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(Born N. Y.)
Philip H. Sheridan
Philip Henry Sheridan: Born Mar. 6, 1831, Albany, NY.
Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1848, to July 1, 1853, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to
Bvt. Second Lieut. of Infantry, July 1, 1853.
(Second Lieut., 4th Infantry, Nov. 22, 1854)
Tex., 1854, — and Ft. Duncan, Tex., 1854‑55; in garrison at Ft. Columbus, N. Y., 1855; and on frontier duty, escorting Topographical party from Sacramento Valley, Cal., to Columbia River, Or., 1855, — Yakima Expedition, 1855, — Ft. Vancouver, Wash., 1855‑56, — Scouting, 1856, being engaged in Defense of the Cascades, Apr. 28, 1856, — Grande Ronde Reservation, 1856, — Ft. Hoskins, Or., 1856‑58, — and Ft. Yamhill, Or., 1859‑61.
First Lieut., 4th Infantry, Mar. 1, 1861.
p551 Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: as
(Captain, 13th Infantry, May 14, 1861)
President of Board for auditing claims, at St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 18 to Dec. 26, 1861; as Chief Quartermaster and Commissary of the Army of Southwest Missouri, Dec. 26, 1861, to Mar. 12, 1862; in the Mississippi Campaign, Apr. to Sep., 1862, being engaged as Quartermaster of Major-General Halleck's Headquarters, on the Advance to Corinth, Mis., Apr. 18 to May 25, 1862; in command of Brigade on Raid to Boonville, Mis.,
(Colonel, 2d Michigan Cavalry Volunteers, May 25, 1862)
May 28, 1862, — Pursuit of Rebels from Corinth to Baldwin, Mis., May 30 to June 10, 1862, participating in Skirmishes at Boonville, Blackland, Donaldson Cross-roads, and Baldwin, June, 1862, — and Action of Boonville, July 1, 1862; in command of 11th Division (Army of
(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, July 1, 1862)
the Ohio), Oct. 1 to Nov. 2, 1862, on the Advance into Kentucky, being engaged in the Battle of Perryville, Oct. 8, 1862, — and March to the relief of Nashville, Ten., Oct. to Nov., 1862; in command of Division (Army of the Cumberland), in the Tennessee Campaign, Nov., 1862, to Sep., 1863, being engaged in the Battle of Stone River, Dec. 31, 1862, to
(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Dec. 31, 1862, to Nov. 8, 1864)
Jan. 3, 1863, — Pursuit of Rebels under Van Dorn to Columbia and Franklin, capturing train and prisoners near Eagleville, Mar., 1863, — Advance on Tullahoma, June 24 to July 4, 1863, — Capture of Winchester, Ten., June 27, 1863, — Crossing the Cumberland Mountains and Tennessee River, Aug. 15 to Sep. 4, 1863, — and Battle of Chickamauga, Ga., Sep. 19‑20, 1863; in Operations in about Chattanooga, Ten., Sep. to Dec., 1863, being engaged in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, Nov. 23 to 25, 1863; in Occupation of East Tennessee, Dec., 1863, to Mar., 1864, being engaged in the Skirmish of Dandridge, Jan. 17, 1864; in command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, Apr. 4 to Aug. 3, 1864, in the Richmond Campaign, being engaged in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 5‑6, 1864, — Combat of Todd's Tavern, May 7, 1864, — Capture of Spottsylvania C. H., May 8, 1864, — Raid to Haxall's Landing, and returning to the vicinity of Chatfield Station, May 9‑24, 1864, cutting the Virginia Central, and Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroads, — Action at Beaver Dam, May 10, 1864, — Battle of Yellow Tavern, May 11, 1864, — Combat of Meadow Bridge, May 12, 1864, — Actions of Hanovertown, and Tolopotomy Creek, May 27, 1864, — Battle of Hawes's Shop, May 28, 1864, — Action of Metadequin Creek, May 30, 1864, — Battle of Cold Harbor, May 31 to June 1, 1864, — Raid towards Charlottesville and return to Jordan's Point, on the James River, June 7‑28, 1864, cutting the Virginia Central and Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroads, — Battle of Trevillian Station, June 11‑12, 1864, — Action at Tunstall Station, June 21, 1864, — Skirmish of St. Mary's Church, June 24, 1864, — and Action of Darbytown, July 28, 1864; in command of the Army of Shenandoah, Aug. 4‑7, 1864, and of the Middle Military Division, Aug. 7, 1864, to Mar. 25, 1865, being engaged
(Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Sep. 20, 1864)
in the Battle of Opequan, Sep. 19, 1864, — Battle of Fisher's Hill, Sep. 22, 1864, — Battle of Cedar Creek,1 Oct. 19, 1864, — Action of
(Major-General, U. S. Army, Nov. 8, 1864)
Middletown, Nov. 12, 1864, — Raid from Winchester to Petersburg, Feb. 27 to Mar. 24, 1865, destroying the James River and Kanawha Canal, and cutting the Gordonsville and Lynchburg, Virginia Central, and Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroads, — Combat of Waynesborough, Mar. 2, 1865, — Actions of North Anna and Ashland, Mar. 14‑15, p552 1865, — and numerous minor Actions and Skirmishes; in the Richmond Campaign, Mar. 25 to Apr. 9, 1865, being engaged in command at the Battle of Dinwiddie C. H., Mar. 31, 1865, — Battle of Five Forks, Apr. 1, 1865, — Battle of Sailor's Creek, Apr. 6, 1865, — Action of Appomattox Station, Apr. 8, 1865, — several minor Cavalry Engagements in Pursuit of the enemy, Apr. 2‑9, 1865, — and Capitulation at Appomattox C. H., of the insurgent army under General R. E. Lee, Apr. 9, 1865; and on Raid to South Boston, N. C., on the Dan River, and returning to Petersburg, Apr. 24 to May 3, 1865.
Served: in command of the Military Division of the Southwest, June 3 to July 17, 1865, — of the Military Division of the Gulf, July 17, 1865, to Aug. 15, 1866, — of the Department of the Gulf, Aug. 15, 1866, to Mar. 11, 1867, — and of the Fifth Military District (Louisiana and Texas), Mar. 11 to Sep. 5, 1867, — of the Department of Missouri, headquarters Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., Sep. 12, 1867, to Mar. 16, 1869, being engaged in conducting Winter Campaign of 1868‑69 against hostile Indians, resulting in their defeat and surrender, — of the Division of
(Lieut.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 4, 1869)
the Missouri, headquarters Chicago, Ill., Mar. 16, 1869, to Nov. 1, 1883, — and of the U. S. Army, headquarters, Washington, D. C., to Aug. 5, 1888.
General, U. S. Army, June 1, 1888.
Civil History. — Degree of LL. D. conferred by Vermont University, 1869, and by Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., 1871.
Died, Aug. 5, 1888, at Nonquitt, Mas.: Aged 58.
Buried, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA.
General Philip Henry Sheridan was born, Mar. 6, 1831, at Albany, N. Y., and died, Aug. 5, 1888, at Nonquitt, Mas., at the early age of 57. For the following brilliant sketch of his life and services, I am greatly indebted to Major-General James Harrison Wilson:—
"When Sheridan graduated thirty-fourth in a class of fifty-two, at West Point, in June, 1853, there was no one who dreamed of predicting for him the glorious career which has so recently been closed by death. The son of poor Irish parents, who had been able to give him none of the advantages which lead to high scholarship, under the fierce competition which prevails at the Military Academy; small in person, and of only medium quickness at his studies; careless and unsteady in his bearing, and perhaps lacking any well-defined ambition, — his graduating position was barely respectable. It is not generally known that he was five years in getting through the four years' course of studies then assigned to Cadets. But, having been turned back a year for a grave infraction of discipline, he was enabled without great effort to secure a much better place in his new class than he had attained in his old one.
"Sheridan's career from graduation till the outbreak of the Rebellion was comparatively uneventful. It was passed partly in Texas, but mostly in the Columbia River country, and was occasionally diversified by an Indian campaign, in which he displayed activity, energy, and skill, but of no such order as to mark him as a great leader of men. If he was specially distinguished at all, it was for good judgment, prudence, and justice in the management of the Indians who came under his control on the Reservations.
