Sheridan, Philip

Sheridan, Philip (Henry)

(1831–88) soldier; born in Albany, N.Y. The son of Irish immigrant parents, he worked as a store clerk before obtaining a West Point appointment; he was an undistinguished student, and because of a discipline infraction, he graduated in 1853, a year late. When the Civil War began, he was still an obscure lieutenant and was assigned only desk jobs; at one point he was almost court-martialed for violating an administrative regulation. His combat career did not begin until May 1862 when he was appointed colonel in the cavalry; after distinguishing himself in the Union advance on Corinth, Miss., and the battle of Booneville, Miss., he was promoted to general and commanded a division at Perryville and Stone's River (1862); as a corps commander, his troops took part in the charge up Missionary Ridge that won the decisive Battle of Chattanooga (1863). Grant then put him in charge of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac; he led the raid on Richmond that resulted in the death of Jeb Stuart at Yellow Tavern (May 1864). As commander of the Army of the Shenandoah in 1864, he drove Confederate forces from the Shenandoah Valley and laid it waste (August 1864–February 1865), leaving the inhabitants, as he put it, "with only their eyes to weep with over the war." Sheridan's fabled "ride" occurred on October 19, 1864, when he rallied his routed forces at Cedar Creek. Commanding a combined force of infantry and cavalry, the intense, aggressive, and hard-driving Sheridan led a furious Union pursuit to Appomattox, where he joined Grant in compelling Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865. After the war he proved to be especially severe as a military governor in the South; he also organized punitive campaigns against the Plains Indian tribes. (He is reliably reported as having actually said, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.") In 1884 he succeeded Sherman as commander-in-chief of the army.
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