General Thomas was the deciding edge for the Army of the Cumberland. Thomas was a brilliant and modern field tactician who invented the mobile field command car (wagon). He had people survey the terrain of battle in detail, and out-prepped the opponents. Thomas held the line at Chicamagua when the rebel Army broke through a gap in Sherman’s line. The union forces were thrown into panic and retreat, yet Thomas’ command held the line against vastly superior forces long enough to enable Sherman to retreat without a slaughter.
Grant had ordered Sherman to replace General Thomas because he was impatient with Thomas’ strategy of letting the confederates come to him for the battle of Chattanooga. Thomas had good intel and knew the terrain very well and designed a kill zone. Grant arrived and ordered Thomas to hit the rebels in the center. That resulted in a Union victory. Sherman was busy fighting at Tunnel hill where the rebels stopped him. The confederate army engaged in battle wasn’t slaughtered and retreated toward Atlanta.
Thomas knew that the Rebel army could be cut off at a critical spot on the way Sheridan dithered and let General Hood’s forces escape to Atlanta. Sherman surrounded Atlanta and had Thomas guard a sector of the northern front, and waited. The confederates choose to break out while Sherman was on the wrong side of Atlanta- the S.W. He had no notion when the battle started.
The rebels broke through in the N.E. where just General Thomas’s forces held yet could not contain. Rebel fugitives did manage to escape toward Savannah, and though out of touch during the initial fighting, General Sherman arrived to chase after the survivors. His cavalry rode all the way from Atlanta to Savannah where they encountered stiff resistance from 200 revel soldiers. I rode a bicycle along a country highway where Sheridan’s forces had gone, and found a small vestigial swamp with cypress trees- very scenic, the remainder was farmland.
There are experts on the war crimes of the civil war. Sheridan didn’t perp anything like Union soldiers experienced at Andersonville. Sheridan was probably in a hurry to get back for medals and ceremony in D.C. as the war was quickly over.
I am skeptical that General Sherman could have engaged in much looting and pillaging on his ride in hot pursuit of escaping, concluding Rebels soldiers on the road to Savannah. Again, between Chattanooga and Atlanta there wasn’t so much time that passed to seriously exploit the civilians.
General Thomas, a son of North Carolina, died of a heart attack a few years after the war in San Francisco. If had chosen to fight for the South, the Union might have had a worse time of it.