"When the new regiments of infantry were organized, however, after p553 the commencement of the Rebellion, Sheridan, being a comparatively old Lieutenant, was appointed a Captain in the Thirteenth Infantry, and was ordered East by way of Panama, to assist in organizing it. His first appearance in the war was at St. Louis, where he served for about a month as President of a Board for auditing claims against the Government, after which, thanks to the appreciation of General Halleck and the officers of his Staff, he became Chief Quartermaster and Commissary of the Army of the Southwest. That was in the earlier days of the Rebellion, when the non-combatants of the regions in hostility to the Government were treated with tenderness and consideration; when forage and bacon were paid for, and horses and mules were regarded as somewhat sacred. General Curtis's orders required that vouchers should be given for all supplies taken for the use of his army, but in the hurry of the campaign this was found to give a good deal of trouble and to consume a good deal of time; besides, there is reason to believe that Captain Sheridan did not approve the policy anyhow. At all events, when a lot of horses were brought in, which he had reason to believe had been stolen, he refused to comply with orders, and, on the theory that 'war should be made to support war,' he branded them U. S., and took them up on his papers as public property. In this he was ahead of the times, and, when his practice became known to General Curtis, he relieved the independent Chief Quartermaster and Commissary, and ordered him before a general court martial for trial. Feeling that, no matter what might be the issue of this trial, his usefulness was at an end in that department, he appealed to General Halleck to be relieved and ordered back to St. Louis, and this was done. The General received him kindly, and sent him at once under a roving commission to the Northwest to purchase horses for the Army, and he was engaged on this service at Chicago when the Battle of Shiloh was fought.
"Shortly afterwards he appears attached to the Staff of General Halleck as Quartermaster of his headquarters during the Corinth campaign, but his duties were neither highly responsible nor important; and it is known that he not only chafed at the inconspicuous part he was playing, but early in the campaign, seeing with what little skill the practical operations of war were carried on about him, signified to General Sherman, then commanding a raw division of Ohio Volunteers, his desire to have the command of troops. On the promotion of Gordon Granger from the Colonelcy of the Second Michigan Cavalry to the rank of Brigadier-General, that officer, and perhaps others, recommended Captain Sheridan for the vacancy thus created, and, as Halleck approved the recommendation, he was commissioned accordingly.
"This active command brought him the opportunity for which he had been waiting, and right gallantly did he avail himself of it. It was the tide in his affairs which, taken at the flood, led on to fortune. In the Battle of Boonville he gained a signal victory over a much larger force under Chalmers; and in the pursuit of the Confederate Army from Corinth to Baldwin, he displayed that activity, untiring industry, and aggressive temper which brought him almost constantly in contact with the enemy, and, what was still better, made him constantly victorious. In exactly thirty-five days he won his Brigadier-General's stars, and shortly afterwards was placed in command of the Eleventh (Infantry) Division of the Army of the Ohio. Of course this was largely due not only to his own enterprise, but to the appreciation of those above him, and especially of General Halleck, who again recommended him for promotion.
"At the bloody Battle of Perryville, Sheridan first showed his quality as an infantry division commander. Keeping his troops well in hand, and selecting for them a position admirable for defense, he successfully resisted attack after attack, till his assailants, worn out with fighting, abandoned the field in despair. He showed himself in that action not only to p554 have an accurate military eye, but to be, what is still rarer, a cool, wary, and stubborn fighter. He had but little supervision and less help from those in authority over him, but, knowing that men go to war for the purpose of fighting, he fought everybody that came within his reach, and all the time as if he meant to kill just as many of the enemy as possible. About the only honors gained upon that field were gained by himself, his friend Carlin, and his classmate Terrill, the big Virginian whom he had tried to transfix with his bayonet at West Point a few years before, but who was preserved from that fate to fall by the hand of the public enemy in that bloody but disjointed battle.
