The Exchange : Philip Sheridan: A lost war hero of the Civil War

Philip Sheridan: A lost war hero of the Civil War

Every U.S. history student will eventually open a book to a chapter that reviews the American Civil War. Years later, they will remember the names such as President Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant.  However, there are a large number of individuals from the Civil War era that are not discussed or are quickly forgotten.  One example, Civil War icon Philip Sheridan, was highly touted by Gen. Grant and had a significant role in the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army. 

 

After he graduated from West Point Military Academy, he quickly moved up in military rank. When Grant was promoted to General-in Chief of the Union Army, it allowed Sheridan to be appointed the commander of the Potomac's Cavalry Corps.

 

 Sheridan


Sheridan participated in numerous battles, but his campaign at Shenandoah forever would define his legacy. Shenandoah Valley was a vital area to the Confederacy; it was the breadbasket of the South and served as an important transportation route.  Before Sheridan arrived to the valley, two other major campaigns occurred there; both ended with the Confederates forcing Union forces to retreat.

 

In the Shenandoah Valley in September 1864, Sheridan defeated Lieutenant General Jubal Early's troops at Third Winchester and Fisher Hill. Soon after, he would begin his "scorched earth" tactic, setting more than 400 square miles ablaze. The campaign would later become known as "The Burning."

 

Early's Confederate troops nearly found success in the Shenandoah Valley when they sprung a surprise attack on Sheridan's troops at Cedar Creek. Sheridan, who was located at Winchester, 10 miles away, heard the artillery fire and raced to Cedar Creek in time to rally his troops and fend off the Confederates.  The loss was demoralizing to Early's Confederate troops and some speculate the victory assisted Lincoln in his bid to win the re-election in 1864. 

 

Sheridan proved to be critical in Robert E. Lee's surrender. Sheridan pursued Lee's forces; eventually, Lee's lines of support where cut off by Sheridan at Five Forks, forcing Lee too evacuate Petersburg, Va. Sheridan would also capture close to one-quarter of Lee's army at Slayer's Creek. Eventually, Sheridan's forces blocked Lee's escape route and forced him to surrender at Appomattox.

 

After the war, Sheridan went on to be a military governor of Texas and Louisiana. After he was relieved of that duty by President Andrew Johnson, he was placed in charge of getting the Plain's Native Americans into reservations.  He also had a critical role in establishing Yellowstone National Park. His final accolade came in June 1888 when he became the General of the United States Army.  However, soon after, August 1888, he died after a series of massive heart attacks. 

 

Soon after his death, he was featured on the series 1890 and 1891 $10 notes.  Additionally, the series 1869 $5 silver certificate featured a portrait of Sheridan.

 

People, events, and places may be left out of history books.  Nevertheless, that does not diminish their historical importance.  To learn more about the Civil War, including people, events, objects and places, visit the Money Museum exhibit, "A House Divided: Money of the Civil War," located at 818 N. Cascade Ave., in Colorado Springs, Colo.

 

Written by Brandon Ortega at 00:00

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