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General George H. Thomas - George Thomas - The Participants of the War - Mikitary & Civilian - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Thu Mar 8th, 2007 10:48 pm
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Regina
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Just read an article in Smithsonian magazine's March 2007 issue called "Catching Up With 'Old Slow Trot" by Ernest B. Furgurson.  He writes convincingly about General George Henry Thomas being "cheated by history"--that he was one of the Union's most brilliant strategists--even comparing him to George Washington.  I hadn't read anything about him before, but I had stayed in a hotel in Washington DC on Thomas Circle where his statue-on-horseback stands and had wondered who he was.  Now I know, and I'm really glad to have read something about him--it's a great story.



 Posted: Fri Mar 9th, 2007 01:29 am
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ole
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Thomas gets short shrift in popular history. We get spoon fed Grant, Lee, Sherman, Jackson et alii. We are regaled with the exploits of the stars. Thomas was just this side of stardom. A solid general with nothing to say for himself but the near-total destruction of John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee at Nashville. There is more we've forgotten about Thomas -- how he got the name "Rock of Chickamauga." A highly forgettable nonentity, Thomas carved a greater legacy than popular history gives him. Shame on us.

Ole

 

 



 Posted: Fri Mar 9th, 2007 05:57 am
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susansweet
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Ole I agree Thomas has gotten a raw deal .  He is THE ROCK !!!   He needs a cheer leading squard to spread he word.  Good solid general.  One of the Norhern Generals I admire . 

Susan



 Posted: Fri Mar 9th, 2007 02:21 pm
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HankC
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'most brilliant strategists' is a bit of a stretch...

He is credited as an above-average defensive tactitician; based solely on a single afternoon at Chickamauga on September 20. 1863.

His major offensive forays were accomplished almost in spite of his intentions: Chattanooga where the soldoers took over and Nashville where McArthur recognized the cirumstances on the ground and took initiative. In both cases, Thomas was far to the rear and not in control of events.

I'm not aware of any major contributions to US strategy.

Cheers,

HankC



 Posted: Fri Mar 9th, 2007 07:47 pm
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Texas Defender
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  "History will do me justice." - George Henry Thomas

   Well, perhaps not yet. Many people believe that Thomas was under-rated as a general. (I am one who does.). I don't often agree with the judgment of General Hooker, but in this case I concur with his evaluation of General Thomas.

   Here are a couple of articles relating to the subject.

 

General Thomas and the Judgement of History

 

The Forgotten General

 

   The second article says that one reason that the :"less than exciting" general might not have gotten his due is that no stellar biography of him has appeared.

   Because he was not the: "Life of the party," he has not been properly memorialized in biographies. So- those of you who wish to see this injustice rectified- perhaps you can effect this historical oversight by writing that outstanding biography of this worthy individual.

   Faced with the same choice as General Lee about his loyalty, General Thomas made the opposite choice. Like Lee, he paid a price for it. In this case, he was disowned by his close family members.

   Though they made opposite decisions, I respect both General Lee and General Thomas equally. I am grateful that I have lived a long time and never had to make such a decision in life.



 Posted: Sat Mar 10th, 2007 04:31 pm
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ole
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George Henry was not a spectactular general, but he was solid and far more capable than a good many others.  We would know a lot more about him if he had not turned down the "replace Buell" before Perryville. It is quite enough for me to know that both Sherman and Grant figured he was well up to kicking some serious Hood butt. Don't worry about it, George can handle it.

Lest y'all think I'm unaware of Grant's impatience with Thomas at Nashville -- he wasn't there. Putting myself in Grant's shoes at that time, I'd be climbing the walls. The pressure on Grant must have been enormous and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But George did what George always did -- when it was time, he pulled it off. To my knowledge, Grant never said another word about it.

Ole



 Posted: Sat Mar 10th, 2007 05:20 pm
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Texas Defender
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  Grant was indeed strongly pressuring Thomas to take the initiative at Nashville. Thomas refused to proceed for a number of reasons, not the least being very bad weather. So ,Grant sent General Logan , giving him the authority to relieve Thomas if he thought it was necessary. However, Thomas started his offensive on December 15, 1864, and Logan saw no reason to intervene.

  Then, as now, the higher the office of the military officer, the more interference from politicians he must endure. It is our system, and the Republic has survived for well over two centuries.

