Master of War

Master of War

The Life of General George H. Thomas

Book - 2009
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Historian Bobrick argues here that George H. Thomas was the greatest and most successful general of the Civil War. Because Thomas didn't live to write his memoirs, his reputation has been largely shaped by others, most notably Grant and Sherman, who, Bobrick says, diminished Thomas' successes in their favor in their own memoirs. Born in Virginia, Thomas remained loyal to the Union, unlike fellow Virginian Robert E. Lee. In the entire Civil War, he never lost a battle or a movement. He was the only Union commander to destroy two Confederate armies in the field. Throughout his career, he was methodical and careful, and always prepared. Unlike Grant, he was never surprised by an enemy. Unlike Sherman, he never panicked in battle. Although historians have always regarded Thomas highly, he has never captured the public imagination, perhaps because he has lacked an outstanding biographer--until now.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, c2009.
Edition: 1st Simon & Schuster hc ed.
ISBN: 9780743290258
Branch Call Number: B/THOMAS
Characteristics: 416 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm.


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Apr 07, 2018

I’ve recently have read a ton of books on the civil war and was interested in a book that focused on General Thomas.

I was disappointed in this book. Partly due to it being about the war more than about All Things Thomas, and partly because the authors storytelling just isn’t compelling.

I’ve read “better”, elsewhere.

The infamous Rock of Chickamauga story is only 2 pages long!

The author casually mentions that General Albert Sidney Johnson died. That’s it? But there is a great story behind his death, and who can forget his quote "Yes... and I fear seriously."? Nor does he mention that Johnson was the highest ranking officer of either army to be killed.

The author also does a poor job of describing how General Zollicoffer met his demise. Another interesting and memorable event.

It’s clear the author is negative on both Grant and Sherman.

I stopped reading after Missionary Ridge, again maybe 2 pages. Those 2 events were the major highlights of Thomas’ career, and if those are told in a less than interesting way, I don’t want to read further.

Dec 24, 2012

This book is a biography of George Henry Thomas, the southern general who saved the Union. While Robert E. Lee was from far northern Virginia and turned his back on the country he had pledged himself to and instead supported the southern rebellion, George Henry Thomas was from a slave holding family in the far southeastern corner of Virginia and held true to his oath of allegiance to the United States.

I am convinced that if Thomas had supported the southern rebellion, the result of the war would have been changed. Thomas never lost a battle or conducted a retreat. He won the first major Union victory at Mill Springs. He held at Murfreesboro when all looked lost. He stopped the retreat at Chickamauga. Defeat in either of these places would have likely led to an invasion of Ohio. Defeat at Chickamauga would have led to Lincoln?s defeat in the election of 1864. Thomas? Army led the charge up Missionary Ridge. His long planned attack destroyed the Confederate Army in the west at the Battle of Nashville and was instrumental in leading to Union victory.

On the other side of this equation, add Thomas to the Confederacy. Imagine that Thomas as a senior officer in the U.S. Army had resigned, as everyone expected, to support his native Virginia and had commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia while Robert E. Lee had been in place of the marginally competent Braxton Bragg and others in the Confederate west. The Confederacy would have won!

Thomas expected to pay a personal price for his loyalty and he did. He was hated in the south and mistrusted in the north. His sisters never spoke to him again. Lifelong friends turned their back on him. As a general from a seceded state, he had no champions in Congress. He succeeded only through competence. Kipling unknowingly captured his essence when he said ?If you can keep your head while others about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you?? That was Thomas.

Benson Bobrick, in this biography, has done the best of the five Thomas biographies I have read of writing a readable life story of this amazingly underestimated American figure. Bobrick has tried to add flesh to Thomas and ask why he was loyal while others who had attended West Point turned on their country. He has added as much as he could to a scanty record of Thomas? upbringing in Virginia and personal life as a professional soldier to try and ask why Thomas was loyal when loyalty to the union was rare for southerners like Thomas.


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