- Meeting reservations are due by Wednesday, May 15, 2013.
- Cancellations due to A.J. Singleton, (859) 231-3692 or email@example.com within 72 hours of the meetingas we are charged for all dinners ordered including guests.
- NEW Cost of Meal: $26 CHECKS ACCEPTABLE.
Brian Steel Wills
“General George Henry Thomas”
Brian Steel Wills was raised in Suffolk County, Virginia. His interest in American history began early with a love for reading books about great American figures such as George Washington and Robert E. Lee. He graduated from the University of Richmond, after which he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. He is a former professor of history at Georgia Southern University and was associate professor of history and chair of the department of history and philosophy at the University of Virginia–Wise. Wills’ reputation as a popular and dynamic speaker was recently reinforced when he was recognized with an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, the Commonwealth’s highest honor for professors at Virginia’s public and private colleges and universities. Wills’ publications include The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest and The War Hits Home. Dr. Wills is currently Director of the Civil War Center and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Here is a little background as reported by Wikipedia on George Henry Thomas, who was born on July 31, 1816 and died on March 28, 1870. He was a career United States Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War, one of the principal commanders in the Western Theater.
Thomas served in the Mexican-American War and later chose to remain with the United States Army for the Civil War, despite his heritage as a Virginian. He won one of the first Union victories in the war, at Mill Springs in Kentucky, and served in important subordinate commands at Perryville and Stones River. His stout defense at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863 saved the Union Army from being completely routed, earning him his most famous nickname, the “Rock of Chickamauga.” He followed soon after with a dramatic breakthrough on Missionary Ridge in the Battle of Chattanooga. In the Franklin-Nashville Campaign of 1864, he achieved one of the most decisive victories of the war, destroying the army of Confederate General John Bell Hood, at the Battle of Nashville.
Thomas had a successful record in the Civil War, but he failed to achieve the historical acclaim of some of his contemporaries, such as Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. He developed a reputation as a slow, deliberate general who shunned self-promotion and who turned down advancements in position when he did not think they were justified. After the war, he did not write memoirs to advance his legacy. He also had an uncomfortable personal relationship with Grant, which served him poorly as Grant advanced in rank and eventually to the presidency.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, 19 of the 36 officers in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry resigned, including three of Thomas’s superiors Albert Sidney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, and William J. Hardee. Many Southern-born officers were torn between loyalty to their states and loyalty to their country. Thomas struggled with the decision but opted to remain with the United States. His Northern-born wife probably helped influence his decision. In response, his family turned his picture against the wall, destroyed his letters, and never spoke to him again. (During the economic hard times in the South after the war, Thomas sent some money to his sisters, who angrily refused to accept it, declaring they had no brother.)
Nevertheless, Thomas stayed in the Union Army with some degree of suspicion surrounding him. On January 18, 1861, a few months before Fort Sumter, he had applied for a job as the commandant of cadets at the Virginia Military Institute. Any real tendency to the secessionist cause, however, could be refuted when he turned down Virginia Governor John Letcher’s offer to become chief of ordnance for the Virginia Provisional Army. On June 18, his former student and fellow Virginian, Confederate Col. J.E.B. Stuart, wrote to his wife, “Old George H. Thomas is in command of the cavalry of the enemy. I would like to hang, hang him as a traitor to his native state.”
Thomas was promoted in rapid succession to be lieutenant colonel (on April 25, 1861, replacing Robert E. Lee) and colonel (May 3, replacing Albert Sidney Johnston) in the regular army, and brigadier general of volunteers (August 17). In the First Bull Run Campaign, he commanded a brigade under Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson in the Shenandoah Valley, but all of his subsequent assignments were in the Western Theater. Reporting to Maj. Gen. Robert Anderson in Kentucky, Thomas was assigned to training recruits and to command an independent force in the eastern half of the state. On January 18, 1862, he defeated Confederate Brig. Gens. George B. Crittenden and Felix Zollicoffer at Mill Springs, gaining the first important Union victory in the war, breaking Confederate strength in eastern Kentucky, and lifting Union morale.
