until he found it impracticable to attain the end in view, in which
event, the cavalry corps might be moved to the opposite flank.
then reenforced Hatch's and Hammond's dismounted skirmishers, and by
reached the rear of Hood's left flank. The attainment of this position
by Wilson was to be the signal for a general attack from right to left,
Wilson and Schofield to take the initiative in conjunction.
Page 331 - SCHOFIELD'S DELAY
When the cavalry, at noon, had gained position in the rear of Hood's left flank, Wilson sent a messenger to inform Generals Thomas and Schofield that he was ready to move against the enemy. Schofield, however, did not advance, but at l P. M. requested reenforcements. General Thomas was so anxious that the prescribed cooperative attack should be made, that at first he directed General Smith to send another division to Schofield But when Smith protested against being left close to the enemy with only one division, Thomas sent General Whipple, his chief of staff, to ascertain if Schofield needed reenforcements. General Whipple having reported that it was not necessary to take a second division from Smith, General Thomas revoked the order which required that one should be sent.
In the meantime General Wilson, being very impatient at the delay of Schofield, sent one staff officer after another to Thomas to make known his readiness to attack, and finally rode round the left of Hood's line to learn the cause of the failure of the infantry to attack.
At 3 P.M. Generals Wood and Steedman, weary of waiting, attacked Hood's right flank, on Overton Hill, with Post's and Thompson's brigades supported by Streight's. This assault, though vigorous and well sustained, was unsuccessful, except in causing General Hood to send troops to his right from his centre and left.
After this action on his left, General Thomas rode towards his right flank to hasten, if possible, the cooperative attack by Schofield and Wilson. As he reached the position of the Sixteenth corps, Smith referred to him a request from General McArthur for permission to assault the salient of Hood's line directly in front of Couch's division of the Twenty-third corps. Thomas said:
"No; the prescribed order of attack gives the
to General Schofield in conjunction with the cavalry, and I desire the
maintenance of this order; I will ride to General Schofield's position
and hasten his attack."
Page 332 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
When he met Schofield he directed him to advance against the fortified position in his front. Schofield was reluctant to move from fear of the loss an assault would produce, and Thomas said: "The battle must be fought, if men are killed."
While the matter was under discussion Thomas looked to the left, and observing that McArthur was moving upon the angle in the enemy's line, said to General Schofield: "General Smith is attacking without waiting for you; please advance your entire line."
At this moment General Wilson called the attention of the commanding general to the movement of the cavalry upon the fortified hill, on the extreme flank of Hood's line. Both assaults were successful, and, almost at the same instant, McArthur's division moving southward, carried the angle of Hood's line, and Wilson's troops, moving in the opposite direction and striking the enemy in reverse, gained the other important position.
When the shout of victory from the right was heard the divisions of
the Fourth corps and Steedman's troops moved upon the enemy with
force, and Hood's right was as quickly routed as his left had been. The
combined attack of Smith and Wilson was made at 3.30 P. M. and by 4 P.
M., the left half of Hood's army was in confused retreat. A few minutes
later the other half was routed. But unfortunately night was too near
4.30 P. M. on a dark foggy afternoon in December, for the triumphant
to gather the fruits of such a victory. Had the attack on the right
made at noon the result would have been different. As it was, Hood's
was utterly broken, his troops ill confusion and panic rushed towards
pass, but the darkness arrested pursuit by the infantry.
Page 333 - McARTHUR'S ASSAULT
Referring to the delay on the part of Schofield, General Smith wrote in his official report:
"The Twenty-third corps was on my right in the entrenchments thrown up by them the night before and nearly at right angles with my present line. Expecting that corps to take the initiative as they were on the flank of the enemy, I held the command in its present position, keeping up a slow artillery fire at their line without eliciting any reply. About 1 o'clock I received a request from General Schofield and a few minutes later, an order from you (Thomas) to send another division to his assistance, he having retained the one sent at daylight that morning, not having any reserve and my whole line being immediately in front of the enemy and liable to be attacked and broken at any point wherever a brigade should be withdrawn, I therefore sent a staff officer to him to state the condition of my command and ascertain if he could not get along without the division. The officer reported to me that General Schofield's line was not engaged, and upon the condition being reported to him, that he said he did not need the additional force, consequently it was not sent. About 3 o'clock P. M., General McArthur sent word that he could carry the line on his right by assault. Major-General Thomas being present the matter was referred to him and I was requested to delay the movement until he could hear from General Schofield to whom he had sent. General McArthur not receiving any reply and fearing if the attack should be longer delayed, the enemy would use the right to strengthen his works, directed the first brigade Colonel W. L. McMillen, Ninety-fifth Ohio infantry, commanding, to storm the hill on which was the left of the enemy's line, and the second and third brigades of the division to attack in front, when the first should be half-way up the hill."
General Schofield presented the case as follows :
"During the morning, therefore, our operations were
to preparations for defense, and cooperation with the cavalry, which
operating to strike the Granny White pike in the rear of the enemy.
noon the troops on my left (Generals Smith and Wood) having advanced
come in contact with the enemy in his new position, the enemy again
from his left a considerable force to strengthen his right and centre,
when I ordered General Cox to advance, in conjunction with the cavalry,
and endeavor to carry a high wooded hill beyond the flank of the
entrenched line and overlooking the Granny White pike. The hill was
by the enemy in considerable force but was not entrenched. My order was
not executed with the promptness or energy which I
Page 334 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
had expected, yet probably with as much as I had reason to expect, considering the attenuated character of General Cox's line, and the great distance and the rough ground over which the attacking force had to move. The hill was, however, carried by General Wilson's cavalry, (dismounted) whose gallantry and energy on that and other occasions which, came under my observation, cannot be too greatly praised. Almost simultaneously with this attack on the extreme right, the salient hill, in front of General Couch, was attacked and carried by General Smith's troops, supported by a brigade of General Couch's division, and the fortified hill in front of General Cox, which constituted, the extreme flank of the enemy's entrenched line, was attacked and carried by Colonel Doolittle's brigade of General Cox's division, the latter capturing eight pieces of .artillery and two to three hundred prisoners.''
General Hood distinctly recognized the effect of McArthur's assault:
"About 3.30 P. M., the Federals concentrated a number of guns against a portion of one line, which passed over a mound on the left of our centre, and which had been occupied during the night. This point was favorable for massing troops for an assault under cover of artillery. Accordingly the enemy availed himself of the advantage presented, massed a body of men - apparently one division - at the base of this mound, and under the fire of artillery which prevented our men from raising their heads above the breastworks, made a sudden and gallant charge up to and over our entrenchments. Our line thus pierced, gave way; soon thereafter it broke at all points, and I beheld, for the first and only time, a Confederate army abandon the field in confusion." *
General Hood made no reference to the cavalry which gained his rear and assaulted his line in reverse, in conjunction with the direct attack of infantry in front, but during the action of the 16th, he sent this despatch to General Chalmers :
"For God's sake drive the Yankee cavalry from our left and rear, or all is lost."
This message was captured by General Wilson and sent to General
at noon on the 16th .
* "Advance and Retreat," pp. 302 and 303.
Page 335 - WILSON'S CAVALRY
In fact the action of the cavalry in this battle was one of its remarkable features, and justified all the efforts of Thomas and Wilson to re-mount and equip as large a force as possible. It is true that this was done primarily to resist the enemy's cavalry and reap the fruits of victory in pursuit, but when through the mistake of Hood, only one division of his cavalry presented itself on his left flank, Wilson's forces, mounted and dismounted, established a precedent for the fighting of cavalry which may be the prophecy of a complete revolution in the methods and operations of that arm. In no battle of the war did cavalry perform a more brilliant part, and in no other was such an opportunity afforded to troopers. Had the cavalry been equally divided to operate upon the flanks of the infantry instead of being massed on the right, the battle of Nashville would have lost one of its salient features. General Thomas gave Wilson an opportunity to show what cavalry can do to dislodge an entrenched enemy, and cavalry had never before been employed so admirably and effectively in a great battle. It was a different office from that given to the tens of thousands of horsemen who followed Mural in the wars of Napoleon, but an equally effective one, though less imposing in movement and charge. At Nashville the cavalry had something to do, beyond the development of the enemy's position and guarding the flanks of infantry lines, – their frequent service in battle. In this action, Wilson's corps assaulted the enemy's entrenched lines, in independent movement and also in cooperation with the infantry. It is true that they dismounted to attack, but they rode to position, in some instances by a circuit of twenty miles, and in no case in less than five.
A large force of cavalry was a condition of the decisive victory at
Nashville, since by the unprecedented cooperation of cavalry and
the pivotal advantages were gained. The infantry on the left had no
help from the cavalry, but on the right the turning movements were made
by Wilson, and by his cooperation the strongest positions of the enemy
on that part of his line were carried.
Page 336 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
The achievements of Wilson's corps stand against all possible criticism, as the justification of all the efforts that had been made to give it efficiency, and fully compensated for the consequent postponement of the action. The fact that General Thomas had been a cavalry officer for many years, may account in part for his desire to equip as large a force of this arm as was possible, but doubtless the paramount reason, was his belief that a strong corps of cavalry could be effectively used at Nashville.
This battle, in its conduct, immediate results, and remote effects, takes rank with the great battles of the world. Each distinct operation was a connected part of the whole, measured and adjusted in the mind of him, who not only planned the battle, but gave it unity and force by special instructions to his corps commanders before it occurred, and during its progress. By it one of the two great armies of the Confederacy was eliminated from the final problem, and with the total overthrow of that army, the very cause which it had so long and so gallantly sustained was lost.
The change in the grand strategy made General Thomas chief were he had been subordinate. Deprived of two corps of his army, with "broken forces," he smote to death one half of the rebellion. Denied permission to go with Sherman to the sea, he was given the grandest opportunity for patriotic service and martial fame which the war afforded.
The estimates of the .strength of the two armies engaged at
have been exceedingly conflicting. General Thomas' estimate of the
of Hood's army, when it advanced from Florence, was based upon the
of the generals who were operating against its northward movement. He
preparations to meet in battle an army of, at least, fifty thousand
And prior to the publication of General Hood's estimate of the strength
of his army it was generally believed that he had this number of men of
all arms. It is not unusual for defeated generals to underestimate
forces, and Hood has certainly done this in accounting for his failure.
Page 337 - HOOD'S ESTIMATE OF HIS FORCE
But if his army was no larger than he has represented it, his rashness in advancing to Nashville has no parallel in the war. Generals have often been compelled to enter upon defensive campaigns with forces inferior to those of their enemies, but they have not often taken the offensive when their objects and hopes have been so out of proportion to the strength of their armies. Beauregard, as well as Hood, is open to the charge of extreme rashness, if the army which he sent upon remote aggression was as weak as it was reported to be by its commander.
On December 6th General Beauregard thus concluded a long letter to the Confederate President, in which he discussed the prominent features of the situation in the West:
"Under these circumstances, after consultation with General Hood, I concluded to allow him to prosecute with vigor his campaign into Tennessee and Kentucky, hoping that by defeating Thomas' army and such other forces as might hastily be sent against him, he would compel Sherman should he reach the coast of Georgia or South Carolina, to repair at once to the defense of Kentucky, and, perhaps Ohio, and thus prevent him from reenforcing Grant. Meanwhile supplies might be sent to Virginia from Middle and East Tennessee, thus relieving Georgia from the present constant drain upon its limited resources."
His endorsement upon General Hood's report of the Tennessee campaign expresses the belief that Hood had a larger army than Thomas, until the latter was reenforced at Nashville. He wrote:
"It is clear to my mind, that after the great loss
life at Franklin, the army was no longer in a condition to make a
attack on Nashville, a strongly fortified city, defended by an army
as strong as our own, and which was being reenforced constantly by
* See Appendix.
Page 338 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
had all his forces at Nashville, except Jackson's division of cavalry and two brigades of infantry.
It is demonstrable from other facts that Hood greatly underestimated the strength of his army at Nashville.
According to the report of Colonel Parkhurst, provost-marshal general of the Army of the Cumberland, Hood lost during the Tennessee campaign, about fifteen thousand men by capture and desertion. To this number should be added for his total loss, the killed in battle and skirmish, which at Franklin alone was seventeen hundred and fifty, and the unreported desertions. He had eighteen thousand men, infantry and artillery, at Tupelo, Miss., Jan. 10th, l865. If to this number his cavalry is added, whose approximate strength was nine thousand, a loss of nearly thirty thousand is shown. And yet he claimed that he lost only ten thousand men in the campaign.*
Hood's return on November 6th, 1864, is as follows:
Effective total present,...........................30,600
The "effective total" included Jackson's division of cavalry, but
not embrace Forrest's corps - Buford's and Chalmers' divisions - nor
infantry reenforcements which joined his army at Florence later in the
month. These added, his "aggregate present" comprised from fifty-five
sixty thousand men, when he crossed the Tennessee River. But General
made his 30,600 "effectives", as reported November 6th, the
basis of all his subsequent estimates of strength and losses, in the
stages of his campaign. He asserted twice, in the book published after
his death, that his cavalry numbered 2306 men.** But this was the
of "effectives" reported for Jackson's division alone. The exact
number of men embraced in the three
* "Advance and Retreat," page 335.
** "Advance and Retreat," pp. 298, 310
Page 339 - STRENGTH OF THE OPPOSING ARMIES
divisions of cavalry, under General Forrest, is not known, since returns for Buford's and Chalmers' divisions, during the Tennessee campaign are not found in the archive office at Washington. Colonel Kniffin's table, comprising extracts from consolidated returns for Dec. 10th, gives an aggregate, exclusive of two brigades of cavalry, of fifty thousand and thirteen men.* General Hood admitted a loss of seven thousand five hundred and forty-seven men before he reached Nashville,** and if this number is added to the aggregate on December 10th, as given by Colonel Kniffin, he had at Florence an army of fifty-seven thousand five hundred and sixty men. Now General Hood stated that he had less than twenty thousand "effectives" at Nashville, after deducting the force under General Forrest at Murfreesboro'.*** But he had at Nashville all of his forces except Jackson's division of cavalry and two brigades of infantry. In his official report the following statements are made:
I had sent Major General Forrest with the greatest part of his cavalry and Bate's division of infantry to Murfreesboro' to ascertain if it was possible to take the place. After a careful examination, and reconnoisance in force, in which, I am sorry to say, the infantry behaved badly, it was determined that nothing could be accomplished by assault. Bate's division was withdrawn, leaving Forrest with Jackson's and Buford's cavalry in observation. Mercer's and Palmer's brigades of infantry were sent to replace Bate's division. Shortly afterwards, Buford's division was withdrawn and ordered to the right of the army on the Cumberland River.
General Thomas had at Nashville about fifty thousand men for
operations. A large part of this aggregate was not heavily engaged on
day of battle. General Schofield lost from his corps, which was only
engaged on either day, eleven men killed, and one hundred and
* See Appendix. ** "Advance and Retreat," page 298.
*** Ibid, page 305.
Page 340 - LIFE. OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
In striking contrast with this loss of a corps, General Smith lost from one brigade, on the second day, three hundred and fifteen killed and wounded. On that day Moore's division, from Smith's command, being in reserve to Schofield, was not in the action.
It is therefore evident, that Hood having a larger army than reported, and having entrenched positions, had superior advantages at the battle of Nashville. And yet his strong positions were carried by forces that, in all probability, did not outnumber his own.
Badeau, in estimating the strength of Thomas' army at Nashville, is scarcely less inaccurate than was General Hood, in estimating his own army. Badeau thus states Thomas' strength:
"The interior works were manned by quartermaster’s employees, so that all the enlisted troops of the command could be put into action.* Thomas' infantry was now fifty-five thousand strong, Hood's about twenty-two thousand. The National cavalry in front of Nashville numbered twelve thousand, the rebel, seventeen hundred." **
This aggregate of sixty-seven thousand men is contrasted, in the
sentence with Hood's aggregate of twenty-three thousand, seven hundred,
and the sentence itself forms part of a general account of General
dispositions for battle. And yet according to the return which he
the fifty-five thousand infantry included, besides, the garrison of
all the troops at Murfreesboro' and Chattanooga, and intermediate
Whatever may have been the intention of Badeau, his confused statements
are quite as misleading as meditated deception could have made them.
* It was not the intention of Thomas, at any time, to put all his enlisted troops into the action.
** Mil. Hist., U. S. Grant, Vol. III., page 251.
Page 341 - HIS JUDGMENT VINDICATED BY VICTORY
If, however it is true that Thomas overestimated Hood's army, so did Grant and other generals. If Thomas gathered superabundant resources and made superfluous preparations, his action in this respect may be set over against Grant's excessive fear that direful consequences would follow the postponement of battle for a few days. Thomas did not expect the advance of Hood's' army into Kentucky, Grant did. The lieutenant-general feared that Hood would detach from his army to operate against remote cities, when he had abandoned the offensive and was hoping for victory, as the result of a successful defense, or the coming of expected reenforcements from Texas, while Thomas quietly but energetically, made his preparations for a battle in which he routed and destroyed Hood's army.
Thomas' losses were light as compared with results and in view of the fact that his army attacked an entrenched enemy. Only three hundred and eighty-seven men were killed, twenty-five hundred and fifty-eight wounded, and one hundred and twelve captured or missing, in aggregate three thousand and fifty-seven.
General Grant thus referred to the battle of Nashville in his "Report of the operations of the Armies of the United States from the date of my appointment to command":
"Before the battle of Nashville I grew very
over, as it appeared to me, the unnecessary delay. This impatience was
increased. upon learning that the enemy had sent a force of cavalry
the Cumberland into Kentucky. I feared, he would cross his whole army
give us great trouble there. After urging upon General Thomas the
of immediately assuming the offensive, I started west to superintend
there in person. Reaching Washington City I received General Thomas'
announcing his attack upon the enemy, and the result as far as the
had progressed, I was delighted. All fears and apprehensions were
I am not yet satisfied but that General. Thomas immediately upon the
of Hood before Nashville, and before he had time to fortify should have
moved out with his whole force and given him battle, instead of waiting
to remount his cavalry, which delayed him until the inclemency of the
made it impracticable to attack earlier than he did. But his final
of Hood was so complete, that it will be accepted as a vindication of
distinguished officer's judgment."
Page 342 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
In this report General Grant explicitly admits that Thomas could not attack at the time that he ordered him to do so, "without regard to weather or reenforcements," but he maintains that the battle should have been fought before the inclement weather prevented. From his point of view, this is the best representation of the case that he could have made.
However, the consequences of delay were not such as Grant feared. The cavalry force sent into Kentucky did no harm, and was promptly followed and driven back into Tennessee by General E. M. McCook, with two brigades of his division. It is true that Hood entrenched his position in front of Nashville, but this did not prevent defeat. Had Thomas attacked Hood, as soon as he had taken position, he would have found an entrenched line. In the last stages of the war no army, even when on the offensive, ever encamped for a night near the enemy, without entrenching. Hood entrenched his second position, the night after he lost his first.
General Sherman, also admits that the battle vindicated General Thomas:
Meantime, on the 15th and 16th
December were fought in front of Nashville the great battles, in which
General Thomas so nobly fulfilled his promise to ruin Hood, the details
of which are fully given in his own official reports, long since
Rumors of these great victories reached us at Savannah by piecemeal,
his official report came on the 2?th of December, with a letter from
Grant, giving in general terms the events up to the 18th,
I wrote at once through my chief of staff, General Webster, to General
Thomas complimenting him in the highest terms. His brilliant victory at
Nashville was necessary to mine at Savannah, to make a complete whole,
and this fact was perfectly comprehended by Mr. Lincoln, who recognized
it fully in his personal letter of December 26th,
quoted at length, and which I also claimed at the time in my Special
Order, No. 6, of January 8, 1865. *
* Memoirs, Vol. II., p. 219,
Page 343 - HIS ACCOUNT OF NASHVILLE
The following letters, first published by General J. Watts De Peyster, and inserted by his permission, show that General Thomas criticised himself for failing to capture Hood's army:
MY DEAR GENERAL WASHINGTON, May 30th, 1874.
"I have not been able to write to you until now, and threw aside even to-day matters pressing on me, to write to you even briefly, for my mind is full of other subjects. It was I that mentioned to you, Thomas' address or account of his Nashville campaign. There was previously a small club in Washington that met at each other's houses, taking them in succession, for conversation upon and discussion of scientific subjects, The evening was closed by an inexpensive supper. It was usual for a member to invite any stranger in Washington, who might be supposed to take an interest in such matters. Finally it became the custom for the member at whose house the meeting took place, to give an account of anything that he thought interesting, or have some friend do so.
One evening when the club met at General Eaton's (commissary-general of subsistence) General Thomas was present and gave us an account of his Nashville campaign, illustrated by maps. There were only about fifteen persons present. The exceeding modesty and diffidence of General Thomas made a very strong impression on me. He reminded me of a diffident youth at West Point undergoing the yearly examination, whose suffering on such occasions, only those afflicted with diffidence can comprehend and remember, which they do to the last days of their lives. The perspiration gathered profusely on his forehead. This painful diffidence from a man who had had such experiences greatly surprised me, and its simplicity almost amused me. Occupied as I had been all through the war with what was taking place with the Army of the Potomac, I knew but little of the manner in which the operations of other armies had taken place. General Thomas' account gave me a different view of his operations and the battle of Nashville from what I had previously had, and corrected some erroneous impressions. He seemed to me just as simple-hearted as when I had met him in Florida at the time he joined his regiment coming freshfrom the Military Academy.
A. A. HUMPHREYS.
MAJOR-GENERAL DE PEYSTER, N. Y.
Page 344 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
NORWICH, CONN., May 30th, 1874.
MY DEAR GENERAL DE PEYSTER :
In answer to your favor of the 23rd, I would state that I recall very readily the account which Gen. Geo H. Thomas gave one evening before a scientific club in Washington of the battle of Nashville. He had drawn plans showing the position of the opposing forces, and pointed out the order of attack as made in the different points along the line, and stated the results of the several movements. Substantial success was attained by the Union, forces at every point, the enemy was beaten back, and the close of the first day indicated strongly what became complete on the day following -- his thorough defeat.
I scarcely need say that we all listened to General Thomas with rapt attention and with great gratification. His plans and statements were so clear and explicit that I think every one present must have obtained a good idea of the plan of the battle and of the manner in which it was fought. What struck me very forcibly and I presume others present were impressed in the same manner, was the apparent forgetfulness of himself, in connection with the events he was describing. Had we not known that he was the commanding general, and that every movement was the result of the action of his mind and will, we should never have imagined it from any allusion he made to himself. But when he came. to pronounce an opinion upon the whole subject and to point out, as he did, what he called a grave error of judgment, he made himself prominent at once and threw the blame entirely on himself.
the first day, he says he ought to have detached a force and sent it
to the rear of the enemy and cut off his retreat. Had he done so, he
have captured nearly or quite the whole of Hood's army. As it was Hood
was enabled to effect his retreat. I asked him if he was not
a rigorous and unjust judgment, and suggested that at the close of the
first day it was impossible for him to decide whether Hood's forces
thoroughly demoralized and defeated or not, that if he had detached a
of sufficient strength to the enemy's rear to cut off his retreat,
it would not have so weakened his attacking columns the second day,
they would have fought with less confidence of victory, and whether, if
Hood's men had known that their retreat was cut off, it might not have
given them the energy of despair and impelled them to fight so as to
back the tide of victory. He did not yield at all to my suggestions. He
said that a general must be prepared to take some risks' and that
army ought all to have
Page 345 - HOOD HOPEFUL OF SUCCESS
been captured. The entire absence of all self-assertion on the part of General Thomas, his unaffected modesty, were most conspicuous the whole evening. It seemed to me that had any other officer but himself been in command, he would never have indulged in so severe a criticism of his conduct.
Believe me very truly yours,
L. F. S. FOSTER.
The last sentence of Senator Foster's letter is indeed true. Much as General Thomas differed from his superiors in respect to the operations in which he participated, he never indulged in criticism, except to his most intimate friends, or in unfolding his own views for historical record.
The decisiveness of the victory on the second day at Nashville may have suggested to General Thomas the movement to the enemy's rear, as the one which would have resulted in the capture of Hood's entire army. This victory has certainly led to the supposition that this army had been so demoralized by the battle of Franklin, that it did not fight at Nashville with its traditional vigor. Some of the evidences of General Hood's faith in the morale of his army have already been mentioned -- his advance to Nashville, his first and second entrenched positions, and his purpose to assume the offensive. During the action of the 15th, the left of his line had been driven back four miles, and yet he was confident of successful defense. He did not anticipate disaster, as the following quotation indicates:
I did not, I might say, anticipate a break at that
as our forces up to that moment had repulsed the Federals at every
and were waving their colors in defiance crying out to the enemy, "Come
on, Come on." Just previous to the fatal occurrence, I had matured the
movement for the next morning. The enemy's right flank by this hour,
in air some six miles from Nashville, and I had determined to withdraw
my entire force during the night and attach this exposed flank in rear.
I could safely have done so, as I still had open a line of retreat. *
* " Advance and. Retreat," p 303
Page 346 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
If Hood had not been confident of success in defense, it would have been a glaring error to leave his detached forces at Murfreesboro' without orders to move, until his army was retreating from Nashville. The fact that there were troops at Murfreesboro' and in Kentucky proves this confidence, almost as conclusively as the withholding of orders until the night of the 16th.
But believing subsequently in the practicability of the capture of Hood's army by the movement of a strong force to his rear on the night of the 15th, Thomas was bold to declare his error in not doing so. In the face of so decisive a victory most generals would have been silent in regard to after-thoughts whose expression would diminish their fame, but Thomas was truthful even when the truth was against himself.
An anecdote will show how calm and how thoughtful of minor matters General Thomas was on the morning of the fifteenth of December, although under the weight of great responsibility, and perplexing embarrassments. As he rode through the city to the field of battle, he suddenly halted the accompanying cavalcade of staff officers and escort, and beckoned Major Mills to him from the side-walk. The major was one of the quartermasters on duty at Nashville, charged with the issue of fuel. The general asked: "Have I drawn all my allowance of coal for this month?" Receiving a negative answer, he then said: "Will you please send fourteen bushels of coal to Mr. Harris, my neighbor? I was out of coal and borrowed this number of bushels from him the other day." The promise having been given, he expressed his thanks and rode on. Who else in the crisis of his career, expecting every moment to be overtaken by an order relieving him from command, would have given attention to a matter so trivial ?
