In most major U.S. cities you will find common street names like Broadway, Market, Oak, Elm, First, Second, etc. But in Southern California, one unique street name found in two cities transcends real history and hip-hop history: Rosecrans.

Rosecrans Avenue is a major, 27-mile thoroughfare in Los Angeles and Orange counties. It is also a bustling street in the Point Loma area of San Diego.

So where does the name come from?

William Starke Rosecrans
William Starke Rosecrans (National Park Service)

William Starke Rosecrans was born in Delaware County, Ohio in 1819. He was a brigadier general for the Union during the American Civil War and, according to the National Parks Service, “was largely responsible for the Union’s early victories in northern Virginia at the Battles of Rich Mountain and Corrick’s Ford.”

Rosecrans’ military success, however, abruptly came to an end at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863 – the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War behind Gettysburg.

As the American Battlefield Trust explains, Rosecrans had driven Confederate forces out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he decided to split his army into three corps and scatter them throughout the region. This proved costly when Confederate troops reconcentrated and exposed a gap in the Union line.

Rosecrans was stripped of his command as Confederate forces led by General Braxton Bragg laid siege to Chattanooga.

Over 34,000 people died in the Battle of Chickamauga, 16,000 on the Union side.

Rosecrans resigned from the Army in 1867 and settled in Los Angeles where he invested in the railroad industry. He served as U.S. Minister to Mexico under President Andrew Johnson for one year and was elected to Congress as a Democrat where he represented California’s 1st District for two terms, according to the Library of Congress.

William Rosecrans died in Redondo Beach on March 11, 1898. He was buried at Rosedale Cemetery in L.A. until 1902 when his body was reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetary on May 2, 2021, in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

In addition to having streets in metro Los Angeles and San Diego named after him, Bennington National Cemetery on the Point Loma Peninsula was renamed Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in 1934.

Hip-Hop History

Rosecrans Avenue begins in Manhattan Beach and intersects the 405, 110, 710, 605 and 5 freeways in Los Angeles before ending in Fullerton in Orange County.

Cutting through Compton, it has also been mentioned in many hip-hop songs by some of the biggest names in the business.

“Let’em recognize from Long Beach to Rosecrans. Bumpin and grindin like a slow jam.” – California Love/Tupac Shakur feat. Dr. Dre.

“I grew up off of Wilmington and Rosecrans…” – Support Compton/The Game.

“I’m on Rosecrans, chilling right inside Best Outlest.” – Compton State of Mind/Kendrick Lamar.

In fact, counts at least five Kendrick Lamar songs that mention Rosecrans Ave.

The street has also been immortalized in songs by The 5th Dimension and Johnny Rivers.