William S. Rosecrans (1819-1898) was born in Ohio and educated at West Point. He graduated fifth (in a class of 42) in 1842, having excelled in mathematics, French, drawing and English grammar. He was assigned as an engineer in Virginia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC, and then served for some time as mathematics instructor at West Point. Rosecrans converted to Roman Catholicism at a time when the vast majority of Army officers were Protestants. He resigned in failing health in 1854, and spent the next seven years regaining his strength while working as an engineer and businessman. He ran several companies, and was awarded several patents.
When war broke out in 1861, he volunteered his services and quickly received promotion to Brigadier General. Successes in western Virginia and at the Battles of Iuka and Corinth (Mississippi) led to him being named commander of the Department of the Cumberland. After a disputed victory at Stones River (Tennessee), he commanded the army during the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20, 1863). A mistake in troop placement on the second day resulted in a near disaster that was only averted by a desperate holding action by Union soldiers commanded by General George Thomas.
Rosecrans and most of his staff officers had fled to Chattanooga while Thomas held off the Confederates at Chickamauga. Rosecrans was shortly thereafter removed from command in Tennessee, and was later given command of the Department of the Missouri. He commanded that army during Price’s Raid (September-October 1864). After the war, he was stationed in California, where he died in 1898. Rosecrans is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
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