An anecdote, related by a gentleman connected with the Sanitary
illustrates the extreme calmness of General Thomas in the most critical
moments of battle. This gentleman went to the battle-field at Nashville
Page 347 - HIS OPINION OF THE NEGRO
the action and observe the bearing of the commanding general. He therefore kept as near Thomas as practicable, and only once noticed the slightest gesture indicative of interest in the operations of the army. Having ordered an assault, General Thomas and his staff were watching the advance of the attacking column. Suddenly an officer exclaimed: "General, they have stopped." The sententious reply was: "They have not." The troops were then near the enemy's entrenchments and all knew that the crisis had come, but the only indication the general gave of his consciousness of the decisive moment, was a gentle stroke of his beard. There was no change of countenance or mien when the troops leaped over the enemy's entrenchments. This serenity of bearing in battle, was, no doubt, a potent cause of the uniform steadiness of soldiers in his presence, even in the most threatening emergencies of battle.
The colored troops displayed bravery and other soldierly traits at Nashville. When riding over the field General Thomas saw their dead commingled with the bodies of white soldiers, he said: "This proves the manhood of the negro." Morgan's brigade participated gallantly in Steedman's feint, on the first day, and Thompson's brigade assaulted on the left of Post's brigade, on the second day, with marked steadiness and bravery. In an address before the New York Historical Society, General De Peyster quoted the words of General Thomas which give his estimate of those troops and their race:
It will take time for the regeneration of the negro,
he will come out purified by the terrible ordeal to which he has been.
subjected, and assume an honorable position in the ranks of humanity.
which is too weak to stand the protracted trial will perish; that which
is too thoroughly infected with the poisonous influence of slavery will
slough off; but the remnant will be found to be men, and discharge
duties as citizens in our midst. *
* "Nashville -- the Decisive Battle of the Rebellion."
Page 348 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
It was meet that he who had given official and personal
to those in his department who organized and disciplined negro
should witness their valor in battle and bear testimony to it; and that
the former slaveholder should condemn slavery, and express hope for
who had been subjected to its poisonous influences.
PURSUIT OF THE ROUTED ARMY - OBSTACLES TO RAPID MOVEMENT -
HOOD'S DIMINISHED ARMY CROSSES THE TENNESSEE RIVER - THOMAS
SUGGESTS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CIVIL AUTHORITY IN TENNESSEE - PROMOTION OF THOMAS.
Although the battle of Nashville resulted in a victory unprecedented in its decisiveness, in view of circumstances and conditions, it did not exempt General Thomas from instructions and orders from the Capital and from General Grant, in reference to the pursuit of the defeated enemy. With the official congratulations to Thomas and his army, were mingled exhortations to vigorous pursuit. Thomas was told that he had a great opportunity, and was urged so strongly to destroy Hood's army in retreat as to imply, that the victorious general was either ignorant of the grand possibility, or needed special spurring to gather the fruits of victory. He had been urged beyond precedent to fight the enemy, and when he had fought one of the most brilliant battles in the world's history, he was pressed with equal vigor to do what he would have done without suggestion from his superiors. Seemingly the difficulties of the pursuit were overlooked, and the only recognized barrier to the complete overthrow of the enemy was the sluggishness of Thomas. But in fact the difficulties were almost insurmountable, and the sluggishness altogether imaginary.
Page 350 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
General Hood did not lose the Franklin road, his direct line of retreat. His army to save itself, dropped all material that impeded its rapid movement. A few brigades that maintained organization formed a stalwart rearguard, conscious of the importance and peril of their office. Hood moved as far as possible during the night of the 16th, and the distance then gained was of immense advantage. General Wood with his corps pursued rapidly for several miles, but was unable to overtake the enemy. General Wilson remounted his cavalry, and continued the pursuit till 11 P.M. The night was rainy, and intensely dark.
About four miles north of the Harpeth, General Hatch encountered Chalmers' division formed in line across the road. Hatch immediately dismounted a part of his division, and deployed his men on each side of the road, and then charging the enemy's centre with the Twelfth Tennessee cavalry. Colonel Spaulding leading, broke the line and routed the whole force; capturing General Rucker, then commanding the division, and three guns. This action took place about ten o'clock at night.
General Wilson has given the following anecdote: General Thomas frequently said to Wilson during the first half of December, "they are treating me like a boy," and as often asserted that, if let alone he would whip Hood. Late at night, on the l6th, when on the Granny White turnpike in pursuit of the enemy, Wilson heard a horseman approaching; soon General Thomas rode up, offered his hand and said, "I told you we could whip Hood," and in an instant rode back to his quarters.
Before daylight on the 17th, Wilson's corps was again in
motion; Knipe's, Croxton's, and Hatch's troops on the Granny White
and Johnson's, on the Hillsboro' road. General Knipe leading, found the
enemy strongly posted at Hollow Tree Gap, on the direct road, four
north of Franklin. The enemy was again charged in front and on his
and quickly dislodged, losing four hundred and thirteen prisoners and
Page 351 - PURSUIT OF HOOD
The cavalry then advanced, and crossed the Harpeth River at Franklin, and at the fords above and below the town,* advancing thereafter on the Columbia, Carter's Creek, and Lewisburg turnpikes, under orders to move rapidly forward, and endeavor to press round the flanks of the enemy's rearguard. This accomplished, it was expected that by direct and flank attacks, Hood's last organized brigades would be broken and dispersed. Late in the evening the enemy was found in open fields, one mile north of the west Harpeth. Wilson at once ordered Hatch and Knipe to charge the flanks of this force, and Lieutenant Hedges, with a detachment of the Fourth U. S. cavalry to attack its centre on the road. The enemy opened with artillery, but Wilson's forces, undeterred by this fire charged his centre and flanks, drove him from position and captured his guns. Darkness prevented further pursuit.
General Hood thus mentioned this action in his official report:
"During this day's march the enemy's cavalry pressed with great boldness and activity, charging our infantry repeatedly with the sabre, and at times penetrating our lines."
Early in the morning of the 17th, the Fourth corps advanced, first to Franklin, and then in the rear of the cavalry on the Columbia turnpike.
Early the next morning the Cavalry corps, although out of rations, renewed the pursuit, in the endeavor to strike the rearguard at Spring Hill. But the enemy having marched rapidly could not again be brought to a stand.
" The densely wooded country, muddy roads, and
fields, rendered almost impassable by the constant rain, made it very
for the troops, traveling on the right and left of the pike, to get
fast enough to overtake the enemy marching on the pike."**
* General Wilson, in compliance with orders from General Thomas, had sent Johnson's division on the Harding Turnpike to turn Franklin.
** General Wilson's Report of Operations of Cavalry Corps, Mil. Div.
Page 352 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
It was General Thomas' intention to hurry his infantry forward on the main road, and move his cavalry on lateral roads to intercept the enemy. But this proved to be impracticable. The protracted rain rendered the natural roads almost impassable for cavalry, and the branching roads diverged too much from the enemy's line of retreat to be used for flank movements. The infantry was therefore compelled to follow in the rear of the cavalry. Thomas soon perceived that he could not reach Hood's army by direct pursuit, and sent Steedman's forces to Decatur and beyond, in hope of destroying his bridge or intercepting his fugitive troops south of the Tennessee River. This movement also, though quickly accomplished, failed in its main object, but several detachments of cavalry from the Fifteenth Pennsylvania, Second Michigan, and the Tenth, Twelfth and Thirteenth Indiana regiments, constituting Colonel William J. Palmer's brigade of Wilson's corps, advanced from Decatur upon Hood's line of retreat in Mississippi, captured a large supply train, a pontoon train, and defeating detachments of cavalry, captured a large number of prisoners. This movement to the south bank of the Tennessee had another object, -- the re-occupation of the abandoned posts.
Generals Wilson and Wood advanced under constant rains to
Creek on the 19th. Here there was delay, the enemy had
the bridge and the deep swift current forbade fording. The next day a
was extemporized and Hatch's division crossed and advanced rapidly to
but found that the enemy had crossed, and lifted his pontoon bridge. At
noon on the 21st, the pontoon train arrived at Rutherford's
Creek. A bridge was thrown at once, as the Fourth corps joined the
at Columbia. At this place was also delay resulting from the difficulty
of throwing a bridge in the extreme cold which followed the rain, and
adapting it, when thrown, to the continued subsidence of the water. The
Fourth corps crossed Duck River on the evening of the 23rd,
and the cavalry the next morning.
Page 353 - DIFFICULTIES OF THE PURSUIT
General Hood had hoped, when he began to retreat, that he would be able to hold the line of Duck River defensively, but when he had retreated to that river, the condition of his army was such as to forbid any measure but a run for life. He was joined at Columbia by Forrest's command from Murfreesboro'. He had then a stronger rearguard with a new commander. Besides, the country south of Columbia gave better positions for defense. Hood's rear forces were encountered at Linnville, and at another point north of Pulaski, and driven from position. The rearguard was closely followed through that town by Colonel Harrison's brigade of cavalry. In his haste the enemy left the bridge over Rockland Creek, but halted in a narrow pass beyond. Here he turned upon Harrison and captured one of his guns, but lost fifty prisoners when Hatch, Croxton and Hammond moved upon his flanks. At Sugar Creek he abandoned an entrenched position as soon as Wilson developed preparations to attack. At this point the pursuit was abandoned in consequence of information that Hood's fugitive forces had crossed the Tennessee at Bainbridge, where a pontoon bridge had been in waiting for some time. This crossing was effected in sight of the gunboats under Admiral Lee, sent to that place to intercept the retreat.
While the weather and other circumstances favored the pursuit of Hood's army, Thomas lacked the requisites for rapid pursuit by his whole army. He was compelled to depend upon trains for supplies, as the country contiguous to Hood's line of retreat had been previously stripped of provisions for his army. Had there been supplies in that region, their collection would have impeded pursuit. Numerous streams, swollen by several days of rain, crossed the road upon which Hood retreated, and General Thomas had been deprived of
Page 354 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Colonel George P. Buell's Fifty-eighth Indiana regiment of trained pontoniers and bridge-builders. The march to the sea had taken away this invaluable regiment, which had had astonished General Sherman by its swiftness in throwing pontoons on the way, and in restoring a heavy bridge over the Ogeechee River. An effort had been made by Colonel Merrill, in compliance with orders from General Thomas, to construct pontoons and organize a force of pontoniers, but there had not been sufficient time to provide a sufficient number for such a pursuit, or to train a battalion of pontoniers. These were needed since the enemy destroyed as far as possible all bridges behind him. There had been a slight delay in consequence of the error of a staff officer in writing Murfreesboro' instead of Nolensville, in an order from General Thomas for the movement of the pontoon train. The train however had gone but a short distance toward Murfreesboro' before it was turned across to the Nolensville road and thence on a fine road to Rutherford's Creek. The one road to Columbia through Franklin was too crowded with troops and trains for a quicker movement on that road.
While using all his resources to overtake and crush Hood's army, Thomas was indignant that it was considered necessary to urge him from day to day to exert himself to gain these ends. He was still more tried by the suggestion of reasons for the vigorous pursuit of Hood's army. General Grant, upon his arrival at Washington, on the 15th, introduced the official spurring which was continued for several days thereafter. His first despatch was at 11.30 P. M., of that day:
I was Just on my way to Nashville, but receiving a
from Van Dusen, detailing your splendid success of to-day, I shall go
further. Push the enemy now and give him no rest until he is entirely
Your army will cheerfully suffer many privations to break up Hood's
and make it useless for future operations. Do not stop for trains or
but take them from the country as the enemy has done. Much is now
Page 355 - UNNEEDED SUGGESTIONS
On the 18th, at noon, he telegraphed:
The armies operating against Richmond have fired two hundred guns in honor of your great victory. Sherman has fully established his base on Ossabaw Sound with Savannah fully invested. I hope to be able to fire a salute to-morrow in honor of the fall of Savannah. In all your operations we hear nothing of Forrest. Great precaution should be taken to prevent him crossing the Cumberland or Tennessee Rivers below Eastport. After Hood is driven as far as it is possible to follow him, you want to re-occupy Decatur and all other abandoned points.
In the same spirit. General Halleck telegraphed, on the 21st :
Permit me, General, to urge the vast importance of a hot pursuit of Hood's army. Every possible sacrifice should be made, and your men for a few days will submit to any hardships and privations to accomplish the .great result. If you can capture or destroy Hood's army, General Sherman can entirely crush out the rebel military force in all the Southern States. He begins a new campaign about the first of January, which will have the most important results if Hood's army can now be used up. A most vigorous pursuit on your part is therefore of vital importance to General Sherman's plans. No sacrifice must be spared to obtain so important a result.
To this despatch General Thomas replied:
Your despatch of 12 M., this day is received.
Hood's army is being pursued as rapidly and as vigorously as it is
for one army to pursue another. We cannot control the elements, and you
must remember that to resist Hood's advance into Tennessee, I had to
and almost thoroughly equip the force now under my command. I fought
battle of the fifteenth and sixteenth instants, with the troops but
equipped, and, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, and the
equipments, have been enabled to drive the enemy beyond Duck River,
two streams with my troops, and driving the enemy from position to
without the aid of pontoons and with but little transportation to bring
up supplies of provisions and ammunition. I am doing all in my power to
crush Hood's army and, if it be possible, will destroy it. But pursuing
an enemy through an exhausted country, over mud roads completely sogged
with heavy rains, is no child's play, and cannot be accomplished as
as thought of. I hope, in urging me to push the enemy, the department
that General Sherman took
Page 356 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
with him the complete organization of the Military Division of the Mississippi, well equipped in every respect as regards ammunition, supplies and transportation, leaving me only two corps partially stripped of their transportation to accommodate the force taken with him, to oppose the advance into Tennessee of that army which had resisted the advance of the army of the Military Division of the Mississippi on Atlanta, from the commencement of the campaign till its close, and which is now, in addition,.aided by Forrest's cavalry. Although my progress may appear slow, I feel assured that Hood's army can be driven from Tennessee and eventually driven to the wall by the force under my command. But too much must not be expected of troops which have to be re-organized, especially when they have the task of destroying a force, in a winter's campaign, which was able to make an obstinate resistance to twice its numbers in spring and summer. In conclusion, I can safely state that this army is willing to submit to any sacrifice to crush Hood's army, or to strike any other blow which may contribute to the destruction of the rebellion.
Thus boldly and truthfully did General Thomas describe the situation, and vindicate himself and his army.
Badeau's comments upon this despatch as follows :
The defence was eloquent, but on one or two points
fair. Sherman left Thomas much more than two corps, as has been
shown; and Thomas had been, since the 3d of October, in command of all
the district north of the Tennessee. His headquarters were established
at the greatest depot west of the Alleghanies, where thousands of
employes were at his disposal to provide transportation, and every
was afforded for supplying and equipping his troops. Few armies during
the war were better furnished than that which fought so successfully at
Nashville. It was to ensure this readiness that Thomas had so
retreated and delayed; and during the few days before the battle, he
himself repeatedly assured the general-in-chief, that he was entirely
for offensive operations, and waited only for favorable weather. The
of his success demonstrates that he was ready. As to the willingness of
both Thomas and his army to make every sacrifice and every effort, that
had been displayed on many fields, but never more conspicuously than in
this campaign. Nothing was at fault but the disposition for elaborate
which, at all times, and under all circumstances, was so marked a
of Thomas' character. *
*Mil. Hist., U. S. Grant, Vol. Ill, pp. 267 and 268.
Page 357 - HIS REPLY TO HALLECK
It is clear that General Thomas referred to the forces of the Military Division of the Mississippi, organized for field service -- those that had participated in the Atlanta campaign. The garrisons were included in the forces of the Department of the Cumberland, but the Army of the Cumberland, distinctively, embraced the troops organized and equipped for field service. In this view of the case Thomas was strictly accurate. Sherman did take with him the complete organization of the Military Division of the Mississippi, well equipped in every respect as regards ammunition, supplies and transportation, leaving Thomas only two corps, partially stripped of their transportation.
Thomas held command north of the Tennessee subject to Sherman's orders until the 12th of November. It is true that Sherman did not interfere with the management of affairs at Nashville as a depot of supplies, but it is not true that every facility was offered Thomas for supplying and equipping his troops, and something more than quartermaster's employes are needed to provide transportation for an army. General Thomas could not get horses for his cavalry rapidly, even by sending his dismounted men back to Kentucky, and it was still more difficult to increase his army transportation at Nashville. Nashville was a large depot, but the mules and wagons were drawn from the North. General Smith's troops went to Nashville by water and were almost entirely destitute of transportation. The troops from garrison duty were in like condition.
When General Thomas reported himself "entirely ready for offensive
he did not mean that his army was fully equipped for the pursuit of the
enemy to the Tennessee River. He had been ordered to fight without
to weather and reenforcements, and at the earliest moment after the ice
melted, he engaged the enemy. The army at Nashville was doubtless well
furnished for battle, but it was not well furnished for the pursuit, as
General Thomas truthfully asserted in his despatch to General Halleck.
It is true
Page 358 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
that Thomas always insisted on adequate preparations, and his disposition in this regard was vindicated by his uniform success. No American general surpassed Thomas if any equaled him in discerning beforehand what forces and preparations were needed for campaign and battle.
Badeau is manifestly in error in supposing that General Halleck might have been ordered by the Secretary of War to send his despatch of the 21st. * Such a supposition is precluded by Mr. Stanton's despatch of the next day, which most emphatically disclaimed any sympathy with the tone and purport of the one which General Thomas so indignantly answered. The Secretary of War said :
I have seen to-day General Halleck's despatch of yesterday, and your reply. It is proper for me to assure you, that this department has the most unbounded confidence in your skill, vigor and determination to employ to the best advantage all the means in your power to pursue and destroy the enemy. No department could be inspired with more profound admiration and thankfulness for the great deeds, which you have already performed, or more confiding faith that human effort could do no more, and no more than will be done by you and the accomplished and gallant officers and soldiers of your command.
Secretary Stanton had been impatient of General Thomas* delay, and
utterances in respect to the postponement of offensive operations had
been complimentary. But this despatch made full atonement for all
disparagement. In view of the great victory the supposition that Thomas
needed urging was abhorrent to Stanton, and his opinion of Halleck's
impelled him to speak in strongest praise and in expression of the
confidence. No matter who, or what, inspired Halleck's despatch, Mr.
was quick to free his department from the appearance of sympathy with
* Mil. Hist. U. S. Grant, Vol. III. page 265
Page 359 - SHERMAN’S SPARE ARMY
In reply to the Secretary of War, Thomas telegraphed:
I am profoundly thankful for the hearty expression of your confidence in my determination and desire to do all in my power to destroy the enemy and put down the rebellion, and in the name of this army, I thank you for the complimentary notice you have taken of all connected with it, for the deeds of valor they have performed.
On the 22nd, Grant also telegraphed congratulations:
You have the congratulations of the public for the energy with which you are pushing Hood. I hope you will succeed in reaching his pontoon bridge at Tuscumbia before he gets there. Should you do so, it looks to me that Hood is cut off. If you succeed in destroying Hood's army there will be but one army left to the so-called Confederacy, capable of doing us harm. I will take care of that, and try to draw the sting from it, so that in the spring we shall have easy sailing. You have now a big opportunity, which I know you are availing yourself of. Let us push and do all we can before the enemy can derive benefit, either from the raising of negro troops on the plantations, or white troops now in the field.
General Grant does not state in this despatch that he expected Sherman, with his large army, to assist in drawing the sting from Lee's army, but that this was his expectation is evident from the fact that Sherman was under orders at the date of this despatch, to transport his army by sea to Virginia. On the 27th, Grant assented to Sherman's march through the Carolinas to Virginia, and then wrote to General Sherman :
Your confidence in being able to march up and join this army, pleases me, and I believe it can be done. The effect of such a campaign will be to disorganize the South, and prevent the organization of new armies from their broken fragments. Hood is now retreating, with his army broken and demoralized. His loss in men has probably not been far from twenty thousand, besides deserters. If time is given, the fragments may be collected together, and many of the deserters re-assembled. If we can, we should act to prevent this. Your spare army, as it were, moving as proposed, will do it.****
I have thought that Hood being so completely wiped
for present harm, I might bring A. J. Smith here with fourteen to
thousand men. With this increase I could hold my lines, and move out
a greater force than Lee has. It would compel Lee to retain
Page 360 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
all his present force in the defenses of Richmond, or abandon them entirely. This latter contingency is probably the only danger to the easy success of your expedition. In the event you should meet Lee's army, you would be compelled to beat it, or find the sea coast. Of course I shall not let Lee's army escape, if I can help it, and will not let it go without following to the best of my ability. Without waiting further directions, then, you may make your preparations to start on your northern expedition without delay. Break up the railroads in South and North Carolina, and join the armies operating against Richmond as soon as you can.
From this outline of the projected operations on the Atlantic coast, the special anxiety for the complete destruction of Hood's army becomes apparent, and the inspiration of Halleck's despatch of the 21st, to Thomas is taken out of the realm of doubt. It is equally apparent that Grant thought of dismembering Thomas' army while it was in pursuit of the enemy, that he might be able to hold his lines, and move out with a greater force than Lee could command, and thus compel him to hold Richmond with his entire army, or abandon that city altogether. There was already a vast preponderance of National troops on the Atlantic coast. The Army of the Potomac outnumbered the Confederate Army of Virginia, and the Confederate leaders had not been able to gather an army south of Richmond, half the size of Sherman's. The only strong reason for the dismemberment of the army that achieved the victory at Nashville, before the condition of Hood's forces was known, was the immediate reenforcement of the Army of the Potomac.
On the 21st of January, Grant wrote a letter to Sherman, which sharply censured Thomas for lack of vigor in the pursuit of Hood's army, and also, for his unwillingness to advance into Alabama:
Before your last request to have Thomas make a
into the heart of Alabama, I had ordered Schofield to Annapolis,
with his corps. The advance (six thousand) will reach the seaboard by
23rd; the remainder following as rapidly as railroad
can be procured from Cincinnati. * * * * *
Page 361 - THE COMPLETEST VICTORY OF THE WAR
I was induced to do this because I did not believe Thomas could possibly be got off before spring. His pursuit of Hood indicated a sluggishness that satisfied me he would never do to conduct one of your campaigns. The command of the advance of the pursuit was left to subordinates, whilst Thomas followed far behind. When Hood had crossed the Tennessee, and those in pursuit had reached it, Thomas had not much more than half crossed the State, from which he returned to Nashville to take steamer for Eastport. He is possessed of excellent judgment, great coolness and honesty, but is not good on a pursuit. He also reported his troops fagged, and that it was necessary to equip up. This report and a determination to give the enemy no rest, determined me to use his surplus troops elsewhere.
Thomas is still left with a sufficient force, surplus, to go to Selma under an energetic leader. He has been telegraphed to, to know whether he could go, and if so, by which of several routes he would select. No reply is yet received. Canby has been ordered to act offensively from the sea coast to the interior, toward Montgomery and Selma. Thomas' forces will move from the north at an early day, or some of his troops will be sent to Canby.
General Thomas frequently asserted with great boldness that he followed Hood's army as rapidly as possible, and made every practicable effort to destroy it. In this way he positively refutes General Grant's allegation of sluggishness, although he never saw the letter in which this charge is made.
In view of the conflicting assertions of Grant and Thomas, it may be
asked, when during the war, under corresponding or different
was a defeated army followed so far, so vigorously, or so disastrously
to itself, as in the case of the pursuit of Hood's army? And if the
circumstances of this pursuit are considered, the assumption can be
that it surpassed all other efforts to destroy armies in retreat that
made during the war. All things considered, the victory at Nashville
all other victories of the war, and no other pursuit so fully
a decisive victory, in effecting the destruction of an army.
Page 362 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
In no other campaign of the war was an army so broken by field operations, as was Hood's in Tennessee. It was virtually annihilated. The broken column of fourteen thousand men, lost five-sevenths of its strength by desertion on its way to North Carolina, from Mississippi. The meagre remnant wandering across the continent, dispirited and feeble, the only force distinctly representing the grand, heroic Confederate Army of the Tennessee, told the story of Nashville, and of the pursuit which followed. And yet this spiritless column of less than five thousand men, was the only offset made by the enemy to the eighty or ninety thousand veteran soldiers sent to the Atlantic coast from the Military Division of the Mississippi.
Thomas was ordered by General Grant to depend upon an exhausted country for supplies, and obedience would have arrested the pursuit almost at its beginning. With insufficient transportation he was retarded in the pursuit, but without any he could not have pursued at all.
He did trust his advanced forces to subordinates, but when and where
did ever an army commander take personal command of his vanguard in
a defeated army? The character and service of the generals to whom he
his leading corps, cavalry and infantry, certainly justified his
When Grant sent General James H. Wilson to be chief of cavalry of the
Division of the Mississippi, he said to Sherman, that Wilson would add
fifty per cent. to the strength of the cavalry. Surely a general thus
who had, besides, in the operations preceding the battle of Nashville,
and in that action, proved that this endorsement was just, could be
trusted to conduct the operations of his corps out of the sight of the
commanding general, when the place assigned him in the pursuit was the
legitimate position for the chief of cavalry. And Thomas did not err in
placing General Wood, commanding the Fourth corps, in the advance with
the cavalry. The Fourth corps had engaged in
Page 363 - GENERALS WILSON AND WOOD
some of the severest conflicts of the Atlanta campaign and had sustained its reputation in the battles of Franklin and Nashville, and the general who commanded this corps in the action at Nashville, had been prominent as a division commander at Stone River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and in many of the severest conflicts in Georgia. It was therefore fitting that General Thomas should associate Wood with Wilson in leading his forces in the pursuit of Hood's army.
General Thomas, however, was near the head of his army until he reached Pulaski, forty miles from the Tennessee River. Here he remained until the pursuit terminated, but he nevertheless gave specific directions to Generals Wilson and Wood in respect to the operations on the other side of Pulaski. The operations beyond that place were as much the result of his personal direction as the previous movements had been. General Wood in his official report explicitly mentions the directions given by General Thomas, in regard to the movements south of Pulaski, and also gives the general character of the pursuit:
On the following morning, the twenty-fourth, I was detained until twelve M., waiting for the cavalry to come up and move out. Shortly after the cavalry had passed out through my camp, Brevet Major-General Wilson sent me a message to the effect that he had found the ground so soft that he could not operate off the turnpike, and begging that I would not become impatient at the delay he was causing in the movement of my command. At twelve M., the road was free of the cavalry, when the corps was put in motion and marched sixteen miles that afternoon and encamped two miles south of Linnville.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Sunday morning, the twenty-fifth, the corps followed
on the heels of the cavalry, passed through Pulaski from which the
had rapidly driven the enemy's rearguard and encamped for the night six
miles from the turn on the Lamb's Ferry road. The corps marched sixteen
miles on the twenty-fifth, the last six miles on a road next to
from the depth of the mud. As we could not have the use of the turnpike
further south than Pulaski, I ordered all the artillery of the corps,
four batteries, to be left at
Page 364 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Pulaski, using the horses of the batteries left to increase the horses of the pieces taken with the command to eight, and of the caissons to ten horses each. I also ordered that only a limited number of ammunition wagons, carrying but ten boxes each should accompany the command, These arrangements were necessary on account of the condition of the road on which the enemy had retreated.Without extra teams to the artillery carriages and lightening the usual load of an ammunition wagon, it would have been impractical to get the vehicles along; a vigorous pursuit would have been impossible. These dispositions were reported to the commanding general. He directed me to follow the cavalry and support it. The pursuit was continued with all possible celerity to Lexington, Alabama, thirty miles south of Pulaski. Six miles south of Lexington, Brevet Major-General Wilson learned certainly on the twenty-eighth that the rear of the enemy had crossed the river on the twenty seventh and that his bridge was taken up on the morning of the twenty-eighth. These facts were reported to the commanding general who ordered that the pursuit be discontinued. To continue it further at that time, besides being useless, even if possible, was really impossible. Of the pursuit it may be truly remarked, that it is without a parallel in this war. It was continued for more than a hundred miles at the most inclement season of the year over a road, the whole of which was bad, and thirty miles of which were wretched almost beyond description."
