George H. Thomas Is Born

On July 31, 1816, George H. Thomas was born in Southampton County, Virginia.

An 1840 graduate of West Point, Thomas served in the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and returned to teach at West Point in 1851. When the Civil War began, he remained loyal to the Union, causing his family in Virginia to sever their ties with him.

Thomas became known as the "Rock of Chickamauga" for his 1863 defense of that creek in northwestern Georgia. He also played a key role in Union General William T. Sherman's siege of Atlanta the following year.

In late 1864, Thomas clashed twice with Confederate General John B. Hood in Tennessee—in November at Spring Hill and Franklin, and in December at Nashville. Thomas' rout of Hood at Nashville, the most decisive victory of the war, earned him another nickname—the "Sledge of Nashville."

George Henry Thomas (July 31, 1816 – March 28, 1870) was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War, one of the principal commanders in the Western Theater.

Thomas served in the Mexican-American War and later chose to remain with the United States Army for the Civil War, despite his heritage as a Virginian. He won one of the first Union victories in the war, at Mill Springs in Kentucky, and served in important subordinate commands at Perryville and Stones River. His stout defense at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863 saved the Union Army from being completely routed, earning him his most famous nickname, the "Rock of Chickamauga." He followed soon after with a dramatic breakthrough on Missionary Ridge in the Battle of Chattanooga. In the Franklin-Nashville Campaign of 1864, he achieved one of the most decisive victories of the war, destroying the army of Confederate General John Bell Hood, at the Battle of Nashville.

Thomas had a successful record in the Civil War, but he failed to achieve the historical acclaim of some of his contemporaries, such as Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. He developed a reputation as a slow, deliberate general who shunned self-promotion and who turned down advancements in position when he did not think they were justified. After the war, he did not write memoirs to advance his legacy. He also had an uncomfortable personal relationship with Grant, which served him poorly as Grant advanced in rank and eventually to the presidency.