Henry Goddard Thomas

Henry Goddard Thomas was born in Portland, Maine, on April 4, 1837. At the age of twenty-one he was graduated from Amherst and then studied law and was admitted to the Maine bar. He enlisted in the 5th Maine as a private in April, 1861, and was commissioned captain in June. This command fought at the battle of First Manassas, after which, on August 5, 1861, Thomas accepted a commission as a captain in the newly authorized 11th U. S. Infantry. He was on recruiting duty until the summer of 1862 and did not join his regiment until autumn. Thereafter his principal contribution to the war effort was the recruitment and organization of Negro troops, with whom he was associated until the end of the war. He was commissioned colonel first of the 79th U. S. Colored Infantry and then of the 19th Colored Infantry, taking command of the latter on January 16, 1864. Thomas is said to have been the first officer of the Regular Army to accept a colonelcy of colored troops. He was assigned to Ferrero's IX Corps's division of Negro troops at the beginning of U. S. Grant's Overland campaign and was present during all of the battles incident thereto, including the battle of The Crater. On November 30, 1864, Thomas was made a brigadier general of volunteers and transferred to Benjamin F. Butler's Army of the James, where he commanded a brigade of four colored regiments in the XXV Corps. At the end of the war he was brevetted through all ranks to that of brigadier general, U. S. Army, and major general of volunteers, but he was mustered out of volunteer service in January, 1866, as a captain of the 11th Infantry, a grade which he occupied for the next decade. He became major of the 4th Infantry in 1876 and two years later transferred to the paymaster's department with the same rank. On July 2, 1891, he went on the retired list, and on January 23, 1897, he died in Oklahoma City. His remains were returned to Portland for burial.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.