General Wilson's official utterances are in striking harmony with those of General Wood:
"The rebels retreated that night (Dec. 24th,) to the vicinity of Pulaski, but the next day were driven through that place closely pressed by Harrison's brigade. The bridge across Richland Creek was saved by the celerity and good management with which Colonel Harrison handled his command, so that without delaying he continued the pursuit, and by 2 P.M., came up with the enemy, strongly entrenched at the head of a heavily wooded and deep ravine, through which ran the road. The country was so difficult and broken, that the men of Harrison's brigade were necessarily in weak order, but nothing daunted they pressed the enemy's skirmishers back to their fortified position. Here they were compelled to halt, and while the troops of Hatch's, Croxton's and Hammond's commands were marching through the woods to their support, a few hundred of the enemy's infantry, for the first time since the battles about Nashville, sallied forth from their breast-works, and drove back Harrison's attenuated skirmish line, and captured one gun of Smith's battery "I,"
Page 365 - THE PURSUIT OF HOOD
Fourth United States Artillery. They were promptly driven back, but had succeeded in getting the captured gun off. Hammond, Croxton and Hatch moving on the flanks of their position, they abandoned it hastily, just before night, leaving about fifty prisoners in our hands. On the 26th the pursuit was continued to the Sugar Creek, the enemy falling back, and making but slight resistance. At the latter place they took up a strong position, and held it until General Hammond had developed his forces, and got ready to attack. Hastily withdrawing, they continued their march throughout the night. It had now become evident that no effort on the part of my command could again bring Forrest to risk another engagement. Having neither rations nor forage, and learning that the main body of the rebel troops had already reached the south side of the Tennessee, I directed the corps to halt, and the next morning I sent Colonel Spaulding, of the Twelfth Tennessee cavalry, with five hundred picked men, after the enemy, with directions to continue the pursuit until he had reached the Tennessee River. He reached the river at Bainbridge early on the morning of the 28th, the last of the enemy having crossed and taken up the bridge during the night. The road from Pulaski to Bainbridge was us bad as it could possibly be, the country through which it runs, almost entirely denuded of forage and army supplies. Both men and forces suffered greatly. Hood having effected his escape, the corps was ordered to Eastport for the purpose of refitting and resting, Before this order was received, however, Hatch, Hammond and Harrison had marched to Athens, on the road to Huntsville, in, pursuance of previous instructions from General Thomas.
Before closing this report it may not be improper to say, that through the entire campaign the bravery and steadiness of the cavalry troops, new and old, were most conspicuous. Nothing could have been more admirable than their conduct on the Harpeth in the two days' battle at Nashville, in the affair on the west Harpeth, or in the pursuit which followed. I know of no battles of the war where the influence of the cavalry was more potent, or of any pursuit sustained so long and well. The results of the campaign added to those following the same policy in the Army of the Potomac, clearly demonstrate the wisdom of massing the entire cavalry of an army, and it is to be hoped will obtain from the War Department a recognition of the corps already organized.
Page 366 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
The following statement from General Wilson supplements this report:
"In pursuit of Hood's army, the cavalry lost about five thousand horses, from exhaustion, exposure, and insufficient forage. This fact alone is sufficient to show the difficulties which were encountered and the resolution with which they were surmounted."
There is, therefore, the strongest concurrent testimony from
Thomas, Wilson and Wood, to the fact that the pursuit of Hood was
with great vigor, and with disastrous results to the enemy. Neither is
it true, as Grant wrote to Sherman, that Thomas intrusted the advance
subordinates, and that when Hood crossed the Tennessee River, Thomas
not much more than half crossed the state. General Thomas did trust the
very efficient generals who commanded his two corps - cavalry and
- which led in the pursuit from Nashville to the Tennessee, in all
of detail, but, from first to last, they moved in obedience to his
And when Hood crossed the Tennessee, Thomas was at Pulaski, which place
he had reached before the enemy crossed that river, and the operations
beyond that place were conducted under his orders, which were as
as is usual to corps commanders. General Wilson received orders from
Thomas on the 27th, to pursue the enemy to the Tennessee, and then
to cross at Eastport, Miss., under cover of the gunboats, and destroy
Memphis and Charleston railroad bridge over Bear Creek. When the last
Hood's army crossed the Tennessee, Schofield's corps was at Columbia,
at Pulaski, Wood's and Wilson's south of Pulaski, and General Thomas
in the best possible position to direct the movements of his entire
should the forces south of Pulaski develop the necessity for the
of Smith and Schofield. A part of the cavalry in rear of General Wilson
was directed to Athens by General Thomas, and seldom, if ever, has an
commander kept scattered forces in motion more completely by his own
Page 367 - A CONFEDERATE GENERAL'S OPINION
If General D. H. Maury may be believed, the opinion did not obtain amongst those who fled from Nashville, that there was a lack of vigor on the part of the troops who drove the enemy through rain, snow, cold and mud across the State of Tennessee, and over the Tennessee River. In the "Southern Historical Society Papers" for June, l876, General Maury thus refers to General Thomas and the battle of Nashville:
"It is charitable to believe that in making these
for his own movements and for the defense of Nashville, Sherman must
estimated the personal resources of General Thomas very highly; the
amply justified such an estimate. The army, with which Thomas gained
great victory, was largely made up of forces detached for the occasion
from other armies, of new levies and of dismounted cavalry, some of
were remounted in presence of the enemy, and was therefore ill-fitted
cope with the veteran army of Hood.
So impatient was the Federal Government of the delay of Thomas in attacking Hood, that on the 9th of December he was ordered to be relieved from the command of the army.
The order was, fortunately for Halleck, suspended. Thomas would not attack till he was ready. His victory was decisive. But even after that, the Washington City generalissimo, Halleck, complained that Thomas did not press Hood's army.
I have never heard anybody who was in Hood's army at that time, justify Halleck's complaints on this score. Thomas' own letter replying to these indiscreet strictures, shows the stuff of which the writer was made.
In calm review of these operations, it is but fair to say that in the whole course of the war, there was no finer illustration of generalship exhibited by any Federal commander than General Thomas' defense of Nashville."
General Grant was palpably in error in his later criticisms of the
of Thomas in the pursuit of Hood's army. And these later criticisms are
palpably in conflict with his commendation of Thomas for his vigor in
the enemy. The facts, however, vindicate Thomas. His generalship, as
in the conduct of the entire campaign, will bear comparison with that
any other general in any other campaign of the war. If success is
as the criterion of generalship, his conduct of the
Page 368 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
operations and battles of this campaign gives him a place beside the
great captains of the world. If a higher standard, and one more just is
adopted, his generalship stands in boldest relief. Success may depend
the action of subordinates, or a good army may win victories despite
blunders of its generals. But the higher criterion takes into account
mastery of resources, provision against the possibilities to the enemy,
and the nice adjustment and aggregate force of all operations.
Had the battle of Nashville been fought in summer or early autumn, and a victory been won, with no subsequent pursuit, history would have given this action a place in the category of great conflicts. But fought in winter, and supplemented by a pursuit scarcely less disastrous to the enemy than the battle itself, conducted with meagre transportation, when wagons were the only dependence for supplies, across swollen streams, with scant appointments for bridging them, in rain, snow, cold and mud, the operations as a whole are lifted into prominence even in the narrow range of transcendent military achievements.
A general's opinion of another soldier, has no rightful place in history, unless sustained by facts. A great general's higher relations to history should not be endangered by his own utterance of unsupported statements - made from afar and in ignorance of facts - in regard to another great general, whose achievements have given him an unequivocal and brilliant fame. Grant and Thomas will both be accurately weighed when all partialities and prejudices are laid aside, and this will be done without reference to their opinions of each other. History has nicely adjusted balances, though their use is often long delayed.
An estimate of Hood's loss in men, has been given. His loss in material was correspondingly great. He admitted a loss of fifty-four pieces of artillery, but the actual number was seventy-two. The road from Nashville to Bainbridge
Page 369 - LETTER TO GOVERNOR JOHNSON
was strewn with small arms and light equipments. Thomas gathered his resources and formed his plans to crush Hood's army, and that purpose was more fully accomplished than Thomas himself imagined when the remnant of that army crossed the Tennessee River.
General Hood attributed the failure of his campaign to three causes, "the unfortunate affair at Spring Hill, the short duration of daylight at Franklin," and "the non-arrival of the expected reenforcements from the Trans-Mississippi Department." *
Upon the 29th of December General Thomas announced the conclusion of
the pursuit and campaign, and congratulated his army upon its
The reasons assigned for this action were the state of the roads south
of the Tennessee River, and the consequent impossibility of supplying
army for offensive operations. His army also needed rest and
In connection with the congratulatory order, he gave directions for the
location of his forces in winter cantonments. He ordered Smith's corps
to take post at Eastport, Mississippi, Wood's at Huntsville and Athens,
Alabama, Schofield's at Dalton, Georgia, and Wilson's near Huntsville,
except one division which was to be sent to Eastport. These troops had
been in the field for a long period, many of them since the advance of
General Rosecrans south of the Tennessee River. Thomas proposed to give
them a short rest, and make preparations for a new campaign. But his
did not meet the approval of General Grant and were consequently
* "Advance and Retreat," page 304
Page 370 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
On the 30th of December General Thomas addressed the following letter to Andrew Johnson, military governor of the State of Tennessee:
H'DQR'S DEP'T OF THE CUMB., PULASKI, TENN., Dec. 30,
9 P- M.
BRIG. GEN'L AND. JOHNSON, Military' Governor of Tennessee, Nashville:
As the enemy is now entirely driven out the State of Tennessee, I would respectfully suggest that immediate measures be taken for the reorganization of the civil government of the State, as it is desirable, if possible, to place as large a force of the army beyond the borders of the State, and as close to the enemy as we can, and I should be very happy to be assured that I could leave the State in the hands of the citizens. All should certainly now feel that the establishment of rebel authority in the State of Tennessee is hopeless, and their own interests should induce them to return to their allegiance to the United States and restore peace to their State without any further quibbling.GEO. H. THOMAS, Major-General U. S. V. Comd'g.In this suggestion General Thomas evinced both wisdom and patriotism. Having thus early recommended the cessation of military rule in Tennessee, he was exceedingly careful during the years in which that State was included in his military division, not to trench needlessly upon the prerogatives of civil government. And although the full restoration of the civil power would necessarily abridge his own authority, he was quick to recommend the reorganization of the civil government of the State of Tennessee. This was, probably, the first request that invited a military governor of a seceded State, to lay aside his martial prerogatives and put in operation methods of administration, that were purely civil. In this action General Thomas plainly indicated his belief that in this country military rule is utterly abnormal, and should be set aside at the earliest moment consistent with social order and the demands of a state of war. With such a general commanding the armies of a free country, the liberties of the people would never be imperiled by the supremacy of military authority.
Page 371 - MAJOR-GENERAL, UNITED STATES ARMY
December 24th, General Thomas' appointment as major-general in the United States Army was made known to him by the Secretary of War, through the following despatch :
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C., December 24th,
MAJOR-GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS, Headquarters Dep't Cumberland, via Nashville, Tenn.With great pleasure I inform you, that for your skill, courage and conduct in the recent brilliant military operations under your command, the President has directed your nomination to be sent to the Senate as a major-general in the United States Army, to fill the only vacancy in that grade. No official duty has been performed by me - with more satisfaction, and no commander has more justly earned promotion by devoted, disinterested and valuable services to his country.
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War
This despatch is exceedingly complimentary and fully recognizes
Thomas' services in the war - especially in the Tennessee campaign. But
when he read it, he was for some time silent, lost in thought and
forgetful of his promotion and the tenor of Secretary Stanton's
During his silence, he doubtless recurred to the treatment he had
from the National authorities, recalling the fact that he had been
overslaughed during the war, and that a suitable recognition of his
at the battle of Mill Springs would have made him a major-general of
in January 1862, and at the battle of Chickamauga, a major-general in
United States Army in 1863, when these respective promotions would have
given larger commands early in the war and consequently, better
to serve his country and enhance his own fame.
Then turning to Surgeon George E. Cooper, medical director of his department, he handed to him the despatch announcing his promotion, and said: "What do you think of that?" When Dr. Cooper had read it, he replied: ''Thomas, it is better late than never." The general then said with measured words: "I suppose it is better late than never, but it is too late to be appreciated; I earned this at Chickamauga." His emotion, as he uttered these words, became too strong for his self-poise in this unguarded
Page 372 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
moment, and he gave way to the strongest possible indication of intense feeling. The feeling that he had been mistrusted in his loyalty, had been denied promotions when fairly earned and had been subjected to humiliating subordination to inferiors in rank, overpowered the stern soldier whose eye had never changed expression in the supreme moments of battle, and whose face had never blanched in extreme personal danger, and for a moment he gave up the mastery of himself.
His calm, dignified bearing under circumstances that deeply wounded his nature, so intensely sensitive, has led to the belief that he was indifferent to rank and corresponding command. But in this, as in other matters affecting chiefly his inner life, he was utterly misapprehended by those who supposed that they knew him well. He was really known only by the few who called forth confiding friendship.
Some time after he said to a friend: "There is one thing about my promotions that is exceedingly gratifying. I never received a promotion they dared to withhold. After Chickamauga they could not refuse a commission as brigadier-general in the United States Army. And after Nashville, a major-general's commission."
Thus in positive self-assertion he declared that he had forced his promotions from those who had long disregarded his claim to higher rank. A modest self-respecting man, when he does abandon his habitual reserve, is likely to express himself strongly. This, at least, was true of Thomas. But the calm movement of his life was never disturbed, except by some surprise that especially touched his heart, or was excessively annoying. And the occasional loss of equipoise made more prominent the habitual restraint of a forceful nature.
During the operations in Middle Tennessee, affairs in East
also, demanded attention. In apparent cooperation with Hood General
Page 373 - RESOLUTIONS OF THANKS
the offensive, defeated General Gillem's force at Bull's Gap on the13th of November, and then advanced toward Knoxville. In the emergency General Thomas sent troops from Chattanooga and Kentucky. But upon the appearance of reenforcements Breckinridge retreated. As General Hood's broad plan included his own advance through East Tennessee to Richmond, the advance of the enemy towards Knoxville, doubtless, had direct relation to operations in Middle Tennessee. Hood had asked for Breckinridge's command for his western operations, but had been refused. General Lee was holding this force for use either in Virginia or Tennessee. But Thomas made dispositions to defeat the enemy's plans throughout the campaign. His maintenance of a full garrison at Murfreesboro' was a great disappointment to Hood, since that place was second only to Nashville as an objective in Tennessee.
The Senate and House of Representatives of the United States adopted
the following resolution March 3rd, 1865:
"That the thanks of Congress are due and are hereby
to Major-General George H. Thomas, and the officers and soldiers under
his command for their skill and dauntless courage by which the rebel
under General Hood was signally defeated and driven from the State of
The General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, resolved, November
"That the thanks of the General Assembly in their
name and in the name of the people of the State of Tennessee, be
to Major-General George H. Thomas, and the officers and soldiers under
his command for his wise and spirited, and their brave and patriotic
in the battle of Nashville, in defense of the capital of the State, in
December 1864, and that a gold medal be struck in commemoration of the
great and decisive event and be presented to him."
OPERATIONS DURING THE WINTER AND SPRING OF l865 - DISCUSSION OF
GENERAL GRANT'S LETTERS CENSURING THOMAS - CAVALRY EXPEDITIONS
- WILSON IN ALABAMA AND GEORGIA - STONEMAN IN EAST TENNESSEE,
VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA - CAPTURE OF MR. DAVIS.
On the first day of January, 1865, the rebellion was manifestly near
its end. It was not indeed known in the North that one of the two great
armies that kept the rebellion alive had been virtually annihilated by
General Thomas and his army, but it was known that Hood had lost
in Tennessee, and that his forces had been driven in rout across the
River. It was evident after this campaign that the overthrow of General
Lee's army would end the war. All projected operations, therefore, East
and West, had primary reference to the defeat of Lee's army, as Hood's
had been defeated at Nashville. General Sherman's great army had been
from the central theatre of war, to give aid in the end to General
at Richmond; and when near Savannah, Sherman had received orders to
his army by sea to Virginia, and to do this without waiting to reduce
city. When it became known that it was impracticable to obtain
transports, an advance through the Carolinas was projected by Sherman,
and approved by Grant. This movement then became for a time the central
one, and the remotest western operations were to be conducted, as
more or less directly, with this paramount enterprise.
Page 375 - GRANT'S PLANS
All western movements, therefore, had these objects; to prevent the transfer of Hood's shattered army to North Carolina, and to attract the enemy's attention in various quarters, so that no other troops should go in this direction from the West and Southwest.
According to Badeau, Grant's plans widened into unprecedented comprehensiveness in the last stage of the war, and while Lee's army was the ultimate objective, the first series of operations were directed, so as to aid Sherman's movement to Richmond. The following passage, without distinctly mentioning the paramount objects, gives in outline the breadth of Grant's plans:
"Grant's plans at this time assumed a grander and more comprehensive character than at any other epoch of the war. The concentration of his armies went on from the most distant quarters, and cooperative movements were directed on a scale hitherto quite unprecedented." *
If this passage is put by the side of Grant's declaration to Thomas, that if he would destroy Hood's army, only one army would be left to the Confederacy to do harm, the inference is unavoidable that this final breadth of plan centred first upon Sherman's northward march from Savannah, and then upon the conjunction of two great armies against Lee. The operations required of General Thomas during the winter and spring of 1865, had relation to these objects.
When General Grant required Thomas to revoke his order placing his army in winter cantonments; General Halleck wrote, December 3lst :
"Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant directs all your
forces not essential to hold your communications, be collected on the
River, - say at Eastport and Tuscumbia, - and be made ready for such
as may be ordered. * * * * * Please give us the earliest possible
of Hood's line of retreat, so that orders may be given for the
of the campaign. Lieutenant-General Grant does not intend that your
shall go into winter quarters. It must be made ready for active
in the field."
*Mil, Hist. V. S. Grant. Vol. III. page 363.
Page 376 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
A new campaign was plainly indicated, but its purpose and field were not made known, and the inference was warranted that Thomas was to conduct it; still it was not the intention of Grant, as will be shown hereafter, that Thomas should command in aggressive operations. But it was to be his duty to prepare his troops for other generals to command them.
Sherman, however, was urgent that Thomas should advance into the
of Alabama. In a letter to Grant of December 24th, after requesting
all detachments and convalescents belonging to his own army should be
to him, he said: "I do not mean to cripple Thomas, because I regard his
operations as all-important, and I have ordered him to pursue Hood down
into Alabama, trusting to the country for supplies." As Thomas had not
heard from Sherman since he started for the sea, the latter in his
to Grant must have referred to his parting instructions. On the 11th of
November he had said to Thomas:
"By using detachments of recruits and dismounted cavalry in your fortifications, you will have Schofield and Stanley, and A. J. Smith, strengthened by eight or ten new regiments, and all of Wilson's cavalry. You can safely invite Beauregard across the Tennessee, and prevent his ever returning. I still believe, however, that the public clamor will force him to turn and follow me, in which event you should cross at Decatur, and move directly towards Selma as far as you can transport supplies."
At the time these instructions were given, and ever afterwards,
Thomas supposed that they had reference to Hood's prospective action in
immediately following Sherman, and not to a winter campaign after' Hood
had been defeated, and was running for life through the
Page 377 - SHERMAN'S INSTRUCTIONS
marshes of Mississippi. To move an army through the sparsely settled region of North Alabama, upon roads made boggy by protracted rains, across swollen and bridgeless rivers, immediately after a campaign which had entailed long marches, two battles and minor conflicts, was an enterprise radically different from the conditional one suggested by General Sherman in November.
General Grant had, however, thought of dismembering Thomas' army before Thomas had ordered his troops into winter quarters. On the 27th of December, in consenting to Sherman's march from Savannah through the Carolinas to Richmond, Grant said:
"I have thought that Hood being so completely wiped out for present harm, I might bring A. J. Smith here with fourteen to fifteen thousand men. With this increase I could hold my lines and move out with a greater force than Lee has. It would compel Lee to retain all his present force in the defenses of Richmond, or abandon them entirely. This latter contingency is probably the only danger to the easy success of your expedition."
Badeau thus mentions Grant's purpose to take troops from Thomas:
"The torpor of Thomas in the Nashville campaign had determined the general-in-chief to entrust to that commander no more operations in which prompt, aggressive action was necessary. Hood's movements, however, were for a while uncertain, and on the 30th of December Grant said to Halleck: " I have no idea of keeping idle troops at any place, but before taking troops away from Thomas, it will be advisable to know whether Hood's army halts at Corinth. I do not think he will, but think he is much more likely to be thrown in front of Sherman. If so, it will be just where we want them to go. Let Thomas collect all his troops not essential to hold his communications at Eastport, * * * * and be in readiness for their removal where they can be used." *
It is evident, also, that on the 30th of December, the transfer of
army to the front of Sherman was expected and desired.
*Mil. Hist. U. S. Grant. Vol. III., p. 365
Page 378 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
On the 2nd of January General Halleck telegraphed:
"The orders of General Grant to concentrate your forces on the Tennessee were not intended to interfere in any manner with your pursuit of Hood, or your cutting off his lines of railroad, etc."
On the 4th, Thomas, from Eastport, replied to several despatches:
"In my telegram of 12 M., of the 21st, I reported the condition of the roads in this region of country, and since writing that telegram, an officer sent by me on a flag of truce towards Columbus has returned. He succeeded in getting ten miles beyond Fulton, and reports that both the road he went out on, and the one he returned by, are at this time impracticable for artillery and wagon trains. I have also received the same reports from reliable scouts and from refugees, of the condition of the roads leading from Tuscumbia, via Russellville to Tuscaloosa and Columbus. I therefore think it will be impossible to move from the Tennessee River upon Montgomery and Selma, with a large force during the winter. It was my purpose, after having driven Hood out of Tennessee, to have assembled my available force at or near Huntsville, Ala., for the winter, and as soon as the roads became practicable in the spring, to cross the Tennessee at Whitesburg and Decatur, move by Summerville and Blountsville, through Brown's and Murphree's valleys, via Elyton, Cedar Grove, Montevallo, Somerville, upon Selma, this country having been represented to me as being perfectly practicable and abounding in supplies. That country, however, is in the same condition as the country between this point and Columbus, Miss.; and I do not believe I could make a winter campaign with any reasonable chance of complete success, starting from either this point or Decatur. Should General Grant determine upon a campaign from some point on the Gulf, I could send General Canby, A. J. Smith's command, and all of the cavalry now here except two divisions, feeling able to securely hold the line of the Tennessee, and all the territory now held in East Tennessee, with the Fourth army corps, the troops in East Tennessee, and two divisions of cavalry."
General Thomas had inferred that he was expected to make a winter
south from the Tennessee River, and knowing the difficulties, if not
he strenuously opposed it, but nothing of this kind was then
Page 379 - A WINTER CAMPAIGN IMPRACTICABLE
required, and the inquiries made about Hood's movements had reference to the dismemberment of Thomas' army, and not for its advance. On the 7th of January General Grant wrote to General Halleck:
"Order Thomas, if he is assured of the departure of Hood south from Corinth, to send Schofield here with his corps, with as little delay as possible."
General Thomas had learned that Hood had not halted at Corinth, and therefore sent Schofield east on the 14th, and then the Departments of the Cumberland and Ohio were united under his command.
On the 15th there was a change of plan; on that day Grant said to Halleck :
"I now understand that Beauregard has gone west to gather up what he can save from Hood's army, to bring against Sherman. If this be the case, Selma and Montgomery can be easily reached. I do not believe, though, that General Thomas will ever get there from the north. He is too ponderous in his preparations and equipments to move through a country rapidly enough to live off of it."
But the instructions sent to Thomas by Halleck on the 19th, were not in accordance with Badeau's statement, that it was the purpose of Grant to intrust no operations to Thomas "in which prompt aggressive action was necessary." On that day Halleck said:
"General Grant has directed that no more horses be sent to your
until the proposed expeditionary force of General Canby is supplied.
Canby has been ordered to collect all his available forces at some
on the Gulf, and to move against Selma and Montgomery. It is the wish
General Grant that your army should cooperate by moving upon the same
if you can be ready in time, or if this cannot be done, that all of
troops not required for defense should be sent to the Gulf to operate
General Canby on that line. It is understood that Beauregard has gone
to bring the remains of Hood's army to North Carolina, to oppose
If so, Canby can easily reach Montgomery, and if not, his movement will
hold Hood in check, and keep him away from Sherman. You will please
your views upon these proposed operations, stating what line you
to take, looking to Selma as the objective point, and by what date you
will be ready to move; or if you do
Page 380 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
not propose a winter campaign from your present base, state how many men you can send to the Gulf. This information is necessary in order that General Grant may give final instructions for winter operations, if Hood comes to this coast, he will probably leave behind a part of Forrest's cavalry to make raids and demonstrations, but they will not be strong enough to do any serious harm."
There is no doubt that Thomas, both before and after Schofield's corps was taken from him, was opposed to a movement with a large force into Alabama. To him the proposed campaign seemed utterly impracticable in winter. The uncertainty with regard to Hood's purposes as well as the condition of the roads, alike forbade an early movement. Subsequently, events proved that General Thomas was wise in opposing this projected winter campaign. It was indeed the purpose of the Confederate leaders to move the remnant of Hood's army into North Carolina. In their view the march of Sherman's army north from Savannah necessitated the concentration of all their available forces in that State, to prevent if possible the conjunction of that army with the Army of the Potomac before Richmond. But the southward march of Thomas' army, had it been practicable, could not have prevented the transfer of Hood's forces to the East, since it would have been easy for them to have crossed Thomas' line of march without meeting his army. And every other object proposed for the movement of infantry into Alabama was subsequently attained by Wilson's cavalry corps. And such a cavalry expedition, Thomas had discussed with Wilson earlier than it was ordered, as he had also suggested the employment of A. J. Smith's command on the Gulf, long before he was directed to send it thither.
