Thomas L. Rosser

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Major General Thomas L. Rosser, CSA
Sketch ID'd as Thomas L. Rosser, Source: website using facial recognition.
Thomas L. Rosser

Thomas Lafayette Rosser (October 15, 1836 – March 29, 1910) was a celebrated Confederate major general known for his “hit and run” raids and owner of Rugby Hall on Preston Height's in Charlottesville. Referred to as the "Savior of the Valley" by the Southern press, he was a favorite of J.E.B. Stuart and recognized by "the Yankees" for his daring cavalry raids, efficiency in handling combat troops, and tactical brilliance during the Civil War (1861–1865).

Some of these items have been copied from corresponding articles from Wikipedia. Please feel free to rewrite to fit Charlottesville's distinctive scope and perspective.

Early life and career

Born on a farm called "Catalpa Hill", in Campbell County, Virginia, the son of John and Martha Rosser. In 1849, the family relocated to a 640-acre farm in Panola County, Texas. Texas Congressman Lemuel D. Evans appointed Rosser to the United States Military Academy in 1856. However, Rosser did not complete the required five-year course of study, as Rosser, a supporter of Texas secession, resigned when Texas left the Union on April 22, 1861 two weeks before the scheduled graduation. Thomas Rosser's flatmate at the academy, George Armstrong Custer was a close friend, and despite being on opposing sides, this friendship continued both during and after the Civil War ended.

Civil War

After leaving the United States Military Academy, Rosser traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, the provisional capital of the Confederacy, to enlist. He was commissioned a first lieutenant and became an instructor to the famed "Washington Artillery" of New Orleans. He commanded its Second Company at the First Battle of Manassas in July 1861. He was noted for shooting down one of George B. McClellan's observation balloons, a feat that won him promotion to captain. He commanded his battery during the Seven Days Battles of the Peninsula Campaign, and was severely wounded at Mechanicsville. Rosser was promoted to lieutenant colonel of artillery, and a few days later to colonel of the 5th Virginia Cavalry. At Antietam, his men screened Robert E. Lee's left flank. He temporarily assumed command of Fitzhugh Lee's brigade during the subsequent fighting against Alfred Pleasonton. He was again badly wounded at the Battle of Kelly's Ford and was disabled until the Gettysburg Campaign, where he commanded his regiment in the fighting at Hanover and the East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg. He was promoted to brigadier-general of the "Laurel Brigade," which had gained fame under Turner Ashby. He was distinguished again in the 1864 Overland Campaign, driving back a large force of Union cavalry and artillery at the Battle of the Wilderness. Rosser was yet again wounded at Trevilian Station, where his brigade captured a number of prisoners from former West Point classmate and close personal friend George Armstrong Custer. His brigade later "gallantly fought against Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, and he efficiently commanded Fitzhugh Lee's division at Cedar Creek." A favorite of J.E.B. Stuart, he was recognized by "the Yankees" for his daring cavalry raids, efficiency in handling combat troops, and tactical brilliance during the Civil War (1861–1865).

  • "The Yankees in Charlottesville," an anonymous article published in the Richmond Daily Dispatch on March 15, 1865, reports on Union general Philip H. Sheridan's occupation of Charlottesville at the end of the War Between the States (1861–1865) and references General Rosser: 'The Yankees, while in Charlottesville, started to publish a paper, and seized the old Jeffersonian office for the purpose. They christened the journal "Third Cavalry Division Chronicle," and the only copy issued is dated Monday, March 6th. The contents are very slim, as the Yankees had to move before they could get out a full sheet. In it appears Custer's official report of his captures on the 2d instant. He claims to have eleven pieces of artillery, eight hundred horses and mules, and one hundred and twenty army wagons. On the 4th, he claims to have taken three more guns and destroyed four railroad bridges. Among the advertisements is one offering "Two Dollars Reward, Confederate Currency," for the whereabouts of "Jube, answering to the name of Early," and One Cent Reward for General Rosser.'[1]

Rosser was prominent during the Appomattox Campaign, capturing a Union general and rescuing a wagon train near Farmville. He led a daring early morning charge at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, and escaped with his command as Lee surrendered the bulk of the Army of Northern Virginia. Under orders from the secretary of war, he began reorganizing the scattered remnants of Lee's army in a vain attempt to join Joseph E. Johnston's army in North Carolina. However, he surrendered at Staunton, Virginia, on May 4 and was paroled shortly afterwards.

Postbellum activities

Lee Monument shrouded, May 1890

Rosser was superintendent of the National Express Company, working for fellow ex-Confederate general Joe Johnston. Later he was chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific.

In 1886, Rosser and his family retired to his plantation property Rugby Hall on Preston Heights, in what is part of the Venable Neighborhood. On this xx acre plantation he became a gentleman farmer. He would occasionally appear as a guest speaker at Confederate reunions and social gatherings.

On May 29, 1890, Major General Thomas L. Rosser commanded 200 Confederate Veterans, including Thomas L. Preston, from Charlottesville’s J. Bowie Strange Camp in the procession of the Robert E. Lee Statue unveiling on Monument Avenue. The event was covered extensively, both by local and national press. The Robert E. Lee equestrian sculpture, didn’t go up until nearly 25 years after the Civil War.

