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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A photograph of an old man wearing an early‑19c suit and sporting a rather splendid drooping mustache He is thin and has an alert, nervous air. He is Bryan M. Thomas, a West Point graduate whose career is detailed on this webpage.]

Bryan M. Thomas

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Thirty-Sixth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 13th, 1905.

 p125  Bryan M. Thomas
No. 1819. Class of 1858.
Died, July 16th, 1905, at Dalton, Ga., aged 69.

On the afternoon of July 16th, 1905, the soul of General Bryan M. Thomas, of Dalton, Ga., "passed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees" in the realms of the eternal camping grounds.

General Thomas was born in Milledgeville, Ga., May 8, 1836. Being of a patriotic nature and inheriting from a long line of ancestors a courageous spirit, he early evinced a desire for a military life. Leaving Oglethorpe College in his junior year, he entered the United States Military Academy, at West Point, N. Y., in 1854, graduating in 1858. After serving as instructor at his Alma Mater for a season and after a period at Governor's Island, he was assigned to the 5th Infantry, U. S. A., in the far West. Lieutenant Thomas, under the afterwards famous Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert Sidney Johnston, was engaged in various campaigns in Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona against the Navajos and Apaches, often braving the greatest danger in charge of scouts.

When Georgia joined her sister States in secession against the Union, Lieut. Thomas resigned his commission and took up arms for the Southland that he loved so well. Going to Montgomery, Ala., then the capitol of the Confederacy, he offered his services to the President, Jefferson Davis. He was first commissioned first lieutenant in the Confederate service and stationed at Fort Gaines, Ala., as drillmaster. Soon afterwards he was appointed staff officer as inspector general of Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.J. M. Withers' Division, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Polk's Corps, of the Western Army, serving with distinction in the Tennessee-Kentucky campaigns. He was in the terrible conflicts of Shiloh, Perryville, and Murfreesboro, and was recommended for promotion for distinguished gallantry  p126 on the field of Shiloh by both Gens. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Bragg and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hardee. After the Tennessee Campaign, Gen. Withers was transferred to the Department of the Gulf.

On August 4, 1864, Gen. Thomas was commissioned brigadier general and assigned to the command of a brigade composed of the 1st, 2d and 3d Regiments Alabama Reserves, afterwards known as the 61st, 62d and 63d Alabama Regiments. His brigade was assigned to duty at Blakely and Spanish Fort, near Mobile. After a heroic defense of several months, he surrendered to Gen. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Canby in April, 1865, almost simultaneously with Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lee's surrender to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant at Appomattox.

With the failure of the Confederacy, Gen. Thomas, giving up the sword of war, took up the reap hook of peace and engaged in planting in Southern Georgia for a number of years. Endowed with a superior mentality, however, he, like Gen. Lee and many others, found more congenial employment in teaching; and for nearly fifteen years prior to his death he was superintendent of the public schools of Dalton, Ga. Gen. Thomas is survived by his wife (a daughter of Gen. J. M. Withers) and three children: a son (John S. Thomas, a merchant of Dalton) and two daughters (Miss Hattie Thomas, of Dalton, and Mrs. Guy Hamilton, of Mobile).

Both in public and private life the love of a great and warm heart found expression in words and deeds that bound others to him as with "hoops of steel." His chivalry was supreme. His impress upon the characters of the young who came under his tuition will be lasting. Many there are who, owing to his guidance, have risen "on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things." When the message went forth that his great heart had ceased to beat, sorrow was universal. As he lay in his casket, clad in his uniform of gray and surrounded by beautiful flowers, many people, including the hoary-headed veteran with  p127 his iron cross, the youngest school child, the business man wearing his insignia of Masonry, and the humblest negro, paid tribute to his worthy memory. As the sun was sinking in splendor over the wooded crest of Rocky Face the cortege wound his way to the heights of West Hill Cemetery. As little children, one by one, dropped a rose or lily on the casket some one said reverently: "He was the most beloved man in Dalton." Softly the darkness fell like a mantle upon the sorrowing town, while a single star shone gloriously in the eastern sky — a star bright and beautiful like the redeemed soul that had answered "Here" to the roll call of the heavenly hosts.

"Till the future dares

Forget the past, his fate and fame shall be

An echo and a light unto eternity."

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Page updated: 10 Jan 14