"Ten weeks' more marching and manoeuvring brought the two armies in contact again at the still more bloody field of Stone River, and here Sheridan covered himself with glory. Forming the left of McCook's corps, the two right divisions of which were swept away by Hardee's impetuous turning movement like chaff before a storm, his division stood within the edge of the cedar brake, which partly masked its position, as steady as a stone wall, to receive the Rebel onset. He had again selected his ground with care, posted his three batteries in commanding positions, and made most careful arrangements for whatever might happen. An open cotton field lay in his front, and as the assailants advanced across it, in columns closed in mass, his batteries tore them into shreds, but did not check them til their fire was supplemented by volley after volley of musketry delivered with such precision and at such close range that human nature could not withstand it. The gallant Rebels finally halted, staggered, and then broke and fled, promptly and hotly pursued by the chivalrous Sill, who drove them pell-mell back into their works, but who fell, pierced through by a bullet, at the moment of victory.
"The troops to the right of him having been overthrown and driven from the field, Sheridan's position was now a perilous one. He was overlapped by the length of a whole division, and the exultant Confederates, under that almost invincible leader, Pat Cleburne, also an Irishman, were bearing down upon him with the absolute certainty of sweeping him from the field; but, hastily reforming his right flank and re-arranging his line at right angles with his old position, under the cover of a bayonet charge by Roberts' brigade, he repelled onset after onset until he had gained another hour's respite for Rosecrans' hard-pressed and imperiled army. He had no thought of giving way, and took no account of the overwhelming numbers which were hurled against him; but there is a limit to human courage and human powers of resistance, and that was reached when, to the loss of three brigade commanders and sixteen hundred and thirty-three men, out of a total of four thousand one hundred and fifty-four, or one third of the division, was added the appalling intelligence that the last cartridge had been expended and the ammunition wagons captured. At this juncture Sheridan threw one brigade forward with bayonets fixed, and availed himself of the check he thereby gave the enemy to withdraw his exhausted but undismayed division through the cedar brake to the open plain flanking the Nashville turnpike.
"It is not too much to say that the time gained by the desperate fighting and skillful manoeuvring of Sheridan upon this occasion saved Rosecrans' army, for it delayed the Rebel advance full three hours, and enabled the Union commander to reform his line of battle upon ground from which his opponent found it utterly impossible to drive him. In this desperate contest Sheridan was necessarily, for much of the time, left almost entirely to his own resources. Much of the battlefield was covered with an almost impenetrable cedar brake, which concealed the enemy's movements till they were fully developed. His plan of attack was cleverly conceived and boldly executed under the immediate supervision of Hardee, an accomplished tactician, and a most hardy and aggressive p555 leader. Two strong divisions had been driven with severe fighting from the field, but Sheridan stood his ground undaunted and unshaken; he neither asked nor waited for orders, but being there it never occurred to him to do anything but fight, and he fought with that cool and desperate courage which took no account of numbers or consequences, which defied defeat, and which certified him to every man and officer of that army as the peer of the best soldier in it! His fortitude, his presence of mind, his tactical skill, and his readiness to meet emergencies, had all been tested in the white heat of a most desperate conflict. The men and officers of his own division sounded his praises in no uncertain tones. By common consent he had richly won his double stars, and the Government at Washington made haste to send him the commission of Major-General, to date from the battle in which he had taken so conspicuous a part.
"During the next six months Sheridan did his full part of the marching and manoeuvring, and added to his reputation by the industry and enterprise displayed by his scouts in gathering information, and by the care which he took of his men; but it was his misfortune that the right wing of the Army, to which he was attached at the Battle of Chickamauga, was again, early on the second day, outflanked and overwhelmed. His division, lying to the right of the gap made by the withdrawal of Wood's division, in its effort to close in upon Reynolds, was separated from the centre and left under Thomas, and swept back in the direction of McFarland's Gap. Supposing that the enemy had penetrated between himself and to, and fearing that Rossville, the most important strategic position in the field of operations, and the one through which the whole Army must pass in case of retreat, might fall into the enemy's hands, he determined to move to that point first, and, after assuring himself of its safety, to march thence to Thomas's assistance. This détour required a march of •nearly eight miles, and it was half-past six in the afternoon before it was completed. It was afterward ascertained that the direct road from McFarland's Gap to Thomas's left, only •two or two and one half miles away, was open, and if Sheridan had gone promptly by that route he would have joined Thomas at a most opportune time, and might have changed the fortunes of the day.
