Special Report

Catching Up With “Old Slow Trot”

Stubborn and deliberate, General George Henry Thomas was one of the Union’s most brilliant strategists. So why was he cheated by history?

The Amazon loses 8,800 acres a day to "This army does not retreat," Gen. George H. Thomas famously asserted. Later in 1863, he rallied Union troops in the Battle of Chickamauga, in Georgia. His equanimity shows in a Civil War portrait, as it did in the heat of combat. (Rudy Ayordoa / David Perry Collection)
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In 1879, veterans of the Army of the Cumberland dedicated an equestrian statue of Southampton's most distinguished son in Washington's Thomas Circle. He peers down 14th Street toward Virginia today, as dense traffic runs around him; perhaps one passerby in a thousand knows who he is and what he did for the nation.

After Thomas died, Grant was able to say that he was "one of the great names of our history, one of the greatest heroes of our war." Sherman relented so far as to write that "during the whole war his services were transcendent." Yet even then, the two generals seldom mentioned his name without repeating their assertions of his caution. When the two surviving Thomas sisters were nearing 90, they allowed the general's prize sword to go to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, where it remains. As a further gesture of reconciliation, they sent acorns from the great oak outside the home place to be planted around his statue in Washington.

The acorns never sprouted.

Ernest B. "Pat" Furgurson is the author of Freedom Rising and other Civil War books. He lives in Washington, D.C.

About Ernest B. Furgurson
Ernest B. Furgurson

Ernest B. Furgurson is the author of Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War and Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War, plus other books about war and politics.

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