Thomas Circle is named in honor of George Henry Thomas (July 31, 1816 – March 28, 1870) a career Army officer and a Union General during the American Civil War.
Thomas was born and raised in Newsom's Depot in Southampton County, Virginia. (Five miles from the North Carolina Border) A West Point graduate where his roommmate was William T. Sherman. He served in primitive outpost of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the Seminole Wars in the 1840s and later fought in the Mexican-American War. During the American Civil War, he virtually ran the wester theater.
In response to his service with the union, his southern family turned his picture against the wall, destroyed his letters, and never spoke to him again. During the economic hard times in the South after the war, Thomas sent some money to his sisters, who angrily refused to accept it, declaring they had no brother.
During the war, his former student and fellow Virginian, Confederate Col. J.E.B. Stuart, wrote to his wife, "Old George H. Thomas is in command of the cavalry of the enemy. I would like to hang, hang him as a traitor to his native state."
After the war ended, Thomas commanded the Department of the Cumberland (parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, West Virginia and Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama) through 1869. He acted to protect freedmen from white abuses. He set up military commissions to enforce labor contracts since the local courts had either ceased to operate or were biased against blacks. Thomas also used troops to protect places threatened by violence from the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1869, he requested assignment to command the Division of the Pacific with headquarters at the Presidio of San Francisco. He died there of a stroke while writing an answer to an article criticizing his military career by his wartime rival John Schofield. None of his blood relatives attended his funeral.
A distinctive engraved portrait of Thomas appeared on U.S. paper money in 1890 and 1891. The bills are called "treasury notes" or "coin notes" and are widely collected today because of their fine, detailed engraving. The $5 Thomas "fancyback" note of 1890, with an estimated 450-600 in existence relative to the 7.2 million printed, ranks as number 90 in the "100 Greatest American Currency Notes" compiled by Bowers and Sundman