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Rock of Chickamauga: The Life of General George H. Thomas Paperback – March 15, 1986
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About the Author
Freeman Cleaves, who is also the author of Rock of Chickamauga: The Life of General George H. Thomas (University of Oklahoma Press), was a member of the editorial staff of Financial World) but his avocation for many years has been research in American history, especially Civil War history. Mr. Cleaves was educated in Bates College, the University of New Hampshire, and Harvard University.
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Top Customer Reviews
The reasons for Thomas' relative obscurity have been well stated in other reviews _ his southern heritage; his self-effacing disposition except (as Cleaves points out) when he felt he had been done an injustice. It didn't help that Sherman, one of his sponsors and Grant, his classmate at West Point, shut him out of the post-war glory and that he died in 1870, too early to establish a reputation.
Is the subtitle ("The Man who Save the Union?'') justified? Look at it this way: There's no question that Thomas' stand at Chickamauga made Sherman's campaign through Georgia possible. And if that hadn't happened, Lincoln might not have been re-elected in 1864, perhaps leading to a truce that would have left the nation split. That in itself is reason enough to celebrate Thomas.
But as Cleaves emphasizes, Thomas was more than that. Military historieans consider him one of the best defensive generals ever, a man who would have stood out in any war. And unlike many of our heroes, he was a decent man.
We could use more like him.
This 55-year-old book could use more readers.
Union loyalists of Southern birth like Thomas, Buford, etc. were just as alone and alienated in their army as Southern loyalists of Northern birth like Pemberton. They suffered an ostracism, a fundamental distrust that really reached its peak in this country when we sent thousands and thousands of Japanese Americans to concentration camps in California in World War II while concurrently having their sons fight and die in Europe. Thomas' story is really no different and every bit as unfair.
This type of unfortunate, `protective tuck' is a natural reaction during a national emergency. Fortunately, leading edge historians like Freeman Cleaves have left us a record of one man's sacrifice for the country of his birth.
George Thomas was not treated properly by anyone, North or South. Lincoln treats him as a political liability and pawn, Stanton fundamentally distrusts everyone of Southern heritage, and the Union troika of Grant, Sherman and Sheridan have much to be ashamed of: Grant for his smallness, Sheridan for the desertion of someone who must have been his mentor and Sherman for betraying a long standing friendship. The South simply refused to acknowledge his existence. When Thomas was down, everyone kicked. Being Southern born, he was an easy competitive target for both sides both during and after the war. He simply had no mentor anywhere.Read more ›
Those who say he was a good but not great general are firm about it. Some say he just didn't have the right stuff to be truly great. Those who think he was THE BEST general, bar none, are even more adamant, and they can tell you a thousand reasons why. I know lack of primary sources hinder the true picture, but I'm looking for something that will explore in greater depth, even if it's an educated guess, why Thomas missed out on his "rightful" place in history, or even if it was deserved at all.
My best guess is that Thomas had the ability; he was just "too nice". When the opportunity came to replace Buell, he was so overly concerned with protocol, modesty, appearances, cold feet (some or all the above) that he declined the command. That sense of "integrity" to his admirers translates as "not taking the initiative when the time was ripe", i.e, a weakness. I read on someone's site that the offer came about because, without Thomas knowing, 20 of his officers pleaded with the powers in Washington to have Buell replaced with Thomas. This episode wasn't mentioned in the book (if it indeed happened), but it makes me wonder why the officers didn't just tell Thomas their feelings to try and sway his decision to take over.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am not a history buff, let alone anything near a civil war buff and I loved this book - read it several times for the personal view of the war experience that split our country. Read morePublished on November 29, 2013 by Paul A. Gilmore
"Rock of Chickamauga", by Freeman Cleaves
Author Cleaves has provided a very good, and very readable, presentation of the Civil War career of Union General George H. Read more
I was lucky to have read Freeman Cleaves' Rock of Chickamauga before I read two other biographies on Maj Gen George H. Thomas. Read morePublished on June 23, 2013 by Bruce
After reading other histories of the Civil War, I got curious about General Thomas. He seemed to be an almost invisible figure whose name kept popping up in the oddest places. Read morePublished on April 23, 2013 by Scott Cromar
A well written, balanced biography of George Thomas one of the most underrated tactical generals of the American Civil War. Read morePublished on March 20, 2012 by jbw29NC
An American hero, General George Thomas (1816 - 1870) remains unfamiliar to most Americans who do not have more than a casual interest in the Civil War. Read morePublished on April 16, 2010 by Robin Friedman
This book was copyrighted in 1948, so it is over sixty years old. Many biographies of that vintage lose value as new information comes to light. Read morePublished on November 8, 2009 by Steven Peterson
I have always been a big fan of George Thomas. His great stand at Chickamauga obviously established his reputation as a great defense general, but what his troops did at... Read morePublished on October 17, 2008 by Richard C. Hastings