General George Henry Thomas
George Henry Thomas, born in 1816 in Virginia close to the North Carolina Border, was a southern-born career military man who served with the Union Army during the Civil War. Thomas first made a name for himself at the Battle of Chickamauga by rallying together scattered Union troops on Horseshoe Ridge, and preventing a hard Union defeat from becoming a hopeless rout. For this act he earned the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga."
Thomas is considered among the most accomplished generals in the Union, who earned his stellar record primarily in the Western theater of the Civil War. Among Thomas' most notable achievements include the Battle of Nashville, where he earned the nickname "The Sledge of Nashville" for his crushing victory over General Hood; as well as thorough victories in Atlanta, Perryville, and Chattanooga. Despite his long list of successes, however, Thomas was a humble man who shunned self-promotion and refused military promotions that he deemed "unearned." As a result, he failed to achieve the historical acclaim of his fellow contemporary generals such as Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.
Thomas, born a southerner, also owns the distinction of being a pre-War friend or teacher to several high-profile Confederate generals, including Robert E. Lee, Braxton Bragg, J.E.B. Stuart and Fitzhugh Lee. Upon announcing his loyalty to the Union, Thomas was shunned by his family. He never spoke with them again.
Thomas died in San Francisco in 1869. In addition to several memorials across the state of Kentucky, General Thomas can still be seen in our nation's capital, where his statue graces the eponymous Thomas Circle in downtown Washington, D.C.
The Battle of Chickamauga
The Battle of Chickamauga was fought on September 19th to September 20th, 1863 in Catoosa County and Walker County, Georgia. This battle was the last of the Chickamauga Campaign, which was Union Major General William Rosecrans' attempt to force General Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of Tennessee from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Rosencrans and the Union Army of the Cumberland had originally forced Bragg's army to retreat to Chattanooga during the successful Tullahoma Campaign a few months prior, but then began the campaign to claim Chattanooga and forced the Confederates further south in early September.
On September 17th, Bragg led his army back northward to fight the Union and reclaim Chattanoga. When the battle began on the morning of September 19th, the Confederate army was unable to get past the line of Union troops surrounding the battlefield. The battle continued on the next day with Bragg and his men fighting the troops on the left. Rosencrans was soon informed that the Confederates had penetrated the line. By sending troops to fill in the gap, he created one and the Confederate troops were able to take advantage of it to advance onto the field. The Confederates forced a third of the Union soldiers and Rosencrans himself to retreat from the field. Major General George H. Thomas assumed command and led the remaining Union army against the Confederates for the rest of that day, but eventually they had to retreat to Chattanoga and the Confederate army surrounded the city.
The confederacy won the battle at the cost of 18, 454 casualties. There were a total of 34, 624 casualties on both sides, causing the Battle of Chickamauga to have the second highest number of casualties in the Civil War.
The Battle of Sharpsburg
The Battle of Sharpsburg, also commonly known as the Battle of Antietem in the North, took place on September 17, 1862 near Sharpsburg, Mayland and Antietem Creek. It is widely recognized as the single bloodiest day in America's history, with over 23,000 casualties. Notably, as part of the Maryland campaign, it was also the first Civil War confrontation to take place on Northern territory. Union General George McClellan pursued Confederate General Robert E. Lee into Maryland, and launched an attack in defensive positions behind Antietem Creek.
Although the battle took place all in one day, it can be better understood as three separate battles, over the course of which the Southern Army was violently depleted. Although McLellan began with significantly more men and a field advantage, he failed to achieve force concentration, allowing Lee to sift forces and move interior lines, posing a great challenge to McLellan. It is commonly thought that McLellan's strategies were ill coordinated and poorly executed, while Lee is regarded as a Confederate hero for his skillful planning and courage. Although the battle came to a draw by evening, Lee left the battlefield first, which allowed for the Union to declare its victory. This victory is responsible for encouraging President Lincoln's Declaration Of Emancipation five days later, which was a great factor in Great Britain's decision not to recognize the Confederate States. Lee was able to withdraw his army back to Virginia without interference, and on later occasions McLellan failed to react defensively when Lee crossed into the Northern border, a source of great criticism in the North.
The First Texas Infantry
The First Texas Infantry is probably the most celebrated infantry brigade in the Confederate army. It was recruited largely from East Texas in 1862, and was the only brigade comprised of twelve companies instead of the standard ten. The regiment was one of the three from Texas to comprise Hood's Texas Brigade commanded by General John Bell Hood. The First Texas Infantry saw extensive combat throughout the Civil War, focusing largely on Georgia, Tennesse, and Virginia, in a total of 32 major battles. Nevertheless, they are often remembered for their great and tragic service in the Battle of Antitem in Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862 when thy had 82% casualties, the largest single battle lost in the entire war. Despite these incredible casualties, the battle remains a great source of pride for the South, giving them the nickname of "The Ragged Old First". Thought by many to have been the best riders and riflemen in the country, so that General Robert E. Lee always placed them first in advance, shock troops in battles, and the rear guard in retreat. In 1862 Private West wrote this in a letter home: "We cannot be whipped, though they may kill us all".
James Ewell Brown, "Jeb" Stuart, is probably the most famous cavalryman in the Civil War. Born in County Virginia in February of 1833, Jeb Stuart first joined the Mountain Rifles Cavalry in 1854, where he was seriously wounded in fights with local Native Americans. Once recovered, in 1859 he accompanied Robert E. Lee and the marines in the capture of John Brown at Harper's Ferry. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, he resigned from the US Army and joined the Confederates. That same year he led a regiment in the Battle of the First Bull Run under Irvin McDowell. After a series of unsuccessful battles, and offensive attack that was part of the Overland Campaign killed Stuart in the 1864 Battle of Yellow Tavern.