Over the last two centuries, Delaware County has produced a remarkable set of individuals who have led lives of discovery. Our Delaware County Roots series shares short insights into the lives of the well-known and less commonly known people born here, or who lived here, and then went on to make significant contributions to state, regional, or national history.
Few local sons or daughters have a larger historic reputation than a native of Kingston Township.
General William Starke Rosecrans, one of the most important military figures of the American Civil War, was born on September 6, 1819. Though his name may not be as well-known as his contemporaries, such as Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, Rosecrans was an accomplished military strategist and a vital contributor to the Union’s success. His life and legacy exemplify the dedication, intelligence, and determination that defined a generation of American military leaders.
Early Life and Education
William Rosecrans grew up on a farm, the second of five sons born to Crandall and Jemima Rosecrans. In 1838, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he excelled academically. Graduating fifth in his class in 1842, Rosecrans was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. He later taught engineering at West Point before transitioning to civilian life, where he worked as an engineer and architect.
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Rosecrans returned to military service, receiving a commission as a colonel in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He quickly made a name for himself as a skilled strategist and a fearless leader, earning rapid promotion to the rank of brigadier general.
One of his most notable early successes came in the Battle of Rich Mountain in western Virginia (now West Virginia), where his strategic prowess led to a Union victory. This win brought Rosecrans to the attention of President Abraham Lincoln and the Union’s military leadership, who soon entrusted him with increasingly significant responsibilities.
In 1862, Rosecrans was appointed to command the Army of the Mississippi, which later became the Army of the Cumberland. Under his leadership, the Army of the Cumberland scored several key victories, including the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee, which helped to solidify Union control in the region.
Rosecrans’ career was not without setbacks. He experienced a significant defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, which led to his removal from command. Despite this setback, Rosecrans remained an influential figure in the Union military, serving in various roles until the end of the war.
Post-War Life and Legacy
After the Civil War, Rosecrans continued to serve his country in various capacities. He was appointed as the United States Minister to Mexico from 1868 to 1869 and later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1881 to 1885. He was also a prominent supporter of veterans’ organizations and an advocate for the rights of former slaves.
Rosecrans passed away on March 11, 1898, at the age of 78 and was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
For more information about this native Delaware Countian, visit this site.