Outside of his family, General William S. Rosecrans had three great passions in his life: His religion, Roman Catholicism, to which he had converted as a cadet at West Point, the Army and the Union. In the Civil War all three passions coincided. Rising to the rank of Major General and achieving command of the Army of the Cumberland, until he was removed in the aftermath of the Union defeat at Chickamauga, Rosecrans conducted himself in the field as if he were a Crusader knight of old.
Raised a Methodist, Rosecrans’ conversion was a life long turning point for him. He wrote to his family with such zeal for his new-found faith that his brother Sylvester began to take instruction in the Faith. Sylvester would convert, become a priest, and eventually be the first bishop of Columbus, Ohio.
His most precious possession was his Rosary and he said the Rosary at least once each day. In battle the Rosary would usually be in his hand as he gave commands. He had a personal chaplain, Father Patrick Treacy, who said Mass for him each morning and would busy himself the rest of the day saying masses for the troops and helping with the wounded. In battle he exposed himself to enemy fire ceaselessly as he rode behind the General. Rosecrans, after military matters were taken care of, delighted in debating theology with his staff officers late into the evening.