Summary

The famous General Phil Sheridan of the Civil War. He commanded the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Shenandoah, and Middle Military Division.

Conflict Period:
Civil War (Union) 1
Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
General 1
Birth:
06 Mar 1831 1
Albany, NY 1
Death:
05 Aug 1888 1
Dartmouth, MA 1
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Pictures & Records (19)

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Sheridan. Philip H.
Sheridan. Philip H.
481px-Philip_Sheridan_1-restored.jpg
481px-Philip_Sheridan_1-restored.jpg
Brevet Second Lieutenant Philip Sheridan
Brevet Second Lieutenant Philip Sheridan
Philip Sheridan's Horse Renzi
Philip Sheridan's Horse Renzi
Rienzi, taxidermied and on display at the National Museum of American History
Union Cavalry General Philip Sheridan
Union Cavalry General Philip Sheridan
Sheridan and his Generals
Sheridan and his Generals
Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan and his generals in front of Sheridan's tent, 1864. Left to right: Henry E. Davies, David McM. Gregg, Sheridan, Wesley Merritt, Alfred Torbert, and James H. Wilson.
Cedar Creek
Cedar Creek
Sheridan's Ride, chromolithograph by Thure de Thulstrup
Sheridan's Headstone in Arlington Cemetery
Sheridan's Headstone in Arlington Cemetery
Silver Certificate
Silver Certificate
Series 1896 $5 Silver Certificate with the bust of General Sheridan and Ulysses S. Grant.
3 cent stamp
3 cent stamp
Generals Sherman, Grant and Sheridan, Issue of 1937
Statue
Statue
General Philip Sheridan located in the center of Sheridan Circle in Washington, D.C.
10D_treasury_note_sheridan_1890_a.jpg
10D_treasury_note_sheridan_1890_a.jpg
B-2520-A [Illegible]. Philip H. Sheridan.
B-2520-A [Illegible]. Philip H. Sheridan.
B-4496 Gen. Philip H. Sheridan.
B-4496 Gen. Philip H. Sheridan.
B-5861 Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, and staff none
B-5861 Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, and staff none
B-2520 [Illegible]. Philip H. Sheridan.
B-2520 [Illegible]. Philip H. Sheridan.
B-67 Gen. P. H. Sheridan.
B-67 Gen. P. H. Sheridan.
B-55 General Philip H. Sheridan
B-55 General Philip H. Sheridan
B-67 General Philip H. Sheridan
B-67 General Philip H. Sheridan

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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Philip Henry Sheridan 1
Also known as:
Little Phil 1
Birth:
06 Mar 1831 1
Albany, NY 1
Male 1
Death:
05 Aug 1888 1
Dartmouth, MA 1
Cause: Heart Attack 1
Burial:
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington VA 1
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Birth:
Mother: Mary Meenagh Sheridan 1
Father: John Sheridan 1
Marriage:
Irene Rucker 1
03 Jun 1875 1
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Civil War (Union) 1

Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
General 1
Service Start Date:
1861 1
Service End Date:
1865 1

Other Service 2

Branch:
Army 2
Service Start Date:
1853 2
Service End Date:
1888 2
Edit
Occupation:
General, United States Army 1
Race or Ethnicity:
Irish 1
Education:
Institution: United States Military Academy 1
Place: West Point NY 1
From: 1848 1
To: 1853 1

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Stories

Yes, this is THE famous Phil Sheridan

Ohio

Discovered the Pension File Index Card for the widow of General Phil Sheridan in FOLD3.       It says in simple words, Philip H. Sheridan, Colonel 2nd Michigan Cavalry. Few people notice him, because the pension card connects him with the 2nd Michigan Cavalry. 

This man deserves a Memorial, because he is  THE  Phil Sheridan aka General Phil Sheridan. When the Civil War ended he was commander of ALL the Union Cavalry. But at the beginning of the Civil War, his talents were unrecognized. They placed him in charge of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry Regiment, and sent him to Northern Mississippi. At the Battle of Booneville, MS, Colonel Phil Sheridan defeated a much larger force. For this feat, he was promoted to General. From then on, he was called General Phil Sherman, and the Army wisely transfered him to a more important battle zone.  

It is an odd thing to see that years later, when he died, the way his wife filled out an application for a widow's pension. For the lines on the form asking "what Regiment and Company did he serve in" she simply wrote "2nd Michigan Cavalry, F&S (Field and Staff officer)."  You can see this on the Pension File Card for Phillip H. Sheridan in Fold3. 

Sheridan was born in New York and grew up in Ohio. He retired to Washington DC and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He has no known connections to Michigan, other than commanding the 2nd Mich Cav in Mississippi for a short time.

In the 1940's Hollywood movie "They Died With Their Boots On", starring Eroll Flynn, the character Phil Sheridan plays a major part in the story. The film is more fantasy than fact, but if you like Civil War history, it's fun to watch.

Philip Sheridan

A ruthless warrior, General Philip Sheridan played a decisive role in the army's long campaign against the native peoples of the plains, forcing them onto reservations with the tactics of total war.

