By Mark Pearson
Originally Published on November 28th, 2018.
Continuing on up 10th Avenue, the next street is Thomas, as in Major General George Henry Thomas, also called “The Rock of Chickamauga.” George Thomas was born in Southampton, Virginia on July 31, 1816, and graduated West Point in 1836. He taught there in 1854 and many of the cadets that were students went on to be generals in the Confederate army, such as Jeb Stewart and John Bell Hood. Being from Virginia, he and Robert E. Lee were close friends and, as a result, for many years and at many times his loyalty to the union was being questioned by many of his peers. He married a woman from the north and as a result later when he would send money to his sisters, they would refuse to take it because they claimed that they didn’t have a brother. He also fought in the Mexican War, as did many of his contemporary’s, but stayed in the army and was posted in the west.
When the war started, he was posted in the army of Tennessee which later became the army of the Cumberland. The first battle that he was involved in was at a place called Mill Springs, Kentucky. In the later months of 1863, the fighting extended south into Tennessee. Chattanooga was a major road and rail hub which made it valuable to both sides. Part of the area around Chattanooga was along a creek known as Chickamauga, a native named water of blood. At one point in the fighting, it appeared that the southern army under the command of General Thomas’s west point student John Bell Hood was keen on making that a reality. Thomas was commanding the 14th core at the time and was acting as rear guard as the whole Union army was being forced to withdraw from their positions by superior southern forces. Thomas received an order to retreat from General Harker (Another general with a street named after him). He said he couldn’t reply and stayed at his post by the Chickamauga. By doing so, he kept the whole army from being routed and destroyed. His heroic actions on that day are the reason that he got the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
Right after his stand at Chickamauga, units under his command attacked rebel entrenched positions along the top of Missionary Ridge, east of Chattanooga. He took no credit or accolades for this action, but the result was a victory for the north. Later on, he finally faced a whole Confederate army under his old cadet student, John Bell Hood. He still continued on to fight but was criticized by his commanders, including General Grant, for being too slow. He just considered himself careful and methodical but Grant almost had him removed from command of the 14th corps because of his opinion of him assuming that he was too cautious. He wasn’t as flamboyant as Grant or Sherman and even turned down promotions because he didn’t think that they were warranted. He just considered himself methodical. Later on, he proved his mettle by finally facing and defeating a whole Confederate army under his old cadet student, John Bell Hood.
After the war and after President Lincoln was assassinated, President Johnson offered him command of the army after Grant, but he turned it down. He was involved in protecting the freed slaves from roaming bands known as the KKK. He wrote no memoirs highlighting his service like most of his contemporaries did. One thing more is that he was highly trained in all three branches of the army. He was given command of the Department of the Pacific at the Presidio in California for one year where he died of a stroke on March 18, 1870.
He is buried in New York because none of his family or relatives showed up for his funeral. They had disowned him years earlier.
Mark E. Pearson was born and raised in Kansas City, Mo. In 1970 he moved to Michigan where he met and married the girl of his dreams, Mary Lou Davis, together they have two sons. He attended Briercrest Bible Institute in Saskatchewan, Canada, and later received his associates degree in business from St. Clair Community College. He was a bookkeeper and worked in retail sales for 30 years and has spent the last fifteen years as a Jeweler at Coughlin’s Jewelers in St Clair, MI. He is a voracious reader of history and as a result of being an avid reader he began to write short stories and articles for editorial columns and magazines on current events and comparing and relating past events to current happenings.
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