MBB: Brian Steel Wills will sign George Henry Thomas: As True As Steel

Troy Night Out

Although often counted among the Union’s top five generals, George Henry Thomas has still not received his due. A Virginian who sided with the North in the Civil War, he was a more complicated commander than traditional views have allowed. Brian Wills now provides a new and more complete look at the life of a man known to history as “The Rock of Chickamauga,” to his troops as “Old Pap,” and to General William T. Sherman as a soldier who was “as true as steel.”

While biographers have long been hampered by Thomas’s lack of personal papers, Wills has drawn on previously untapped sources—notably the correspondence of Thomas’s contemporaries—to offer new insights into what made him tick. Focusing on Thomas’s personality and motivations, Wills contributes revealing discussions of his style and approach to command and successfully captures his troubled interactions with other Union commanders, providing a particularly more evenhanded evaluation of his relationship with Grant. He also gives a more substantial account of battlefield action than can be found in other biographies, capturing the ebb and flow of key encounters—Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga and Atlanta, Stones River and Mill Springs, Peachtree Creek and Nashville—to help readers better understand Thomas’s contributions to their outcomes.

Throughout Wills presents a well-rounded individual whose complex views embraced the worlds of professional military service and scientific inquisitiveness, a man known for attention to detail and compassion to subordinates. We also meet a sharp-tempered person whose disdain for politics hurt his prospects for advancement as much as it reflected positively on his character, and Wills offers new insight into why Thomas might not have progressed as quickly up the ladder of command as he might have liked.

More deeply researched than other biographies, Wills’s work situates Thomas squarely in his own time to provide readers with a more thorough and balanced life story of this enigmatic Union general. It is a definitive military history that gives us a new and needed picture of the Rock of Chickamauga—a man whose devotion to duty and ideals made him as true as steel.

“At long last, here is the definitive biography of George Henry Thomas. . . . An exciting, stirring, splendid achievement.”—Emory M. Thomas, author of Robert E. Lee

“A superbly crafted ‘inside’ story of an outstanding American and a true hero in overcoming his life’s many political adversities.”—Wiley Sword, author of The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah

“This is Wills at his best. . . . A major contribution to our understanding of Northern victory in the western theater.”—Larry J. Daniel, author of The Days of Glory

“Will stand as the basic source on the ‘Rock of Chickamauga’ for years to come.”—James I. Robertson, Jr., author of Stonewall Jackson 


Brian Steel Wills is the Director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Professor of History at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., after a long tenure at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.  He is the author of numerous works relating to the American Civil War.  His latest work is George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2012).


His biography of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, A Battle From the Start: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest is currently in reprint as The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest (University Press of Kansas).  This work was chosen as both a History Book Club selection and a Book of the Month Club selection.


Dr. Wills also authored, The War Hits Home: The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia, released in October, 2001, and No Ordinary College: A History of The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, (2004), both by the University Press of Virginia.  Gone with the Glory: The Civil War in Cinema appeared in 2006 with Rowman and Littlefield.  An updated edition of the James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr., Civil War Sites in Virginia (Virginia, 2011) appeared just in time for the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.


In 2000, Dr. Wills received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the state of Virginia, one of eleven recipients from all faculty members at public and private institutions across the state.  He was named Kenneth Asbury Professor of History and won both the Teaching award and the Research and Publication award from UVa-Wise.

Event date: 
Friday, June 29, 2012 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
290 River Street
12180 Troy
George Henry Thomas: As True as Steel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780700618415
Availability: OUT OF PRINT
Published: University Press of Kansas - April 18th, 2012

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