General Hood had retreated to Tupelo, Miss., where to prevent
desertions he had furloughed several thousand men, cavalry and
Subsequently, four thousand men were sent to Mobile; the cavalry under
Forrest was detached to operate in Mississippi and Alabama,
Page 381 - CAVALRY EXPEDITIONS
and about fourteen thousand men started for North Carolina, of whom, if Hood's statement may be credited, only about four thousand joined General Jos. E. Johnston before the battle of Bentonville, and one thousand afterwards, nine thousand having deserted on the way. There was no need therefore, of a campaign in Alabama in the winter of 1865, either to pursue Hood's broken forces, or to prevent their transfer to North Carolina. What was needed was full preparation for the movement of a cavalry force into the heart of Alabama, as soon as practicable, and the request of Thomas for horses had reference to such an expedition.
On the 29th Halleck said to Thomas:
"I presume General Grant will give you orders about cooperating as soon as Canby is ready to take the field."
But on the 31st, Grant, in a long letter, sent very different instructions:
"With this I send you a letter from General Sherman.
the time of writing it. General Sherman was not informed of the
of your command by my orders. It will be impossible for you at present
to move south, as he contemplated, with the force of infantry
General Sherman is advised before this of the changes made, and that
the winter you will be on the defensive, I think, however, an
from East Tennessee under General Stoneman, might penetrate South
well down towards Columbia, destroying the railroad and military
of the country, thus visiting a portion of the State which will not be
reached by Sherman's forces. He might also be able to return to East
by way of Salisbury, North Carolina, thus releasing some of our
of war in rebel hands. Of the practicability of doing this, General
will have to be the judge, making up his mind from information obtained
while executing the first part of his instructions. Sherman's movements
will attract the attention of all the force the enemy can collect, thus
facilitating the execution of this. Three thousand cavalry would be a
force to take. This probably can be raised in the old Department of the
Ohio, without taking any now under General Wilson. It would require,
the re-organization of the regiments of Kentucky, cavalry, which
had in his very successful raid into Southwestern Virginia.
Page 382 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
It will be necessary, probably, for you to send, in addition to the force now in East Tennessee, a small division of infantry to enable General Gillem to hold the upper end of Holston Valley, and the mountain passes in rear of Stoneman. You may order such an expedition. To save time, I will send a copy to General Stoneman, so that he can begin preparations without loss of time, and can commence his correspondence with you as to these preparations. As this expedition goes to destroy and not to fight battles, but to avoid them, when practicable, particularly against anything like equal forces, or where a great object is to be gained, it should go as light as possible. Stoneman's experience in raiding will teach him in this matter better than he can be directed. Let there be no delay in preparations for this expedition, and keep me advised of its progress."
In this letter General Thomas was explicitly told that he was to be on the defensive for the winter, that he should send an expedition into North Carolina, composed of cavalry already in East Tennessee, that it was to be intrusted to General Stoneman, and that Thomas himself was to have nothing to do with it except to assist in preparations.
This letter was received on the 6th of February, and General Thomas promptly addressed himself to preparation for an early movement by Stoneman. On the 12th, he telegraphed to General Halleck:
"Have orders from General Grant to furnish an outfit of about three thousand cavalry for General Stoneman, and to do this shall require about one thousand additional horses, which I would respectfully request you will give instructions to Major W. P. Chainbliss, inspector of cavalry at Louisville, to furnish immediately."
Thomas had sent with Smith about eight thousand animals, five
of them being cavalry horses. On the 13th of February Grant telegraphed
to Thomas to prepare a cavalry expedition of about five thousand men to
penetrate Northern Alabama, as cooperative with Canby's movement
Mobile and Central Alabama. Thomas had decided upon such a service for
his cavalry, immediately
Page 383 - UNTRUTHFUL CRITICISM
after the close of the Nashville campaign. He believed that Wilson could attain every object which had been mentioned by General Grant, as calling for the movement of his infantry forces into Alabama. He then suggested to General Wilson to move on Selma and Montgomery, and after gaining these places to operate towards Mississippi, Mobile, or Macon, as circumstances might suggest or demand.
Acting under Grant's instructions of February 13th, Thomas arrived
Eastport on the 23rd, and gave immediate attention to the expedition
authorized by the lieutenant-general, and previously suggested by
to Wilson. But there was delay in the advance of the cavalry southward,
mainly for two reasons; want of horses, and the fact that Wilson's
was to be cooperative with Canby's, and the time of starting was
upon Canby's operations. The necessary postponement of these cavalry
has been made the basis of an exceedingly untruthful criticism of
Thomas by Badeau.
Meanwhile the same peculiarities which had distinguished Thomas in November and December, had become apparent in January, and February, and March. On the 25th of January Grant said to Halleck:
"When Canby is supplied, horses may be sent up the Tennessee, as General Thomas requests, and let him use all exertion to get off during the first favorable weather we may have. It is a great pity that our cavalry should not have taken advantage of Hood's and Forrest's forces being on furlough. They could have fed on the enemy, and where they could have collected their own horses."
Yet it was to collect and equip this cavalry that Thomas delayed so long at Nashville, and, after two weeks' pursuit of the enemy, he was unwilling to send it out again without another season of equipping and delay. *
In ordering Stoneman's movement, General Grant, as has been
prescribed the forces which he should take, even to their number, and
was simply required to help in preparations. And when he asked for
* Mil. Hist. U. S. Grant, Vol. Ill, page 392.
Page 384 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
was told that Canby must be first supplied. And as to any operations for his infantry or Wilson's cavalry, he was denied all freedom. The plans were repeatedly changed, as were his instructions. He had indeed decided that it was impracticable to make a winter campaign with his infantry, but had he been given freedom to plan and execute, and had horses been supplied, Wilson would have moved from Eastport at the earliest moment possible. General Wilson in the emergency, had asked permission to impress horses in the North, and General Thomas was curtly told by General Halleck, in accordance with Grant's suggestion to him, that Alabama and Georgia were the places to impress horses. And if it had not been seriously proposed, it would have been a trenchant burlesque, to plan a cavalry expedition for midwinter, and have the dismounted men supplied with horses from the region from which the enemy had drawn his own horses in his last desperate effort to make a successful campaign in Tennessee. And as to the mounting of cavalry at Nashville, it should be remembered that Thomas had sent five thousand mounted men to Canby from Wilson's command, and that number, and the waste in the pursuit of Hood, would more than make up the number of horses he had at the battle of Nashville, while Stoneman's force was to be taken from East Tennessee, and not from Eastport, and horses were denied Stoneman until Canby could be supplied. General Thomas was not, therefore, responsible for the delay of Stoneman or Wilson.
On the 14th of February, General Grant said to Thomas:
"General Canby is preparing a movement from Mobile
against Mobile and the interior of Alabama. His force will consist of
twenty thousand men, besides A. J. Smith's command. The cavalry you
sent to Canby will be debarked at Vicksburg. It, with the available
already in that section, will move from there eastward in cooperation.
Hood's army has been terribly reduced by the severe punishment you gave
it in Tennessee, by desertion consequent upon their defeat, and now by
the withdrawal of many of them to oppose Sherman. I take it, a large
of the infantry has been
Page 385 - CANBY'S PROPOSED MOVEMENT
so withdrawn. It is so asserted in the Richmond papers, and a member of the rebel congress said a few days since in a speech, that one-half of it had been brought to South Carolina to oppose Sherman. This being true, or even if it is not true, Canby's movement will attract all the attention of the enemy, and leave the advance from your standpoint easy. I think it advisable, therefore, that you prepare as much of a cavalry force as you can spare, and hold it in readiness to go south. The object would be threefold: first to attract as much of the enemy's force as possible, to insure success to Canby; Second, to destroy the enemy's line of communications and resources; third, to destroy or capture their forces brought into the field. Tuscaloosa and Selma would probably be the points to direct the expedition against *****. Now that your force has been so much depleted, I do not know what number of men you can put into the field. If not more than five thousand men, however, all cavalry, I think it will be sufficient. It is not desirable that you should start this expedition until the one leaving Vicksburg has been three or four days out, or even a week. I do not know when it will start, but will inform you. by telegraph as soon as I learn. If you should hear through other sources before hearing from me, you can act on the information received."
Grant also inquired as to the number of men Thomas would be able to send.
"It thus appears that as late as February 14th, the expedition projected for Wilson's cavalry corps was not to start until Canby's cavalry were out from Vicksburg three or four days, or a week."
February 22d Grant wrote:
"I have it from good authority, that orders have
out from Richmond to the commanders at Mobile, to hold that city to the
last extremity. This raid causes a concentration of the rebel forces in
that quarter, and makes your cavalry expedition effective and easy, and
will tend in the end to secure all we want without a long march into
interior by our infantry forces."
Page 386 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
In this last conclusion General Grant came into agreement with the
entertained by General Thomas early in the winter.
February 27th Grant instructed Thomas as follows:
"General Stoneman being so late in making his start from East Tennessee, and Sherman having passed out of the State of South Carolina, I think now his course had better be changed. It is not impossible that, in the event of the enemy being driven out fromRichmond, they may fall back to Lynchburg with a part of their force, and attempt a raid into East Tennessee. It will be, therefore, better to keep Stoneman between our garrisons in East Tennessee and the enemy. Direct him to repeat the raid of last fall, destroying the railroad as far towards Lynchburg as he can. Sheridan starts to day from Winchester for Lynchburg. This will vastly favor Stoneman."
Referring to East Tennessee, Grant added :
It is not impossible that we may have to use a considerable force in that section the coming spring. Preparations should be made to meet such a contingency."
Acting immediately upon this hint, Thomas promptly led the Fourth corps into East Tennessee. And Grant said to him when he heard of this movement:
"I think your precaution in sending the Fourth corps to Knoxville a good one. I also approve of your sending new troops to Chattanooga. Eastport must be held, particularly whilst troops are operating in Alabama."
It was not until March 1st, however, that General Grant made Wilson's movement independent of Canby's. He then telegraphed to Thomas:
"In view of the fact that Forrest is about Jackson, Miss., it will be well for Wilson to start before the Vicksburg forces. The latter may not be able to make their way across Flint River, until Wilson has created a diversion in their favor."
The only delay, therefore, that was possible for Thomas and Wilson, according to Grant's instructions, was subsequent to March 1st, and the causes of this are set forth in the following extract from General Wilson's report:
"The instructions of Lieutenant-General Grant,
to me by General Thomas, after directing me to be ready to march as
as General Canby's movement had begun, allowed me the amplest
Page 387 - WILSON'S EXPEDITION
discretion as an independent commander. It was first intended that the expedition should begin its movements by the 4th of March, but heavy rain-storms setting in, the Tennessee River became much swollen and the roads impassable. Lieutenant-General Grant having directed all the surplus horses purchased in the West to be sent to General Canby, there were no means left in the hands of the cavalry bureau to mount Hatch's division. I therefore directed him to turn over his few remaining horses to General Upton, and continue the instruction of his command at Eastport."
In compliance with Grant's instructions of March 1st, Wilson made effort to start from Eastport on the 4th, and then swollen rivers and impassable roads delayed him until the 22nd. Stoneman started about the same time, not having obtained horses for an earlier movement. Eastern operations were also delayed by high waters, impassable roads, and other causes. Sherman delayed at Savannah from the 20th of December till the 1st of February, although under orders to go to Richmond as soon as possible. And Grant himself was restrained in movement in the vicinity of Richmond by impassable roads. On the l6th of March he wrote to Sherman:
"Lee has depleted his army but very little recently,
I learn of none going south. Some regiments may have been detached, but
I think no division or brigade. The determination seems to be to hold
as long as possible. I have a force sufficient to hold our lines, all
is necessary of them, and move out with plenty to whip his whole army.
But the roads are entirely impassable. Until they improve I shall
myself with watching Lee, and be prepared to pitch into him, if he
to evacuate the place. * * * Recruits have come in so rapidly at the
that Thomas has now about as much force as he had when he attacked
* * * * I told him to get ready for a campaign towards Lynchburg, if it
became necessary. He never can make one there or elsewhere, but the
taken will prepare for any one else to take his troops and come east,
go toward Rome, whichever may be necessary. I do not believe either
Page 388 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
But Thomas had only the Fourth corps of infantry, that was equipped for the field, and this corps he conducted into East Tennessee, not to move into Virginia, but to offer resistance to General Lee, should he escape into East Tennessee. In his official report, General Thomas thus mentioned this movement:
"About this period (March 20th), reports reached me of the possibility of the evacuation of Lee's army at Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, and in that event, of his forcing a passage through East Tennessee, via Lynchburg and Knoxville. To guard against that contingency, Stoneman was sent towards Lynchburg to destroy the railroad and military resources of that section and of Western North Carolina. The Fourth army corps was ordered to move from Huntsville, Alabama, as far up into Tennessee, as it could supply itself, repairing the railroad as it advanced, forming in conjunction with Tillson's division of infantry, a strong support for General Stoneman's cavalry column, in case it should find more of the enemy than it could conveniently handle, and be obliged to fall back."
Badeau's statements - seemingly made by authority - and Grant's utterances alike evince, that in the opinion of the latter, Thomas was too slow to be intrusted with operations that required "prompt aggressive action," and this unreasonable and unsustained opinion has been given as history. with seeming indifference to truth and justice.
Grant and Thomas differed as to the proper time to attack Hood's army at Nashville, and the former attributed the postponement of action from the 2nd to the 9th of December to the sluggishness of Thomas, when it was due to his clear apprehension of the situation, and the adoption of measures which brought a decisive victory.
And these generals again differed as to the practicability and need
of a winter campaign into Alabama with infantry and cavalry, and
developments proved that Thomas was right in opposing such a campaign.
But the early advance of his army and Grant's oft recurring change of
plainly indicated that it was not long intended that he should move on
Selma with a large force of infantry.
Page 389 - GRANT AND THOMAS
It is strange that General Grant could have looked back through the long line of successful operations conducted by General Thomas, and conclude that he was unfit to be intrusted with one of offensive purpose, and that therefore it was just to merely employ him to gather troops for other generals to use, and not let him know that this humiliating service was required of him. In striking contrast, however, with Grant's opinion that Thomas could never make a campaign to Lynchburg or elsewhere, he moved so quickly into East Tennessee without orders, as to elicit the hearty commendation of the lieutenant-general.
In the face of all the facts the assertion that General Thomas exhibited any sluggishness in the administration of military affairs in the winter and spring of 1865, or at any other time, cannot be sustained. He did all that he was ordered to do, and he would have done far more than he did do, if he had not learned in the Tennessee campaign, that he had little freedom as an army commander. After that campaign, his instructions were conditional, in a great measure, and he was censured for delays which resulted in part from the non-action of other generals, and in part from the denial of needed resources, or from obstacles that restrained all other commanders, East and West. There were impassable roads in Alabama, as well as in Virginia, and long marches were projected in the former State, and only short ones in the latter.
His reputed slowness will be discussed in another connection; in
it is enough to say, that he gave successful execution to every plan
by himself for his own command; and that when, as an army commander, he
participated in operations in conjunction with other generals of the
rank, he was as quick to move, and as effective in movement as any
general. The operations and achievements of the Army of the Cumberland
in the battles before Chattanooga, and in the Atlanta campaign, fully
Page 390 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
In planning and conducting the Tennessee campaign, General Thomas had placed his generalship and his energy in boldest relief, and from November, 1864, to April, 1865, he had done more to crush the rebellion than any other general, if not more than all others combined.
General Sherman had marched to the sea and through the Carolinas, but in Virginia little had been accomplished, and General Grant had repeatedly expressed fear as to the outcome of Sherman's operations. In retrospect it seems almost incredible that Grant should have been so solicitous for the safety of Sherman while marching north from Savannah. He did fear, however; first, that the enemy would gather together on the line of Sherman's march all his fragmentary forces from the West and South, and then that Lee would withdraw from Virginia to resist his advance. Grant expressed this fear to Sherman when he consented to his northward march from Savannah; he then said, in addition to what has already been quoted:
"In the event you should meet Lee's army, you would be compelled to beat it or find the sea coast. Of course I shall not let Lee's army escape if I can help it, and will not let it go without followingto the best of my ability."
On the 21st of January he mentioned other grounds for fear:
"From about Richmond I will watch Lee closely, and if he detaches many men, or attempts to evacuate, will pitch in. In the mean time, should you be brought to a halt anywhere, I can send two corps of thirty thousand effective men to your support from the works about Richmond."
Thus, before General Sherman had begun his march from Savannah to
the army operating against Richmond, General Grant was seriously
the probabilities consequent upon that march - a battle with General
army to prevent its withdrawal to oppose Sherman, the pursuit of that
southward from Richmond, or the detachment of thirty thousand effective
men from the Army
Page 392 - STONEMAN'S EXPEDITION
of the Potomac to support Sherman, should he be brought to a halt. These surmises plainly show that the weakness of the enemy was the only justification of the plan of operations. Our three Eastern armies were widely separated, but the time had come when interior lines gave no opportunities to Confederate generals. It had not been practicable for Generals Thomas and Canby to prevent the transfer of the remnant of Hood's shattered army to North Carolina, but with this accretion, the army on Sherman's line of march was not large. Lee was not strong enough to hold his works and resist an advance in force upon his communications. Sherman's army, therefore, was not needed at Richmond, and the chief results of its long march were the indecisive battle of Bentonville and the surrender of the residuary Confederate army on the Atlantic coast. After the battle of Nashville, Lee's army sustained the ebbing life of the rebellion, and the widely separated, but unsparing operations of the National armies only touched its quivering extremities.
General Stoneman's cavalry was concentrated at Mossy Creek, March 22nd,
and on the 24th moved to Morristown, Tennessee. Stoneman was
under orders to advance towards Lynchburg, Virginia, and then into
North Carolina, to destroy railroads and the military resources of the
enemy on his line of march. He moved through Jonesboro' to Boone, North
Carolina; thence through Wilkesboro' and Mount Airy, to Hillsville,
Here dividing his command, he destroyed a depot of supplies at
and the bridges and railroad near Salem. He then captured
Taylorsville and Martinsville, and having united his forces advanced to
Danbury, North Carolina. He then in turn moved to Germantown, Salem,
Danville and Salisbury. From Salisbury he sent detachments to
and Asheville. At the latter place General Gillem, who had taken chief
command a few days before, was informed by the enemy
Page 392 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
of the existence of a truce established by Generals Sherman and Johnston. This information, though not fully believed at first, arrested the expedition which had wrought great damage to the enemy in the defeat of all opposing forces, and in the destruction of railroads, manufactories, machine-shops, war-material, and cotton.
General Wilson's cavalry corps crossed the Tennessee River on the 18th of March, and moved southward on the 22nd. The corps at first was divided into detachments on various roads, to glean supplies from the country. The first important objective was Selma, and the division commanders, Generals McCook, Upton, and Long, under orders from Wilson, conducted several distinct operations, which utterly defeated the plans of General Forrest, and finally drove him and his troops into the fortifications before Selma, where Wilson united his forces. Although the defenses were strong and well manned, they were stormed and carried, April 2nd. General Long, with fifteen hundred men, advanced under a heavy fire of artillery and musketry for several hundred yards, and leaping over deep wide ditches and high parapets, dislodged the enemy by one of the most brilliant assaults of the war.
Ten days after the capture of Selma, Wilson received the surrender of Montgomery, the first capital of the Confederacy. The objects for this expedition, specified by General Grant, had then been attained.
On that day and the next, the corps moved towards Macon. On the 20th,
when within fifteen miles of the city, Colonel Minty, commanding the
division in room of General Long wounded at Selma, met a flag of truce,
borne by General Robertson, who also bore a message from General Cobb
to the commanding officers of United States forces. Minty forwarded
message to General Wilson, and dashed into Macon. Upon receiving
that a general truce had been proclaimed by General Sherman, Wilson had
decided to halt his command
Page 393 - SHERMAN'S ARMISTICE
at the defenses of Macon, and then act with deliberation, in respect to the announcement made through the enemy. However, before he could overtake his foremost troops, or reach their commander by an order sent by a staff officer, the city had been surrendered to Colonel White of Minty's division.
The two western cavalry expeditions were arrested; one in North Carolina, and the other in Georgia, by advices of a general armistice, received through the enemy. The Confederate officers at Macon, including General Howell Cobb, protested against being held as prisoners of war, on the ground that such action on the part of Wilson was a violation of an armistice. But General Wilson decided that he would hold them as prisoners of war, since he could not acknowledge the binding force of an arrangement made outside the limits of the military division, when his only information concerning the alleged armistice had been communicated by the enemy.
The problem, which embarrassed the generals of cavalry in North
and Georgia, threw also upon General Thomas a most intricate problem.
Sherman's order Thomas was in command of all the forces of the Military
Division of the Mississippi, "not absolutely in the presence of the
There was at first room to doubt the existence of an armistice that was
binding upon himself and the troops under his command. It was not
to the precedents of war for an enemy to use deception to arrest
that could not be withstood, but it had not been customary in war to
orders of such importance through an enemy. General Thomas desired to
fully the authority of General Sherman, at the same time he was not
to trust to the enemy as a channel for the communication of Sherman's
He was, however, relieved from this dilemma before his own action was
by the official announcement from Washington that the convention to
Page 394 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Sherman and Johnston were parties had been annulled, and that offensive operations should be immediately resumed. The surrender of all the regular Confederate forces, east of the Chattahoochee River, soon followed the renewal of hostilities; and on the 7th of May General Taylor surrendered to General Canby, all those between that river and the Mississippi.
The questions proposed to Mr. Stanton by General Thomas, show how careful he was to avoid all mistakes:
"Was the arrangement between Generals Sherman and Johnston the same as that between Generals Grant and Lee? I have by authority offered General Grant's terms to D. Taylor, and to the commanding general in Northern Georgia. Guerrilla bands also desire to surrender. Am I authorized to grant them any terms ?"
General Thomas had anticipated General Grant by a month in prescribing this service for his cavalry, believing that under the circumstances, Wilson's corps could do all that was necessary in the way of aggression in Alabama. In this he was right, as was illustrated by Wilson's uninterrupted success from Eastport to Montgomery. The resultant loss to the enemy, in war-material and cotton, was immense.
Beyond Selma, General Wilson acted as an independent commander,
the wide discretion given him by both Grant and Thomas. He chose
Georgia, for his next important objective after Montgomery, a place of
great value to the enemy on account of its military stores, railroad
gun boats, armories, arsenals and work shops, and was besides the key
Southern Georgia. The town was situated on the left bank of the
River, was strongly fortified and held by three thousand men, but it
successfully stormed, under the cover of night, by four hundred men
Upton's division, Colonel Noble of the Third Iowa cavalry leading. This
small force dashed over bridges strongly
Page 395 - WILSON'S EXPEDITION
defended, and drove the enemy from his fortifications beyond. These troops, however, were well supported by other forces, in provision against a probable repulse. This action occurred on the 17th of April, and resulted in the capture of twelve hundred prisoners, fifty-two guns in position, the rebel ram Jackson, a large number of locomotives, and immense quantities of arms, stores and cotton. The same day La Grange captured Fort Tyler, at West Point, taking three hundred prisoners, three guns, and a large quantity of supplies.
Jefferson Davis, and several of his prominent associates, were captured near Irwinsville, Georgia, May 10th , by Colonel Pritchard of the Fourth Michigan cavalry. Colonel Harnden, of the First Wisconsin cavalry, was also near with his regiment, having followed Mr. Davis' line of flight for three days. These regiments belonged to Wilson's corps and were operating under his direct instructions, transmitted through their respective division commanders.
After the surrender of all the Confederate forces east of the Mississippi River, the cavalry of the Military Division of the Mississippi was disposed throughout the South to maintain order as against guerrillas, and all citizens who were unwilling to accept the situation.
At the close of the war there were six major-generals in the Regular
Army, and General Thomas was the junior. Learning from a friend in
that the country was to be divided into five military divisions, to be
commanded respectively by the five ranking major-generals, while he was
to command a department, he was intensely indignant, and at once
measures to avert the humiliation if possible. At the time,
John F. Miller was commanding the post of Nashville, and as he was
acquainted with President Johnson, he was requested by General Thomas
bear a message to the President. General Thomas had a map giving the
boundaries of the military divisions and departments, and
Page 396 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
the names of the generals to be severally assigned to their command; placing this map in the hands of General Miller Thomas said:
"I wish you to take the first train for Washington, and tell President Johnson that during the war I permitted the National authorities to do what they pleased with me; they put my juniors over me, and I served under them; the life of the Nation was then at stake, and it was not then proper to press questions of rank, but now that the war is over and the Nation saved, I demand a command suited to my rank, or I do not want any."
He also commissioned General Miller to present to the President a list of officers recommended by himself for brevet appointments, stating that in this respect the Army of the Cumberland had not been treated as liberally as other armies.
Upon arrival in Washington, General Miller called upon the
who then had rooms in the Treasury building, and told him that he bore
a message from General Thomas and requested an audience at the earliest
practicable moment. The President replied that he would hear him at
and invited Miller to his private room. When they were alone General
delivered his message, presented the map and said; "General Thomas has
not expressed a preference for any part of the country, but as he
during the war in the States between the Mississippi and the
I would suggest that his command should embrace some of these States."
The President said in reply: "You know my appreciation of General
and after considering the matter, State by State, he drew a line with
pencil along the outer boundaries of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi,
Alabama and Georgia, said: "That is the military division for General
and placing the point of his pencil on Nashville, added: "There are his
Page 397 - STANTON AND THOMAS
These five States were then embraced in the Military Division of the Mississippi, and the decision of the President necessitated the assignment of General Sherman to a command in another section of the country.
Soon after this occurrence. General Thomas called on the Secretary of War. Mr. Stanton complimented him upon his eminent services during the war, and said: "I have always had great confidence in you." Thomas replied:
"Mr. Stanton, I am sorry to hear you make this statement. I have not been treated as if you had confidence in me."
Mr. Stanton having reiterated his declaration, Thomas replied:
"I must accept your assertion but will say, nevertheless, that I have not been treated by the authorities, as though they had confidence in me."
