William Rosecrans

William Rosecrans

Infobox Military Person
name=William S. Rosecrans
born= birth date|1819|9|6
died= death date and age|1898|3|11|1819|9|6
placeofbirth=Delaware County, Ohio
placeofdeath=Redondo Beach, California
placeofburial= Arlington National Cemetery

caption=General William S. Rosecrans
nickname=Old Rosy
allegiance=United States of America
branch= United States Army
rank= Major General
commands=Army of the Cumberland
battles=American Civil War *Battle of Rich Mountain *Battle of Iuka *Second Battle of Corinth *Battle of Stones River *Tullahoma Campaign *Battle of Chickamauga *Price's Raid
laterwork=President of the Preston Coal Oil Company U.S. Minister to Mexico Congressman from California Treasury

William Starke Rosecrans (September 6, 1819 – March 11, 1898) was an inventor, coal-oil company executive, diplomat, politician, and United States Army officer. He gained fame for his role as a Union general during the American Civil War. He was the victor at prominent Western Theater battles such as Second Corinth, Stones River, and the Tullahoma Campaign, but his military career was effectively ended following his disastrous defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.

Early life and career

Rosecrans was born in Little Taylor Run in Kingston Township, Delaware County, Ohio, the son of Crandell Rosecrans and Jane Hopkins, and the great-grandson of Stephen Hopkins, colonial Governor of Rhode Island and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. [ [http://www.civilwarhome.com/rosecransbio.htm Civil War Home] .] He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842, fifth in his class of 56 cadets, which included notable future generals, such as James Longstreet, D.H. Hill, and Abner Doubleday. The Army assigned him to duty as an engineer, working on the fortifications at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Later he served as an instructor at West Point, and at various other stations in the New England area. Rosecrans resigned from the Army in 1854, moving into civil fields. He took over a mining business in Western Virginia (today West Virginia) and ran it extremely successfully, making many inventions, including a more effective method of manufacturing soap.

Civil War

While he was president of the Preston Coal Oil Company, in 1859, an oil lamp exploded, burning Rosecrans severely. As he concluded recovering from those burns, the Civil War began. He began service as a volunteer aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan. Promoted to the rank of colonel, Rosecrans took up the command of the 23rd Ohio Infantry regiment, whose members included Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley, both future presidents. He was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army, ranking from May 16, 1861. His plans and decisions proved extremely effective in the West Virginia Campaign, including the Union victory at Rich Mountain; however, his superior, Maj. Gen. McClellan, received the credit. When McClellan was summoned to Washington after the defeat suffered by Federal forces at the First Battle of Bull Run, General-in-Chief Winfield Scott suggested that McClellan turn over the West Virginia command to Rosecrans. McClellan did just that, and Rosecrans assumed command of what was to become the Department of Western Virginia.


Rosecrans received the command of the Right Wing of the Army of the Mississippi in May 1862 and took an active part in the siege of Corinth under Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck. He received command of the entire army on June 26, and in July added the dual responsibility of commanding the District of Corinth. In these roles, he was the effective subordinate of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, from whom he received direction in the Iuka-Corinth campaign in September and October 1862. In the Battle of Iuka, Rosecrans was supposed to be part of a dual-pronged offensive against the Confederate army of Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, but he was late in arriving at the battlefield and Grant ordered his other commander, Maj. Gen. Edward Ord, to wait until he heard the sounds of Rosecrans in battle south of Iuka before he attacked from the north. The direction of the wind caused an acoustic shadow that prevented Ord and Grant from hearing the battle noise, and Rosecrans's army fought alone but successfully. Defeated, Price retreated from Iuka and Grant criticized Rosecrans for failing to pursue his opponent aggressively.

Rosecrans then faced Earl Van Dorn at the Battle of Corinth, a bloody two-day affair in which Van Dorn suffered heavy casualties assaulting Rosecrans's entrenched positions. During the battle, rumors swirled that Rosecrans had been killed and when the firing stopped and the Confederates retreated, he toured his line on horseback to thank his men and assure them that he had survived. But once again, his pursuit of a defeated foe was lackluster, waiting until the following morning to begin, despite orders from Grant that he move immediately. Van Dorn was able to evade pursuit at the Battle of Hatchie's Bridge and an opportunity to complete the destruction of his army was lost. Grant, among others, would later repeatedly fault Rosecrans for being too conservative. (Grant had similar complaints about Rosecrans's successor, George Henry Thomas). Nonetheless, Rosecrans was considered a hero in the Northern press. He was given command of the XIV Corps (which would soon be renamed the Army of the Cumberland) on October 24, replacing the ineffectual Don Carlos Buell, and was promoted to the rank of major general (of Volunteers, as opposed to his brigadier rank in the regular army). Grant was not unhappy that Rosecrans was leaving his command. The promotion was applied retroactively from March 21 1862, so that he would outrank fellow Maj. Gen. Thomas; Thomas had earlier been offered Buell's command, but turned down the opportunity out of a sense of personal loyalty.

tones River

Rosecrans's predecessor, Buell, had been relieved because of his desultory pursuit of Confederate General Braxton Bragg following the Battle of Perryville. And yet Rosecrans displayed similar caution, remaining in Nashville while he reprovisioned his army and improved the training of his cavalry forces. By early December 1862, General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck had lost his patience. He wrote to Rosecrans, "If you remain one more week in Nashville, I cannot prevent your removal." Rosecrans replied, "I need no other stimulus to make me do my duty than the knowledge of what it is. To threats of removal or the like I must be permitted to say that I am insensible."