"At the Battle of Missionary Ridge, which was fought two months later, Sheridan won new laurels, and by his dashing gallantry in the wonderful assault which swept Bragg's army from the crest of the Ridge and closed that memorable action, he attracted attention and gained the friendship of Grant. Having leapt over the enemy's rifle trenches at the foot of the Ridge, Sheridan's division, neck and neck with those of Wood, Baird, and Johnson, rushed forward spontaneously and without orders to crown the top of the Ridge. Seeing that nothing could restrain them, and that to hesitate was more dangerous than to go on, the gallant commander drew forth his pocket flask, and, with a graceful salute to the Rebel lines on the heights above him, he coolly drank their health, and then, giving spur and rein to his charger, dashed to the front, amid the cheers of his men and the rattle of hostile musketry. The coolness of this act, in sight of both armies, and the persistency with which he followed the retreating Rebels, giving them no rest till far into the night, received Grant's special commendation, and had a marked influence on the subsequent career of both of these illustrious soldiers, if not upon the history of their country. Thenceforth he valued him highly, and their careers came later to be closely intermingled.
"Shortly after Grant's assignment to the command of all the Union armies, he learned that it was necessary to find a new leader for the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, and when Halleck asked him how Sheridan would do, remembering the gallant behavior of the latter at p556 Missionary Ridge, he promptly replied, 'He is the very man I want,' and thereupon ordered him East.
"Sheridan now found himself at the head of a Cavalry Corps of three divisions, with something over ten thousand men for duty. Its organization had been shaped under Stoneman and Pleasonton and it had done some most excellent service, but night of its earlier officers had succeeded in impressing himself sufficiently upon the Army or its commanding Generals to secure that independent administration and care for the cavalry necessary to make it a prime factor in the campaigns which had taken place. It had the preponderance of numbers and a decided advantage in equipment, but the Confederate cavalry had a higher morale, and had so far counted for much more in the operations of the army to which it belonged.
"Sheridan hastened to reduce the picket line, call in the detachments, get extra duty men returned to their regiments, secure remounts, new equipments and arms, and generally to put the Corps in condition to take the field with the rest of the Army. In just one month from the day he took command, the Army crossed the Rapidan, and from that time onward there was never a word of censure for the cavalry. It covered the Army's front, flank, and rear, wherever and whenever it moved, but it was no longer broken up into detachments, or strung out on useless picket lines. It became at once a compact fighting mass, and as such inflicted constant and irreparable injury upon the enemy. Fighting on foot, it assaulted and carried the enemy's intrenched positions, or held its own whenever occasion required it. Mounted and moving rapidly, it seized strategic positions, or threw itself upon the enemy's flanks and rear, broke his communications, destroyed his transportation, burned his supplies, threatened his capital, and finally, at Yellow Tavern, met and overthrew his cavalry, and killed J. E. B. Stuart. Within two weeks it had clearly established its superiority to the Rebel cavalry corps, and never afterward was it discomfited, or did it fail to accomplish all that was expected of it, except when, in obedience to orders from Army Headquarters, it was divided and compelled to operate on divergent lines. It is certain that no cavalry force ever did more or harder work than did Sheridan's from the first of May till the end of July, 1864. There was scarcely a day in all that exciting period when it did not engage the enemy, and there were days in succession when it engaged him, not only once, but many times. Indeed, it scarcely ever rested by daylight from marching or fighting, and, what is still more creditable, its morale and efficiency constantly increased, till it came to regard itself as invincible. Whether by night or by day it was always ready, and responded promptly and cheerfully to every demand made upon it. There were times, it year which led up to the crowning victory over Lee, in which the infantry commanders, and especially the rank and file, became despondent, and faced the storm of battle with hopeless and dejected mien that foreboded failure; but there was never a day till the war ended when the cavalry corps did not go forth cheerfully and even gayly to its appointed tasks. A part of this was doubtless due to the greater freedom of action allowed to that arm of the service by General Grant, but it is simple justice to add that a much greater part of it was due to the untiring industry, the unflinching courage, the watchful care, and, above all, to the cheerful alacrity with which General Sheridan performed his own duties, and inspired every officer and man in his command to perform theirs. The benefits of this remarkable regeneration did not end with the Eastern cavalry, but spread in due time to that of the Western armies.
