Author Re-evaluates Gen. Rosecrans’ Civil War Contributions

A new book sheds light on the Civil War battlefield contributions of Union Gen. William S. Rosecrans, who was stationed in Wheeling for a time.

Author David Moore appeared at Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling Tuesday, June 9, and talked about his book, “William S. Rosecrans and the Union Victory: A Civil War Biography.”

Rosecrans and his wife lived at the Charles Wells Russell house in Wheeling early in the war. A smart inventor, he designed the Wheeling ambulance that was used on battlefields during the war. A full-size replica of the ambulance will be displayed at West Virginia Independence Hall in Wheeling Saturday, June 20.

Born near Sunbury, Ohio, in 1819, Rosecrans graduated fifth in his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1842. However, “the Army wasn’t a great career if there wasn’t a war,” so he left the military in 1850, Moore said. He worked in mining and refining interests in the Kanawha Valley and Cincinnati until offering his services to the Army after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter.

Rosecrans fought under Union Gen. George B. McClellan at Philippi and Rich Mountain in the western Virginia campaign. After McClellan was chosen to lead the Army of the Potomac, Rosecrans took command in western Virginia. He won the battle of Carnifax Ferry and faced off against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in the Greenbrier Valley. Moore said historian Granville D. Hall contended that “Rosecrans’ actions cleared the field for restoration of civil government in Virginia.”

Moore said Rosecrans was sent to Mississippi and western Tennessee, where he repulsed Confederate troops in the Battle of Corinth on Oct. 3-4, 1862. Disregarding his own safety, he led his men in rebuilding a line in the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River) that took place from Dec. 31, 1862 to Jan. 2, 1863. Moore said Gov. Albert S. Marks of Tennessee wrote: “On this field his (Rosecrans’) genius destroyed the Confederacy and re-established the Union.”

Rosecrans, who had to rebuild his army, constructed a large earthen fort, created a signal corps and hospital train, updated maps and established a lightning brigade and a Spencer repeating rifle brigade. With “his star was rising in the summer of 1863,” Rosecrans declined an invitation to run for the presidency, the author said.

Considerable discussion continues today about Rosecrans’ actions in the Battle of Chickamauga, Moore said. Rosecrans fought in one more battle in Missouri and engaged in guerrilla warfare in 1864. He resigned from the Army in 1867. He later served two terms in Congress and lived in California until his death in 1898.

A statue of Rosecrans was dedicated in his hometown of Sunbury in September 2013, Moore said. The general is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.


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