Happy Birthday Rock

George H. Thomas


No, not Rock Hudson or wrestler turned actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. No, this Rock is "The Rock of Chickamauga," Union Major General George H. Thomas, who was born on July 31, 1816. Thomas not only had Kentucky connections during the Civil War but before and after it. In the Mexican War he served under Zachary Taylor, fighting at Buena Vista and other battles. When native Kentuckian Col. Albert Sidney Johnston resigned from the Second Cavalry to join the Confederate Army, Thomas took his place. Early in the war Thomas's commanding officer was Louisville native Robert Anderson in the Department of Kentucky. Thomas provided the Union with its first major victory in the war, when he defeated Confederate forces at Mill Springs, Ky., on January 18, 1862. He was second-in-command to Don Carlos Buell at Perryville in October of that same year. Important contributions to Union efforts at Stones River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Franklin, and Nashville followed. These latter three as commander of the Army of the Cumberland. It was at Chickamauga (September 19, 1863) that Thomas earned the sobriquet of "The Rock of Chickamauga" for his heroic rallying of Union soldiers to prevent a defeat from becoming a route. In victories at Franklin (November 30, 1864) and Nashville (December 15, 1864) his army essentially destroyed Confederate General John Bell Hood's army. After the war Thomas commanded the Department of the Cumberland, with his headquarters in Louisville. Thomas died in San Francisco, not long after taking up his duties as commander of the Division of the Pacific. Civil War historians consider Thomas one of the best generals - North or South - of the Civil War. Happy 196th Birthay, Rock!


February 17, 1868, letter from Thomas to his former aide Col. Robert Ramsey discussing personal and GAR news

James J. Holmberg

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