Author: Christopher J. Einolf

an assistant professor at the School of Public Service at DePaul University. He is the author of George Thomas: Virginian for the Union (2007)

George H. Thomas (1816–1870)

George H. Thomas was a Virginia native, a veteran of the Mexican War (1846–1848), and a Union general during the American Civil War (1861–1865) who earned the nickname “the Rock of Chickamauga” after his defensive stand at the Georgia battle in 1863. He won an early Union victory at the Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky (1862), and decisively defeated the Confederate Army of Tennessee during the Battle of Nashville (1864). He also served as a subordinate at the Battle of Stone’s River (1862–1863) and the Chattanooga Campaign (1863) in Tennessee and, under his West Point roommate William T. Sherman, the 1864 Atlanta Campaign. Thomas was a slave owner before the war, but his experience commanding African American soldiers led him to change his views, and he became a staunch defender of civil rights during Reconstruction (1865–1876). As senior military commander in Kentucky and Tennessee from 1865 until 1869, he fought to protect African Americans from the Ku Klux Klan and other white-supremacist groups. He died of a stroke in 1870.