Civil War (Confederate) 1
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ROSSER, THOMAS LAFAYETTE (1836–1910). Thomas Lafayette Rosser, Confederate Army officer, was born on October 15, 1836, in Campbell County, Virginia, the son of John and Martha Melvina (Johnson) Rosser. In 1849 the family moved to a 640-acre farm in Panola County, Texas, some forty miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana. As his father was compelled by business to remain for a while in Virginia, Tom Rosser, at age thirteen, led the wagon train bearing his mother and younger siblings to Texas. For four years he attended the Mount Enterprise school in Rusk County. Upon the nomination of Congressman Lemuel D. Evans, Rosser entered the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1856; he resigned on April 22, 1861, only two weeks before graduation, when Texas left the Union. Among his fellows in the class of 1861 was George A. Custer, who graduated dead last in a field of thirty-four cadets.
Rosser was commissioned a first lieutenant in the regular Confederate States Army and assigned as an instructor of artillery. He commanded a company of the New Orleans Washington Artillery battalion at the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run) and was wounded at the battle of Mechanicsville. He returned to the army after recovering and was appointed colonel and commander of the Fifth Virginia Cavalry at the instigation of Gen. James E. B. (Jeb) Stuart. Rosser was promoted to brigadier general on September 28, 1863, and given command of one of Stuart's divisions. He was given command of the Confederate cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley in October 1864 and promoted to major general on November 1. In 1865 he rejoined Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg and took part in the Appomattox campaign. Refusing to surrender, he cut his way out of the federal lines and attempted to lead his division to a junction with the army of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina. He was intercepted and captured, however, and paroled in May. After the war he returned to Virginia, where he became chief engineer of the Northern Pacific and Canadian Pacific railroads. He later became a planter in Charlottesville. On June 10, 1898, President William McKinley appointed Rosser a brigadier general of United States volunteers for the Spanish-American War. He was honorably discharged on October 31, 1898. He died at Charlottesville on March 29, 1910, and is buried at Ridgeview Cemetery.
Thomas Lafayette Rosser was born October 15, 1836 on his family’s farm in Campbell County, Virginia. When he was 13 they moved to the new state of Texas, onto a 640-acre farm on the Sabine River. In 1856 he left to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. Rosser’s roommate was George Armstrong Custer, an Ohioan who called Rosser ‘Tex.’ Rosser called Custer ‘Fanny.’ When Texas seceded from the Union in early 1861, Rosser quit West Point – just two weeks before he was scheduled to graduate – in order to offer his services to his home state. He traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to enlist and was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant in the Confederate service.RELATED BATTLES
Fresh out of military school, Rosser was made instructor of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans, and commanded a company at the First Battle of Bull Run. After being wounded at Mechanicsville during the Seven Days campaign, he was made colonel of the 5th Virginia Cavalry, taking part in the Second Battle of Bull Run, South Mountain and Antietam before being wounded again at Kelly’s Ford. He resumed command in time to fight at Gettysburg, after which he was promoted again: this time to brigadier general, in command of the ‘Laurel Brigade.’ Rosser distinguished himself further during the Overland campaign – where he was wounded yet again, at Trevilian Station – and was sent to the Shenandoah Valley to check Union Gen. Philip Sheridan’s cavalry. He was initially hailed as the ‘Savior of the Valley,’ but suffered defeats at Cedar Creek and Tom’s Brook, when he faced his old roommate George Custer across the field of battle.
He continued to lead lightning cavalry raids into western Virginia, and rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia near Petersburg in the spring of 1865. He served gallantly to the end, fighting at Five Forks and refusing to surrender at Appomattox, until he was captured on May 4. He was paroled in short order.
After the war, Rosser achieved success as the chief engineer of the Northern Pacific and Canadian Pacific railroad companies, and settled near Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1898, President McKinley, a Union veteran, appointed Rosser to train cavalry recruits for the Spanish-American War, which he did on the Chickamauga Battlefield in Georgia. He died on March 29, 1910 in Charlottesville and is buried in Riverview Cemetery
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