General Phil Sheridan

 

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Up | General Sheridan in the Civil War  The Poem, "Sheridan's Ride"

Sheridan, PHILIP HENRY, military officer; born in Albany, N. Y., March 6, 1831; graduated at West Point in 1853; served with much credit in Texas and Oregon, doing good service in the latter region, and settling difficulties with the Indians; was made captain in May, 1861, and during the summer was president of a military commission to audit claims in Missouri. In December he was made chief commissary of the Army of the Southwest, and was on the staff of General Halleck at Corinth performing the same duties. In May, 1862, he was made colonel of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry; on June 6 defeated Forrest's cavalry, and on July 1 repulsed and defeated a superior Confederate force under Chalmers at Booneville, Miss.  He was then at the head of a brigade of cavalry, and was made brigadier-general. In August he defeated Faulkner's cavalry in Mississippi.

General Sheridan

General Phil Sheridan

 Late in September he took command of a division in the Army of the Ohio, and led another division at the battle of Perryville. He also commanded a division with great efficiency in the battle at Stone River, and for his services there he was made (Dec. 31) major-general of volunteers. He afterwards rendered signal service in the battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge, when he was transferred to the Army of the Potomac (April, 1864) as chief of cavalry.

When the Federal army emerged from the Wilderness, in 1864, General Sheridan was sent to cut Lee's communications with Richmond. This was the first of the great raids of that leader in Virginia, and was a short but destructive one. He took with him a greater portion of the cavalry led by Merritt, Gregg, and Wilson, crossed the North Anna on May 9, and struck the Virginia Central Railroad, capturing Beaver Dam Station. He destroyed 10 miles of the railway, its rolling stock, 1,500,000 rations, and released 400 Union prisoners on their way to Richmond. There he was attacked by Stuart and his cavalry, but was not much impeded thereby. He pushed forward, and on the morning of the 11th captured Ashland Station, on the Fredericksburg road, a few miles from Richmond, where he destroyed the railroad for 6 miles and a large quantity of stores. He was charged with menacing Richmond and communicating with the Army of the James, under General Butler. A few miles from Richmond he had another sharp contest with Stuart, and drove him and his cavalry towards Ashland. Stuart was killed, and General Gordon was mortally wounded. Sheridan still pressed on, and made a dash upon the outer works at Richmond. Custer's brigade carried them at that point and made 100 prisoners. The inner works were too strong for cavalry. The Confederates gathered, and in a fight Sheridan was repulsed. He led his command across the Chickahominy, fighting a Confederate force at Meadow Bridge; destroyed a railway bridge; rested three days at Haxhall's Landing, on theJames, and procured supplies; and then, by way of the White House, leisurely returned to the Army of the Potomac.

General Sheridan on Horseback

General Phil Sheridan Famous Ride

In the campaign against Richmond until August, 1864, he did signal service in making destructive raids on Lee's communications. On Aug. 1 he was detached to the valley of the Shenandoah, where he defeated the Confederates in several engagements. During this campaign General Wright was defeated by General Early on Oct. 18, 1864, at CEDAR CREEK (q. v.). Sheridan at the time was in Winchester, and as soon as he got the news he rode to the front at a swinging gallop, rallied the Nationals, and crushed Early. Sheridan's ride has been immortalized in poetry, art, and song.
 

Sheridan left Winchester on Feb. 27, 1865, with about 10,000 men, composed of the divisions of cavalry of Merritt and George Custer. To the latter division was added a brigade of West Virginia troops under Colonel Capehart. Sheridan's troops moved rapidly up the Shenandoah Valley towards Staunton. On the way they met Rosser, with 400 men, who was disposed to dispute the passage of a fork of the Shenandoah; but he was soon chased away, and the column moved on to Staunton and Rockfish Gap. Early, with 2,500 men behind strong intrenchments, was at Waynesboro to dispute their passage. Custer soon routed him, capturing 1,600 of his men, with eleven guns, seventeen battle-flags, and 200 loaded wagons, with a loss of less than a dozen men. This finished Early as a military leader. The raiders destroyed Confederate property in the vicinity valued at $1,000,000. During that night Sheridan went over

Philip H. Sheridan

Philip H. Sheridan

the Blue Ridge in a drenching rain, and entered Charlottesville late the next day, where he waited for his pontoons and ammunition to come over the mountains. In the mean time his troops destroyed bridges, factories, depots, and the railway in the direction of Lynchburg for about 8 miles. Satisfied that the latter place was too strong for him, he divided his force and pushed for the James River. Rains had so swollen the river that his pontoons would not span it. Proceeding eastward, he destroyed the James River Canal (then the chief channel of supplies for Richmond) and numerous bridges. This produced the greatest consternation in Richmond. The Confederate government prepared to fly, and the families of officials packed for a journey. The Congress, made nervous, wanted to adjourn and depart, but they were persuaded to remain. From Columbia, where Sheridan rested a day, he dashed off to the Virginia Central Railway, which he destroyed for the distance of 15 miles. Then Custer in one direction, and Devin in another, made complete destruction of railways and bridges, as well as supplies, in Lee's rear, inflicting a more serious blow to the Confederate cause than any victory during the last campaign. Sheridan then swept around by the White House, and joined the army before Petersburg on March 26. He had disabled fully 200 miles of railway, destroyed a vast number of bridges, and property to the value of several million dollars.

After the war he was in command in Louisiana and Texas, and enforced the "reconstruction" acts there, for which he was removed by President Johnson in August, 1867. He was made lieutenant-general in March, 1869, and general of the army, June 1, 1888. He died in Nonquitt, Mass., Aug. 5, 1888.

 

 

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