Sheridan was born in Albany, New York, in 1831, but grew up in Ohio. He attended West Point and, after a year's suspension for assaulting a fellow cadet with a bayonet, graduated near the bottom of his class in 1853.

Like all the U.S. generals of the Indian wars, Sheridan gained his military experience in the Civil War. An obscure lieutenant serving in Oregon when Fort Sumter was shelled, Sheridan rose to the command of the Union's cavalry by the time the Confederacy surrendered. He saw action in Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and in Virginia, where his campaign through the Shenandoah Valley laid waste to an important source of Confederate supplies. At Petersburg he won an important victory that halted Robert E. Lee's retreat from Richmond and helped bring the war to an end.

After the war, Sheridan was first given command over Texas and Louisiana, where his support for Mexican Republicans helped speed the collapse of Maximillian's regime and where his harsh treatment of former Confederates led to charges of "absolute tyranny." Within six months he was transferred to the Department of the Missouri, where he immediately shaped a battle plan to crush Indian resistance on the southern plains.

Following the tactics he had employed in Virginia, Sheridan sought to strike directly at the material basis of the Plains Indian nations. He believed -- correctly, it turned out -- that attacking the Indians' in their encampments during the winter would give him the element of surprise and take advantage of the scarce forage available for Indian mounts. He was unconcerned about the likelihood of high casualties among noncombatants, once remarking that "If a village is attacked and women and children killed, the responsibility is not with the soldiers but with the people whose crimes necessitated the attack."

The first demonstration of this strategy came in 1868, when three columns of troops under Sheridan's command converged on what is now northwestern Oklahoma to force the Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho and Cheyenne onto their reservations. The key engagement in this successful campaign was George Armstrong Custer's surprise attack on Black Kettle's encampment along the Washita River, an attack that came at dawn after a forced march through a snowstorm. Many historians now regard this victory as a massacre, since Black Kettle was a peaceful chief whose encampment was on reservation soil, but for Sheridan the attack served its purpose, helping to persuade other bands to give up their traditional way of life and move onto the reservations.

In 1869, Sheridan succeeded William Tecumseh Sherman as commander of the Division of the Missouri, which encompassed the entire plains region from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi. With Sherman, he refined his tactics -- massive force directed in surprise attacks against Indian encampments -- to mount successful campaigns against the tribes of the southern plains in 1874-1875, and against those of the northern plains in 1876-1877. Where some of his generals in these campaigns, such as Nelson A. Miles, occasionally expressed a soldierly respect for the Indians they were fighting, Sheridan was notorious for his supposed declaration that "the only good Indians I ever saw were dead" -- an attribution he steadfastly denied.

Sheridan became commanding general of the United States Army in 1884 and held that post until his death in 1888.

Philip Sheridan

Philip Henry Sheridan was once described by Abraham Lincoln as “A brown, chunky little chap, with a long body, short legs, not enough neck to hang him, and such long arms that if his ankles itch he can scratch them without stooping.”  Still, “Little Phil” rose to tremendous power and fame before his untimely death of a heart attack at age 57.

He is most famous for his destruction of the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, called “The Burning” by its residents.  He was also the subject of an extremely popular poem entitled “Sheridan’s Ride”, in which he (and his famous horse, Rienzi) save the day by arriving just in time for the Battle of Cedar Creek.

Like Patrick Cleburne, Sheridan rose very quickly in rank.  In the fall of 1861, Sheridan was a staff officer for Maj. Gen. Henry Halleck.  He later became quartermaster general in the Army of Southwest Missouri.  With the help of influential friends he was appointed Colonel of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry in May, 1862.  His first battle, Booneville, MS, impressed Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans so much that he himself was promoted to Brigadier General.  After Stones River he was promoted to Major General. 

Sheridan’s men were part of the forces which captured Missionary Ridge (near Chattanooga) in 1863.  When Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to General-in-Chief of the Union armies, he made Sheridan the commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps.  This moved him from the Western Theater to the Eastern Theater of operations.  At first, Sheridan’s Corps was used for reconnaissance.  His men were sent on a strategic raiding mission toward Richmond in May 1864.  Then he fought with mixed success in Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign. 

During the Civil War, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley was a vital resource to the Confederacy.  Not only did it serve as the Confederate “breadbasket”, it was an important transportation route.  The region had witnessed two large-scale campaigns already when Gen. Ulysses S. Grant decided to visit the Valley once again in 1864.  He sent Philip Sheridan on a mission to make the Shenandoah Valley a “barren waste”. 

In September, Sheridan defeated Jubal Early’s smaller force at Third Winchester, and again at Fisher’s Hill.  Then he began “The Burning” – destroying barns, mills, railroads, factories – destroying resources for which the Confederacy had a dire need.  He made over 400 square miles of the Valley uninhabitable.  “The Burning” foreshadowed William Tecumseh Sherman’s “March to the Sea”:  another campaign to deny resources to the Confederacy as well as bring the war home to its civilians. 

