Virginian For the Union”
Well, Mr. Einolf has produced the first biography in the 21th Century of Major General George H. Thomas. The ninth of a series of biographies, four of which
were written in the 19th century, the rest in the 20th. That is progress,
Ulysses S. Grant, who suffered more casualties in the Wilderness campaign and Cold Harbor than Thomas had soldiers
in his Army of the Cumberland, has, according to one source, “Dornbush’s, Vol. IV” been the subject of approximately
90 books. He lists others but they don’t deal directly with Grant. Grant’s web site (http://www.granthomepage.com/grantbibliography.htm
) only lists seventy-two books. Another
web site “Ulysses S. Grant Association” has published what appears
to be the most definitive Grant bibliography. They supply a disclaimer that the
site is not definitive. I refuse to count them, but there appear to be
the +/- five thousand books I was led to believe existed. Lastly, what appears
to be the definitive hard copy of the Grant oeuvre, a new reference work on Ulysses S. Grant by Marie Ellen Kelsey, assistant
professor at the College of St. Scholastica, a small, private university in Minnesota, is the latest volume in the Bibliographies
of the Presidents of the United States series. Grant’s canon of primary
works is small. He wrote his celebrated “Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant” in 1885, some government reports, and
precious little else. The vast bulk of the 4,242 items profiled in Kelsey’s work are secondary sources, biographies,
journal and magazine articles, and so on. So there we are! Forty two hundred+ works about U. S. Grant.
The works on Grant appear to be surpassed only by those of Christ. Can we guess why so many have written so much about Grant?
Well, apparently he’s a money maker. Compared to the plentitude
of Grant tomes, the paucity of information about Thomas is strange.
Why should there be a ratio of four hundred and sixty works of Grant to one over Thomas? Had Thomas failed in some manner at any time it might be logical.
However, the fact is that Thomas never lost a battle he commanded. That
he saved the military commands of three of his superiors (Missionary Ridge, (Grant) Chickamauga, (Rosecrans) and Stones River
(Rosecrans)). That he cared for the lives and welfare of his troops, modernized
his military commands by creating a topographical service, an ambulance and medical corps, reorganized Rosecrans Pioneer Corps,
developed a spy system used by Grant for information in the east, planned the annihilation of his foes, rather than settle
for drawn battles. That he taught cavalry, artillery and infantry tactics at West Point for three years, utilizing this knowledge
better than any other commander of the war, should have placed him on the list of foremost commanders of the civil war. Yet, he is hardly known.
Well, thanks to Mr. Einolf, we have some additional information about
the great General. We know that Thomas’ southern attitude toward his black
troops changed from toleration to admiration after witnessing their contributions at Nashville. We know that he fought Tennessean prejudice, after the war, and semi-succeeded in protecting the Negroes
during his tenure. While Mr. Einolf briefly explains these historic moves little
analysis is provided.
When Mr. Einolf does provide analysis it is usually based on opinions rather than facts. On page 169, he opines that Thomas was content “to wait for Negley’s arrival. Thomas inaction was in error, as he had several other brigades available to him . . . that he was holding
in reserve.” This is no error on Thomas’ part. Reserves are part of the “Line of Battle.” If
during the battle the enemy accomplishes a ‘breakthrough’ reserves are necessary to plug the hole and must be
ready to make this move immediately. Reserves are also used to replace units
in line that have expended their ammunition and must be replaced with ‘reserves’ while they replenish their stock. If, in case of a breakthrough by your side, reserves can be used to follow through
and expand the action. Additionally, they (reserves) can be used to expand a