On February 24, 1910, Rosser was appointed Charlottesville's Postmaster General. After returned home from the Post Officeon Friday, March 18, 1910, Rosser was taken with a chill whereupon Dr. E. E. Magruder was called to Rugby Hall. From that time on, symptoms of "broncho-pneumonia" increased. The old soldier faded away on Tuesday, March 29, 1910 at his home Rugby and was laid to rest in Riverview Cemetery.[2]

General Rosser and Miss Bettie B. Winston of Hanover, were married in 1863. She and three of their children survived him, they were: Mrs. Campbell Cochran, of Big Stone Gap, Va; Thomas L. Rosser, Jr., of Denver, Colo., and Mrs. Virginia Rosser Elliott, of Charlottesville.

Timeline

  • Born on a farm called "Catalpa Hill", in Campbell County, Virginia, to John and Martha Melvina (Johnson) Rosser on October 15, 1836.
  • In 1849 the family relocated to a 640-acre farm in Panola County, Texas.
  • USMA, resigned two weeks before graduation on April 22, 1861
  • 1st lieutenant, ACSA, Artillery, March 16, 1861.
  • Commanded the Second Company of the famed "Washington Artillery" of New Orleans at the First Battle of Manassas in July 1861.
  • CSA Artillery, captain, September 17, 1861, lieutenant colonel, June 10, 1862.
  • Wounded at Mechanicsville.
  • 1862, June 24 - appointed colonel of 5th Virginia Cavalry.
  • Wounded at Kelly's Ford.
  • Wounded five more times.
  • Command of Laurel Brigade.
  • Just before Christmas, 1963, he married Bettie B. Winston of Hanover, a cousin of Patrick Henry.
  • He lived with his wife in winter quarters, 1863-’64, at Culpeper and Orange Courthouses, she frequently road along the picket lines with him, sometime riding forty miles a day.
  • In October 1864 assumed command of Early's cavalry.
  • Became known in the Southern press as the "Savior of the Valley," and was promoted to major general in November 1864.
  • Defeated at Woodstock and Cedar Creek.
  • In January 1865, with 300 men he crossed the mountains, in deep snow, surprised and captured two infantry regiments at Beverly.
  • Two raids into West Virginia, then returned to Siege of Petersburg.
  • April 6, 1865, in the vicinity of Petersburg, he commanded a division of cavalry at Five Forks and at High Bridge.
  • Refused to surrender at Appomattox Court House but was captured and paroled in May 1865.
  • Studied law, but never practiced.
  • Superintendent of the National Express Company, working for fellow ex-Confederate general Joe Johnston, resigned.
  • Assistant engineer during the construction of the Pittsburgh & Connellsville Railroad.
  • Became chief engineer of the eastern division of the Northern and Canadian railway from 1870 to 1886.
  • In 1886 returned to Virginia and purchased "Rugby", not far from the University, and became a gentleman farmer.
  • On June 10, 1898, appointed brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers for the Spanish–American War.
  • Mustered out on October 31, 1898 and returned home to Charlottesville.
  • Land speculator, Cuba (1899)
  • At the procession of the Robert E. Lee Statue unveiling on May 29, 1890, commanded 200 Charlottesville's Confederate Veterans.
  • Appointed Postmaster General, Charlottesville, February 24-March 29, 1910.
  • Died at his estate home called "Rugby Hall" on Preston Height's in Albemarle County, VA on March 29, 1910.

Related facts

CSA general collar insignia
  • CSA Major General: By war's end, the Confederacy had at least 88 different men who had held this rank, all in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States (PACS). Divisions were authorized by the Congress on March 6, 1861, and major generals would command them. These generals were to be nominated by Jefferson Davis and confirmed by the Senate. Major generals outranked brigadiers and all other lesser officers.

Namesakes

There are three streets in the City of Charlottesville named in his honor:

  1. Rosser Lane
  2. Rosser Avenue West
  3. Rosser Avenue East a short street runs between Preston Avenue and Twelfth Street NW, just south of the Zion Union Baptist Church property. The narrow street intersects with Preston Avenue) at the historic C. B. Holt Rock House located directly across from the land which would become Charlottesville’s all-black Booker T. Washington Park within sixteen years of Rosser's death. (African American Charles B. Holt owned a carpentry business in Charlottesville's Vinegar Hill neighborhood.)
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References

  1. http://dlxs.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ddr;cc=ddr;q1=March%2015%2C%201865;rgn=div3;view=text;idno=ddr1351.0028.062;node=ddr1351.0028.062%3A10.1.2 Richmond Daily Dispatch, March 15, 1865, 3., Original Author: Richmond Daily Dispatch, Created: March 15, 1865, Medium: Newspaper, Courtesy of Richmond Daily Dispatch, 1860–1865
  2. https://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:2093243/view#openLayer/uva-lib:2093244/4752/1009/3/1/0

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