Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/United States/Thomas, George Henry
Thomas, George Henry (1816-1870), general in the United States army, was born in Southampton county, Va., July 31, 1816. He graduated at West Point in 1840, and served on frontier duty and in the Mexican war. His fellow officers in the South unhesitatingly entered the Confederate service in 1861; but he declared for the Federal cause. He was sent at first into his native State, and then to the West, where he soon rose to the command of a division in the army of the Cumberland, with the rank of major-general. His victory of Mill Spring (Jan. 19-20, 1862) was the first encouraging event in the war in the West. He led his division in the advance on Nashville, and in all the campaigns leading up to the occupation of Corinth, of which place he was given command. He was now really second in command of the army of the Ohio, and distinguished himself at the battles of Perryville and Murfreesboro, but his reputation was fully made at Chickamauga. When the right of the army had been routed and was in full retreat on Chattanooga, Thomas, who had sustained the brunt of the attack of the first day, held his ground all through the second day against the whole Confederate army, retreated with persistent and stubborn fighting, covered the rest of the army and saved it from destruction, and gave so much time for fortification that Chattanooga was found by Bragg to be too strong for anything but a siege. From this time Thomas was in command of the army of the Cumberland, and held the centre at the storming of Missionary Ridge and in the campaigns up to the capture of Atlanta. When Hood undertook to transfer the war to Tennessee, Sherman left Thomas to oppose him. Thomas gathered up all his forces at Nashville, and inflicted a check on the advancing Confederates at Franklin (Nov. 30), but continued his preparations for a final battle near Nashville. His numbers were equal to those of Hood, but he persisted in refusing battle until he had prepared cavalry and made every arrangement for pursuit. Public clamour against Thomas's delay had become so loud that Grant had started from Virginia to assume command himself when Thomas attacked Hood (Dec. 15), routed him, and kept up so merciless a pursuit that the Confederate army was scattered almost beyond recovery. In 1869 he was transferred to the division of the Pacific, where he died at San Francisco, March 28, 1870. His name has come more and more to be synonymous with all that Americans regard as best in the character of a military leader.—See Van Horne's History of the Army of the Cumberland.