About Thomas Edwin Greenfield Ransom
Thomas Edwin Greenfield Ransom (November 29, 1834 – October 29, 1864) was a surveyor, civil engineer, real estate speculator, and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Ransom was born in Norwich, Vermont, son of Colonel Truman B. Ransom, who was killed in action at the Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexican-American War, when the younger was only 14 years old. The father was remembered by a participant in that battle, Adjutant General Drum of the Regular Army, as "by all odds the most brilliant man under fire I have ever seen." His son, Thomas, entered Norwich University in 1848, where he remained three years, then went to Illinois, where he engaged in civil engineering and real estate speculation. He initially lived with his uncle, George Gilson, then mayor of Peru, an Illinois River town in LaSalle County. Ransom was known as the "boy surveyor" of LaSalle County. During that period, he was joined by his close friend and fellow Norwich University graduate, Grenville M. Dodge, who would later win fame as a Civil War general and the chief engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad.
As the Civil War began, Ransom was in the employ of the Illinois Central Railroad, living in Fayette County.
In response to President Abraham Lincoln's call for troops in 1861, Ransom raised a body of soldiers that became Company E of the 11th Illinois Infantry, and was elected its captain on April 6, 1861, then major on June 4. He was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the regiment July 30, and colonel on February 15, 1862. He was commissioned brigadier general on November 9, 1862, and in January 1863, took command of a brigade in General (McArthur's) Sixth division of McPherson's XVII Corps.
Ransom was wounded four times: in a skirmish near Charleston, Missouri, on August 20, 1861; at the Fort Donelson in February 1862; severely (in the head) during the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862; and at the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads, Louisiana, on April 4, 1864. His wounds at the latter engagement were so severe that he was evacuated to Chicago for treatment.
At various times, he commanded divisions of XIII, XVI and XVII Corps. He lead XVII Corps in the pursuit a Confederate force through North Georgia into Alabama. Returning to Georgia in October, he was taken severely ill with dysentery, but remained in command and on the field until too weak to go further. When told that he had but a few hours to live, he answered: "I am not afraid to die, I have met death too often to be afraid of it now."
General Ransom is buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.
Ransom's memory was cherished by many prominent Union Generals including Grant and Sherman. Edward G. Longacre notes in his 2006 history, General Ulysses S. Grant: The Soldier and the Man, that the stoic Grant wept upon hearing of young Ransom's death. (Page 252) Ransom's close friend, General Grenville Dodge, recalled how, even years later, President Grant would frequently talk about young Ransom with great affection and respect. General William Tecumseh Sherman kept a photograph of General Ransom on the wall of his office 20 years after the war. After his death, the community of Ransom, Illinois, was named in his honor.
Quotes about Thomas E. G. Ransom
GENERAL THOMAS E. G. RANSOM IN THE WORDS OF THOSE WHO KNEW HIM:
1. "A rash, brave fellow." Colonel W. H. L. Wallace, 11th Illinois Infantry. August 23, 1861 at Bird's Point, Missouri.
2. "Retiring and unostentatious. There was no strut about him. He was simple in his manners--quiet, unobtrusive..His power was always in reserve...and the deeper the peril, the more capable did he show himself." Reverend W. H. Ryder of Chicago, 1866.
3. "Ordinarily, he is of a quiet, modest disposition; but when in battle he becomes tiger like, fearing nothing and becoming terrible in action." Freeport (Illinois) Journal. May 4, 1864.
4. "Although reeling in the saddle, and streaming with blood from a previous wound, (Ransom) performed prodigies of valor." General John McClernand, his division commander at Shiloh. April 6, 1862.
5. "Other men shine but Ransom blazes!" Judge T. Lyle Dickey of Ottawa, Illinois, former commander of the 4th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. March 2, 1863.
6. "Ransom shone, as usual, above all the others. There are none like him in this battle...always where the danger was greatest, always cool and confident." Captain Cyrus Dickey, llth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, summer 1863 in the siege works at Vicksburg.
7. A soldier with "a record never surpassed, and hardly equaled in the history of this or any other war." Chicago Tribune. June 6, 1863.
8. "I saw Ransom during the assault of the 22nd of May 1863...I then marked him as of the kind of whom heroes are made." General William Tecumseh Sherman. June 20, 1884. St. Louis.
9. "He has always proved himself the best man I have ever had to send on expeditions. He is a live man and of good judgement." General U. S. Grant. Official Records (ORs).
10. "Wounds are nothing new to this gallant officer, who bears ugly scars about his person, the tokens of Rebel attentions." William Osman, editor of the Ottawa (Illinois) Free Trader. May 21, 1864.
11. "His manners were gentlemanly and tempered with kindness, but he gave the idea of great decision of character." General Oliver Otis Howard. Atlanta campaign. Summer of 1864.
12. "Do you know that young man?" Sherman remarked to an aide during the Atlanta campaign. "That is General Ransom, rising man, rising man; one of the best officers in the service; been shot all to pieces, but it doesn't hurt him." General William Tecumseh Sherman.
13. "General Ransom was much beloved by all who knew him, and this army has lost one of its most useful officers and brightest ornaments...We will cherish his bright memory and strive to attain his irreproachable character." General O. O. Howard. November 1, 1864 Field Order relating to Ransom's death.
14. "That the General's death caused the utmost sorrow throughout the Army of the Tennessee, I need not say. Since the death of General McPherson, no man has so completely possessed the affections of the Army as did General Ransom." Lt. Joseph D. Tredway, 23rd Wisconsin Infantry, aide-de-camp to General Ransom in an undated letter to the General's mother, Margaret Ransom of New York City.
Note: Quotations taken from "Hard Dying Men" by James Huffstodt. Heritage Books, Inc., 1991.