Photograph of George Henry Thomas.

George H. Thomas earned the nickname “Rock of Chickamauga” for leading a defensive stand at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19–20, 1863). [Wikimedia Commons]

George Henry Thomas - Facts

July 31, 1816 - March 28, 1870

Key facts about Union General George H. Thomas.

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Full Name:

  • George Henry Thomas

Birth Date:

  • January 31, 1816

Birth Location:

  • Newsom’s Depot, Virginia

Parents:

  • John and Elizabeth (Rochelle) Thomas

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1840)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Major General (USA), Army of the Cumberland commander

Spouse:

  • Lucretia Kellogg (1852)

Nickname(s):

  • Rock of Chickamauga, Sledge of Nashville, Slow Trot Thomas, Old Slow Trot, Pap

Place of Death:

  • San Francisco, California

Date of Death:

  • March 28, 1870

Place of Burial:

  • Oakwood Cemetery, Troy New York

Significance:

  • George H. Thomas was the youngest of three sons of an upper-class planter family that owned 24 slaves.
  • George H. Thomas parents were John Thomas and Elizabeth Rochelle Thomas.
  • George H. Thomas’ father died in a farm accident in 1829, leaving Thomas’ maternal uncle, James Rochelle, to oversee Thomas’ education.
  • George H. Thomas’ family was forced to flee their farm during Nat Turner’s Revolt in 1831.
  • George H. Thomas entered the United States Military Academy in 1836 and graduated 12th in his class in 1840.
  • George H. Thomas’ roommate during his first year at West Point was William T. Sherman.
  • George H. Thomas entered the United States Army as a second lieutenant in the Third Artillery on July 1, 1840.
  • George H. Thomas served in the Second Seminole War in Florida (1835 – 1842).
  • George H. Thomas was promoted to first lieutenant in 1844.
  • George H. Thomas served in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).
  • George H. Thomas was brevetted to captain and then to major in 1847 for distinguished service in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).
  • George H. Thomas became an instructor at the United States Military Academy in 1851.
  • While an instructor at West Point, George H. Thomas taught cavalry tactics to Phil Sheridan and J.E.B. Stuart.
  • While an instructor at West Point, George H. Thomas taught artillery tactics to John Bell Hood.
  • George H. Thomas married Frances Lucretia Kellogg of Troy, New York on November 17, 1852.
  • George H. Thomas was promoted to captain in December 1853.
  • George H. Thomas served at Fort Yuma, California from 1854 to 1855.
  • George H. Thomas was promoted to major on May 12, 1855.
  • George H. Thomas served under Albert Sidney Johnston and Robert E. Lee in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry from 1855 to 1860.
  • George H. Thomas was wounded by a Comanche arrow on August 26, 1860 while serving in Texas.
  • Despite being from Virginia, George H. Thomas chose to stay in the United States Army and fight for the Union when his home state seceded (April 17, 1861).
  • George H. Thomas was promoted to colonel on May 3, 1861 and was appointed as commander of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry.
  • George H. Thomas was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on August 3, 1861 and sent to the Department of the Cumberland in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.
  • George H. Thomas was the commanding officer at the Battle of Mills Springs in Kentucky (January 19, 1862).
  • George H. Thomas was promoted to major general of volunteers on April 25, 1862.
  • George H. Thomas served as commander of the 14th Corps in the Union Army of the Cumberland during the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863).
  • George H. Thomas earned the nickname “Rock of Chickamauga” for leading a defensive stand at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19–20, 1863).
  • George H. Thomas was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army on October 27, 1863.
  • George H. Thomas was assigned as commander of the Department of the Cumberland on October 28, 1863.
  • George H. Thomas led an assault on Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863, at the Battle of Chattanooga, driving Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee out of Tennessee.
  • George H. Thomas defeated Confederate General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864).
  • George H. Thomas was promoted to major general in the regular army on December 15, 1864.
  • George H. Thomas received the “Thanks of Congress” on March 1865 for leading the Union victory at the Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864).
  • On June 7, 1865, George H. Thomas was placed in command of the Military Division of the Tennessee, which included Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Mississippi was added on June 22nd.
  • In 1867, George H. Thomas declined President Johnson’s offer of the rank of lieutenant general because he refused to become involved in Johnson’s politically motivated scheme to of thwart Ulysses S. Grant’s presidential aspirations.
  • In 1868, the Tennessee State Convention nominated George H. Thomas for President of the United States, but Thomas declined the nomination.
  • George H. Thomas was assigned to command the Department of the Pacific on June 15, 1869, and moved to San Francisco.
  • George Henry Thomas died of a stroke on March 28, 1870, in San Francisco, California.
  • George H. Thomas’ Virginia family members (including his sisters) did not attend his funeral in Troy, New York because they disapproved of his decision to remain in the Union Army during the Civil War.
  • George H. Thomas was the first prominent Union general to die after the American Civil War.
  • George H. Thomas was buried at the Kellogg family burial ground located in Oakwood Cemetery, Troy New York.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title George Henry Thomas - Facts
  • Coverage July 31, 1816 - March 28, 1870
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date December 5, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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