William S. Rosecrans

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Rosecrans, William S.(1).jpg
Portrait of Major General William S. Rosecrans from Delaware County, Ohio, ca. 1861-1865. Photograph was made from a negative in Brady's National Portrait Gallery.

William Starke Rosecrans was a major military leader in the American Civil War.

Rosecrans was born on September 6, 1819, in Delaware County, Ohio. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1838. Rosecrans served in various assignments in the United States Army after his graduation in 1842. He was an engineer with the United States Engineers Corps and was an assistant professor at the United States Military Academy. At West Point he taught classes in natural and experimental philosophy and in engineering. He resigned his commission in 1854 at the rank of first lieutenant. Rosecrans spent the seven years before the American Civil War in several different occupations. At various times he was an engineer, a manufacturer, an architect, and a coal operator.

At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Rosecrans volunteered for duty. He served at first as the colonel of the Twenty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Rosecrans was quickly promoted to brigadier general and played an active part in General George McClellan's campaign in West Virginia during the summer of 1861. During July of that same year, Rosecrans became commander of the Department of the Ohio and helped plan Ohio's early defense against an expected Confederate invasion. He also actively recruited and trained men for service in the Union army.

In 1862, Rosecrans participated in the Battles of Iuka and Corinth as a division commander and then became the commander of the Army of the Cumberland. He won an important victory against General Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Stone's River in Tennessee in late December 1862 and early January 1863. But he had a decided lack of success against the Confederates in the next several months. General Ulysses S. Grant removed Rosecrans from command of the Army of the Cumberland in October 1863 after the Confederate victory at the Battle of Chickamauga.

In 1864, Rosecrans assumed command of the Department of the Missouri and defeated a Confederate army under the command of General Sterling Price. In December 1864, Rosecrans was transferred to Cincinnati, where he remained until he resigned his commission in March 1867 with the rank of brevet major general.

Rosecrans spent the remainder of his life in the service of his country. He briefly served as the United States ambassador to Mexico. He moved to California and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1880 to 1884. In 1885, Rosecrans was appointed register of the United States Treasury. He held that position until 1893. Other than his brief service in the House of Representatives, Rosecrans refused to run for elected office. In 1865, the Union Party in Ohio sought to nominate Rosecrans to run for governor, but he declined. He refused to accept the Democratic Party's nomination for the California governorship in 1867 and for the Ohio governor's race in 1869. As a result of all of these refusals, Rosecrans earned the nickname of "the Great Decliner." He died in California on March 11, 1898.

See Also


  1. Dee, Christine, ed. Ohio's War: The Civil War in Documents. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007.  
  2. Jordan, Philip D. Ohio Comes of Age: 1874-1899. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1943.  
  3. Lamers, William Mathias. The Edge of Glory: A Biography of General William S. Rosecrans, U.S.A.. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1999.  
  4. Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of Rebellion, 1861-1866. Akron, OH: The Werner Company, 1893.  
  5. Reid, Whitelaw. Ohio in the War: Her Statesmen, Generals and Soldiers. Cincinnati, OH: Clarke, 1895.
  6. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.