 

Battle of Nashville - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



You have chosen to ignore JDC Duncan. click Here to view this post


 Posted: Sun Mar 11th, 2007 04:45 am
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ole
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An interesting question, JDC. One Virginian opts for his state. Another opts for his nation. One is a national idol; one is barely known outside of circles like this one. Both cast their lot with what they thought was right. One lost and has statues a momunents; the other won momentus victories and earns a footnote. Go figure.

Ole



 Posted: Mon Mar 12th, 2007 11:45 pm
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CleburneFan
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 One additional factor  may have mitigated against Thomas's ever reaching the star status of Lee and Jackson, Grant, and Sherman. It might be that so much of what Thomas did was in the Western theater of operations. For wrong or right, it just seems as if the Eastern theater was the more prestigious place to be. The generals there had more publicity, better press---to put it in modern terms while those in the Western theater labored in relative obscurity compared to their brothers back East.

Both capitals  were in the East; both commanders-in-chief.  Protecting the capitals took priority. The "stars" fought in that arena. Even no less a star than Albert Sydney Johnston who should have had a chance to do remarkable things in the Western theater was hampered by Davis's preoccupation with the East and Virginia together with his reluctance to send ASJ reinforcements from the East and badly needed armaments. That he achieved as much as he did under the circumstances before his untimely death is a tribute to his abilities.

My comments might just reflect my own personal view that Western operations and the trans-Mississippi too often take a back seat to the more "glamorous" Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac.

 



 Posted: Tue Mar 13th, 2007 01:07 am
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ole
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There's a lot in what you say, Fan. But the eastern press was pretty doggone excited when Donelson was taken, when Shiloh was saved, when Vicksburg fell, and when Sherman set out for the sea.

Ole



 Posted: Tue Mar 13th, 2007 02:46 pm
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At the risk of great embarassment to myself I have to confess that before I took an obsessive interest in the Civil War beyond Gettysburg, Antietam and Atlanta, I had never even heard of Fort Donelson and Fort Henry. I vaguely knew of the Battle of Shiloh, but couldn't tell you what state it was in. I knew there was a seige at Vicksburg, but again that as about it.

Furthermore I lived in Nashville five years, but didn't know if the Battle of Franklin was a Civil War or Revolutionary War battle. I'd even ask locals and THEY didn't know...at least those I casually asked.  I didn't even know there was a crucial battle at Fort Donelson in spite of the close proximity to Nashville.  In five years I never heard anybody mention it. I never heard of Fort Henry the whole time I lived in Nashville.

So my point is, for the average Joe and Jennie (in my case), living their daily lives in the 2000s who are not actively interested in Civil War history beyond a quick visit to a battlefield with the kids or a quick reading of a Jakes novel, how much do they really know of Western theater operations even to the extent of living near major battle scenes?  I lived only twenty minutes drive from the Battle of Franklin.

I do absolutely agree with you that during the Civil War the battles you mention did get major notice in the Eastern press at that time.  But do today's fifth grade history textbooks, to cite a new hit TV program, devote much mention to the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson? Does General Thomas even get a mention? He deserves far better, by the way.

 



 Posted: Tue Mar 13th, 2007 07:27 pm
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While looking for a book on the subject of today's trivia I found two books on George Thomas.  I don't know if they are any good or not but am interested in reading more abou old slow trot 

Education in Violence   the life of George Thomas and the History of the Army of he Cumberland.  by Francis F. McKinney

 

Rock of Chickamauga: The Life of General George H. Thomas by Freeman Cleaves

 

Anyone know about these books?

Susan

 



 Posted: Tue Mar 13th, 2007 11:23 pm
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Haven't read these books, but by the titles, I'd guess one is favorable and one is less favorable in its orientation...the second being the more favorable. That may be grossly unfair, however.



 Posted: Sun Apr 1st, 2007 10:59 am
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Kent Nielsen
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 Hi, Actually I have both books and both speak well of General Thomas as a general. The Education in Violence title is a reflection of the idea that Thomas received such an education in his miliatery career and what he did with that knowledge on the battlefield. He has actually had a number of books written about him since his death in 1870, although nothing recent,  not since about 1968. One of the problems with getting a handle on him is that he is put against the Grant/Sherman/Sheridan trio, and at least two of them (Grant and Sherman) conntributed to the "Slow but reliable'' repuation he has. Another is as I understand it, due to General Thomas himself. He had instructed that his personal papers be destroyed after his death, an iunstruction that was unfortunately carried out al to well. So what is known about him is primarily through his official papers and the memories of others.



