Medal of Honor citation:
Rank and organization: Colonel, 8th Vermont Infantry.
Place and date: At Cedar Creek, Va., October 19, 1864.
Entered service at: Montpelier, Vt.
Date of issue: July 25, 1892.
Distinguished conduct in a desperate hand to hand encounter, in which the advance of the enemy was checked.
Stephen Thomas was born in Bethel, Vermont, on December 6, 1809.- He received a grammar-school education and then was apprenticed to a woolen manufacturer. He became successful and prominent at a comparatively early age: he was in the legislature three different times, state senator for one term, delegate to the constitutional conventions of 1844 and 1851, and served as both register and judge of the probate court of Orange County, Vermont. On February 18, 1862, Thomas was mustered into service as colonel of the 8th Vermont, a regiment recruited to take part in Benjamin F. Butler's New Orleans expedition. While in the area he took part in a number of skirmishes and as a part of Weitzel's brigade aided in opening and guarding the Opelousas railroad. In the spring and summer of 1863 he commanded a brigade under N. P. Banks in the operations which terminated in the surrender of Port Hudson, the last point on the Mississippi held by the Confederacy. Thomas led two assaults and was wounded in one. His regiment then took part in William B. Franklin's abortive expedition to Sabine Pass, Banks's first attempt to penetrate Texas territory. In July, 1864, the regiment went by steamer to Fort Monroe and then proceeded to Washington to oppose the enterprising Jubal Early, who had all but swept up Lincoln, his Cabinet, and the Federal Treasury. During the subsequent campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, in which two divisions of the XIX Corps under William H. Emory were involved, Thomas was for a time in command of a brigade; in 1892 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for distinguished conduct at Cedar Creek. He was honorably mustered out as colonel on January 21, 1865, and presumably returned to his home in Vermont. However, on April 21, 1865, he was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers to rank from February 1. During 1867-68 General Thomas was lieutenant governor of the state and from 1870 until 1877 was United States pension agent; thereafter he engaged in farming. In his last years he lived in Montpelier, where he died on December 18, 1903. He was buried in Green Mount Cemetery.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.