I am trying to be a more well-rounded Civil War history aficionado. So, in that vein, I am beginning to read more about generals I do not know much about. My first venture in this direction is Benson Bobrick’s Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas by Benson Bobrick. I don’t think many people realize the impact that Thomas had on the battles fought in the Western Theater of operations.
As Bobrick purports, Thomas was the best Union general that no one ever talks about – most of the attention goes to Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan. However, Bobrick attempts to shed light on this fascinating general and why his name is not as well-known in history as the other three generals.
Thomas is most famously known as the “Rock of Chickamauga” for his solid defense against overwhelming odds. But, as Bobrick rightly points out, Thomas was not just solid at Chickamauga, but at all the battles he participated in – including Chattanooga, Missionary Ridge, and Nashville.
Bobrick writes a fine story raising Thomas to new heights, but he does this at the expense of Grant and Sherman. I am not a big fan of Grant or Sherman (mainly because they did not try to maneuver around their opponents for better positions of attack – this at the expense of the lives of their men), but Bobrick makes these two out to be the lowest of scoundrels for their attempts to discredit Thomas. Bobrick makes some valid points about each generals’ defects, but he does not point out any of their strengths – such as Grant’s tenacity at pursuing Lee.
Another issue I have with the book is Bobrick’s unaltered adoration for Thomas – I understand that biographers grow partial to their subjects – but he takes it a bit far. For example, Bobrick points out all of Thomas’s strengths and everything he did right, but nothing about his character flaws or screw-ups.
All things considered, the book is an entertaining and engaging read.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.