Print of an Engraving of a Photograph of General Rosecrans
Note the scars on his cheek and above his eyebrow

on the back  of the photo . . . . .                                                                                                 
AP Photo Tuesday Morning - General Rosecrans
 May 29/12 - 1 col.

Rarely did he have a photo taken from this side because of the scars he sustained when a lamp exploded burning him badly enough his life was in danger for months. 

Following a three month leave of absence from the military  for health reasons, Rosecrans resigned in March 1853, to secure rest and a civilian career which would support his family.  During his convalescence he was engaged in engineering and architecture.  In June 1855 he found employment as an engineer and superintendent for Canal River Coal Company, Kanawha County, VA.  Upon Rosecrans' research into apparently exhausted coal mines, the Virginia legislature set up legal machinery to get out the remaining coal.  Rosecrans was elected President of the New Coal River-Slack Water Navigation Company.  Upon his recommendation the company hired a "practical" engineer to build a refinery so they could go into the coal-oil business.  Abraham Gesner held the patents on fractional distillation process.  The engineer Rosecrans had hired produced extravagant estimates so Rosecrans resigned and began his own experiments.  Based on Gesner's advice, Rosecrans and two partners built a refinery on Columbia Street in Cincinnati which had a capacity of 500 gallons per day.  This refinery was one of three west of the Alleghenies.

Although he enlarged the plant and added partners during the panic of 1857, the business was in trouble because they could not produce the marketable kerosene customers wanted - clear and colorless oil that would burn without fouling the wick.  Rosecrans set out to find the solution.   Even though he took the precaution of using lamps patented not to break when the experiment went awry a lamp exploded catching the refinery on fire.  William beat out the flames then walked a mile and a half home.  It took 18 months to recover from the burns which left scars on his face.  Many thought this was a smirk so whenever possible he faced the other way when being photographed.  Meanwhile his partners were not able to carry on as well without him and the business was almost lost.

photo property of Polly Horn on display in the Myers Inn Museum
information from John Fitch's Annals of the Army of the Cumberland and William Lamers' The Edge of Glory

Return to Rosecrans,  Part 3,  Civilian Inventor, Engineer
Return to Rosecrans,  Part 4,  Civil War