 Posted: Thu Nov 1st, 2007 05:00 pm
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slowtrot
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ole wrote: An interesting question, JDC. One Virginian opts for his state. Another opts for his nation. One is a national idol; one is barely known outside of circles like this one. Both cast their lot with what they thought was right. One lost and has statues a momunents; the other won momentus victories and earns a footnote. Go figure.

Ole


The oath all U. S. Officers take at their commissioning is:

"I (insert name), having been appointed a (insert rank) in the U.S. Army under the conditions indicated in this document, do accept such appointment and do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God."

I see nothing there about any state loyalty. Thomas apparently took the oath more seriously than Lee.

However, there are two caveats.



1.  Thomas married a northern girl who claimed the decision to stay with the Union was his.

Some of Thomas’ friends (Maury) thought differently



2.  Lee’s ancestral home was Arlington in Va. All his relatives were in Va. His wife was a Custis (Martha Custis married G. Washington who also lived in Va.). Hard to turn your back on that sort of heritage.

However, an oath is an oath.

 

Don



 Posted: Thu Nov 1st, 2007 05:10 pm
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slowtrot
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susansweet wrote: Ole I agree Thomas has gotten a raw deal .  He is THE ROCK !!!   He needs a cheer leading squard to spread he word.  Good solid general.  One of the Norhern Generals I admire . 

Susan


Hi Susan!

You gotta get around to some of the other boards, particularly the Yahoo CW groups. There was a lively discussion going on there about two or three years ago.

The cheerleaders at that time were Joe Rose, Bob Taubman and myself. Prior to that Bob Redman was highly involved until he got a little to rambunctious. Now, the efforts have slowed a bit. However, I think we raised an awareness that didn’t exist before. But, since this is a relatively new board or at least one that I haven’t been active in maybe we can get some good discussions going. I notice ole’s here. If I remember he participated also.

 

Don



 Posted: Thu Nov 1st, 2007 05:46 pm
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ole
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However, an oath is an oath.

Is an oath still binding after one has resigned from the organization or organizations to which the oath was pledged?

I know you know, slowtrot, but for those who don't, "slowtrot" does not refer to the Sherman's or Grant's comments. It was a nickname he earned from cadets at the USMA when he was an instructor. As might be expected, the horses provided to cadets in peacetime were not of the finest variety. He clamped down on excitable cadets by commanding, "slow trot; slow trot!" to reduce the wear and tear on already worn and torn mounts.

ole



 Posted: Thu Nov 1st, 2007 05:47 pm
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    When an person takes an oath to become an officer (military or civilian), he pledges to defend the Constitution of the United States. As long as he occupies that position, he is bound to honor his commitment.

   However, the officer has the option to resign his office. If the office is vacated, that person cannot be legally or morally bound to that oath. The oath is for the period of time that the person is a federal officer. It is NOT some kind of lifetime commitment.

  When I chose to become a military officer, I pledged to protect the Constitution, and to obey the orders of those military officers appointed to higher office. If I had resigned my commission, I would no longer have had to obey the orders of military officers. Nor would soldiers have been bound to obey orders from me.

  The idea that officers who resigned their commissions, whether to join the Confederate service or not, somehow violated their oaths of office is fallacious. The idea that because General Thomas chose to remain in the federal service and Robert E. Lee did not does not mean that Lee did not take his oath of office as a federal officer as seriously as George Thomas did his.

   If the officer performed his duties faithfully and well while in the federal service, he fulfilled his obligations under the oath of office that he took. When he resigned that office, his obligations ended.



 Posted: Thu Nov 1st, 2007 08:03 pm
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slowtrot
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ole wrote: However, an oath is an oath.

Is an oath still binding after one has resigned from the organization or organizations to which the oath was pledged?

I know you know, slowtrot, but for those who don't, "slowtrot" does not refer to the Sherman's or Grant's comments. It was a nickname he earned from cadets at the USMA when he was an instructor. As might be expected, the horses provided to cadets in peacetime were not of the finest variety. He clamped down on excitable cadets by commanding, "slow trot; slow trot!" to reduce the wear and tear on already worn and torn mounts.

ole

 

Entirely correct ole.  However, the term 'slow'  and it's deriatives were appellations used by both Sherman and Grant to deprecate Thomas' achievements.  Both stuck with their story even after Thomas died.

 

Don



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