Did Grant and Thomas Know One Another at West Point?

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Messages
2,116
Location
Manor, TX
#1
The time that Ulysses Grant and George Thomas were at West Point slightly overlapped. Thomas was Class of 1840 and Grant was Class of 1843, so for one year they were there together. Is there any indication that they knew each other or had any interaction? Considering the somewhat mysterious nature of their strained relationship, I am surprised to have never seen any discussion of this.
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Joined
May 27, 2011
Messages
16,586
Location
los angeles ca
#2
The time that Ulysses Grant and George Thomas were at West Point slightly overlapped. Thomas was Class of 1840 and Grant was Class of 1843, so for one year they were there together. Is there any indication that they knew each other or had any interaction? Considering the somewhat mysterious nature of their strained relationship, I am surprised to have never seen any discussion of this.
Neither the biographies written by Einholf " George Thomas Virginian for the Union" or Bobric " George Thomas Master of War " mention Thomas knowing Grant. Einholf's biography does mention that Thomas briefly met Jackson but though Jackson a bit off. Not sure if upperclassmen hung around scrubs that much.
Leftyhunter
 

Northern Light

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Messages
10,680
#3
There were probably more than 250 students at West Point at the time and Grant, other than his riding skill, did not stand out from the crowd. He may have known who Thomas was, in the way that lower year students tend to be aware of those who are at the top. Likely, unless Thomas was in charge of him for some reason, they never spoke but who knows what interaction there might have been. Perhaps Thomas made him clean the bathroom floor with his toothbrush!:O o:
 

diane

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Messages
20,341
Location
State of Jefferson
#4
It's been a while since I read them, but it seems to me Grant mentioned in his memoirs that he knew Thomas in the old army. He didn't specify in what context, but he proceeded to say some good things about Thomas despite their less than buddy-buddy relationship. I think he may have been alluding to the Mexican War - both distinguished themselves in that conflict.
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2018
Messages
127
Location
Adirondacks-New York
#5
In Around the World With General Grant by John Russel Young Grant is quoted as saying...

"At West Point, when he [George H. Thomas] was commanding cadets in cavalry drill, he would never go beyond a slow trot. Just as soon as the line began to move, and gain a little speed, Thomas would give the order, 'Slow Trot.' The boys used to call him 'Slow Trot' Thomas."

The Full passage on Thomas:

content.png
content.jpg


When Thomas died in 1870, in addition to 10,000 mourners, President Grant attended his funeral in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY.

Thomas_funeral1.jpg
 
Joined
May 27, 2011
Messages
16,586
Location
los angeles ca
#6
In Around the World With General Grant by John Russel Young Grant is quoted as saying...

"At West Point, when he [George H. Thomas] was commanding cadets in cavalry drill, he would never go beyond a slow trot. Just as soon as the line began to move, and gain a little speed, Thomas would give the order, 'Slow Trot.' The boys used to call him 'Slow Trot' Thomas."

The Full passage on Thomas:

View attachment 297168 View attachment 297169

When Thomas died in 1870, in addition to 10,000 mourners, President Grant attended his funeral in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY.

View attachment 297175
Good catch. Based on what Grant wrote Grant knew Thomas at West Point only has a cadet commander not has a friend. Of course maybe other evidence can show otherwise.
Leftyhunter
 

Joshism

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,028
Location
Jupiter, FL
#8
My impression is not that Grant bore any personal grudge against Thomas, but simply that he did not think very much of him as a general. It may stem from Grant's interactions with him at Chattanooga.

Part of this may well relate to Grant's greatest flaw: being a poor judge of character. He probably took council of people who had personal grudges or petty ambitions (was it Schofield who wrote poison pen letters to Grant about Thomas during the Nashville Campaign?). What did Sheridan think of Thomas - did he also contribute to the problem?

What of Sherman? He sent Thomas back to Tennessee (instead of on the March), and essentially broke up his army. If Sherman didn't think highly of Thomas, why should Grant?

This is not to say Thomas was bad, merely why Grant may have disliked him.
 

DanSBHawk

First Sergeant
Joined
May 8, 2015
Messages
1,235
Location
Wisconsin
#9
My impression is not that Grant bore any personal grudge against Thomas, but simply that he did not think very much of him as a general. It may stem from Grant's interactions with him at Chattanooga.

Part of this may well relate to Grant's greatest flaw: being a poor judge of character. He probably took council of people who had personal grudges or petty ambitions (was it Schofield who wrote poison pen letters to Grant about Thomas during the Nashville Campaign?). What did Sheridan think of Thomas - did he also contribute to the problem?

What of Sherman? He sent Thomas back to Tennessee (instead of on the March), and essentially broke up his army. If Sherman didn't think highly of Thomas, why should Grant?

