George Henry Thomas, born in Southampton County, Va., 31 July 1816, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1840 and was breveted a First Lieutenant for gallantry in the Seminole War. Later he taught at West Point, and served with distinction under Taylor in the Mexican War. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Thomas, then a Colonel, chose to stay with the Union and took command of a brigade in the Shenandoah Valley. He became Brigadier General of Volunteers 3 August 1861, and was given command of a division in the Army of the Ohio. When the army was reorganized as the Army of the Cumberland, Thomas was given command of the XIV Corps, and at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863 earned his famous nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga." Taking overall command of the Army of the Cumberland, he then fought successfully at Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. Sent to oppose Hood's invasion of Tennessee in late 1864, he achieved perhaps his greatest success at the Battle of Nashville 15 to 16 December and was promoted to Major General 15 December 1864. General Thomas assumed command of the Military Division of the Pacific in June 1869, and died in San Francisco 28 March 1870.
(SwStr: t. 184; l. 165'; b. 26'; dph. 4'6"; a. 2 20-pdr. P.r., 4 24-pdr. how.)
General Thomas was one of four light wooden gunboats built at Chattanooga, Tenn., for the War Department in 1864. After cruising on the Ohio River without being formally commissioned in June and July 1864, she commissioned 8 August 1864 at Bridgeport, Ala., Acting Master Gilbert Morton in command.
Assigned to the llth district of the Mississippi Squadron, commanded by Lt. Moreau Forrest, General Thomas served as a patrol vessel on the Tennessee River, above Muscle Shoals. During this period Confederate General Hood was mounting his campaign into Tennessee to divert Sherman's march on Atlanta and General Thomas patrolled the river unceasingly to prevent the Southern troops from crossing. At Decatur, Ala., 28 October 1864, the gunboat engaged strong batteries from Hood's army. After passing the batteries downstream and sustaining several hits, General Thomas rounded to and, with Army gunboat Stone River, poured such a withering crossfire into the emplacements that the Confederates were forced to withdraw. After Hood's repulse at Nashville in December, General Thomas was used on the upper Tennessee River to block his escape route. She aided General Steed-man in his successful attack on Decatur 27 December by giving his army concentrated gunfire support, and attempted to pass over Elk River Shoals to prevent a Southern crossing of the river. The Tennessee was too low, however, and Forrest and his gunboats could not cross.
General Thomas returned to Bridgeport 30 December 1864, but was soon active again. On 26 February 1865 she joined the other gunboats of the llth district and, taking advantage of unusually high water, crossed Elk River Shoals. The ships destroyed the camp of Southern General Roddey, captured a quantity of supplies and destroyed communications at Lamb's Ferry before returning to Bridgeport 4 March. General Thomas continued to patrol between Bridgeport and Decatur, Ala., until she was turned over to the War Department at Bridgeport 3 June 1865.