These declarations of General Thomas plainly manifested that he had
been deeply wounded by the action of the National authorities, although
he had been silent during the war, except in his self-assertive letters
to Generals Mitchel and Sherman in l861, and to General Halleck in
These letters and his claim for appropriate recognition at the close of
the war show that he was as sensitive as other generals, although his
restrained him from the ordinary revelation of outraged feeling during
MILITARY ADMINISTRATION OF THOMAS DURING THE PERIOD OF RECONSTRUCTION OF SOUTHERN STATES - HONORED BY THE STATE OF TENNESSEE - PRIVATE GIFTS REFUSED AND PUBLIC HONORS DECLINED - HE REFUSES TO BE A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE - THE SOCIETY OF THE ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND.
By direction of the President, January 17th, 1865, the Department of the Ohio was united with the Department of the Cumberland, which embraced such parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, as were held by the troops of General Thomas' command.
General Thomas at once gave earnest attention to the condition and wants of the people of his department. There was social and political chaos, and destitution was almost universal. That he might use his authority to the best advantage, he requested permission through the following despatch to make known to the Secretary of War the policy which he desired to adopt.
"NASHVILLE, TENN., April 29, 1865.
Hon. E. M. STANTON.
Your despatch announcing the surrender of Johnston has been received. The condition of the people of North Mississippi, North Alabama, North Georgia, and Western North Carolina, is deplorable. With the view of restoring confidence and a return to law I respectfully request that Major-General Steedman may be permitted to go to Washington to explain the policy I should like to adopt for the government of those sections until the civil authorities can be established on a permanent basis. I desire to send General Steedman because he fully understands my views, and can explain the present condition of the region referred to completely.
G. H. THOMAS,
Page 399 - MILITARY DIVISION OF THE TENNESSEE
This despatch emphasized his advice to Governor Johnson and manifested his strong desire for the establishment of social order and the consequent abridgment of the military power.
In June, 1865, the Department of the Cumberland was discontinued, and the Military Division of the Tennessee was organized. General Thomas was assigned to the command by the following order of the President:
"WAR DEPARTMENT,Washington City, June 7, 1865.
MAJOR-GENERAL GEO. H. THOMAS, Commanding, etc.
By order of the President you have been assigned to the command of the Military Division of the Tennessee, embracing the Department of Kentucky, department of Tennessee, department ofGeorgia, department of Alabama and Department of Florida; headquarters at Nashville.
The Department of Kentucky embraces the State of Kentucky, Major-General Palmer, commanding; headquarters at Louisville.
The Department of the Tennessee embraces the State of Tennessee, Major-General Stoneman to command; headquarters at Knoxville.
The Department of Georgia embraces the State of Georgia, Major General Steedman to command; headquarters at Augusta.
The Department of Alabama embraces the State of Alabama, Major-General C. R. Woods to command; headquarters at Mobile.
The Department of Florida embraces the State of Florida and Key West, Major-General A. A. Humphreys to command; headquarters at Tallahassee.
You will at your earliest convenience proceed to take command of your military division.
By order of the President.
Page 400 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Later, the Department of Mississippi was added by direction of the President. This was probably done in consequence of the inquiry made in the following despatch to the Secretary of War:
NASHVILLE, TENN., June 22, 1865.
Hon. E. M. STANTON.
Having completed all necessary arrangements for winding up the affairs of the Department of the Cumberland, I have published my order assuming command of the Military Division of the Tennessee. Official papers referring to railroads in the State and Department of Mississippi have been sent to me from your office for action. I am led to believe that, although in your official letters to me of June 7th the State of Mississippi was not included in my command, it was an oversight. Please inform me if you intended to include Mississippi in the Military Division of the Tennessee.
G. H. THOMAS, Major-General.
By General Order No. 118, War Department, the Departments of Mississippi and Florida were assigned to the Military Division of the Gulf, commanded by General Sheridan, and the Military Division of the Tennessee was made to include the Departments of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama; but Mississippi was again added October 7th, 1865, by General Order No. 142, War Department. As finally organized the division was divided into three departments, Department of the Cumberland, embracing Kentucky and Tennessee, Major-General George Stoneman commanding; Department of the South comprising Georgia and Alabama, Brevet Major-General Charles R. Woods commanding; and Department of Mississippi, Major-General Henry W. Slocum commanding.
The administration of military affairs in so many of the States
in rebellion, connected General Thomas very intimately with the
of the National Government, for their reconstruction.
Page 401 - THE SOUTH AFTER THE WAR
While President Johnson was devising a general policy he sent South on tours of inspection Generals Grant, Thomas and Schurz, directing them to ascertain the sentiments and purposes of the people. General Thomas reported as follows:
"NASHVILLE, TENN., December 12, 1865.
Hon. E. M. STANTON :
I reached here night before last. Have during my trip visited Vicksburg, Jackson, and Meridian, Miss.; Mobile, Montgomery, Selma, and West Point, Ala.; Atlanta, Kingston, and Dalton, Ga.
The prevailing sentiment seems to be a desire to restore the rebel States to their old relations and functions, but many of the people are unfriendly to the people of the loyal States, and to those who have continued loyal to the Government of the United States in the South. The Legislature of Mississippi adjourned without ratifying the Constitutional Amendment. Suspicion is, that the second clause, if ratified, will empower Congress to interfere in the international legislation of the several Southern States affecting the social and political status of negroes. I found Governor Humphreys disposed to acquiesce promptly in the decision of the President to continue Governor Sharkey as Provisional Governor, but both feared that a public announcement of such a decision after he (Humphreys) had been inaugurated would be very disastrous to the effort to reconstruct the State. I therefore advised that they and General Wood, who was also present at the interview, have a complete understanding of what I believed to be the policy of the President. I then explained what I believed his policy to be, in general terms, staling it as nearly as I could remember, in the words of his replies to the delegations from South Carolina, Virginia, and other States, who had called on him, and cooperate cordially together to carry out its provisions.
This advice seemed to be well received by both Governors. I therefore hope that there will be no further trouble. I believe that the recognition of Governor Humphreys as Provisional Governor of Mississippi would have a more beneficial effect in relieving the anxiety of the people on the subject of final reconstruction and recognition. The people of Alabama are either more practical or more loyal than the Mississippians. The Legislature is a dignified body, and seems ready to meet the emergency and to act on the various questions presented fully, and seems sincerely desirous of the reconstruction of the Senate in complete harmony with the policy of the President.
(Patten) will not consent to be inaugurated until he can be recognized
by the President. I did not visit Milledgeville, as the President did
express a desire that I should. I believe, also, had I gone, my visit
have caused as much uneasiness in the minds of the members of the
of Georgia as my visit to
Page 402 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Jackson did in Mississippi. The last symptom of open rebellion in Alabama is exhibited by the self-styled Bishop of Alabama and the women. I hope to be able to settle the bishop's case in a few days.
GEORGE H. THOMAS, Major-General".
In this report, as in his subsequent utterances, General Thomas was exceedingly fair and candid, giving a truthful representation of affairs as they came under his observation without reference to their relation to a defined policy.
During January and February, 1866, General Thomas was repeatedly called before the Congressional Committee on Reconstruction to testify concerning "the condition of the States which formed the so-called Confederate States of America."
The following passages from his testimony are quoted from the report of that Committee.
EXAMINATION BY MR. BOUTWELL.
What is the state of the public mind now in the three States you have described (Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia), with reference to the Government, as compared with the condition of the public mind soon after Lee's surrender?
I do not know that I am competent to give a decided answer to that question, because the reports I received soon after Lee's surrender were generally from persons who traveled hurriedly through that section of the country. I think that in the great majority of cases they were disposed to look on the most favorable side, immediately after the surrender of Lee and the downfall of the Confederacy, and perhaps they did not investigate as closely as persons would at the present time. The universal report made to me by persons traveling through those States at that time was to the effect that the mass of the people were very happy at the downfall of the rebellion, and at their prospect of soon getting again under the Constitution and Government of the United States.
Do you know anything, from information or report, of
organizations in the South, said to be hostile to the Government of the
United States ?
Page 403 - THE SOUTH AFTER THE WAR
I have received several communications to that effect; but the persons who have given me this information have desired that their names should not be mentioned, and as yet no direct accusations have been made in regard to any one person, or any class of persons. There have been steps taken to ascertain the truth of the matter. The persons communicating with me are reliable and truthful, and I believe their statements are correct in the main. But how far this dissatisfaction extends, I am not as yet able to say. It does exist to a certain extent, and I am taking measures to obtain as much information on the subject as I can.
To what States does this information relate ?
It relates to all the States lately in rebellion. I think there is no real danger to be apprehended, because the military authority and power of the Government is not only feared in those States, but I think it is ample to put down any serious demonstration.
Is this information from different sources, each entirely independent of the other ?
So far as you are informed, what are the nature and objects of this organization ?
To embarrass the Government of the United States in the proper administration of the affairs of the country, by endeavoring or making strong efforts to gain very important concessions to the people of the South; if possible, to repudiate the National debt incurred in consequence of the rebellion, or to gain such an ascendency in Congress as to make provision for the assumption by Congress of the debt incurred by the rebel Government. Also, in case the United States Government can be involved in a foreign war, to watch their opportunity, and take advantage of the first that occurs to strike for the independence of the States lately in rebellion.
Do you know of any persons of influence being
in this movement.?
Page 404 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
As yet I have not ascertained that any persons of influence are implicated in it, and I will further state in justice to the people of the South, that I know of many men who were prominent in the rebel army, who I believe are now honestly trying to become good citizens of the United States. They have been paroled by the military authority, have applied to the President of the United States for pardon, and are awaiting his decision. They have set themselves to work quietly to earn an honest livelihood in some practical and peaceful manner, thereby setting a good example to the other people of the South.
EXAMINATION BY MR. GRIMES.
You also stated as a reason why, in your opinion, the State of Tennessee ought to be represented in Congress, that in case that was done, the rebel people there would abandon their hopes of another outbreak. Have you any reason to believe that they still entertain the opinion, or that any considerable portion of them do, that there may be another outbreak ?
I have received communications from various persons in the South, that there was an understanding among the rebels, and perhaps organizations formed, or forming, for the purpose of gaining as many advantages for themselves as possible; and I have heard it, also, intimated that these men are very anxious, and would do all in their power to involve the United States in a foreign war, so that, if a favorable opportunity should offer they might turn against the Government of the United States again. I do not think they will ever again attempt an outbreak on their own account, because they all admit that they had a fair trial in the late rebellion, and got thoroughly worsted. There is no doubt but what there is a universal disposition among the rebels in the South to embarrass the Government in its administration if they can, so as to gain as many advantages for themselves as possible.
General Thomas' reports to the War Department of a later date are
in showing a thorough knowledge of the condition of affairs and of
in the States included in his command, and of the results to be feared
in the future from the unrestrained lawlessness permitted by the civil
authorities, after they had become supreme.
Page 405 - DURING THE RECONSTRUCTION
In his annual report for the year ending September 30, 1868, he said:
"The state of society as regards the non -observance of law, and the want of protection for life and property has not at all improved, and in some sections is decidedly worse. I had hoped that with the good crops and increased substance obtained, the people would appreciate the blessings of peace and plenty, and abstain from that petty lawlessness, so often engendered or stimulated by poverty; but on the contrary, it would appear that with increased means the spirit of lawlessness is more actively exhibited."
He then gave the history of the rise and the progress of a secret political organization, known as the "Ku-Klux Klan," afterwards fully developed in the South, and adds:
"Well authenticated information leads me to believe that the Ku-Klux Klan was primarily but a species of organization without settled plans; but the peculiar condition of Tennessee, the inability, unwillingness and apathy of the local authorities, combined to demonstrate that if organized thoroughly, upon a semi-military basis, the society could maintain itself, extend its power, and perform whatever it sought to do, without let or hindrance, its great purpose being to establish a nucleus around which the adherents of the late rebellion, active or passive, might safely rally, thus establishing a grand political society, the future operations of which would be governed by circumstances fast developing in the then peculiar era of exciting public events."
The report thus closes :
"The controlling cause of the unsettled condition of
in the department is that the greatest efforts made by the defeated
since the close of the war have been to promulgate the idea that the
of liberty, justice, humanity, equality, and all the calendar of the
of freedom suffered violence and wrong when the effort for Southern
failed. This is, of course, intended as a species of political cant,
the crime of treason might be covered, with a counterfeit varnish of
so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history
with the defenders of the Government, thus wiping out with their own
their own stains; a species of self-forgiveness amazing in its
when it is considered that life and property, justly forfeited by the
of the country, of war, and of nations, through the magnanimity of the
Government and people, were not exacted from them.
Page 406 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
General Thomas was not at all bitter in feelings towards those who were active and prominent in sustaining the cause of the South. Indeed he was exceedingly generous to such as solicited his help in their efforts to regain citizenship, and was also very liberal when pecuniary aid was needed. Soon after the war, to the surprise of a great many people, he and General Hood exchanged cordial greetings, and breakfasted together at the Louisville Hotel. He met other prominent Confederate generals with equal cordiality, extending to some of them the hospitality of his home. But he declined all personal intercourse with those Southerners whose renewed loyalty did not survive the President's pardon for treason.
Soon after the close of the war, military commanders were restrained
in the employment of their troops, except when called upon to act by
Governors of the States. This gave supremacy to civil law, but it
loyal men at the mercy of officials who were often influenced by a
for their own popularity, rather than by desire for the protection of
citizens of the South, who had dared to sustain the National cause. In
his orders and in the employment of his troops he was careful not to
his authority, but in his prescribed sphere he was strict in
the supremacy of the National Government and was eager to give
protection to persecuted loyalists. As the commander of a large
division he had power to suppress an outbreak against the National
without reference to the opinions and wishes of the local civil
but he was restrained by orders, from all interference with mere
controversies. Once when there was danger of violence as the outcome of
such a controversy he asked for special instructions.
Page 407 - AN APPLICATION FOR TROOPS
June 19th, 1866, Governor Brownlow issued a proclamation convening the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee in extraordinary session, to ratify or reject the Constitutional Amendment abolishing slavery, which had been submitted to the States, by concurrent resolution of the Congress of the United States, adopted during the first session of the 39th Congress. The action of Congress and the meeting of the General Assembly of Tennessee in extraordinary session, produced intense excitement throughout the State, and the loyal members of the Legislature, and the loyal citizens generally believed that an attempt would be made, by the friends of slavery and the "Lost Cause," to break up the Legislature by force. From the tone of the newspapers and the communications made to him, by loyal citizens, General Thomas expected that such an effort would be made, and regarding the refusal of members to attend the sessions of the House of Representatives, as foreshadowing disorder and violence, he so far entertained the applications for troops, made by Governor Brownlow and the sergeant-at-arms, to arrest recalcitrant members, that he referred the matter to General Grant, and requested instructions. He had been authorized to aid Governor Brownlow in conducting elections for members of Congress and members of the State Legislature but he had received no directions from Washington that warranted his interference with the Legislature in session.
The formal application of the sergeant-at-arms, is subjoined, Governor Brownlow's was not preserved.
STATE HOUSE, NASHVILLE, TENN., July 14th, 1866.
BRIG.-GEN. W. D. WHIFFLE, A. A. G.
GENERAL- I have the honor to request that a detail of fifteen men (soldiers) be placed at my disposition for the purpose of sending for and arresting the Honorable H. H. Marable, member of the House of Representatives, as per resolution passed by the House, and order issued to me, originals of both of which are enclosed.
I am, General, very respectfully,
WM. HEYDT,Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Representatives.
Page 408 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
JULY 14TH, 1866.
LIEUT.-GEN. U. S. GRANT, Washington, D. C. :
Some of the members of the House of Representatives of the Tennessee General Assembly conduct themselves in very refractory manner, absenting themselves to prevent a quorum, thus obstructing business.
The Governor cannot manage them with the means at his disposal, and has applied to me for military assistance. Shall I furnish it?
GEO. H. THOMAS, Maj. Gen. U. S. A.
In compliance with the following instructions of the Secretary of War:
WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington City, July I7th, 1866.
LIEUTENANT-GENERAL GRANT :- In reply to Major-General Thomas' telegram of the 14th, you will please instruct General Thomas that the facts stated in his telegrams do not warrant the interference of military authority. The administration of the laws and the preservation of peace in Nashville belong properly to the State authorities, and the duty of the United States forces is not to interfere in any controversy between the political authorities of the State; and General Thomas will strictly abstain from any interference between them.
Yours truly, EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
General Grant replied as follows :
JULY 18th, 1866.
MAJ. GEN. GEO. H. THOMAS, Nashville, Tenn. :
The facts stated in your despatch of the fourteenth, do not warrant the interference of military authority.
U. S. GRANT, Lieut. Gen'1.
Thus instructed, General Thomas replied to Mr. Heydt:
HEADQUARTERS, MIL. Div. OF THE TENNESSEE.
Nashville, Tenn., July 18th, 1866,
WILLIAM HEYDT, ESQ., Sergeant-at-Arms, House of Representatives, Nashville, Tenn.:
Sir: I have the honor, by direction of the Major-General commanding, to inform you that your application for a detail of soldiers to assist you in arresting certain members of the House of Representatives, was referred by Major-General Thomas to Lieutenant-General Grant, commanding armies of the United States, and it has been by him directed that the case will not warrant the interference of the military authority. Please find enclosed your orders, which you required to be returned.
Very respectfully your obedient servant.
Ass't Adj't Gen."
Page 409 - MAGNANIMITY OF THE GOVERNMENT
Late in 1865 General Thomas was obliged to interfere with ecclesiastical affairs in his military division. Bishop Wilmer, of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Alabama, advised his clergy to omit the prescribed prayer for the President of the United States. Compliance on their part called forth an order from Major-General Chas. R. Woods, commanding the Department of Alabama, forbidding them to preach or perform divine service, and closing their places of worship until such time as the bishop and they should "show a sincere return to their allegiance to the Government of the United States, and give evidence of a loyal and patriotic spirit by offering to resume the prayer for the President of the United States and all in civil authority, and taking the amnesty oath prescribed by the President."
This order was authorized by General Thomas. By the following order the imposed restrictions were removed:
"HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE TENNESSEE, Nashville, Tennessee, Dec. 22nd, 1865.
GENERAL ORDERS, I No. 40.
to the authority of the United States having been put down, the
on the 29th day of May last, issued his Proclamation of
declaring that armed resistance having ceased in all quarters, he
those lately in rebellion to reconstruct and restore civil authority,
proclaiming the magnanimity of our Government towards all, no matter
criminal or how deserving of punishment. Alarmed at this imminent and
peril to the cause in which he had embarked with all his heart and
and desiring to check, if possible, the spread of popular approbation
grateful appreciation of the magnanimous policy of the President
in his efforts to bring the people of the United States back to their
friendly and national relations one with another, an individual,
himself Bishop of Alabama, forgetting his mission
Page 410 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
to preach peace on earth and good will towards man, and being animated with the same spirit which through temptation beguiled the mother of men to the commission of the first sin - thereby entailing eternal toil and trouble on earth - issued, from behind the shield of his office, his manifesto of the 20th of June last, to the clergy of the Episcopal Church of Alabama, directing them to omit the usual and customary prayer for the President of the United States and all others in authority, until the troops of the United States had been removed from the limits of Alabama; cunningly justifying this treasonable course, by plausibly presenting to the minds of the people that civil authority not having yet been restored in Alabama there was no occasion for the use of said prayer, as such prayer was intended for the civil authority alone, and as the military was the only authority in Alabama, it was manifestly improper to pray for the continuance of military rule. This man, in his position of a teacher of religion, charity, and good fellowship with his brothers; whose paramount duty as such should have been characterized by frankness and freedom from all cunning, thus took advantage of the sanctity of his position, to mislead the minds of those who naturally regarded him as a teacher in whom they could trust, and attempted to lead them back into the labyrinths of treason. For this covert and cunning act he was deprived of the privileges of citizenship, in so far as the right to officiate as a minister of the Gospel, because it was evident he could not be trusted to officiate and confine his teachings to matters of religion alone - in fact that religious matters were but a secondary consideration in his mind, he having taken an early opportunity to subvert the church to the justification and dissemination of his treasonable sentiments. As it is, however, manifest that so far from entertaining the same political views as Bishop Wilmer, the people of Alabama are honestly endeavoring to restore the civil authority in that State, in conformity with the requirements of the Constitution of the United States, and to repudiate their acts of hostility during the past four years, and have accepted with a loyal and becoming spirit the magnanimous terms offered them by the President; therefore the restrictions heretofore imposed upon the Episcopal clergy of Alabama are hereby removed, and Bishop Wilmer is left to that remorse of conscience consequent to the exposure and failure of the diabolical schemes of designing and corrupt minds.
By command of MAJOR-GENERAL THOMAS :
Page 411 - SUSTAINS LOYAL MEN
The other case was that of the Rev. John H. Caldwell, of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, who for taking in good faith the amnesty oath, and preaching sermons setting forth the rectitude of the institution of slavery in itself, and at the same time portraying the abuses of slavery by the Southern people, was required to give up his pastoral charge and vacate the parsonage, at Newnan, Georgia."
The order and letters, in relation to this case, follow:
"HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE TENNESSEE.
Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 13, 1865
SPECIAL ORDERS,No. 79
* * * * * * * * * * *
13. The Rev. John H. Caldwell, a loyal minister of the Gospel of the State of Georgia, having forwarded to these headquarters complaint against John B. McGeehee, presiding elder of the Methodist Episcopal, Church South, and other disloyal persons, for ill treatment and persecution received from them, an investigation of the case has developed the following facts:
The Reverend John H. Caldwell, pastor in charge of Newnan and Palmetto Station, in the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, was duly and lawfully appointed to takecharge according to the rules and discipline of that Church. The Rev. John B. McGeehee, presiding elder, contrary to, and in violation of the laws and customs of the Church, has ordered and required him to give up the pastoral charge of his churches, to turn his family out of the church parsonage, because he (Caldwell) did on the 11th day June, 1865, preach a sermon at Newnan, therein setting forth the abuses of the institution of Slavery and advising the citizens to accept the amnesty proclamation offered by the President of the United States, and to become good and loyal citizens.
It further appears that Presiding Elder McGeehee ordered the Rev. Mr. Kimble, a returned rebel chaplain, to take pastoral charge of Caldwell's churches and ordered Caldwell to Haroldson, Missouri, a place in a remote and obscure part of the La Grange district, where he would have a very limited sphere of usefulness and no means whatever of-supporting his family.
ordered by the Major-General commanding that the Reverend John B.
be immediately re-instated in possession of the churches of Newnan and
Palmetto Station, and that he be upheld therein by, the United .States
authorities of the district of Atlanta, and also that his family be
in the quiet possession
Page 412 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
of the church parsonage, until the expiration of the regular term for which he was appointed to officiate in those churches.
If the Rev. J. B. McGeehee, presiding elder, or the Rev. Mr. Kimble attempt, in any way, to prevent the execution of this order or to interfere with the Rev. Mr. Caldwell in the discharge of his pastoral duties, in his proper churches, they will be placed in arrest.
* * * * * * * * *
By command of MAJ.-GEN'L THOMAS.
NEWNAN, GA., Nov. 9th, 1865.
To MAJ.-GEN. THOMAS,Commanding District of Tennessee, Nashville, Tenn.
I regret exceedingly the necessity of again troubling you with my case, but my presiding elder has made a charge against me, to be tried by the Georgia Conference, which meets in Macon, Georgia, on the 15th inst.
His charge is immorality, and the following is specification No. l :
"That in seeking the Special Military Order No. 70, the Rev. J. H. Caldwell deceived the Federal Authorities as to his antecedents." What I wish now is, if agreeable to you, to send me a brief note certifying that I did not deceive you as to my antecedents. That I told you when I first applied to you for protection, that I was a rebel during the war, and had said hard things, and I think I alluded to some of those things in a printed Fast day sermon, a copy of which my presiding elder sent you.
There is a deep and wide-spread prejudice and persecution of me amongst the preachers of the Conference, on account of that order. Yet if it was to do over, I would be constrained again toapply for protection, as I did.
Just as I expected, the presiding elder, has in all his charges and specifications, suppressed all reference to the sermon on slavery, and just as I anticipated, has charged me with disobedience in not going to Haroldson, Missouri, to which he assigned me.
There never was any difficulty, or any complaint against me, until I preached the sermon against the abuses of slavery. I was the first preacher, in the State, to recommend the citizens to accept the Amnesty. I did it for myself and recommended it to them.
all grew out of that sermon, and it is an effort on the part of my
elder, and others, to revive the old despotism of public opinion, to
free peach upon this subject
Page 413 - REAS0NS FOR HIS ACTION
They know that they cannot do it directly, hence they resort to side issues to inflame prejudices, and deter others from following my example. Such orders, as No. 79, are necessary in order to protect liberty, until a different public sentiment shall obtain in the South.
I stand then, or fall, General, upon this single principle - the right of free speech. Let them assail and persecute me, as they may, this is my principle - on this ground, and this only - I invoke and beseech the authorities of my country to protect and uphold me. If you would say in your note to me, that for this purpose alone, the application was made to you, and for this purpose the order was granted, it would do me a great deal of good before my Conference.
With profound esteem, believe me, General, your most obedient and humble servant,
JOHN H. CALDWELL.
the note directed to me, at Macon, Georgia, as I shall start there
it could reach me here. J. H. C.
HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE TENNESSEE.
Nashville, Tenn., December 18, 1865.
REV. JOHN H. CALDWELL,Macon, Ga.
The Major-General commanding directs me to acknowledge your communication of November 9th, and in reply to state that, in your former communication to him, you made a full and free statement of your antecedents, and an impartial account of the facts, connected with the attempt to dispossess you of your pastoral charge. He was not in any way deceived, or misled, in his action on the subject.
Your obedient Servant,
WM. D. WHIPPLE,Brig.-Genl. and Chief of Staff."
General Thomas interfered with ecclesiastical
in the cases mentioned, on the same grounds that the civil courts have
since entertained suits, the violation of canonical law or of
usages, and for the additional reason that the violation in these cases
was induced by hostility to the Government of the United States, and to
those who loyally sustained it. The Episcopal bishop of Alabama and the
clergy of that State violated a usage established by the highest
authorities, and the presiding elder overstepped the prerogatives of
Page 414 - LIFE Of GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
In anticipation of the assignment of General Thomas to the Military Division of the Tennessee, the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee adopted the following Joint Resolutions, June 12th, 1865:
Whereas, the pleasing intelligence has reached us, that the distinguished soldier and commander, Major-General G. H. Thomas, has been assigned to this military division:
Resolved, by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That we do most heartily congratulate our citizens upon the appointment of this model soldier, possessing as we do the most unbounded confidence in his ability and judgment, and believing that under his rule, early peace and quiet and Unionism will prevail in every section of our State.
Resolved, further: That we tender to the President and War Department, our special thanks for their assignment of General Thomas over this military division, and, with his consent, we propose to adopt him as a Tennesseean, General Thomas having endeared himself to us, both by distinguished services, and by many acts of noble and unostentatious kindness.
