An obscure anniversary and an obscure Union general

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Corinth (distinguished from the Siege of Corinth) that took place on October 3rd and 4th, 1862.  Union forces under the command of Major General William Starke Rosecrans defeated Confederate forces under the command of Major General Earl Van Dorn.

These days Rosecrans, if he is remembered at all, is known for being the Union commander at the gigantic Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, one of the major Union defeats of the war and the second-bloodiest battle of the entire war after Gettysburg.  But up to that point he had actually been one of the most successful Union generals Lincoln had.  I learned a great deal about him during my time at Stones River National Battlefield, where Rosecrans was also the Union commander.

Rosecrans was a complicated man – a Democratic general under a Republican administration, for one thing.  Interestingly, Rosecrans was briefly considered as Lincoln’s running mate in the 1864 election, an effort that got squashed by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.  Rosecrans was also a devout Catholic.  His brother Sylvester was a Catholic bishop.  Rosecrans’ personal chaplain while he was commander of the Army of the Cumberland was a priest named Patrick Treacy, who just before the Civil War had tried to establish a Catholic parish in Huntsville, Alabama, but was forced to leave because of his Unionism.  Treacy found his way to Rosecrans (I honestly don’t know the exact details) and became one of his closest confidants.  Rosecrans was also a true genius, in the IQ sense, in that he had several patents to his name.  He also cared a lot about his soldiers, and looked out for them in many ways.  He was brave to a fault, putting himself at great risk, probably more so (especially at Stones River) than any other Union army commander I can think of.

Anyway, Rosecrans has been a bit of a hero of mine for some time.  He is one of the few Civil War figures whose autograph and photo I have framed and mounted on my wall at home.  And at least up until now, I have not learned anything about him that would make me like him less.  That’s hard to say for a lot of people from that time period.


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