"Sheridan was, at the time he commanded the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, in his thirty-third year. He weighed about 120 p557 pounds, but was as hardy and wiry as a wild Indian. Always neatly but never foppishly dressed, indeed, scarcely ever dressed in the regulation uniform of his rank, he was as natty and attractive a figure as could be found in the whole Army. With a clear and flashing eye, a bronzed yet cheerful countenance, an alert and active carriage, he appeared at all times and under all conditions a bright and reassuring figure, ready for any undertaking which might fall to his lot. He was the prince of subordinate commanders, and by his unfailing alacrity won his way straight to the confidence of those in authority over him. It cannot be claimed that he was then or that he ever became a great theoretical student of the military art in its higher branches, or that he knew much of grand tactics or strategy, or of military precept and history. If the truth must be confessed, he was never much of a lover of books, nor yet was he altogether neglectful of them. There were a few with which he was familiar, and Shakespeare stood at the head of the list. But as a practical soldier it may well be doubted if there was ever a better one in any army.
"In all the practical and laborious duties of administration and command, he was most ably and efficiently seconded by his 'dear friend' and chief of staff, the clear-headed, methodical, and accomplished James W. Forsyth, also a graduate of the Military Academy.
"With qualities such as these, and successes such as he had gained during his three months' command of the Cavalry Corps, it was but natural that Grant should select Sheridan to drive back the Rebels who were operating under Early through the valley of Virginia against Western Maryland and the National Capital in the summer of 1864. The assignment was unsolicited and unexpected, and it is certain that both Halleck and Stanton thought that Sheridan was yet too young and inexperienced to be intrusted with such grave duties and responsibilities. But Grant persisted, and, the President concurring, the orders were issued.
"Sheridan went at once to the new theatre of operations, taking with him one of his old divisions of cavalry, and shortly afterward calling for another, which was sent him by General Grant. With these and the troops he found in the valley, he took the field, feeling his way cautiously and carefully at first, studying the lay of the country, its roads, streams, and mountains, with an intensity which showed that he fully understood how fatal it had been to the fortunes of his predecessors, and how dangerous it might become to himself. This necessarily took time, but time which the sequel showed had been well spent.
"The Government was filled with apprehension, the country was alarmed, not only at the deadlock which existed on the James, but at the danger which was now clearly menacing the National Capital. The newspapers became impatient, and asked with significant intensity, 'Why doesn't Sheridan do something?' Stocks began to decline, and gold, already alarmingly high, to rise still higher, which showed with unmistakable certainty how anxiously the business men of the country had come to regard the situation of military affairs. There was marching and countermarching, an advance and a counter-advance, then a demonstration and a retreat from Winchester to Harper's Ferry, followed by louder mutterings of discontent, and a still higher rise in the price of gold. The President became uneasy, and wrote one of his wisest letters to Grant, who in turn began to doubt, and, when he could stand it no longer, he left the Army of the Potomac in its impregnable position facing Petersburg, and hurried through Washington to Harper's Ferry to see for himself why his lieutenant did not advance, and, if need be, to give him a plan of operations, and to stay with him till it was in a fair way of execution. It was believed then, and it afterward became certain, that Sheridan's army outnumbered that of his wily antagonist, and was far p558 better clad, armed, and supplied, and so men wondered why the dashing cavalryman had grown so cautious, and the croakers went so far as to declare that Grant had made a grave mistake in putting him in command of an army.
"Thus six weeks of gloom and unhappiness passed over the country, but they were also six weeks of vigilance, careful study, and preparation, and when Grant, arriving on the ground, had considered the plan, which he found to his joy the gallant Sheridan had matured, he stamped it with his approval in that laconic but all-sufficient order, "Go in!" There was no more deliberation or delay. Every detail had been worked out, every contingency had been prepared for, and the hour of action and of victory was at hand.