On December 2, 1861, Brig. Gen. Thomas was assigned to command the 1st Division of Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio. He was present at the second day of the Battle of Shiloh (April 7, 1862), but arrived after the fighting had ceased. The victor at Shiloh, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, came under severe criticism for the bloody battle and his superior, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, reorganized his Department of the Mississippi to ease Grant out of direct field command. The three armies in the department were divided and recombined into three “wings.” Thomas, promoted to major general effective April 25, 1862, was given command of the Right Wing, consisting of four divisions from Grant’s former Army of the Tennessee and one from the Army of the Ohio. Thomas successfully led this putative army in the siege of Corinth. On June 10, Grant returned to command of the original Army of the Tennessee.
Although often counted among the Union’s top five generals, George Henry Thomas has still not received his due. A Virginian who sided with the North in the Civil War, he was a more complicated commander than traditional views have allowed. Brian Wills now provides a new and more complete look at the life of a man known to history as “The Rock of Chickamauga,” to his troops as “Old Pap,” and to General William T. Sherman as a soldier who was “as true as steel.”
Upcoming Speakers for 2013 (to be announced)
- September, 16, 2013 –
- November 18, 2013 –
- January 13, 2014 –
- March17, 2014 –
- May 19, 2014 –
Civil War History
What’s going on in Kentucky’s Civil War 150th anniversary celebration. If you are interested in programs in this area celebrating the anniversary of the Civil War, please log on to the Kentucky Historical Society’s web page (http://history.ky.gov/) and view a calendar of events for several programs nearby.
Currently our membership stands at 392. Our goal of 400 members is within reach. Invite someone to come with you to a meeting. Our goal of 400 members is within reach. Invite someone to come with you to a meeting. There are still 72 members who have not paid their dues. We will have a list of those who have not paid at the May meeting and if you are in doubt, check with Chris. If your dues are not paid by May 31, 2013 you will be deleted from membership. Remember the Round Table is an IRC 501(C)(3) tax exempt organization and your contributions and dues are tax deductible. Your contributions and dues will help to provide quality programs in the coming year. Anyone wishing a copy of the annual or interim financial statements can request a copy by emailing your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- E-mails – If you have not shared it and are willing to do so, or maybe it has changed and you need to update it, don’t forget to add your current e-mail address to your return card (if it is not applicable, please indicate with “N/A).” We periodically send out e-mails noting things of interest to those who have shared their e-mails.
- Donation Reminder – We would like to send out another plea for contributions to purchase two (2) Power Point projectors. Many of the speakers utilize a projector for their presentations and each time the cost is approximately $300 + plus the $100 cost for renting the laptop. We feel it would be a cost savings for the Round Table to purchase its own projector and laptop rather than using the hotel property.
- Dues Reminder – Don’t forget: if you have not paid your dues by May 31, 2013, you will be deleted from membership. Dues are $50. Please remember to let us know if you have not received your membership card.
- Meal Cost Reminder – Cost is now $26.00. Please note that we are now accepting checks for payment. Checks should be made payable to “Kentucky Civil War Round Table.”
- Prospective Board Members – As we have mentioned before, this is your Roundtable and we would like your participation. If you are interested in becoming more involved and, most particularly, by becoming a Member of the KyCWRT Board of Directors for 2014 and beyond, please contact Jack Cunningham, Chris Anderson or A.J. Singleton about such opportunities. We look forward to talking with you and about your involvement.
RAFFLE – We will be selling raffle tickets for three different books – The Notorious “Bull” Nelson: Murdered Civil War General, Donald A. Clark; Born To Battle, Jack Hurst; Bluegrass Renaissance: The History and Culture of Central Kentucky 1792-1852, James C. Klotter and Daniel Rowland. Tickets will be 3 for $5.00 and will be sold at the Reception Desk when you sign in. Drawing will be held at the meeting.
TOUR – Look for an update and pictures regarding the Shiloh Tour.