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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

Staff Officer to Gen. George Thomas; Captain Henry Stone

by Gordon Thorsby

(Gens. Davis, Johnson, Brannan, King, Whipple, Col Burke, Stout, Maj. Thruston, Capt. Stone, Lt. Kelley) Planning for the Demonstration at Rocky face Ridge)

Like many commanders with loyal staffs, George H. Thomas had some most able officers who assisted in the excellent performance of the Army of the Cumberland; one was Captain Henry Stone.

Henry was born August 17, 1830 in Andover, Maine from a typical New England family. He had twelve brothers and sisters, eight of who lived to adulthood. He entered Harvard College in 1848, but after his freshman year, joined the Class of 1852 at Bowdoin College. After receiving a degree there, he studied theology (father was a reverend) at the Harvard Divinity School. The Stone family was unabashedly abolitionist. His brother William, even in his teens, wrote in his diary about the crime of slavery. Another brother Lincoln, a Harvard graduate, helped Robert Gould Shaw organize the 54th Massachusetts Infantry (“Glory” renown) and became its surgeon while a third brother, George Herbert, served in uniform as well.

In 1861, Henry moved to Wisconsin where upon the outbreak of war, enlisted (8/28/1861) in the 1st Wisconsin and was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. The First Wisconsin lost heavily at Perryville and it was actively involved in Stones’ River. On April 4, 1863, Stone parted company with the 1st Wisconsin, received a Captain’s bars, promoted to an Adjutant General, and was assigned for duty in Washington D.C.

With George H. Thomas’ promotion to head of the Army of the Cumberland in February, 1864, Stone (right) was assigned to the Thomas' staff for what would become the Atlanta Campaign. He would serve Thomas closely throughout the campaign and in November, he returned to Nashville with his commander. Stone’s name will invariably arise in the retelling of the Atlanta Campaign.

At New Hope Church, Thomas was accompanying Gen. John Geary and his division when they observed a strong front from Hood’s corps. Geary’s division was all by itself. Stone was

ordered forward. “Thomas ordered him quietly ‘to ride back to Howard as fast as I could and hurry up the IV Corps’. Stone took the order literally and jumping on his horse, started to gallop too secure the reinforcements. Thomas called him back and admonished him to walk his horse until he was out of sight of the men. “There was no sense in causing a panic and Thomas wanted nothing to seem alarming in Stone’s ride to the rear.” “Howard met with me at about 2:20 PM and I delivered the message. He informed me that the push would use up the men.” Stone observed it seemed he “never saw men moving so slowly.” Stone was also the man who heard the Sherman statement, “I don’t see what they are waiting for in front now. There haven’t been twenty rebels there today.” Stone was there and within short order there were also a lot of Confederate forces. Stone would later remember it and would illustrate some of Sherman's shortcomings.

Stone would eventually write a work titled, “The Siege and capture of Atlanta, July 9, to Sept. 1864. Upon Thomas’ victory at Nashville, Stone took a new direction. In January 1865, he received a commission as lieutenant colonel of the 100th U.S.C.T that had fought just the previous month relieving the Siege of Nashville. He served the regiment as second-in-command but performed as its operational commander. He was promoted Brevet Colonel on March 13, 1865 and served until mustering out where he ended his military career on December 26, 1865.

Henry Stone was deeply involved in reconstruction efforts in Nashville. He became a member of the Radical wing of the Republican Party and pursued harsh policing policies against secessionist sentiments still in practice. In August, 1866, Stone was appointed by Tennessee Governor Brownlow to Superintending Commissioner of the Nashville Tennessee Metropolitan Police.

In 1881 he moved to Boston where he lived until his death working in various boards for helping the poor and the insane. Though married twice, he left no children. Henry Stone passed away January 18, 1896, 65 at the time and is buried in Salem Massachusetts.

Stone (postwar)


Houghton Library, Harvard College, Henry Stone Collection.

Decision in the West, by Castel, Albert, University Press of Kansas, Pp222-223.

As True as Steel, by Brian Steel Wills, University Press of Kansas, 2012, P269-70.

General George H. Thomas, by Broadwater, Robert P., McFarland and Co., 2009, Pp172, 177.

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