State Military Department
- The California Military Museum
- Preserving California's Military Heritage
- Californians and the Military
- Major General William Starke Rosecrans
- By Mark J. Denger
- California Center for Military
History, State Military Reserve
- William S. Rosecrans was born on September 6, 1819
at Kingston, Ross County, Ohio, the son of Crandell and Jane
(Hopkins) Rosecrans and the great-grandson of Stephen Hopkins,
a signer of the Declaration of Independence and colonial governor
of Rhode Island. Stephen Hopkins also co-authored the draft of
the Articles of Confederation.
William Rosecrans completed preparatory studies and was appointed
to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1838.
In 1842 he graduated from West Point 5th in his class of 56
and on assigned engineering duty upon graduation. William was
brevetted to second lieutenant, United States Corps of Engineers,
July 1, 1842 and promoted to second lieutenant on April 3,
1843. He served as assistant professor of engineering at the
Military Academy from 1843 to 1847 and was thereafter placed
in charge of various Government surveys and improvements from
1843 to 1853.
On April 1, 1854 he resigned from the Army in 1854 and became
an architect and civil engineer. In 1856 he became president
of the Coal River Navigation Company, Kanawha County, Virginia
(now West Virginia) and organized the Preston Coal Oil Company
in 1857 where he engaged in the manufacture of kerosene.
When the Civil War broke out, Rosecrans reentered the service
on June 7, 1861, as colonel of the Twenty-third Regiment, Ohio
Volunteer Infantry. His first duties in the war were for the
state of Ohio when he became the drillmaster for the 'Marion
Rifles'. After which he became the engineering officer that
laid the plan for Camp Dennison, Ohio and eventually became the
Commanding Officer of the Twenty-third Regiment, Ohio Volunteer
Infantry, which among its members were Rutherford B. Hayes, William
McKinley, and Stanley Matthews, a future Associate Justice of
the Supreme Court.
Rosecrans was appointed a Brigadier General in the regular Army
on May 16, 1861, in which he was a successful commander at Rich
Mountain, Virginia, for which George McClellan received much
credit for the success there and was promoted to the Commanding
General of the Army of the Potomac and eventually General-in-Chief
of the Union Armies. Yet it was Rosecrans that developed and
carried out the plans that gained the victory at Rich Mountain.
McClellan did not give him any credit in the official reports.
Thus Rosecrans requested a transfer to the west. In the west,
Rosecrans was placed in charge of the left wing of the Army of
Rosecrans was given command of the XIV Corps and a promotion
to Major General. The promotion was back dated to March 1862.
As Commanding General of the XIV Corps, Rosecrans secured a victory
at Stones River and immediately began the reorganization of the
XIV Corps into the Army of the Cumberland. He then embarked upon
the Tullahoma Campaign and ousted the Confederates from Chattanooga
with fewer then 500 casualties in the whole army. Rosecrans was
relieved of command of the Army of the Cumberland and given command
of the Department of Missouri until wars end. Rosecrans resigned
from the Army on March 28, 1867 to resume his career in business
and moved to California and settled in Los Angeles.
In 1868, President Andrew Johnson appointed him United States
Minister to Mexico, a post which Rosecrans served in Mexico for
two years, before becoming involved in mining interests there.
He returned to California in 1869 where he continued to be involved
in mining. He again engaged in civil engineering becoming president
of the Safety Powder Company in Los Angeles, in 1875. He was
elected as a Democrat to the Forty-seventh and Forty-eighth Congresses
(March 4, 1881-March 3, 1885) where he served as chairman, Committee
on Military Affairs (Forty-eighth Congress). He was not a candidate
for renomination in 1884. He returned to California and served
as a regent of the State university in 1884 and 1885 before President
Grover Cleveland appointed him Registrar of the Treasury in 1885,
a post he held until 1893. Reappointed brigadier general on the
retired list, United States Army (act of Congress, February 27,
1889), and officially retired on March 1, 1889.
He returned to him home in Redondo, Los Angeles County, California,
where he died on March 11, 1898. William S. Rosecrans was interned
in the Rosedale Cemetery and reintered in the Arlington National
Cemetery on May 17, 1902. He is buried in Section 3 (1862) of
Arlington National Cemetery.
- For more information concerning
General Rosecrans, CLICK HERE!
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