General Thomas in the following letter accepted the tender of citizenship:
HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, Nashville, June 28,1865.
HON. A. J. FLETCHER,Secretary of the State of Tennessee.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a copy of Joint Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, conferring on me the distinguished honor of adopting me as a citizen of the State. For this magnanimous and courteous act of the General Assembly words cannot express my profound appreciation.
With the sincere hope that their patriotic efforts may inspire public confidence and restore the State to a state of peace and prosperity.
I remain, dear sir, very respectfully,
Your ob't serv't,
U. S. A.
Page 415 - PRESENTED WITH A GOLD MEDAL
The estate of General Thomas was settled under the laws of Tennessee, to the advantage of Mrs. Thomas who alone deserved to inherit his property.
On the 2nd of September, 1865, the following resolution was adopted:
Resolved, by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee,
That the thanks of the General Assembly, in their own name and in the name of the people of the State of Tennessee, be presented to Major-General George H. Thomas, and the officers and soldiers under his command, for his wise and spirited, and their brave and patriotic conduct in the battle of Nashville, in defense of the capital of the State, in December, 1864, and that a gold medal be struck in commemoration of the great and decisive event, and be presented to him.
That the medal exhibit on the one side, a head of Major-General Thomas in profile, with inscription around it, "To Major-General George H. Thomas, from the State of Tennessee," and on the other side, the capitol and other appropriate inscriptions.
That the Governor of the State of Tennessee cause and procure the gold medal to be struck at as early a day as practicable, and present the same to Major-General Thomas, with a letter of thanks, in the name of this General Assembly, and of the people of the State of Tennessee.
On the reverse of the medal procured in obedience to the foregoing resolutions was inscribed - "I will hold the town till we starve."
The medal was presented to General Thomas, with imposing ceremonies, on the second anniversary of the battle of Nashville, December 15th, 1866.
In presenting the medal Governor Brownlow spoke as follows:
The pleasant duty devolves on me of presenting to
on this interesting occasion the elegant gold medal voted to you
like a year ago, by the General Assembly of Tennessee, whose members -
Senators and Representatives - now surround you. And although this
is the finest article of the kind yet executed in America, its value to
you does not consist in the amount of the precious metal it contains,
yet, in the exquisite workmanship of the artist, but in the motives
prompted the gift, and" the patriotic
Page 416 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
source it originates from. It is intended to express the high regard in which you are held by a loyal Tennessee legislature, as a military chieftain, a tried and devoted patriot, and a modest unassuming gentleman.
General, in no spirit of flattery, I must be permitted to say, that in the great struggle of four years, which recently convulsed the Nation, of all military commanders, you are perhaps the only one that never lost a battle, and in the government of armies and departments never made a mistake.
There is something very appropriate in the presentation of this medal to-day, and in this capitol, the anniversary of the battle of Nashville. Two years ago to-day, at the head of a gallant army, you were engaged in a deadly conflict with the enemies of our country around this city; and two years ago to-morrow you closed out that conflict, saving this city from ruins, and sending the cohorts of treason howling into Dixie, - "away down South in Dixie." A portion of the enemy remained to receive their long lost rights - the only rights that traitors are entitled to - Funeral Rights.
Trusting that you may never have occasion to command another army on the field of carnage, and that you may live long to enjoy the fruits of the victories you have contributed to achieve, I hand this medal over to one who will never dishonor it.
In reply General Thomas said :
Governor Brownlow, and Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Legislature of Tennessee:
Profoundly sensible of the high honors you have this day conferred on me, I confess myself totally unable to thank you in appropriate terms. Be assured, however, of my sincere appreciation of these honors, and particularly of the compliments which you have paid to the officers and soldiers who participated with me in defeating the enemy two years ago to-day at Nashville.
Some thirty years ago I received my diploma at the Military Academy, and soon after a commission in the Army.
On receiving that commission I took an oath to sustain the Constitution of the United States, and the Government, and to obey all officers of the Government placed over me. I have faithfully endeavored to keep that oath. I did not regard it so much an oath, as a solemn pledge on my part to return the Government some little service for the great benefit I had received in obtaining my education at the Academy.
venture to speak of myself, without fear of being accused of egotism, I
can, with pleasure, sincerity, and pride, speak
Page 417 - THE TENNESSEE PORTRAIT
of the brave soldiers and officers who, at the commencement of the late war, voluntarily came forth from the private walks of life, and devoted their lives to the defense of the Government established by our fathers.
It has been my pleasure, on all occasions, to witness the devotion of our army, and I, to-day, take pride in saying, that no other country on earth ever produced such another army as that which assembled to put down the rebellion.
After relating the circumstances, that made the campaign in Tennessee possible, and briefly narrating the operations south of Nashville, General Thomas thus tersely described the battle before that city :
On that day (December 15th) General Steedman commenced the battle on the left and so occupied the attention of the enemy, that he appeared entirely to forget the other portions of his line, and concentrated heavily at that point, evidently expecting a battle there.
This was expected in my programme, and after General Steedman had opened the battle and been engaged about half an hour, the troops were moved on their respective positions, and, almost like men in review, took post after post, and drove the enemy to the hills.
The next day, by the skilful maneuver of the cavalry commander, the enemy's left was entirely turned; and then, by one of the most gallant assaults I have ever witnessed, the entire line of the enemy was swept from left to right. And so ended one of the strongest and most daring armies the enemy ever equipped.
It is with the greatest pleasure that I avail myself to-day of the opportunity of speaking in praise of those gallant men and officers then under my command.
On the 25th of August, 1866, by the following resolution, the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, authorized the purchase of a portrait of General Thomas.
Section 1 - Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, that the life-size portrait of Major-General Geo. H. Thomas, now in the Senate Chamber, by artist Geo. Davy, of the city of Washington, painted at the urgent request of loyal citizens of the State of Tennessee and state officials, be secured for the State of Tennessee, and be placed within the Capitol building in memory and honor of his fidelity to and services as a soldier in defense of the Constitution of the United States and its Government and our institutions as established by the fathers.
the artist paint on the portrait the badge of the Army of the
as he may be instructed to do.
Page 418 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
The Military Division of the Tennessee was discontinued, and the Department of the Tennessee created August 6th, 1866. This department embraced the same territorial subdivisions, differently designated, hence its establishment did not diminish the command of General Thomas. It comprised three districts and four sub-districts: District of the Cumberland, Major-General Stoneman commanding, embracing Kentucky and Tennessee; Sub-District of Kentucky, Brevet Major-General Jeff C. Davis, commanding; Sub-District of Tennessee, Brevet Major-General Clinton B. Fisk commanding; District of Mississippi, Major-General Thomas J. Wood commanding; District of the Chattahoochee, Brevet Major-General Charles R. Woods commanding, embracing Georgia and Alabama. Sub-District of Georgia, Brevet Major-General Davis Tillson commanding; Sub District of Alabama, Major-General Wager Swayne commanding.
March 11th, l867, General Thomas was assigned to command the Third Military District, but was relieved March 15th at his own request, and appointed to command the Department of the Cumberland, comprising the States of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
On the 17th of August, 1867, General Thomas was ordered by the President to take command of the Fifth Military District and the department comprising the States of Louisiana and Texas, in place of General Sheridan, but for the reason given in the following order, the assignment ofGeneral Thomas was revoked and General Hancock was assigned to that command.
GENERAL ORDERS, } HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
NO. 81. } Washington, August 27,1867.} ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE,
1. - The following orders have been received from
Page 419 - THE FIFTH MILITARY DISTRICT
EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington, D. C., August 26, 1867.
Sir: In consequence of the unfavorable condition of the health of Major-General George H. Thomas, as reported to you in Surgeon Hasson's despatch of the 21st instant, my order dated August 17, 1867, is hereby modified so as to assign Major-General Winfield S. Hancock to the command of the Fifth Military District, created by the Act of Congress passed March 2, 1867, and of the Military Department comprising the States of Louisiana and Texas. On being relieved from the command of the Department of the Missouri by Major-General P. H. Sheridan, Major-General Hancock will proceed directly to New Orleans, Louisiana, and, assuming the command to which he is hereby assigned, will, when necessary to a faithful execution of the laws, exercise any and all powers conferred by Acts of Congress upon District Commanders, and any and all authority pertaining to officers in command of Military Departments.
Major-General P. H. Sheridan will at once turn over his present command to the officer next in rank to himself and proceeding, with out delay, to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, will relieve Major-General Hancock of the command of the Department of Missouri.
Major-General George H. Thomas will, until further orders, remain in command of the Department of the Cumberland.
Very respectfully yours,
General U. S. GRANT,
Secretary of War, ad interim.
II.- In compliance with the foregoing instructions of the President of the United States, Major-General P. H. Sheridan will, on receipt of this order, turn over his present command to Brevet Major-General Charles Griffin, the officer next in rank to himself, and proceed, without delay, to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and will relieve Major-General Hancock, in command of the Department of Missouri.
III.- On being relieved by Major-General Sheridan, Major-General Hancock will proceed, without delay, to New Orleans, Louisiana, and assume command of the Fifth Military District, and of the Department composed of the States of Louisiana and Texas.
IV.- Major-General George H. Thomas will continue in command of the Department of the Cumberland.
By command of GENERAL GRANT,
Page 420 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
His headquarters were at Nashville from October, 1864, to November 1st, 1866, and at Louisville, from November 1st, 1866, to May 15th, 1869.
On the 21st of February, 1868, President Johnson requested the United States Senate to confirm General Thomas, as brevet lieutenant-general, and general in the army. It was believed throughout the country that, had this been done, the President would have displaced General Grant as commander-in-chief, and assigned General Thomas to the command of the army, upon his highest brevet rank. Whatever may have been the belief of Thomas, he based his objection to the confirmation of the nominations, and his request to the President to recall them, on other grounds.
LOUISVILLE, February 22, 1868, 2.30 P.M.
Hon. B. F. WADE,
President United States Senate:
The morning papers, of Louisville, announce, officially that my name was yesterday sent to the Senate for confirmation as brevet lieutenant-general and brevet general.
For the battle of Nashville I was appointed a major-general in the United States Army. My services since the war do not merit so high a compliment, and it is now too late to be regarded as a compliment, if conferred for services during the war.
I, therefore, earnestly request that the Senate will not confirm the nomination.
GEO. H. THOMAS,Major-General
The next day he sent the following despatch to President Johnson:
NASHVILLE, TENN., Feb., 23, 1868.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES .
The Washington despatches to the Louisville journal of yesterday, say, my name has been sent to the Senate recommended for the brevet rank of lieutenant-general and general.
Whilst sincerely thanking you for the proposed compliment, I earnestly request you to recall the recommendation. I have done no service since the war to deserve so high a compliment, and it is now too late to be regarded as a compliment, if conferred for services during the war.
Page 421 - THE PRESIDENCY
General Thomas was strongly solicited to become a candidate for the Presidency in 1868. In speaking of this pressure to Colonel Hough, he stated that nothing but duty to his country, at the call of the whole people, irrespective of party, could ever induce him to make the personal sacrifice of undertaking the onerous duties of the Presidency; that to be a candidate of a political party, and have his personal and family affairs pried into, and heralded before the public, and to be harassed and persecuted by politicians and office seekers, was an ordeal he would not submit himself to, under any circumstances.
When he was importuned a second time to become a candidate, his friends assumed that it was his duty to abide by the wishes of the people, but he again resisted with even greater firmness, declaring:
"I have maturely considered the subject, and am extremely averse to permitting such a disposition to be made of me. As an American citizen I have a right to choose my course in life, when not contrary to the laws of my country, and as such, I certainly do not choose to enter public life. If the American people consider me entitled to one-half the credit for my services attributed to me in the army, they must accord to me the full rights of an American citizen, and if permitted to exercise these rights, then no one can object to my preferring to remain an officer in the army, to being placed in any other position under the Government. I am also afraid that the military arm is becoming more or less infected with politics ; let us by all means keep that branch of the public service free from the taint of intrigue and party strife."*
General Thomas gave expression to his purpose in his replies to the
numerous letters written to him in relation to the subject.
* Manuscript notes of Lieut. Col. Alfred L. Hough.
Page 422 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE S. THOMAS
In 1867 he wrote :
HEADQUARTERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE CUMBERLAND, Louisville, Ky., April 20th, 1867.
GENERAL J. WATTS DE PEYSTER, 59 E. 21st st.. New York City.
I received your favor of the 9th inst., some days ago, but have not had time to reply until to-day.
First, you must permit me to acknowledge my grateful sense of your kind appreciation of my services; Second, I will here state, and hope you will report for me, whenever you hear my name mentioned in connection with the Presidency of the United States, that I never will consent to being brought before the people as a candidate for any office. I have too much regard for my own self-respect to voluntarily place myself in a position where my personal and private character can be assailed with impunity by newspaper-men, and scurrilous political pettifoggers and demagogues.
Your obedient servant,
GEO. H. THOMAS.
And in 1870:
SAN FRANCISCO, MARCH 8, 1870.
Mr. JOHN TYLER, JR.,
Dear Sir: I have received your two letters, dated Oct. 27, 1860, and Feb. 1, 1870. I did not reply to the first because it only reached me some time after my return to this place. In reply to the political portion of the second, I again assure you, in all sincerity, that I have no ambition in the direction of the Presidency, and, therefore, shall not allow my name to go before the people as a candidate for that office in 1872, or at any subsequent date, while there are so many able statesmen in political life to be drawn upon. And is it not rather early to begin to look for another Republican candidate for the next Presidential term? Grant is still young, has not, as yet, committed any serious mistake, and if he continues steadfast to the principles enunciated in his inaugural, will be entitled to the second term or at least to the nomination, as an expression of the approbation of the party, for his past services.
My life, for the last thirty years, has been passed in the military service. During that time I have acquired tastes and opinions respecting public duties and responsibilities, which do not harmonize with the prevailing ideas of the present day. I could not, therefore, hope to meet with such encouragement from the people as the Executive of the United States must have, to assure a successful administration, and the consequent prosperity and advancement of the nation.
Page 423 - DUTY THE RULE OF HIS LIFE
My services are now, as they have always been, subject to the call of the government in whatever military capacity I may be considered competent and worthy to fill, and will be cordially undertaken whenever called upon to render them. All civil honors and duties I shall continue to decline.
Respectfully and truly,
GEO. H. THOMAS.
Towards the close of the war it became necessary for him to decide whether or not it was appropriate and in accord with duty for a man in public life to accept a reward from his friends or from citizens for public services. He decided this question in the negative, and so positively that many persons considered him over sensitive. His views are thus reported by Colonel Hough:
"While fully appreciating the motives which induce these kind offers, I contend that I cannot accept them and be wholly independent. Whatever my services were, they were rendered to the country, and whatever reward for these services the government might offer me, I could accept freely without being under obligations to any person; but if I accept gifts from one or more individual citizens who owe me nothing more than respect and esteem, by doing so I place myself under obligations to them, which I could not cancel as a private citizen, and would not as a public officer; and to hold myself wholly independent, I make it a rule of my life to refuse all such offerings."
When General Thomas first heard that it had been proposed to raise a large sum of money to present to him as an expression of gratitude for his services during the war he promptly sent the following letter to the gentleman who originated the project.
HEADQUARTERS, DEPT. OF THE CUMBERLAND, Eastport, Miss., Jan. 17, 1865.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CINCINNATI GAZETTE :
an article I saw yesterday in the Louisville Press
Page 424 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
I am led to believe that, at your suggestions, the citizens of Cincinnati and Louisville are about to raise a sum of money, for the purpose of presenting me with a suitable testimonial of their appreciation of my services since the war commenced. Whilst I am duly and profoundly sensible of the high compliment thus proposed to be paid to me, I would greatly prefer, and, if not premature, request that any sum which may be raised for that purpose may be devoted to the founding of a fund for the relief of disabled soldiers and of the indigent widows and orphans of officers and soldiers who have lost their lives during the war. I am amply rewarded when assured that my humble services have met with the approbation of the Government and the people.
With much respect, I remain your obedient servant,
GEO. H. THOMAS,Major-General, U. S. A.
He also refused a gift of silver-plate, offered by citizens of Nashville, some of whom had been members of his staff. He did however accept from his staff a handsomely jeweled badge of the Army of the Cumberland. A large number of the volunteer officers who were members of his staff during the war were about to be mustered out of the service, and they, with those who were to remain with him, were anxious to leave with their chief something to remind him of them in their separation. When they called on him to present the badge he was surprised and greatly affected, and although averse to accepting gifts, he did not feel at liberty under the circumstances to reject this one.
General Thomas was greatly interested in the Society of the Army of
the Cumberland from its organization in February, 1868, until his
He was its first president, but was present only at he meetings in
and Chicago. Since his death a draped and vacant chair, and his
at every meeting have reminded the members of the society with pathetic
force that their commander and president, the central figure in the
and in the society, has passed away.
Page 425 - REPLY TO TOAST - "GENERAL THOMAS."
At the banquet of the society in Cincinnati at the first reunion, in response to the toast, "General Thomas," he spoke as follows:
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN:
I thank you for the toast. At the same time, it is most too personal for me to attempt to reply to it. Again, my predecessors have occupied nearly the whole field of discussion to-night, and left me in a pretty bad scrape. I don't know how I shall draw out. Nevertheless I will try to do so; I will make the attempt. I did intend to relate our withdrawal from. the front of Atlanta, to take up those three lines of march, upon the enemy's rear and line of retreat, which our illustrious commander, General Sherman, has just now so graphically described. He, you see, has anticipated me. As the president of this association, I desired, also, to allude briefly to the services and merits of my predecessors. My immediate predecessor, General Thurston, has ably done that, and I find myself forestalled a second time. Now you see how desperate my condition is; you all know that I am a modest man and never speak unless I am forced to. I was once offered the command of the Army of the Cumberland when I thought it should not be taken from a gentleman who had claims for it, I therefore declined it. I would not permit myself to be made use of to do him an injury. At a later day, without any thought of such a position being thrust upon me, the command of the Army of the Cumberland was given to me. You know very well the occasion. It was when we were tied up, in a measure, at Chattanooga. We did not have a great deal to eat then, you know, and we economized our rations, and proposed to starve before we gave up that place.
know the Army of the Cumberland expressed that sentiment to the
and you also know that we would have starved before we gave up
The whole country had confidence in that declaration. Reenforcements
as soon as they could be got to us. We waited patiently, diminished our
rations from day to day, until they became almost a myth, but the day
when the Army of the Tennessee, on our left, opened the way to relief
triumph, by crossing the Tennessee River, and taking a strong position
on Mission Ridge The next day the reenforcements from the Army of the
which were not then incorporated with the Army of the Cumberland,*
* The Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, were not
with the Army of the Cumberland until April 4th, 1864, when they were
to constitute the Twentieth Corps, but from the previous October they
been attached to that army, and subject to the orders of its commander.
Page 426 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
point on our right, Lockout Mountain, which opened the eyes of the enemy to the danger of his position. That gave us great encouragement. We felt that we could get something to eat before long. The next day was the grand finale. The enemy, thinking he had us entirely in his power, forgot himself and lost Lockout Mountain. To retrieve his disaster he concentrated upon our illustrious friend upon my right, (General Sherman) the leader of the combined armies afterward. That concentration gave the corps under my immediate command, an opportunity, in soldier parlance, "to make a straight line for the top of Mission Ridge." We carried it; we held it; and we hurled the broken enemy across Chickamauga Creek. Well do I remember when, after the battle was over, right on the top of the hill, I fell among some of my old soldiers, who always took liberties with me - who commenced talking and giving their views of the victory. When I attempted to compliment them for the gallant manner in which they had made the assault, one man very coolly replied: "Why, General, we know that you have been training us for this race for the last three weeks." Just at that moment, not knowing exactly what to say to him, I looked over my shoulder and saw a steamboat coming into Chattanooga, I said, "we have trained you as long as we want to; there come the rations !"
my time is very nearly up. I will close by touching upon one subject
no gentleman has touched upon tonight. It is this: the civilizing
of discipline, both in the army and navy. We have not only broken down
one of the most formidable rebellions that ever threatened the
of any country, but the discipline of the Army of the Cumberland alone
has civilized two hundred thousand valuable patriots and citizens. I
traveled a little since the war was over. Wherever I have been, whether
on a steamboat or by rail, I have either seen on the steamboat, engaged
in peaceful occupations of merchant sailors, or I have seen in the
along the railroad, engaged in peacefully following the plow, and
an example of industry worthy to be followed by all the country, men
dressed in blue. They did not disdain to wear the uniform. They gloried
in it, and I hope that such sentiments, and such civilizing influences
as have been produced by this war will serve for all time to inspire
Nation with such a feeling of patriotism that no enemy can ever do us
Page 427 - LOVED AND HONORED BY HIS SOLDIERS
This speech fully sustained the general's assertion of modesty. He was called upon to speak of himself, and yet in giving a history of affairs at Chattanooga, in October and November, 1863, he kept himself out of view, as much as possible. In another connection, it has been stated that he made the declaration, "We will hold the town till we starve," for his army as well as for himself. But in referring to this historic utterance, he put his army in the foreground, as expressing a sentiment which elicited the confidence of the whole country.
His soldiers took "liberties" with him, because he was so kind to them, so prompt to return every salute, so thoughtful of their interests and so careful of their lives. But though free to speak him, they were moved by affection to do his bidding and submit to wholesome discipline. General Garfield, in an oration at Arlington, Virginia, on Decoration-Day, May 30th, 1868, mentioned an incident illustrative of this feeling:
I can never forget an incident illustrative of this thought, which it was my fortune to witness, near sunset of the second day at Chickamauga, when the beleaguered but unbroken left wing of our army had again and again repelled the assaults of more than double their numbers, and when each soldier felt that to his individual hands were committed the life of the army and the honor of his country. It was just after a division had fired its last cartridge, and had repelled a charge at the point of the bayonet, that the great-hearted commander took the hand of an humble soldier and thanked him for his steadfast courage. The soldier stood silent for a moment, and then said, with deep emotion, "George H. Thomas has taken this hand in his. I'll knock down any mean man that offers to take it hereafter." This rough sentence was full of meaning. He felt that something had happened to his hand which consecrated it. At the business meeting of the society a resolution was offered, which had a decided political bearing, for this reason General Thomas pronounced it out of order, saying:
was organized for the purpose of a renewal of our fraternal relations
each other, and not for the purpose of engaging in political
At the same time that I decide the gentleman out of order, I return him
thanks for giving me this opportunity of expressing my views on the
Page 428 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
The purpose of General Thomas to avoid all personal connection with politics, and his approval of political activity by those who returned to civil life at the close of the war, are manifested by the subjoined letter:-
LOUISVILLE, Aug. 7, '68
MESSRS. JOHN COBURN,}
0. P. MORTON, } Committee.
A. H. CONNER, }
I have the honor to receive by this morning's mail, your favor of the 5th inst., inviting me to join with the soldiers and sailors of Indiana in a mass convention, to be held at the city of Indianapolis, on the 2nd day of September next. Your very cordial invitation commands my sincere thanks, and though I take no part in politics, permit me to express the great pleasure I have derived from observing the firm and almost universal support offered by the soldiers and sailors throughout the country to all measures calculated to restore it to a condition of peace and quiet, thereby showing that those most willing to support the Government in times of peril can be relied upon to inaugurate and maintain measures best calculated to maintain the peace and prosperity of the Nation. I am, gentlemen, very respectfully your obedient servant,
GEORGE H. THOMAS,Major-General U. S. A.
In December, 1868, the Societies of the Armies of the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio and Georgia, met together in Chicago. At this grand reunion General Thomas presided and if he had not known it before, he then learned that he was appreciated by fifteen hundred officers, representing nearly a half million of men who fought in the war of the Rebellion. In the introduction to "The Army Reunion," the volume comprising the reports of the proceedings on that occasion, the enthusiasm aroused by the presence of General Thomas and by allusion to him is thus described:
None of the great soldiers of the war had aroused in
Armies of the West a more worshipful enthusiasm than he who sat first
the leaders assembled on the ample platform of the Opera House, on the
evening of the I5th, General George H. Thomas. The events of his career
and the qualities of his character had
Page 429 - THE ARMY REUNION IN CHICAGO
equally wrought in all observers the conviction that history rarely shows the world a man more compact of all the abilities and manners of a great soldier, and rarely affords to greatness a finer opportunity than was his on the memorable field of Chickamauga, and when the last desperate advance of the rebellion was crushed before Nashville. An incident of this evening of commemoration, the unexampled burst of irrepressible emotion which greeted a reference to General Thomas in the oration of General Belknap, strikingly confirmed the judgment of those who selected this modest hero and admirable soldier to sit between Grant and Sherman at the head of the great reunion assemblage. With gallant courtesy the orator of the Army of the Tennessee had spoken of ''the determined soldier" and "beloved commander" of the Army of the Cumberland, "Thomas the Rock of Chickamauga," when with instant accord every heart in the vast assembly, soldiers of every army and all ranks leaped beyond all bounds of usual excitement, into such a storm of applause as hardly once in a century falls upon human ears. It was a fit recognition of one who is justly thought to have shown himself, by the side of his great equals, an ideal soldier.*
When General Thomas rose before this assemblage and called for the reveille by the drum corps, an outbreak of enthusiasm from re-united comrades followed, which, for the moment, made all other demonstration insignificant.** And during the continuance of this great meeting every movement and every utterance of General Thomas caused a renewal of the outburst of applause.
At the banquet which ended this reunion, General Thomas, replying to the toast, "The Army of the Cumberland," spoke as follows:
FELLOW COMRADES OF THE ARMIES OF THE TENNESSEE, OF THE OHIO, OF GEORGIA, AND OF THE CUMBERLAND: We have assembled in this city where we have a grand reunion of the four armies which had the good fortune to serve together in the West, where we claim that we did some good duty. To wind up these interesting proceedings, we have assembled here this evening to unite together in a social banquet to testify towards one another our fraternal love, begotten amid hours of danger, and when we were .attempting to discharge
to our country. These sentiments, I know, are entertained by the Army
the Cumberland and the three other armies.
* The Army Reunion," p. 13.
** Ibid, p. 15.
Page 430 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
But as their representative to-night, I wish to express to you again the fraternal feeling which we hold towards all of you. The cordial manner in which we have been received by the citizens of Chicago should ever be remembered by us as a demonstration of their patriotic feeling. Therefore, I wish to tender to them, in behalf not only of the Army of the Cumberland, but of the other army societies here, our heartfelt thanks. As our time is limited, and there are several other speeches to make, you must excuse me from saying any more. I bid you good night.
