Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas

Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas

by Benson Bobrick
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Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas by Benson Bobrick

In this revelatory, dynamic biography, one of our finest historians, Benson Bobrick, profiles George H. Thomas, arguing that he 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 Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, two generals with whom Thomas served and who, Bobrick says, diminished his successes in their favor in their own memoirs.

Born in Virginia, Thomas survived Nat Turner's rebellion as a boy, then studied at West Point, where Sherman was a classmate. Thomas distinguished himself in the Mexican War and then returned to West Point as an instructor. When the Civil War broke out, Thomas remained loyal to the Union, unlike fellow Virginia-born officer Robert E. Lee (among others). He compiled an outstanding record as an officer in battles at Mill Springs, Perryville, and Stones River. At the Battle of Chickamauga, Thomas, at the time a corps commander, held the center of the Union line under a ferocious assault, then rallied the troops on Horseshoe Ridge to prevent a Confederate rout of the Union army. His extraordinary performance there earned him the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga."

Promoted to command of the Army of the Cumberland, he led his army in a stunning Union victory at the Battle of Chattanooga. Thomas supported Sherman on his march through Georgia in the spring of 1864, winning an important victory at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. As Sherman continued on his March to the Sea, Thomas returned to Tennessee and in the battle of Nashville destroyed the army of Confederate General John Bell Hood. It was one of the most decisive victories of the war, and Thomas won it even as Grant was on his way to remove Thomas from his command. (When Grant discovered the magnitude of Thomas's victory, he quickly changed his mind.) Thomas died of a stroke in 1870 while still on active duty. In the entire Civil War, he never lost a battle or a movement.

Throughout his career, Thomas was methodical and careful, and always prepared. Unlike Grant at Shiloh, he was never surprised by an enemy. Unlike Sherman, he never panicked in battle but always remained calm and focused. He was derided by both men as "Slow Trot Thomas," but as Bobrick shows in this brilliant biography, he was quick to analyze every situation and always knew what to do and when to do it. He was not colorful like Grant and Sherman, but he was widely admired by his peers, and some, such as Grant's favorite cavalry commander, General James H. Wilson, thought Thomas the peer of any general in either army. He was the only Union commander to destroy two Confederate armies in the field.

Although historians of the Civil War have always regarded Thomas highly, he has never captured the public imagination, perhaps because he has lacked an outstanding biographer -- until now. This informed, judicious, and lucid biography at last gives Thomas his due.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439156506
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 02/10/2009
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 535,650
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Benson Bobrick earned his doctorate from Columbia University and is the author of several critically acclaimed works, including Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired and Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution. In 2002 he received the Literature Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He and his wife, Hilary, live in Vermont.

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Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas 2.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very informative from an information point of view but I found the author's need to build up Thomas by cutting down Grant and Sherman tedious at best.
Lamplighter331 More than 1 year ago
This is an obviously biased account that lacks serious academic study. The author spends more time tearing down Grant, Sherman and Lincoln than really calling out what Thomas brought to the war. Thomas is my favorite Civil War leader, but this book does him no justice. According to this book, Thomas has no flaws while EVERY other Union leader was a dolt. To hear the author tell it, Grant and Sherman had no successes and basically muddled through, being carried by events instead of shaping them. This book is obvious propaganda and does NOTHING to advance Thomas to the modern audience. I am very disappointed by this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JBW29NC More than 1 year ago
I am sympathetic to and in complete agreement with the author's premise that George H. Thomas was truly one of the most outstanding generals (north or south) in the War Between the States and that he was treated shamefully by superiors most particularly U. S. Grant who always tried to put his favorites Sherman, Sheridan, et.al.in positions of prominence while ignoring their weaknesses. However, I believe the author in building his case is either extremely careless of facts or seems to attempt to mold perceived facts to fit his contentions. To cite four examples: Pg 62, PGT Beauregard is identified as ".recently, if briefly, Lee's successor as superintendent of West Point.." "On March 31, 1855, Lee ceased to be Superintendent at West Point." pg 161 Robert E. Lee a Biography by Emory M. Thomas Beauregard assume the office of Superintendent January 23, 1861. pg 45 P.T.G Beauregard Napoleon in Gray by Harry Williams A gap of 6 years hardly qualifies one as a successor in the generally accepted sense of next in order. In speaking of George McClellan on page 105 he states ". had excelled as Winfield Scott's engineer-in-chief in the Mexican War, returned to West Point to teach..." Please consult Stephen W. Sears's outstanding biography of McClellan, George McClellan The Young Napoleon pg 24 ". Yet his accomplishments were those of a very junior officer, far removed from any real command or planning responsibility.: Concerning his time "teaching" at West Point pg 28-29 ".., fifteen months of garrison duty at West Point.."; ",,, his only classroom work was with the Company on Engineer Soldiers (not cadets)." Concerning the Battle of Shiloh; pg 110 ".a Quaker Meeting House know as Shiloh Church.." Shiloh was a Methodist Meeting House (Shiloh: Bloody April by Wiley Sword pg.30) " .a log Methodist church by name of Shiloh.." (Shiloh by Larry J. Daniel pg 70)