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
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 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
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.