I am now requested to present a toast which was expected from me at the close of the regular toasts this evening. I give you, "The Citizens of Chicago. Their enterprise is proverbial and their liberality no less so. The latter will be long remembered by the united armies of the Tennessee, the Ohio, the Cumberland and Georgia.
These were the last spoken words to the members of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, from their beloved and revered commander. In the only two speeches made by him in response to the toasts, "General Thomas" and "The Army of the Cumberland," the traits of their commander as he was known to them all, were fully displayed. His regard for duty - his earnest patriotism - his modesty - his liberal praise of others, and his affectionate recognition of the brotherhood of those who saved the country.
Not being able to attend the reunion of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland at Indianapolis on the fifth anniversary of the battle of Nashville, General Thomas sent the following letter:
SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., November 26, 1869.
DEAR GENERAL :
I have waited until to-day, before answering your letter of the 3rd inst, hoping that I might be able to inform you that I could be present at the approaching annual reunion of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland.
Much as I regret that I shall not be able to shake you all by the hand on the 15th of December next, I shall be compelled to forego the pleasure. Indianapolis is so far from San Francisco, and there being apprehensions of Indian outbreaks in this region, I do not
Page 431 - HIS LETTER TO THE SOCIETY
think it prudent to leave my command for so long a time, as will be required to go to Indianapolis and return.
I appreciate fully the friendly sentiments of your letter, which are all the more acceptable from the fact that similar sentiments come to me from many quarters.
It was my hearty desire, from the beginning to the end of the late war, to accept with cheerfulness, and perform with zeal and honesty, whatever duties devolved upon me. At the same time it was my constant endeavor to impress those who were with me and under my command, with a sense of the importance of the services they had undertaken to perform. This, I am happy to say, was an easy task. The Army of the Cumberland, from the highest officers to the privates in the ranks, was distinguished throughout the war for subordination, unity and concert of action within itself, as well as for the cheerfulness with which it united its destinies and divided the hardships of service, at all times, with whatever troops it came in contact with in the service, entertaining no jealousies of, but a lively sentiment of friendship and esteem for all engaged in the defense of the Government.
Although I shall not be able to be with you in person, my heart will rejoice with you, in the happy reunion which I know you will have.
I am, very truly, your friend,
GEORGE H. THOMAS,Major-General, U. S. A.
GENERAL NATHAN KIMBALL, Chairman Executive Committee,
Society, Army of the Cumberland.
This letter was his first and only written communication to the
and in it he did full justice to himself and his army. A more patriotic
commander or a more patriotic army never fought for country or for
HIS LIFE SADDENED BY OFFICIAL AND OTHER ANNOYANCES. - HIS DEATH
AND BURIAL. - AN UNFINISHED PAPER.
DURING the last year of his life General Thomas was needlessly harrassed. One extreme annoyance was the necessity of protesting against what he considered a degradation. The circumstances have been related by two members of his staff. The statement of Colonel Alfred L. Hough is as follows:
"After the war had closed and matters were settled in Kentucky, Tennessee and adjoining States, General Thomas feeling that he had served a long time in the West, and both he and Mrs. Thomas being Eastern people, desired to go East, and made a personal request to have command of the Eastern Division. He was informed that this had been promised to General Meade, or he could have had it; and this ended the matter for the present, for if he could not go East he was well satisfied where he was in Louisville, Kentucky.
of 1868, I accompanied General Thomas to Washington, where he was
on a court of inquiry,* and where we spent several weeks. Soon after
Presidential election, General Grant then being President-elect, I
General Thomas on an evening call upon General Grant. We were late, and
found the general alone He asked us into the library, and there we
an hour or more, there being present, General and Mrs. Grant, Mrs.
father and myself, no others. The conversation
* General Thomas was president of the court of
appointed September 10, 1868, to investigate the official conduct of
Dyer, chief of ordnance. The court convened at Washington November 9,
and was dissolved May 15, 1869, its findings and opinions having been
and confirmed by President Grant.
Page 433 - ASSIGNED TO THE PACIFIC
was general, until General Grant suddenly turned it and said: 'Thomas, there has got to be a change on the Pacific coast, and either you or Sheridan will have to go there; how would you like it ?' General Thomas hesitated a moment, and then replied: ' As for myself I would have no objection to serving there, but on Mrs. Thomas' account I would not want to take her any further away from her friends in the East.' Before General Grant could reply, Mrs. Grant spoke up and said: 'Your having a wife is one reason why you should go there instead of Sheridan, as he ought to stay here, where he can get one.' This was said laughingly, and caused a smile from the others, and immediately the conversation was changed by General Grant, not another word being spoken on the subject; and General Thomas assured me it was never mentioned to him again at any time, until the interview between himself and General Sherman hereafter described.
I have given the words as spoken, because I remember them well, and am satisfied they are substantially correct.
When we left the house, we had gone but a few steps when the general turned to me and said: ' Hough, we are going to California, that was settled to night,' and we talked over the prospects that evening.
court of inquiry
adjourned for the holidays, and was reconvened again in 1860, but I did
not accompany the general again to Washington. While he was there, and
after the inauguration of General Grant as President, he was assigned
the command of the Military Division of the Pacific, and what occurred
at the time he told me of at our first conversation after his return to
Louisville, to make the move. To understand the following, I must state
that General Thomas commanded a department only, while the command in
was a division then commanded by General Halleck. General Thomas said
had heard a good deal of talk about General Halleck being removed from
his command, and recollecting what had occurred at
Page 434 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H THOMAS
our visit to General Grant, expected he would have to go but he said nothing about it. One day he was informed by General Sherman that General Schofield had been decided upon to relieve General Halleck and take command of the Military Division of the Pacific. He then asked General Sherman what was to be done with him - Thomas - and Sherman answered, he would remain where he was. At this the general told me he was astonished and indignant, and told General Sherman that he would not stand it, his rank should not be degraded; he said he exhibited a good deal of feeling, in fact he was angry, and expressed himself plainly, that if this programme was carried out, to give his junior a division, while he commanded a department, he would publicly protest against it. Whereupon General Sherman, who appeared to be a good deal worried, assured him, he would see that he was protected against any indignity, or words to that effect.
of this resistance from the general was, that the programme was
and General Thomas was sent to the Pacific coast, but what occurred at
the time was what annoyed General Thomas; he relieved General Halleck,
but immediately the old department of General Thomas, with headquarters
at Louisville was added to, and a division created, and General Halleck
assigned to it. He always felt that, at least, he should have been left
at Louisville to command the new division. This is all there was of the
matter. General Thomas did not want to go West, but would rather go
have his rank degraded. Schofield was to be elevated at his expense,
only his vigorous protest prevented it. And after all, as it turned
he could have been left where he was, and had a command equal to his
but this was denied him. All this annoyed him, and he felt it,
as he believed that it was all caused by General Grant not feeling
toward him, why, he could not tell. He said he knew General Grant did
like him, but that he had never said or done
Page 435 - COL. KELLOGG'S STATEMENT
any thing to cause such a feeling; the only reason he could ever imagine for Grant's feeling toward him, was that after the battle of Shiloh, when Halleck assumed command, Grant's army was for a short time commanded by him (General Thomas), and that Grant rankled under the remembrance of it, in fact he was, as the general wrote to me from Washington, ' vindictive.' "
In a letter addressed to the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, at the reunion in Chattanooga, September, 1881, replying to a letter from General John M. Schofield, dated June 10, 1880, also addressed to that society, Colonel Sanford C. Kellogg, for years an aide-de-camp to General Thomas, narrates the circumstances attending the general's assignment to the Military Division of the Pacific:
"General Schofield refers to his original assignment to the command of the Military Division of the Pacific in 1860, when General Grant became President, and he (General Schofield) became major-general, to fill the vacancy which resulted from General Grant's advancement. The facts as related by General Thomas are these: being on duty in Washington, on the Dyer court of inquiry, about the time of General Grant's first inauguration as President, March, 1860, General Thomas was surprised to learn that, by are-arrangement of the military divisions, his junior in rank, General Schofield, was to be assigned to the important command of the Military Division of the Pacific, whilst he, General Thomas, was to remain in the far less important Department of the Cumberland. General Thomas then offered to put forth a protest in writing, from which he was dissuaded by General Sherman, and contented himself by declaring that he should proceed to apply formally in their relative order as to choice, for the Military Divisions of the Atlantic, the Missouri, and the Pacific. He wanted the Division of the Atlantic particularly, as he had served so many years at remote frontier stations. And since the beginning of the war of the Rebellion he had seen no service
Page 436 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
in the East. His selection was met with the reply that General Meade was to have the Division of the Atlantic, as General Grant had promised it to General Meade. General Thomas then announced his intention of applying for that division every four years, until he got it. The Military Division of the Missouri, with headquarters at Chicago, was his second choice, but that had been assigned to the lieutenant-general. General Thomas then selected the Division of the Pacific, and, notwithstanding an order is said to have already been prepared assigning General Schofield to it, it was given to General Thomas. General Schofield claims the order was changed at his request; that may have been the case. Had it not been changed, General Thomas, who was smarting under a sense of injustice, declared it his intention to have placed his views in writing of what had become imperative in an officer of his rank."
General Thomas assumed command of the Military Division of the Pacific on the 1st of June, 1860. Soon after he reached San Francisco he proceeded on a tour of inspection, which is thus described by Colonel Hough:
"Starting on the 15th day of June, accompanied by his
staff, to whom were assigned different departments of duty in the
he visited the line of interior military posts, extending through
Idaho, Oregon, and Washington Territory, passing down the Columbia
to Portland. Here he embarked on a small steamer, and proceeded to all
the military posts in Alaska, extending his journey to a small
on St. Paul's Island in Behring's Sea, thence returning to San
where he arrived on the 16th of September, having been gone
three months, and traveled about eight thousand miles. The result of
inspection was a report to the War Department, wherein he made such
as induced a very important reduction of the military force in Alaska,
causing a corresponding reduction of expenses. His intention was in the
ensuing year to continue his inspection through the southern part of
Page 437 - THE TENNESSEE PORTRAIT
General Thomas described this tour to General Rucker, in Chicago, during the autumn of 1860, and concluded with the remark that " it was fast traveling for a slow man."
General Thomas was greatly annoyed by a proposition made in the latter part of 1869, by some members of the General Assembly of Tennessee, to sell the portrait of himself, which had been purchased at a cost of one thousand dollars by the more loyal Legislature of 1866.
As soon as the proposal was published, General Thruston, residing at Nashville, offered on behalf of himself and two or three other friends of General Thomas, to refund the money and remove the portrait from the State Library; similar offers were promptly made by General Thomas and by his brother, Benjamin Thomas, residing at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
General Thomas' opinion of the proposal to sell the portrait, and his purposes in view of the proposal, are expressed in the following letter, which he wrote to a member of the Legislature:
SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., Dec. 31, 1869.
HON. D. A. NUNN :
Dear Sir, I received your favor of the 20th, yesterday, and as I am sure of your friendly feeling toward me, I take great pleasure in giving you my reasons for offering to refund to the present Legislature of Tennessee the cost of the portrait of myself, ordered to be painted by the Legislature of 1866, and remove it from the Library of the Capitol of your State. I will premise by stating that although I regretted at the time, the Legislature of 1866, had ordered by joint resolution, a portrait of me, to be painted and placed in the State Library, yet being convinced it was done through motives of friendship and esteem, the joint resolution having been passed without my knowledge, I felt a natural delicacy in declining a compliment so unexpected, assured as I was of the sincerity of the act. From that day until the extraordinary proceedings had in the present Legislature, I had been led to believe that the act of the Legislature of 1866 had been generally approved throughout the State. On being informed of these recent proceedings, self-respect as well as a proper appreciation of the act of the Legislature of 1866, required that I should relieve the members of the present Legislature from the
Page 438 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
possibility of seeing a disagreeable picture every time they went into the State Library. The same reasons impelled me to inform the Speaker that I shall return the medal as soon as I can get to New York, where I had it deposited last spring, before leaving the East to assume duty on this coast. Now let me assure you, that in taking the course I have, I disclaim any intention whatever to reject the compliment extended to me by the Legislature of 1866, but simply wish to return to the Legislature which repudiates their act, as far as in my power to do so, compensation for what they seem to consider a wrong perpetrated by a former Legislature on the people of that State in my behalf.
I am very truly yours,
GEO. H. THOMAS, Major-General, U. S.A.
This characteristic letter and deserved rebuke, elicited an explanation from the member who offered the resolution to sell the portrait. He claimed that he offered it as a joke to satirize certain falsely economic measures then before the Legislature. But as there was no condemnation of the proposition by the Legislature as a whole, the proceedings were insulting in the extreme.
While still smarting under this insult, General Thomas wrote the following letter:
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 21st, 1870.
GEN J. H. WILSON,
U. S. Army:
My dear General, I had the pleasure to receive your letter of the 12th, this morning. I have notified the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tennessee Legislature, that I will return the gold medal to the Legislature of Tennessee, as soon as I can get to New York City, where it is now on deposit for safe-keeping.
In reply to this notification, the Speaker wrote me, protesting against my returning the medal; tried to explain away any apparent attempt to insult me by the resolution offered in the Legislature, etc.
character so well that I place no value whatever on the Speaker's
explanation, but as I cannot now get the medal, it being packed away
other articles in the same box, I shall wait until I have an
to unpack the box, when I shall return it to the Legislature.
Page 439 - SCHOFIELD'S LETTER TO THE TRIBUNE
I agree with you entirely in your expression of disgust at the manner in which the situation and condition of the army under my command for the defense of Tennessee in the fall of 1864, is persistently ignored by parties trying to justify themselves for the course taken by them in regard to the operations of that army. But feeling confident that the country will fully understand the condition of the army left with me, and as fully justify me in all that I did to delay battle until my troops were in a condition to strike an effective blow, when the history of the Tennessee campaign is written, I have not allowed myself to be drawn into the present controversy.
Chaplain Van Home is now engaged in writing the history of the Army of Cumberland, and I have no doubt will clearly and satisfactorily detail all the circumstances connected with the defense of Tennessee against Hood's invasion. In connection therewith he will also give a history of the operations of your cavalry after the battle of Nashville. Any information or suggestions you may feel disposed to communicate to him, he will be most happy to receive, as it is both his desire and mine that the history of the Army of the Cumberland shall be as complete and reliable as possible.
His address is Rev. T. B. Van Horne, Milwaukee, Wis.
Very truly yours,
GEO. H. THOMAS.
On the 12th of March, 1870, a communication, signed "One who fought at Nashville" appeared in the New York Tribune, so severely criticising General Thomas' conduct of the Nashville campaign, that he determined to answer it. He believed that General Schofield was directly or indirectly the author of the paper, and regarded this attack upon himself, as another manifestation of Schofield's enmity.
Shortly after the close of the war, General Thomas said to the
that he had felt that he would have an enemy in his command, when first
he heard that General Schofield with his corps would join him from
instead of the Fourteenth corps, for which he had previously made
He feared thus early, that an effort would be made to remove him from
command of the army. And the peculiar state of affairs before and after
the battle of Nashville strengthened his conviction that General
was intriguing against him. Soon after the war he was informed
Page 440 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
by General Sherman, that he had given Schofield choice between service with himself in the march to Savannah, or with Thomas in Tennessee. This fact, taken in connection with other circumstances, was nearly equivalent to positive proof to Thomas, that he had been right in his first feeling. He did not then know that Schofield had been named in orders as his successor, immediately before the battle of Nashville. This fact was made known to him in San Francisco, when he superseded General Halleck in command of the Military Division of the Pacific. At a banquet given in his honor by Halleck, the latter mentioned the circumstances under which the order relieving Thomas of the command of the army at Nashville had been written, retained and suspended. General Halleck did not at first give the name of the general that was to take the command, but finally said: "The name of the man in that order was John M. Schofield." Then General Thomas, with no little excitement of manner replied: " I knew it, I knew he was the man."
The Tribune article was regarded as a more open display of General Schofield's enmity. And on the last day of his life. General Thomas departing from his habitual silence under misrepresentation, addressed himself to the preparation of the true story of the Nashville campaign.
The antecedent conversation and the sad issue of General Thomas' effort are thus reported by Colonel Hough. The general said:
"That criticism upon my plan is really funny
I am only astonished that the letter should have been published, for
of its statements are easily refuted, and others show an
and intrigue that will astonish the public. The answer to it is a good
and just one, and whoever wrote it has my thanks.* I am now satisfied
what I have suspected for some time is
* A communication signed ''Another Man," in reply to
previous letter, was published, in the Tribune of March 19th
Page 441 - HIS OPINION OF SCHOFIELD
true, that is, that General Schofield intrigued for my removal, to enable him to get my command. I have long known that he asked to be sent back to me from Atlanta to Nashville, which always surprised me, as there was apparently at this time a much greater opportunity for gaining distinction with General Sherman than with me, and now I can understand it. Now that he is piqued, that the order placing him in command is called a blunder, he is endeavoring to right himself before the public by attacking me, who have had nothing to do with this discussion; but it will fail, for plenty of my old officers will answer him, as I am assured by letters now. I say him, because the article was directly inspired by him. I am assured of this on the authority of a friend in St. Louis.
It is an outrageous article, and as a military criticism is ridiculous, and easily answered, as it is in this first reply to it; it will create much indignation among the officers who fought at Nashville, who will be astonished at some of the statements. At one statement, though, I am amazed, and it convinces me of Schofield's duplicity, and that is, that he, one of my subordinates should have applied, in his letter of December 26th, 1864 to General Grant, without my knowledge, to be transferred with his command to the Atlantic; this is the first time I ever heard of this application.
people say after hearing of this letter? If a subordinate officer can
to ask that his commander be weakened to the extent to which this
states General Schofield did, is it not also reasonable to suppose that
he had written letters previously to General Grant, so commenting on
at Nashville, as to suggest to him the propriety of substituting
for me, and thereby have originated the causes for his present
situation. In the matter of winter quarters; suppose I had been
by General Grant to place my troops in winter quarters in accordance
my order, and after hearing of Sherman's successful march to the sea and
Page 442 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
intention to move in the direction of Richmond to join Grant, he does not see that I could have cooperated with Sherman by moving through the northern part of Georgia, Western North Carolina, and East Tennessee towards the same objective point, thus aiding somewhat towards the final triumph of our forces in Virginia. This, or whatever was necessary, would have been done by me, if my plans had not been upset by this letter of Schofield of December 26th now for the first time known to me.
"The above is about all, at least the substance of all he said, closing the conversation with a request that later in the day, I would take the papers and make such notes upon the criticism of his plan as were suggested to me; in the mean time he wanted to examine them more thoroughly himself. I left him with the papers before him. When I returned, some time afterward, he had been stricken down. Upon his desk were the papers, and his unfinished notes upon them, stopping in the middle of a line and sentence." [says Col Hough]
The last moments and the death of General Thomas are described by Colonel Hough as follows:
"General Thomas came to the headquarters at his usual time, about
A.M., March 28th, 1870, spoke to me saying, 'Good
Colonel,' as he passed the open door of my room, and entered his
office. About 9.45 A. M I went into his room for transaction of the
business of the day. After finishing that, which was performed as
we entered into private conversation, and talked for some time. He was
very communicative, and apparently in his usual health. About 10.30 A.
M., I parted from him, and soon after left the headquarters to attend
some private business. I returned about 1.45 P. M., and found him lying
on a lounge in his room attended by several physicians; was told that
had fallen in a fainting fit, about fifteen minutes before that he had
come out of his room saying: 'I want air,' and immediately fell. When I
saw him he was rallying from the attack, and was told by
Page 443 - HIS DEATH
the physicians, that it was apparently a fainting fit, probably caused by indigestion. In the course of half an hour he said he had no pain, except about the right temple. This pain, one of the physicians told me, was a bad sign, but still he grew better, and insisted upon getting up, which he did for a few moments, and again lay down. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Thomas arrived and sat by his side. He spoke to her, and a few words passed between them. While waiting for the action of the remedies administered, all had left the room but Mrs. Thomas and myself. I observed he was speaking, and putting my ear down heard him say, he felt easier and had no pain; he looked up to Mrs. Thomas, who leaned down to him, and he spoke to her. Shortly after this I saw him struggle, with a convulsive movement about his chest, and try to rise, which he could not do. I called the physicians from the outer room, and one of them told me at once that it was apoplexy. Every attention was given to him, but he was unconscious, and gradually sunk until twenty-five minutes past seven o'clock, when he died. He did not struggle, only giving a convulsive spasm at the last moment."
The report of the general's dangerous illness had drawn a large number of officers to headquarters, but within the private office, at the last moment, were Mrs. Thomas, her sister, Miss Kellogg, the attending army surgeons, Drs. McCormick and Murray, Colonels Hough, Willard, and Kellogg of the personal staff, and two or three other officers. The body was immediately embalmed, and on the next day was conveyed to the Lick House, where the general had resided. As soon as practicable, after private religious services, the remains, in charge of Colonel Willard, were borne to Troy, New York, for burial.
The private office was promptly closed by Colonel Hough, and not
until, at the request of Mrs. Thomas, the papers it contained were
for the purpose of separating the personal from the official.
Page 444 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Colonel Hough thus wrote, concerning this examination :
"This sad duty occupied me three days. Of course many of the papers were deeply interesting, but all of them only confirmed the strength and beauty of his character; not a paper was destroyed, and not one need ever be by Mrs. Thomas."
The death of General Thomas caused universal mourning. He had few enemies, a vast number of true personal friends, and the people generally regarded him as one of the best and purest public men of the country, as well as one of the greatest generals of the war of the Rebellion. Memorial meetings were held throughout the Northern States, and the newspapers were filled with expressions of the Nation's grief, and of the people's appreciation of his character and services.
The Congress of the United States, the General of the Army, Governors, State Legislatures, civic corporations, and associations of soldiers and of citizens, gave utterance to grief and eulogy.
In the House of Representatives, March 30th, unanimous consent having been granted, Mr. Randall moved the adoption of the following resolutions :
Be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the Senate and House of Representatives have heard with deep regret of the sudden decease of Major-General George H. Thomas, endeared to the country by a series of unbroken, patriotic services during a period of thirty years.
Section 2. - And be it further resolved, - That his distinguished career in the defense of his country against foreign and domestic enemies, his never faltering faith and zeal in the maintenance of the Union and the integrity of the Government, and his stern execution of every trust confided to him, constitute a record in life made memorable in death.
Section 3. - And be it further resolved, - That the President of the
Senate and the Speaker of the House, are hereby authorized to make such
arrangements in connection with his obsequies as will attest the
of Congress at this national bereavement.
Page 445 - MEMORIAL MEETING AT WASHINGTON
In supporting his motion Mr. Randall said :
"Mr. Speaker, having in the early part of the war served immediately under General Thomas as a non-commissioned officer I have deemed it not inappropriate to offer these resolutions. No words of mine can add lustre to his record. His heroic deeds are inseparably interwoven with the history of our country."
The two Houses of Congress concurring in the adoption of these resolutions, they were approved by the President April 5th, and published in orders by General Sherman April 20th . The President of the Senate, Vice President Colfax, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. James G. Blaine, on the 30th of March reported for the approval of the Senate and House of Representatives arrangements for a memorial meeting and the funeral as follows:
1. Meeting in the Hall of the House of Representatives on Tuesday evening, April 5th, to be presided over by General Jacob D. Cox, Secretary of the Interior, and to be under the supervision of the committee of arrangements, appointed by the officers who served with General Thomas ; the Senators and Representatives to attend.
II. A joint committee of thirteen, composed of six Senators and seven Representatives, to attend the funeral of General Thomas as representatives of the Congress of the United States.
This report having been approved, the Vice President appointed Senators Wilson, Cameron, Trumbull, Thayer, Warner and Casserly; the Speaker of the House appointed Representatives Logan, Garfield, Banks, Slocum, Washburn, Randall and Stokes.
The meeting in the Hall of the House of Representatives was attended
by the President and the members of his Cabinet, the Judges of the
Court of the United States, the Senators and Representatives, Officers
of the Army and Navy, the Judges of the District Courts and many others
officials and citizens. Addresses which eloquently portrayed the
and services of General Thomas were delivered by Generals Cox, Sherman,
Garfield, Slocum, and Schurz, and Chief Justice Chase.
Page 446 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
The following orders were issued by the General of the Army:
GENERAL ORDER } HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, } ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE,
No. 34. } Washington, March 20, 1870.
It has become the painful duty of the General to announce to the Army- the death of one of our most exalted generals, George H. Thomas, who expired last evening, at half past seven, in San Francisco, California.
There is no need to turn to the archives to search for his history for it is recorded in almost every page during the past ten years; but his classmate and comrade owes him a personal tribute, in which he knows every member of the Army shares. General Thomas entered the Military Academy in the class of 1836; graduated in 1840, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Third Artillery, and sent to Florida. He served with his regiment continuously until December 24, 1853, when he became a captain, having been particularly distinguished at Monterey, and Buena Vista, Mexico. On the 12th of May, 1855, he was appointed to the Second Cavalry as major, and served with that regiment continuously, until be became its Colonel, on the 3rd of May, 1861. The great civil war found him at his post, true and firm, amidst the terrible pressure he had encountered by reason of his birth-place - Virginia, and President Lincoln commissioned him as a brigadier-general of volunteers, and sent him to Kentucky. There, too, his services were constant, and eminent in the highest degree. He won the first battle in the West at Mill Spring, Kentucky, and, from first to last, without a day's or hour's intermission, he was at his post of duty, rising steadily and irresistibly through all the grades to the one he held as major-general of the Regular Army, at the time of his death. At Shiloh, Corinth, Perryville, Stone River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Nashville, he fulfilled the proudest hopes of his ardent friends, and, at the close of the war, General George H. Thomas stood in the very front rank of our war generals.
The General has known General Thomas intimately since they sat as
on the same bench, and the quality in him, which he holds up for the
and example of the young, is his complete and entire devotion to duty.
Though sent to Florida, to Mexico, to Texas, to Arizona, when duty
was absolute banishment, he went cheerfully
Page 447 - HIS DEATH ANNOUNCED TO THE ARMY
and never asked a personal favor, exemption, or leave of absence. In battle he never wavered. Firm, and full of faith in his cause, he knew it would prevail; and he never sought advancement of rank or honor at the expense of any one. Whatever he earned of these were his own, and no one disputes his fame. The very impersonation of honesty, integrity, and honor, he will stand to us as the beau ideal of the soldier and gentleman.
Though he leaves no child to bear his name, the old Army of the Cumberland, numbered by tens of thousands, called him father, and will weep for him in tears of manly grief. His wife, who cheered him with her messages of love in the darkest hours of war, will mourn him now in sadness, chastened by the sympathy of a whole country.