In late December, Rosecrans began his march against Bragg's Army of Tennessee, encamped outside Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Battle of Stones River was the bloodiest battle of the war, in terms of percentages of casualties. It was tactically inconclusive, although Bragg was the first to withdraw his army from the battlefield. Nevertheless, the battle was important to Union morale following its defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg a few weeks earlier, and President Abraham Lincoln wrote to Rosecrans: "You gave us a hard-earned victory, which had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over." And the victory also nullified the Confederate threat to central Tennessee.

Rosecrans's XIV Corps was soon redesignated the Army of the Cumberland. This force embarked on the successful Tullahoma Campaign against Bragg, resulting in fewer than 500 casualties. Rosecrans became one of the most well-liked generals in the Union Army. He was known to his men as "Old Rosy", not only because of his last name, but because of his large red nose, which was described as "intensified Roman", likely colored because of his heavy drinking habits. He was a devout Catholic who carried a crucifix on his watch chain and a rosary in his pocket, and he delighted in keeping his staff up half the night debating religious doctrine. He could swing swiftly from bristling anger (such as in his reply to Halleck in Nashville) to good-natured amusement, which endeared him to his men.


Rosecrans tended to stutter in battle and practiced micromanagement of his troops. This caused great problems in the Battle of Chickamauga, in which General Rosecrans gave the order, directed toward Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood, "to close up and support [General Joseph J.] Reynolds's [division] ." However, this caused a gaping hole in the line, and it was only because of Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas's heroics in holding the center of the line that the Union Army managed to escape disaster. Following this Union defeat in the Western Theater, Rosecrans retreated to Chattanooga, where his army came under siege by the victor of Chickamauga, his old opponent Braxton Bragg. When Ulysses Grant was placed in command of all armies in the West, he relieved Rosecrans of his command of the Army of the Cumberland, replacing him with Thomas.


Rosecrans went to Cincinnati to await further orders, but ultimately he would play no further large part in the fighting. He was given command of the Department of Missouri from January to December 1864, where he was active in opposing Sterling Price's Missouri raid. During the 1864 Republican National Convention, his former chief of staff, James Garfield, head of the Ohio delegation, telegraphed Rosecrans to ask if he would consider running to be Abraham Lincoln's vice president. The Republicans that year were seeking a War Democrat to run with Lincoln under the temporary name of "National Union Party." Rosecrans replied in a cryptically positive manner, but Garfield never received the return telegram. Friends of Rosecrans speculated that Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War, intercepted and suppressed it. [Lamers, p. 424.] In 1865, Rosecrans was given a brevet promotion to major general in gratitude for his actions at Stones River. He resigned from the Army in 1867.

Diplomacy, politics, and legacy

From 1868 to 1869, Rosecrans served as U.S. Minister to Mexico, but was replaced when his old nemesis, Ulysses Grant, became president. He turned down the Democratic nomination for Governor of Ohio in 1869. [Lamers, p. 440.] He returned to private mining business in Mexico and California for ten years. He was elected as a congressman from California, serving from 1881 to 1885, and was appointed as the Register of the Treasury, serving from 1885 to 1893. He died in 1898 at Rancho Sausal Redondo, Redondo Beach, California, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, in San Diego, California, is named in his honor, as is Rosecrans Blvd., a major east-west street that runs through the southern part of Los Angeles County.

A simple memorial was constructed on the site of his birthplace and childhood home. Just north of Sunbury, Ohio, a large boulder surrounded by a wrought iron fence holds a plaque in memoriam and rests beside a rural road that bears his name.

ee also

*List of American Civil War generals


* Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., "Civil War High Commands", Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
*Foote, Shelby, "The Civil War, A Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian", Random House, 1958, ISBN 0-394-49517-9.
* Lamers, William M., "The Edge of Glory: A Biography of General William S. Rosecrans, U.S.A", Louisiana State University Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8071-2396-X.
* [http://www.civilwarhome.com/rosecransbio.htm William Starke Rosecrans biography at Civil War Home website]


External links

CongBio|R000440 Retrieved on 2008-02-11
* [http://ngeorgia.com/people/rosecrans.html William S. Rosecrans biography] Centers on the Tullahoma Campaign and the loss at Chickamauga
* [http://www.aotc.net/Rosecrans_home.htm William S. Rosecrans Source Page and photo gallery]
* [http://www.civilwar.org/historyclassroom/hc_rosecrans.htm William Rosecrans biography] by the Civil War Preservation Trust

NAME= Rosecrans, William
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Union Union general

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