"The Battle of the Opequan which followed, although somewhat delayed by accidents of ground, by the slowness of the reserves, and by the faulty tactics of certain subordinate commanders, was fought with great determination and spirit. It was the first time in the war when cavalry, artillery, and infantry were all used concurrently and to the best possible advantage, each according to its own nature and traditions. Thanks to the promptitude and courage of the lamented Upton, to the good management of Crook, and to the dashing gallantry of the cavalry, no less than to the generalship of Sheridan, the overthrow of the enemy was absolute and complete. The country was electrified, and the shadow of gloom which had hung over it was dispelled as if by magic. Gold took such a tumble as it had not received since the outbreak of the Rebellion, and thenceforth no man of sense doubted the ultimate triumph of our arms or the re-establishment of the Union.
"Early was defeated again, in a few days, at Fisher's Hill, and then driven rapidly out of the valley, but the Rebel authorities at Richmond could not realize the magnitude of the disaster. They had become so accustomed to triumph in that chosen region, to gather in its abundant crops, and to equip their men with arms, clothing, and military munitions captured there from their antagonists, that they accused Early of having been stampeded, and sent him back with reinforcements to try the issue over again. This time it so happened that Sheridan had been called to Washington for consultation, and during his absence Early, who was an able and a shifty commander, and a tough and persistent fighter, fell upon the Army at Cedar Creek, and came near destroying it entirely. It was temporarily in command of H. G. Wright, an able and hitherto successful general; but its flank was turned at an early hour of the morning, under cover of a dense fog, and this gave Early such a tremendous advantage that it was comparatively easy work to drive back the whole Federal line, and capture most of its artillery and camps. Wright and his generals did their best, and finally were enabled to rally their surprised and discomfited battalions, and re-form their ranks on advantageous but somewhat widely separated ground, in ample time to fight another battle and retrieve the fortunes of the day.
"Chagrined and astonished at what had happened, both officers and men were easily brought to assume the offensive, when Sheridan, who had finished his business at Washington, and was hurrying back, rode on the field. He had met the usual shoals of stragglers, several miles in the rear, drifting back towards Winchester, and from their number, rather than the exaggerated stories which they told, he knew that a great misfortune had befallen the army. Galloping to the front, he found General Wright wounded, but ready for action, received a hurried account of what had happened, rode the lines rapidly, and gave everybody to understand that Early must be beaten before night, no matter at what cost! This was not later than half-past ten, and by half past three or four he had formed a new and advanced line of battle, and got everybody ready to p559 assume the offensive. Right gallantly did officers and men respond to the inspiring call that he made upon them. Infantry vied with cavalry in spirit and enthusiasm, and nothing could check or withstand their gallant onset. In almost as short a time as they had lost them, they recaptured their guns and camps, and drove the enemy in disorder from the field. The victory was signal and complete, and it was followed up with relentless and untiring energy until the Valley of Virginia was again left in the possession of the Union forces, never again to be relinquished. Even the Rebel Government was finally convinced that it was hopelessly lost, and that the first stampede which had taken place was the legitimate result of the National victory.
"It has fallen to the lot of no other American general to turn the defeat of an army into a glorious victory by his timely arrival, fine generalship, and aggressive conduct, as Sheridan did at Cedar Creek. If this signal performance was due to simple good fortune rather than to a real genius for war, then it may be truthfully said that Sheridan was the most fortunate of men. But there was evidently something in it better and higher than fortune, which, in the great affairs of life, at the best, brings the opportunity that only resolute and masterful men seize upon to immortalize themselves. Call that what you will, it is glorious, and in all the subsequent emergencies of the war it never failed the gallant and invincible Sheridan.