The last sad rites due him as a man and soldier will be paid at Troy, New York, on the arrival of his remains, and of his family, and all his old comrades who can be present are invited there to share in the obsequies.
At all military posts and stations, the flag will be placed at half staff, and fifteen minute guns fired on the day after the receipt of this order; and the usual badges of mourning will be worn for thirty days. By command of General SHERMAN.
E. D. TOWNSEND, Adjutant General.
GENERAL ORDERS, } HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, } ADJUTANT GENERAL'S OFFICE.
No. 37 } Washington, April 3,1870.
The body of Major-General George H. Thomas will be buried at Troy, New York, on Friday, April 8th, at 12 o'clock, noon, and the ceremonies will be conducted in military order, under the supervision of Major-General George G. Meade, commanding the Military Division of the Atlantic. The escort will be a battalion of eight companies, and General Meade is authorized to use two companies of the engineer battalion from Willet's Point, two companies of the general recruits from Governor's Island, and the band from West Point. All officers of the Army who can be spared from duty, all civil officers of the General and State Governments, members of the
Volunteer armies, civil societies, and citizens generally, are invited to be present, to manifest their respect to the memory of him who holds a sacred place in the heart of every American.
By command of General SHERMAN.
Page 448 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
The funeral ceremonies and services at Troy on the 8th of April, were imposing and solemn. Public buildings, hotels, stores and many private houses were draped, and business generally was suspended. There were in attendance, President Grant, Secretaries Belknap, Boutwell, Robeson and Cox, the joint committee of Congress, the Governor of New York and his staff, the two Houses of the General Assembly, officers of State and State troops, officers of the Army and Navy, delegates from the Society of the Army of the Cumberland and from the Grand Army of the Republic, civic societies and municipal officers from the neighboring cities and a great multitude of people. The pall bearers were Generals Meade, Schofield, Hooker, Rosecrans, Hazen, Granger, Newton and McKay. The escort was composed of two companies of Engineers, two of Artillery and four of Infantry, of the United States Army, under the command of General Wallen. The Ninth and Tenth brigades of the National Guard of the State of New York, and a number of other organizations, military and civil, took part in the parade, which was a mile in length.
The religious services at St. Paul's Episcopal Church were conducted by Bishop Doane, of the Diocese of Albany, and the Rev. Drs. Cort, Potter, and Walsh, and the Rev. Mr. Reese. At the conclusion of the services in the church, the remains of the great general, followed by an immense cortege, were conveyed to Oakwood Cemetery, amid the tolling of bells and firing of minute guns, and there deposited in the city receiving vault to await final burial. Here Bishop Doane conducted the commitment service, and the escort closed the military honors by firing the prescribed salute.
In the evening, General Stewart L. Woodford, Lieutenant-Governor of
the State of New York, delivered an address upon the life and character
of General Thomas, before a large audience, in the First Baptist Church
of Troy. The body of General Thomas was finally interred in the
Page 449 - HIS TOMB
family lot, in Oakwood Cemetery, where Mrs. Thomas has erected a massive monument in the form of a sarcophagus, surmounted with an American eagle, grasping in its talons an accurate representation of the sword used by the general during the war.
On the front, in raised letters, is this inscription, encircled by a wreath of oak and laurel,
GEORGE H. THOMAS,
BORN IN SOUTHAMPTON COUNTY, VIRGINIA,
DIED, SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.
The members of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, present at the funeral of General Thomas, held a meeting at Troy, and invited General James A. Garfield to deliver an oration on the life and character of General Thomas, at the next reunion of the society. In compliance with this request General Garfield pronounced an eloquent eulogy before the society, November 25th, 1870, at Cleveland, Ohio; in which he gave an analysis of General Thomas' character and a brief history of his career, extolled his loyalty and patriotism, and magnified his generalship, especially at the battle of Chickamauga.
At this meeting, the society adopted the following resolutions, reported by General Charles Cruft, in the absence of General Garfield chairman of the committee on memorial to General Thomas:
On the 28th
1870, Major-General George H. Thomas the great soldier, who has
over this society from its institution, fell at his post with all his
on. His spirit returned to God who gave it, and the memory of his
and goodness is all that is now left to us. His death was a national
and an irreparable loss to his comrades. Therefore be it
Resolved, That it is vain by words to attempt to express our loss, or to describe the grief which pervades this society in view of this sad event.
Page 450 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Resolved, That the banners of this society be draped in mourning and that an appropriate memorial page be inscribed upon its records.
Resolved, That some fitting monument should be erected by his countrymen to mark the spot where the remains of our beloved commander rest, and that this society shall take the initiatory steps for its erection, and to that end a committee of one from each State represented in the society be now appointed, to arrange some method to procure the necessary funds, and to provide a design, specifications and estimates therefore, and to report at the next meeting.
Resolved, That the president shall appoint some comrade to prepare a biography of General Thomas, and collate and arrange the obituary proceedings of the various States and associations in honor of his memory with a view to future publication by this society.
As the result of this action, a splendid equestrian statue of General Thomas, produced by J. Q. A. Ward, was unveiled at Washington on the 19th of November, 1879. Congress appropriated brass cannon for this statue, and authorized its location, on the circular reservation, at the intersection of Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island avenues, and Fourteenth and M streets. In an eloquent address Hon. Stanley Matthews portrayed the character of General Thomas, and for the society, presented the statue to President Hayes, as the representative of the people of the United States. The President, with suitable words, accepted this gift for the people.
The unfinished paper, found upon the desk of General Thomas is appended:
"The article in the Tribune was evidently brought out by
assertions in the Gazette correspondence that Grant would have
a serious blunder had he relieved Thomas by Schofield, who as appears
the article, claims the battle of Franklin was fought under his
supervision, and was so eminently successful, that he consequently was
as acceptable to the army as General Thomas. (That may or may not be.)
It is hoped that the troops would have done their duty under any
Page 451 - THE NASHVILLE CAMPAIGN
Wood and Stanley and many other officers of rank, who participated prominently in that battle, know the peculiar situation of affairs that rendered it necessary, General Thomas should remain in Nashville to receive the reenforcements which were arriving daily, supervising and expediting their equipment (the cavalry sent back by General Sherman being all dismounted, the new regiments arriving from the States needing camp equipage, etc., to enable them to take the field), and that Schofield happened to command the troops immediately opposing the advancing enemy, by virtue of his position as an army commander, (he commanded the Army of the Ohio). The criticisms on the plan of battle and point of attack, (referring to Nashville), are too unimportant to notice. With regard to the mistake of not using 10,000 to great advantage, the original position of the 10,000 men, (Schofield's Army of the Ohio, Twenty-third corps, in reserve), being central, rendered them available for promptly reenforcing Steedman, should the enemy concentrate so heavily on him as to endanger his position, when he made his demonstration on the enemy's right, to draw attention from the real point of attack.
Steedman having reported early in the morning that he could not be driven from his position, this reserve was no longer needed where it then was, and was ordered to form in support of Smith, and support him in his advance on the enemy's left. Smith's advance leaving an interval between his right and the left of the cavalry, the 10,000 men were ordered to fill up the gap, and became engaged toward the close of the day's operations. It is therefore left to candid minds to judge, whether the l0,000 men were advantageously posted originally and afterwards used to advantage, or not.
It is believed that no other officer of high rank in the army,
the writer of the Tribune article, will say that General Thomas
was so fully convinced that the enemy had retreated at the close of the
first day of the battle, that he
Page 452 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H THOMAS
gave no orders to continue operations the next day, but ordered a
pursuit. The blunder of the pontoon train is admitted in so far, that
staff officer who wrote the order to the commander of the train, by
wrote Murfreesboro' pike, instead of Nolensville pike, and the train
gone a mile or two on that pike before the mistake was discovered, but
it was promptly rectified before it had gone four miles out of the way,
and then joined the army, and got to the front perhaps as quickly as it
could have done by the Franklin pike, as it marched across the country
by a free and practicable road. It could not have reached Franklin,
any circumstances, in time to place a bridge for the crossing of the
when the infantry reached that point. It was always supposed, too, that
every officer of high rank, who fought in the battle of Nashville, knew
that until Duck River was crossed, the enemy could be pursued with any
prospect of success, only by the main road. Harpeth River, Rutherford
and Duck River, were all then rendered impassable by high water, in
of the thaw, the day before the battle, and heavy rains during the
All bridges over those streams, for twenty or thirty miles on either
of the main road, had been destroyed. All practicable roads north of
River, emerged from the main road, and consequently troops following
would have been soon separated from the main column, and placed beyond
supporting distance. The report of General Thomas explains the
in laying a pontoon bridge across Rutherford Creek, and accounts for
delay at that stream, and also at Duck River. After Duck River was
at Columbia, the Waynesboro' and Lawrenceburg roads might have been
by a part of the force, which in all probability could not have reached
thereby the flank of the enemy in time to have inflicted any serious
because Hood had by that time placed his main column south of Richland
Creek, and within a day's march of the point on the Tennessee River,
Page 453 - THE NASHVILLE CAMPAIGN
pontoon bridges had been in position for several weeks. The above sufficiently accounts for the statement in the Tribune article, that a corps frequently did not march more than its length in three days.
The infantry corps were at all events on the main road, - where they could have been made available in case there was any necessity for using them, while the Fourth corps closely following up the cavalry, enabled General Wilson to do exactly what "One who fought at Nashville" says might have been done if the infantry had been marched along the main road with three days' rations in haversacks.
Wilson's cavalry was constantly harassing the enemy's flanks, whenever the condition of the roads and streams would admit of his doing so; and it was this vigorous conduct of the cavalry which caused the enemy to retreat with such haste, as to get beyond the reach of the main column before all the infantry could cross Duck River.
The writer virtually admits that General Schofield believed there was no further necessity for pursuit after the enemy had crossed Richland Creek at Pulaski, as he says on the 26th of December he wrote to General Grant that Hood's army was then used up, that there was no further need of his troops in Tennessee, and asked to be ordered to the Army of the Potomac.
Here there is a little discrepancy between the Tribune article and the actual facts. The writer says after the escape of Hood, General Thomas published an order placing the troops in winter quarters, and commenced planning a campaign for the next spring and summer against Corinth, etc. By reference to General Thomas' report, it will be seen that the order was issued on the 30th of December. Schofield says on the 26th. Perhaps General Schofield was not aware of the reasons for this objectionable order.
The report of General Sherman to the Committee on the Conduct of
the War will explain it, as it will there be seen that General Thomas
expected to take care of
Page 454 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
Tennessee, until Sherman reached the sea and gave further instructions. (Smith's corps was to go to Eastport, Miss.; Wood's corps to Huntsville and Athens; Schofield's corps to Dalton; Wilson's cavalry between Huntsville and Eastport, along the Tennessee River).
If, when General Thomas was sent back to Nashville, his army had been sent with him, or the Fourteenth and Fourth corps, there would have been no cause for the present newspaper contest about the battle of Nashville. There is ample proof already published that Thomas had at his command when Hood commenced his movement against Sherman's communication, only a small division of troops stationed along the two lines of communication between Nashville and Chattanooga to protect them against small raiding parties. When he reported the situation to General Sherman, and applied for reenforcements to meet the advance of Hood, the Fourth corps and dismounted cavalry were first sent, and General Thomas was informed that he would get reenforcements by several new regiments then on their way to join Sherman's army. Afterwards Thomas was informed that A. J. Smith's command would be ordered to join him from Missouri.
Thomas then urged that additional reenforcements should be sent him, as most of the convalescent troops at Chattanooga belonged to different corps and different armies, and could not be relied upon from want of effective organization to more than defend that place. Schofield was then ordered to report to Thomas.
With the exception of the Fourth and Twenty-third corps,
Hatch's and Capron's brigades of cavalry, all the troops sent by
had to be equipped for field service, including transportation. To
to the equipping of this force, as well as to be able to correspond
General Sherman, Thomas was compelled to remain in Nashville, whilst he
placed Schofield in immediate charge of the troops engaged in watching
the movement of Hood,
Page 455 - HIS LAST WRITTEN WORDS
and retarding his advance on Nashville. This necessity existing until the army fell back to Nashville, gave Schofield the opportunity to fight the battle of Franklin. This was a very brilliant battle, most disastrous to the enemy, and as the writer in the Tribune says, no doubt contributed materially to the crowning success at Nashville"
Colonel Kellogg has added: "A few blurred and disconnected lines
as the angel of death hovered near him, and then General Thomas fell to
the floor of his office unconscious."
GENERAL THOMAS discerned all that is pure, noble and spiritual in human life. Few men have had as lofty ideals of public and private conduct, and seldom have men approximated more nearly to subjective standards, or conformed in outward life more fully to convictions of duty.
One of his most prominent characteristics was his breadth of sympathy with all the rightful interests of men. His country, its integrity and destiny, commanded extreme devotion. At the beginning of the war, against his family with all its wealth of affection, his State with her traditions of leadership and power, his section with time-honored institutions and chivalrous sentiment, and against a degree of personal sympathy, he was victorious in the struggle between sentiment and duty, and gave himself to his country in the great civil war, with the most unselfish and most ardent patriotism.
The interests of his country and his countrymen of all classes, not
only in war but in peace, held no second place in his heart. His
was as broad and strong as his patriotism. He gave money freely to the
poor, but he gave what was far better, the strongest sympathy to men of
this class, and to the wronged and suffering of every class. He loved
and would often turn aside from congenial friends to call forth the
of the youngest child, or the fresh thoughts of a boy or girl. His
attentions caused the young to love him. An hour with him has given to
many persons now in adult life, impressions at once cheering and
and multitudes of obscure men recall his attention and kindness with
Page 457 - THE PURITY OF HIS LIFE
He was in accord with all efforts for the intellectual and moral improvement of his race. He once said: "The best memorials for those considered great, were institutions which would prove a blessing to men." Having rank and social position himself, he was comparatively indifferent to these distinctions in others, and always estimated men by their revealed characters, and not by meretricious surroundings. And yet he was as far removed from the plane of the demagogue as man can be. He was chaste in life and conversation. Immorality of every type was revolting to him, and vice was odious. His taste was elevated, as shown in the appointments of his home, and his choice of books and friends. His culture was broad and refined, the result of the constant study of the natural sciences, the science of government and war, literature, history and religious truth. He was always profoundly interested in the important problems of statesmanship, but he despised the low methods frequently adopted by political parties. He was originally a Whig in political faith, but in deference to army traditions and personal taste, he was never a partisan. After the war he entertained radical views of reconstruction, and was consequently in sympathy with the higher aims and wiser measures of the Republican party.
He was positive in his opinions but free from intolerance. To him
and revenge were equally abhorrent, right and mercy equally attractive.
When the war was over he was ready to restore friendly relations with
who were willing to resume allegiance to the Government they had fought
to destroy, but he kept aloof from all Southerners who persisted in
reconstruction. No patriot was more eager to supplement his service in
the war, with efforts to restore the country to peace and unity, and
paramount object was the burden of all his later public utterances.
Page 458 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS.
He was as modest as a strong man conscious of his strength could be.
He was not in the least degree ostentatious, and always avoided
and other proposed demonstrations in his honor. But he was not wanting
in self-respect, and did not underrate his own services, never,
boasting of his achievements, never making pretentious claims, and
being unduly sensitive in the default of expected recognition. He was
only, when threatened with humiliation, and never so in a way to injure
others. He was too modest and too self-respectful to ask for promotion,
and never permitted others to request advancement for him, and while he
never desired a position legitimately held by another general, and
not have enjoyed one which he had not earned, he was susceptible of
wound when his just claims were ignored. But although exceedingly
he bore with calmness the most palpable injustice to himself, in the
of commissions and commands by the National authorities. He was too
and too patriotic to persist, during the war, in demanding a command to
which he was entitled, but when the war was over, he was too strong to
be resisted when he did assert his claims. He seldom spoke of this
but he felt it so keenly that it doubtless shortened his life. His
that promotion came too late to be appreciated, manifested the depth of
his wound. He believed that he earned at Chickamauga the commission
was given after Nashville, but in the interim he moved in the path of
so grandly and uncomplainingly, that it was supposed that he was
to such rewards, and was afraid of supreme command. His sublime
however, under forgetfulness of his services and misapprehension of his
motives must not be alleged as evidence of timidity or weakness. That
moved on unfalteringly in the path of patriotic service, without
his feelings to warp his official conduct, when he was overslaughed and
denied well-earned promotion, was due alone to his loyalty to duty, an
element of character
Page 459 - HIS FAITH AND LIFE CONSISTENT
pre-eminent in the cluster of remarkable traits, which made him truly great. His ambition was naturally as strong as is common to great soldiers and generals, but it was placed under just restraint by a firm, pure character, an overmastering sense of duty and an unprecedented generosity.
He was as careful of the reputation of others as he was sensitive with regard to his own. If he executed the orders of a superior in rank, he mentioned the fact in his official report. If a subordinate was successful, he gave him credit either for efficient obedience to orders, or for valuable service without orders. Those who served under him, felt assured that their reputation was safe in his hands. And the charge has never been made that he claimed for himself what rightfully belonged to others, whether superiors or subordinates. This uniform course was in happy contrast with the selfish appropriation of glory frequently made by commanding generals.
He was a firm believer in the Christian religion, and especially in the last few years of his life, felt the obligation and the paramount importance of conformity to its precepts, and a public profession of his faith, near the close of his life, was only prevented by the annoyances which had crowded upon him just before the time appointed for this step. He would have united as a communicant with the Protestant Episcopal Church at Louisville, Kentucky, in 1869, had he not deemed himself then unable to perform so solemn a duty with profound calmness and freedom from worldly care. But his religious feelings and his faith found expression through his declarations and well regulated life.
He once said, that he did not see how any one could be an infidel,
then discoursed at length upon some of the more profound and mysterious
doctrines of Christianity. And, in integrity of character, in purity of
life, in extreme regard for the right and true, in the performance of
as demanded by affection, friendship and citizenship, in benevolence
charity, in justice and generosity to
Page 460 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
known enemies, and in firmness of faith, he exemplified in his daily life the teachings of the divine founder of Christianity. His chief fault was violence of temper, but the recurrence of outbursts of passion only after long intervals, proved that he overcame a strong natural tendency in maintaining habitual self control.
But however excellent his personal character, it will be as a soldier and a general that he will be chiefly known in history, and this volume has failed in its purpose, if its analysis of his campaigns and battles has not shown that he possessed all the qualities of a great commander. He was endowed with the necessary natural faculties and qualities, and was besides a master of the science and art of war. Few generals have been as thoroughly conversant with all the details of the organization, equipment, training, movement, and effective handling of armies in offense and defense; few generals have had as perfect knowledge of every element of military administration in peace and war.
He knew well the limitations of martial laws, and the province and usages of martial courts and the necessary subordination of military power in a free government. Before the war he had had only a limited experience in military administration, and yet his breadth of knowledge was unusually extensive. He was equally well acquainted with the relations of civil and martial laws, and the international precedents for military administration, in the absence, or only partial supremacy, of civil courts in an enemy's country, when belligerent rights had been recognized. His decisions and orders during the period of reconstruction evinced wisdom, justice and legal exactness.
But in his sphere as a general in command of large forces in
campaigns and battles, he stands forth in greatest prominence and
He was a strategist, and yet he had fewer opportunities for grand
than any other general who commanded as large an army in several hard
battles. Having come to the command of an army
Page 461 - HIS GENERALSHIP
late in the war, he had no opportunity to plan an offensive campaign, and as an independent commander, he conducted only one defensive campaign, with an aggressive battle for its conclusion. But his plan as suggested to General Scott in the summer of 1861, and the plans proposed subsequently to Generals Buell, Rosecrans, Sherman and Grant, prove that Thomas was master of strategy.
His projected East Tennessee campaign; his plan of meeting Bragg, as he emerged from the Sequatchie Valley; his advice to Buell immediately after the battle of Perryville to move his army quickly to Danville on Bragg's line of retreat; his objections to the pursuit of that general's army in September, 1863, after he had withdrawn it from Chattanooga; his proposition to place the right and right centre of our army in a strong defensive position for the second day of the battle of Chickamauga; his insistence on hastening the opening of the battle at Chattanooga; his movement of Hooker against Bragg's left flank on Lockout Mountain; his suggestion to turn the enemy's left flank on Missionary Ridge on the last day of that battle; his offer to Grant and Sherman to turn Dalton by the movement of his army through Snake Creek Gap; his proposition, when McPherson's effort had failed, to give the Twentieth corps to that general; and his recommendation that Johnston should be dislodged from his mountain fortress by the advance of the Army of the Tennessee upon Marietta from the northeast; prove that he was master of strategy, grand and minor.
An accurate, exhaustive analysis of his suggested and actual
reveals an unerring forethought - an organization of victory by the
discernment of possibilities and a skillful use of resources. Napoleon
defined the science of war, as a "calculation of chances." To make this
definition wholly, or in great part, true, a very wide signification
be given to the word chance, since it is possible for a great general,
in most cases, to either anticipate the action of the enemy, or to
him choice by the manner of attack.
Page 462 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
The common misfortune of generals is to form plans in the execution of which the enemy refuses to perform his prescribed part. Thomas, however, was never disappointed in the action of his foe; he commanded his own army and the one opposed to it, at the same time. As a tactician he was unsurpassed. No general ever disposed troops for battle, or moved them during the progress or emergencies of an action, with greater skill, or more safety to his men. Never by his fault did an enemy strike an exposed flank, and never did he fail to give his troops every possible advantage.
At Mill Springs, by skillful handling, he made veterans of soldiers in their first battle; at Stone River, he threw isolated divisions upon a stable line, under the onset of a triumphant enemy, without more loss of life than often occurs in connected lines; at Chickamauga, he evoked order on the first day from the confusion incident to the meeting of two large armies, with unformed lines; on the second day he first shattered Bragg's right wing, and then with a slender line repulsed all the attacks of his left wing; and in this battle, during two days of severest conflict, the troops under his command suffered less loss than some of those who fought for a few hours on other parts of the field; at Peach Tree Creek, he repulsed Hood's forces with a line of four divisions and one brigade, giving them connection under a fierce attack of two corps fighting to initiate the overthrow of Sherman's combined armies; and at Nashville he was supreme in tactical combinations, revealing the art of "being the stronger" at the predetermined points of attack, and displaying minor strategy, or the "strategy of tactics," in perfection.
He was denied, by his long subordination, the opportunities for
strategy, which often came to other generals, but his subjection to the
orders of superiors in rank did not prevent an extraordinary exhibition
of well-ordered and effective tactics in the execution of plans which
Page 463 - THE FAITH OF HIS TROOPS
approve. And the supremacy of a generous self-negation was constantly shown, in his career by his loyalty to those officially over him, under this crucial test.
In his campaigns and battles, whether as chief or subordinate, he manifested unmeasured reserve power. He was master of every situation within the range of his command. No disaster or emergency, entailed by the blunders of others, ever obscured his mental vision, or impaired his judgment. In plainly developed circumstances of most portentous import he never was dismayed, and never failed to magnify his resources by their skillful use. And when situations were undeveloped and emergencies undefined, and when the information of the enemy's strength and purposes was conflicting, he determined his action as judiciously as when he had the guidance of positive facts. Even his more tentative movements generally developed into pivotal operations directed against key-points in the enemy's line. When others were confused and agitated, he was clear, unimpassioned and immovable, none knowing his plans until they were formally made known by himself, or revealed by results. His quick response to all drafts upon his strength is suggestive of a reserve of power whose limits can only be conjectured.
His self-reliance was evinced by his faith in his own plans, and the
faith of his troops in their commander was a great factor of his
success. His order or expressed opinion removed all doubt, and every
and every soldier of the army expected success in the face of seeming
In the darkest moments of the battle of Chickamauga, when reports of
came thick and fast, his only answer was, "This position must be held."
The longer men served under him, the stronger was their confidence in
generalship, and the greater their love for his person and character.
trust in his generalship, which without pretense, or ostentation, he
in every soldier of his army, was perhaps the most potent of all the
Page 464 - LIFE OF GENERAL GEORGE H. THOMAS
merits of his success in battle. No troops ever gave up a position to the enemy when fighting in his presence, and no movement in campaign or battle, ordered by himself upon his own judgment, resulted in failure.
It is probable that in the history of war, no army ever surpassed the Army of the Cumberland, in giving confidence and love to its commander, and the sentiment and morale of that army, coupled with the guidance of his transcendent generalship, made it the most successful in the war of the rebellion.
General Thomas was not slow as a general, and yet it has been alleged by partisan historians that he was sluggish. If to be dignified and manifestly deliberate in personal movements and speech; if to ride slowly on a horse which reflected in his paces, his rider's freedom from ostentation and from the affectations of dash and spirit which some commanders exalt to the plane of generalship; if to withhold a battle in waiting for adequate preparations against public clamor and official impatience; if to resist precipitate operations when haste was not an element of success; if one or all of these facts are proofs of sluggishness, then was Thomas slow indeed. It would have been unseemly for a man of such proportions and marked expression of self-poise and power, to be given to the quick bodily motions and mental agitation, which flow from a mercurial temperament and an ostentatious spirit. And swiftness as a general is not inconsistent with a thorough exhaustive preparation, or with an unwillingness to strike a blow when by waiting it could be made more forcible.
He was not slow in gathering his resources, forming his plans, and
his forces, when he thought the time for action had come. He was
and methodical when time and circumstances permitted, but when adequate
preparations had been made, or when emergencies called for quick
Napoleon himself did not more fully display the flashes of genius than
did Thomas. In
Page 465 - HIS CHARACTER AND HIS CAREER
cooperative movements he was always on time; in adherence to the details of a premeditated plan, he was both strict and prompt, and in the fluctuations and crises of battle he was never out of harmony with the general operations. Even when deliberate he avoided the error of over-cautious generals, in waiting for every element of their problem, and yet in his discernment of essential preparations, he was so unerring that he was always successful, when he did move against the enemy. His delays never gave an advantage to his foe, and never deprived himself of one.
The career of Thomas was strictly the sequence of his character. A career seemingly grand may result from circumstances rather than from character, but there is then no evidence of real greatness. But where the character of a man, with opportunity, plainly creates his career, the harmony of history has full realization.
General Thomas passed through every grade in the Regular Army to major-general, commanding successfully every unit of an army. His fame was largely attained in his subordination to immediate superiors in rank, but its crowning fullness came with his command of a large army in the conduct of a great campaign and battle. If resources and losses are put in the balance against achievements, he had no peer in the war of the Rebellion.
Such was his career. But if his character in its symmetry and strength is measured, his career, is lacking in breadth and completeness. His manifest capabilities demanded grander opportunities. But within the limits of possible agreement more complete consonance of character and career has never been revealed in history. And in both, George H. Thomas was second to none in representing all that is best and noblest in the life of the freest and greatest Nation on the globe.
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