This is not to say Thomas was bad, merely why Grant may have disliked him.
I don't think Grant thought Thomas was a bad general. Just slow to start moving. The comment in the link about being "too slow to move, and too brave to run away" shows Grant appreciated Thomas' defensive strengths.

And Sherman putting Thomas in charge in Tennessee doesn't seem to me to be an indication of Sherman lacking confidence in Thomas. Just the opposite in fact, imo.
 
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Messages
9,975
#10
My impression is not that Grant bore any personal grudge against Thomas, but simply that he did not think very much of him as a general. It may stem from Grant's interactions with him at Chattanooga.

Part of this may well relate to Grant's greatest flaw: being a poor judge of character. He probably took council of people who had personal grudges or petty ambitions (was it Schofield who wrote poison pen letters to Grant about Thomas during the Nashville Campaign?). What did Sheridan think of Thomas - did he also contribute to the problem?

What of Sherman? He sent Thomas back to Tennessee (instead of on the March), and essentially broke up his army. If Sherman didn't think highly of Thomas, why should Grant?

This is not to say Thomas was bad, merely why Grant may have disliked him.
Grant didn't like him because he was a Southern boy.
 
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
Messages
9,975
#11
In Around the World With General Grant by John Russel Young Grant is quoted as saying...

"At West Point, when he [George H. Thomas] was commanding cadets in cavalry drill, he would never go beyond a slow trot. Just as soon as the line began to move, and gain a little speed, Thomas would give the order, 'Slow Trot.' The boys used to call him 'Slow Trot' Thomas."

The Full passage on Thomas:

View attachment 297168 View attachment 297169

When Thomas died in 1870, in addition to 10,000 mourners, President Grant attended his funeral in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, NY.

View attachment 297175
Being a Southern boy I don't know why they would bury him up North.
 

rbasin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
2,456
Location
Tampa, Fl
#12
this doesn't actually surprise me all that much. Grant is playing politics. he wasn't the naive, gullible guy we have read about in the least.
 
Joined
Oct 17, 2018
Messages
116
Location
on a volcano
#16
I think if Thomas could be a good subordinate under Buell and Rosecrans, he was fine with being subordinate to Grant. I don't get the impression that Thomas was ambitious to be the top dog.
More he didn't like the politicking that went on for places.
I think he didn't approve of Grant's easy relationship with Wasborne, Or Sherman's running to his brother.

Both men had an attitude of if you have a tool, use it. Washborne and Grant had a symbiotic relation. Grant had a very Thomas attitude toward McClernand.
 

DanSBHawk

First Sergeant
Joined
May 8, 2015
Messages
1,235
Location
Wisconsin
#17
More he didn't like the politicking that went on for places.
I think he didn't approve of Grant's easy relationship with Wasborne, Or Sherman's running to his brother.

Both men had an attitude of if you have a tool, use it. Washborne and Grant had a symbiotic relation. Grant had a very Thomas attitude toward McClernand.
True, Thomas was not one to scheme for political attention or for attention in the press.

I don't see the Washburne/Grant relationship as very symbiotic. Washburne advocated for Illinois generals. But I can't think of one time that Grant asked Washburne for something for himself.

Neither Grant nor Sherman courted the press like other generals. Rosecrans, for example.
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
10,946
Location
East Texas
#18

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
10,946
Location
East Texas
#19
this doesn't actually surprise me all that much. Grant is playing politics. he wasn't the naive, gullible guy we have read about in the least.
Exactly, and as I've said before, thanks to reading about the structure of the army following Shiloh, for a time Halleck replaced Grant at the head of the Army of the Tennessee with none other than Thomas! Grant was "kicked upstairs" as Halleck's second-in-command, a do-nothing job that caused Grant to consider resigning from, and one that Sherman famously talked him out of doing. Since Grant was noted for his vindictiveness whenever he thought someone was trying to get the better of him (Rosecrans, McClernand) he likely thought Thomas had a hand in being replaced, even if it proved temporary.
 

Joshism

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,028
Location
Jupiter, FL
#20
Since Grant was noted for his vindictiveness whenever he thought someone was trying to get the better of him (Rosecrans, McClernand) he likely thought Thomas had a hand in being replaced, even if it proved temporary.
That's a fine theory with regard to Thomas, but is there anything to support it?

I think it's also important to distinguish between Rosecrans and McClernand, even if Grant disliked both.

Rosecrans was a West Pointer and a talented soldier, if seriously flawed. Grant was probably unfairly critical of him. (But I don't think Rosecrans was some unappreciated war-winning military genius like certain folks do.)

McClernand was a lawyer and politician, appointed for political reasons and scheming for glory. He had no military talent to justify his rank. He deserved Grant's scorn.
 



(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top