John W. Thomas was born in 1841 in Ohio. He originally began his service as 1st Sergeant of Co. E, 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) in 1861. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in July 1862, detailed as acting adjutant in November, and subsequently promoted to 1st Lieutenant of Co. C in April 1863. Later that month he was appointed adjutant under Colonel Anson McCook on the 2nd OVI.
John was taken prisoner twice during the war. First on May 6th by Confederate Morgan’s Calvary in Pulaski, TN. He was returned to the Union Army on a prisoner exchange. Again on September 20th 1863 at the Battle of Chickamauga where he was sent to Libby Prison in Richmond VA. He escaped from Libby Prison on February 9, 1864 in what would later be called the “Great Libby Prison Breakout.”
He was killed at the Battle of Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Georgia, on July 20, 1864 while serving as adjutant of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 14th Corps. As Quoted by Col. Anson McCook, “Although the firing had warned the brigade, and regimental commanders knew exactly what to do, information was sent to the different regiments and Thomas rode off to the 104th Illinois. As he left me he saluted, and no more brave and handsome officer ever rode to his death, for he must have reached the regiment about the time the attack struck it, when he was shot dead from his horse….To me personally the death of Adjutant Thomas was a severe blow. He was a universal favorite in the regiment and brigade and was a devoted and loyal friend of mine. I never have known a more faithful, gallant, and unselfish gentleman in my life, and had he been a brother I could not have felt worse than I did when I looked at his young and handsome face, quiet in death.” John was the last man killed in his regiment. He lies buried at the Marietta National Cemetery in Georgia.
The diary presented here is now the property of Brad Burch and is published here by express consent with other materials that he has gathered pertaining to the service record of Lt. John W. Thomas. Brad purchased the diary several years ago from Frank Johnson, a direct descendant of Rhys M. Thomas—the older brother of John W. Thomas. In selling the diary to Brad, Frank offered the following provenance: “My grandmother Madeline Meredith Miner (Johnson) gave me this diary back when I was a teen in the late 70’s. She was the granddaughter of Civil War Veteran Lt. Col. Rhys M. Thomas of the 14th Kentucky Infantry. It was in the same box with Lt. Col. Thomas’s Post Office Inspector Credential and diary, G.A.R. and M.O.L.L.U.S medals and other personal effects of his. I always thought the diary was written by the Col. until I sent scans to the Marlitta H. Perkins at the 14th KY. Vol. Inf. website. She read the diary and informed me it was Col. Thomas’s brother’s diary, 1st Lt. John W. Thomas of the 2nd O.V.I.”
Once properly showcased and shared publicly, Brad intends to donate the diary to the Atlanta History Center.
[Gather biographical sketch]
Rhys M. Thomas mustered in the army 1861 where he served as a private under the command of General James Garfield (future U. S. President Garfield), then mustered out the same year. He then went back to Kentucky and raised a company of 14th Kentuckians and mustered back in as a Captain in 1862, he was promoted to Major in 1863, then Lt. Col. in 1864. He marched with Gen. Sherman to Atlanta and fought in all the battles of that campaign.