"The page of every history of the Great Rebellion shines with the story of Sheridan's hurrying and destructive march from the Valley of Virginia, across mountain and stream, and through the unravaged and fruitful fields of the Old Dominion, to a junction with the Army of the Potomac in front of Petersburg. Grant tells us in the Memoirs how he had made up his mind to end the struggle by one supreme effort; how he sent for Sheridan and told him of his plans, and ordered him to resume command of his gallant horsemen, and go forth with them to find and fight the enemy, and in case of failure to march onward till he had joined Sherman in North Carolina, and helped him to destroy Johnston's army, after which they were to march northward with their united hosts and render the destruction of Lee's army absolutely certain. The Memoirs also tell us of Sheridan's silent but unmistakable disappointment at the idea of being again detached from the great Army which he believed could alone and unaided destroy Lee's Army wherever it went out with a firm determination to conquer; and Sheridan's own Memoirs tell us how nobly Rawlins backed up his opinion that the cavalry should not be again detached, that the Army of the Potomac should not pause or turn back from its deadly work, and finally how Grant followed him beyond the hearing of others, and assured him that the orders which required him to join Sherman were put in "merely as a blind," and that "as a matter of fact" his intention was "to close the war right there." To those who have from this narrative, or from personal acquaintance with Sheridan, come to know what manner of man he was, it is unnecessary to add that his disappointment vanished at once with the welcome assurance he had received, and that his heroic spirit brightened his face with a confident smile, brought his gloved hand with a ringing slap upon his leg, and opened his lips with the manly declaration, 'I am glad to hear it, General, for you can bet your life we'll do it!"
"From that time forth there was no hesitation or doubt; a feeling of confidence inspired and cheered him wherever he went, and, what was better and of infinite worth, he made it manifest to all with whom he came in contact. The arrangements were rapidly completed for the final move, and at last the gallant leader, with ten thousand invincible horsemen, took the road by Dinwiddie Court House to Five Forks, where he fought and won, and with the help of Warren's Corps of Infantry made p560 sure of, the victory which sealed the fate of the tottering Confederacy! The rush and sweep of his movements from the beginning of that march till the final surrender at Appomattox were superb, and although he was ably seconded by the entire Army, and especially by the knightly and irresistible Humphreys, and his own gallant division commanders, he was indispensably the hero of those stirring days, and the right hand of his sturdy and unrelenting chief. Marching and fighting almost without intermission for two weeks, they made good his cheering words to Grant in a manner which brought peace to the country and lasting honor to himself.
"Before the Great Review in Washington preceding the disbandment of the Army, Sheridan was ordered to the Texas frontier, to close up the Rebellion in that quarter, and to make good the demand of our Government that Maximilian and his European allies should evacuate Mexico. This service was wisely and discreetly performed, and was followed by a series of campaigns against the hostile Indians, extending over the entire frontier, covering a period of years, and conducted with such energy and succeed as to settle the Indian question forever.
"In 1871 he visited Europe, and accompanied the headquarters of King William throughout the wonderful campaign which ended in the destruction of the French Army and in the capture of Paris.
"During the years of peace which followed, Sheridan discharged every duty loyally and faithfully, if not to the satisfaction of all parties and to the entire country. It is true that he was criticised severely for his conduct while in command of the Department of Louisiana during the days of reconstruction, but it is now conceded by all that he meant no injustice to any one, and least of all did he mean to violate that fundamental principle of American polity which subordinates the military to the civil power. His countrymen should remember always that he was essentially a soldier who showed best in the heat of battle, and not a statesman, and that he resolutely put aside every suggestion which promised him political honors. And above all, they should set over against his political mistake, if mistake it was, in Louisiana, his heroic and resolute behavior during the great fire, and subsequently during the Anarchist riots at Chicago, when by precept and example, by act and deed, he became the support of the entire community.
"It must be said in conclusion that Sheridan was one of the ablest and most impartial administrators the American Army ever had. In recognition of this, no less than of his conspicuous services in the field, Congress and the President bestowed upon him, before his eyes were closed in death, the exalted rank of General, as had already been done in turn to his illustrious predecessors, Grant and Sherman."
1 The thanks of Congress were tendered, Feb. 9, 1865, to General Sheridan, for "the gallantry, military skill, and courage displayed in the brilliant series of victories achieved by his army in the valley of the Shenandoah, especially at Cedar Run."
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