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Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas
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Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  79 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
In this revelatory, dynamic biography, one of our finest historians, Benson Bobrick, profiles George H. Thomas, arguing that he was the greatest and most successful general of the Civil War. Because Thomas didn't live to write his memoirs, his reputation has been largely shaped by others, most notably Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, two generals with whom Th ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 10th 2009 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2009)
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Aug 13, 2014 Don rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
The author makes a strong case that George H. Thomas was the finest general on the Union side and perhaps even better than Lee or Jackson. Thomas never lost a battle and was beloved of his men because he refused to waste their lives on fruitless assaults. That he did not advance higher in the ranks is mainly due to his lack of political patrons. He was from Virginia, so he had no politicians pulling strings for him in Washington to get promotions. He served in the Kentucky Tennessee theater that ...more
Jonathan Beams
Jun 16, 2009 Jonathan Beams rated it really liked it
Bobrick goes a bit out of his way to take digs at Thomas' famous commander in chief, but it's hard not to forgive him when you see the Union military leadership through the experiences of George H. Thomas and the army of the Cumberland. An unparalleled commander, Thomas never lost a movement during his career as a professional soldier in two wars. He was beloved by his troops, maligned by Sherman and Grant, and respected by his southern counterparts for the skill as a leader and almost unbelieva ...more
Tedde Bear
Feb 11, 2014 Tedde Bear rated it it was amazing
There is a lot of historical detail in this valuable look back at the Civil War, and one of the leading Western generals within it (as we all know, the Armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia got the lions' share of the headlines, press, and attention from the respective capitals).

The criticism of Bobrick, a lot of it, comes from the fact that Grant and Sherman were far more self-serving than Thomas was (the conduct of all three generals at Battle of Lookout Mountain is partial proof of this
Jul 29, 2011 Robert rated it did not like it
This is the most disturbingly one-sided biography I have read of a Civil War general, and that includes Joseph Johnston's self-serving "Narrative of Operations..." There are several factual inaccuracies, and the author often slants those facts that are accurately reported in order not just to praise Thomas's abilities and record (as they certainly deserve) but also to make US Grant and WT Sherman look like sneaky manipulators or incompetent boobs. Every time Thomas has a setback, it is someone e ...more
May 19, 2015 Owen rated it really liked it
George Thomas never lost. Never lost a single battle. According to this book, he never even steered anyone wrong. I can actually believe this- while the book borders on hagiography, the author makes a very important point that I did not know. George Thomas held every rank from lieutenant to Lieutenant General. Most Union commanders- most notably Grant and Sherman- did not. Simply doing something for a decade longer than your ‘peers’ will give any man of talent a real advantage, and, by all accou ...more
John Nelson
Jul 16, 2014 John Nelson rated it liked it
Most historians of the Civil War regard George H. Thomas as one of the most capable generals of the war. Yet, he also is one of the least known.

Benson Bobrick asserts that Thomas was the best general who served in either the Blue or the Gray. Bobrick ably shows Thomas' achievements. His argument, however, is marred by numerous overstatements. For example, Bobrick asserts that Thomas was the key figure who won the war for the Union, whereas the fact is that the western (trans-Appalachian) theatre
Nathan Albright
Mar 23, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge
Known mostly for his works on the history of the English Bible as well as a history of astrology, in this book historian Benson Bobrick writes about an unjustly obscure Union General [1] whose cause the author unstintingly takes, General George Thomas, best known as “Slow Trot” or the “Rock Of Chickamuga,” where he is known at all, but often considered below the popular triumvirate of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan [2] among successful Union generals. On the whole, I find the author’s case to be q ...more
Shellys♥ Journal
This biography of General George Thomas, details parts of his life and service during the Civil War, paying particular attention to his relationships with Generals Grant and Sherman. The book is well written, covering the subject and the progression of events with enough detail to help the reader understand Thomas's role in all this, but not so detailed that the work becomes a story of the events and not Thomas. He seems to do a complete job in covering all the components of Thomas' life as well ...more
2.5 stars, really. The author's tone rubbed me wrong. I feel like he spent a lot more time and vitriol than was necessary on Grant and Sherman, and more time than needed on parts of the war that did not directly or indirectly involve Gen. Thomas. Also, all adulatory words written about the subject were accepted at face value. It seemed that the author's goal was to smear any and all others who might have had an axe to grind with the subject, and to laud the subject above all mere humanity.

The au
Jun 24, 2015 Stranger rated it did not like it
I was very much looking forward to a good read about George Thomas. He appears to be a fascinating figure and one of the great Civil War generals. Nevertheless, Benson Bobrick insists in the first pages that Thomas was the out-and-out greatest Union general and then spends the remainder of the book worshiping Thomas and defaming Grant and Sherman.

Actually, I do not know if Bobrick spent “the remainder of the book” in such a manner. I quit reading after approximately 75 pages.

Bobrick has gone b
Aug 01, 2011 Jim added it
Historians who want to study General George H. Thomas are hampered by the loss (& probable destruction) of his personal papers after his death. This book manages to tell us more about his personal life than his previous biographies ("Rock of Chickamauga" by Freeman Cleaves is one I read) but there are still key gaps.

George Thomas never got his due as probably the best Union general (arguably the best general period). Following his victory at Mill Springs in Kentucky in January 1862, Thomas s
Theo Logos
General George Thomas is perhaps the most under-rated and least known great hero of the Civil War. For a variety of reasons, he has never obtained his rightful place in the pantheon of Civil War heroes, and those of us who appreciate him and his incredible contributions to the preservation of the Union are eager to see that wrong righted. Master of War attempts to address this problem, but instead ends up illustrating the complications that caused it in the first place, without significantly cha ...more
Mike Veliky
Jul 21, 2012 Mike Veliky rated it really liked it
An unsung American General of the Civil War. He was perhaps one of the most under-rated Generals of the Union Army or any army for that fact in Military history. Why this man is not more well known escapes me. Lincoln never trusted him because he was from Virgina but loyal to the Union and its army. He graduated from West Point and was a friend and and respected by Robert E. Lee. Thomas was an expert of topologicl strategy and artillery. He calculated many of his battle plans carefully, using hi ...more
Mike Angelillo
Jul 31, 2009 Mike Angelillo rated it liked it
I've been an avid junkie of Civil War military leadership for some time now so the accomplishments of George Thomas were not new to me. Several authors have made a very strong case that Thomas was the best field commander of the Civil War and one of the very best in American history. He is still largely unknown which is not surprising considering he was from Virginia but fought for the North, fought his campaigns in the western theater, died soon after the war and was not liked (hated?) by Grant ...more
Kevin Payne
Mar 05, 2016 Kevin Payne rated it really liked it
Thomas gets credits for his brilliant military maneuvers that earned him the sobriquets "The Rock of Chickamauga" and "The Sledge of Nashville." Grant and Sherman are portrayed as very petty, jealous men who tried to belittle Thomas during the war and in their memoirs to falsely enhance their accomplishments. Though Thomas was quite a tactician (his tactics at Nashville almost immediately were taught in coursework at West Point), at times it seemed the author was overstating his case for Thomas' ...more
Sam Schreiner
Mar 21, 2015 Sam Schreiner rated it it was amazing
Fantastic look at arguably the best general on either side of the Civil War. What Thomas did was buried by Grant and Sherman in their jealousy and ignored by the South since he was a Virginian (and a buddy of Robert E Lee) who believed in the constitution and sided with the North. Must read for Civll War buffs.
Oct 06, 2014 Bill rated it it was ok
I've always been an admirer of General Thomas. In terms of what he accomplished during the Civil War he stands second to no other general on either side. That point comes across very strongly in this book. Unfortunately, in order to make that point the author spends a great deal of time denigrating Sherman and Grant. To some extent what he writes is true; Grant disliked Thomas, treated him unreasonably at Nashville, and was less than charitable in his memoirs. Still, I believe it's entirely poss ...more
Darrell Brown
Jun 11, 2014 Darrell Brown rated it really liked it
Fascinating. A well researched treatment of a tragically overlooked Civil War hero. It also paints Grant and Sherman in a less than flattering light.
Jan 31, 2016 Sean rated it really liked it
Happy to be introduced to such a great General and person. Grant and Sherman were buffoons...but that wasn't anything new.
Jun 02, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
I've always wondered why the Army of the Cumberland wasn't held in the same awe as the Army of the Potomac. This excellent biography helps answer the question. Thomas was a leader who served his country not his state as Lee did. His victories were unparalled in the Civil War. They were well laid out with attempts to have victory without heavy casualties. This man needs to be moved ahead of Grant, Lee , and Sherman as a Civil War leader.
Adam Smith
Jan 01, 2014 Adam Smith rated it it was amazing
A highly entertaining book about a Civil War general that is not amongst the well known to the casual history fan.

Highlights of the book for me were other generals on his side that underestimated him and his mastery of tactics and his efficiency of leading and choosing the right people to work for him, the latter two which is a wonderful and rare talent to have.
Marc Mansfield
Apr 28, 2015 Marc Mansfield rated it it was amazing
Feb 04, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, ebook
Somewhat a Hagiography, I still learned a great deal. I am happy that I listened to this book while I was still only about half way through Grant's Memoirs. Now I can see where Grant may have lauded Sherman a bit too much and ignored Thomas completely. A really good read for those who enjoy learning about the civil war!
Sep 19, 2011 Rich rated it it was amazing
This will probably change your opinion about who were the best generals of the American Civil War.
Mar 17, 2010 Rodger added it
Under appreciated Civil War General but not so sure the author has kept his objective distance.
Hero-worships General George H. Thomas .... as well he should be!
Aug 07, 2010 Fred is currently reading it
He is "The Rock of Chickamauga." He never lost a battle and destroyed two Confederate armies. Should be good!
Steve Webster
Steve Webster is currently reading it
May 30, 2016
Amber marked it as to-read
May 17, 2016
Jonathan marked it as to-read
Apr 13, 2016
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Benson Bobrick earned his doctorate from Columbia University and is the author of several critically acclaimed works. In 2002, he received the Literature Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He and his wife, Hilary, live in Vermont.
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