In October, however, Jubal Early caught Sheridan off guard.  Early launched a surprise attack at Cedar Creek on the 19th.  Sheridan, however, was ten miles away in Winchester, Virginia.  Upon hearing the sound of artillery fire, Sheridan raced to rejoin his forces.  He arrived just in time to rally his troops.  Early’s men, however, were suffering from hunger and began to loot the abandoned Union camps.  The actions of Sheridan (and Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright) stopped the Union retreat and dealt a severe blow to Early’s army. 

For his actions at Cedar Creek, Sheridan was promoted to Major General in the regular army.  He also received a letter of gratitude from President Abraham Lincoln.  The general took great pleasure in Thomas Buchanan Read’s poem, “Sheridan’s Ride” – so much so that he renamed his horse “Winchester”.  The Union victories in the Shenandoah Valley came just in time for Abraham Lincoln and helped the Republicans defeat Democratic candidate George B. McClellan in the election of 1864.

During the spring of 1865, Sheridan pursued Lee’s army with dogged determination.   He trapped Early’s army in March.  In April, Gen. Lee was forced to evacuate Petersburg when Sheridan cut off his lines of support at Five Forks.  And, at Sayler’s Creek, he captured almost one quarter of Lee’s army.    Finally at Appomattox, Lee was forced to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia when Sheridan’s forces blocked Lee’s escape route.

At war’s end, Phil Sheridan was a hero to many Northerners.  Gen. Grant held him in the highest esteem.  Still, Sheridan was not without his faults.  He had pushed Grant’s orders to the limit.  He also removed Gettysburg hero Gouverneur Warren from command.  It was later ruled that Warren’s removal was unwarranted and unjustified.

During Reconstruction, Sheridan was appointed to be the military governor of Texas and Louisiana (the Fifth Military District).  Because of the severity of his administration there, President Andrew Johnson declared that Sheridan was a tyrant and had him removed.  
In 1867, Ulysses S. Grant charged Sheridan with pacifying the Great Plains, where warfare with Native Americans was wreaking havoc.  In an effort to force the Plains people onto reservations, Sheridan used the same tactics he used in the Shenandoah Valley:  he attacked several tribes in their winter quarters, and he promoted the widespread slaughter of American bison, their primary source of food.  

In 1871, the general oversaw military relief efforts during the Great Chicago Fire.  He became the Commanding General of the United States Army on November 1, 1883, and on June 1, 1888, he was promoted to General of the Army of the United States – the same rank achieved by Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. 

Sheridan is also largely responsible for the establishment of Yellowstone National Park – saving it from being sold to developers. 

In August 1888, Sheridan died after a series of massive heart attacks.  He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 

 

Battle of Five Forks

Five Forks, Virginia

Philip Sheridan’s troops, especially Gouverneur Warren’s V Corps, attacked George Pickett’s troops on 1 April 1865 at Five Forks, Virginia. Because of the bad state of the roads, Warren didn’t attack until around 4 p.m., angering Sheridan. Although two of Warren’s divisions missed the Confederate line due to faulty intelligence, a third fought and, in a charge led by Sheridan, routed the left flank of Pickett’s troops. Warren had to ride off to track down the two divisions that had passed the line to reorient their attack, and his departure further frustrated Sheridan, who relieved him of his command (Warren was eventually cleared of wrongdoing in 1882). It was a Union victory. Pickett and his top commanders actually missed the battle because they were a few miles away having lunch and hadn’t informed their subordinates where they were going. The Battle of Five Forks is significant because the loss of the important Confederate position led to the abandonment of Petersburg and Richmond and forced Lee’s troops to move west during the Appomattox campaign. 

The New York Times, 6 August 1888, 1

The New York Times, 6 August 1888, 2

The Battle of Cedar Creek

"A victory turned from disaster…"Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan

 

Following his victories in September and October, 1864, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan and his 32,000 man Army of the Shenandoah conducted a systematic destruction of a 75 mile swath of the Shenandoah Valley. "The Burning" essentially laid waste to the "Breadbasket of the Confederacy." Confident the campaign was over, Sheridan camped his army north of Cedar Creek before traveling to Washington, D.C. to confer with higher authorities about future movements.

The poorly equipped and ill-fed Confederate Army of the Valley, led by Lt. Gen. Jubal Early, reduced to between 14,000-15,000 men, seemed to pose little threat. Desperate to achieve a victory, however, Early and his commanders devised a daring plan to attack Sheridan. Following an all-night march along the base of the Massanutten Mountain, including two river crossings, the Confederates rolled out of a dense fog in the pre-dawn hours of October 19. Catching many Northern soldiers sleeping, the Confederate onslaught overran the Union 8th Corps and then 19th Corps, and drove past the Belle Grove Plantation. The Union 6th Corps, given more warning, was able to offer stiffer resistance (including a determined stand amongst the stones of the Middletown cemetery), but by 10:30 a.m. the stunned Union army was in full retreat.

 

Feeling his had achieved a spectacular victory, Early sought to secure their captured spoils (including 24 Union cannon and over a 1,000 prisoners), while his soldiers solidified their final line just north of Middletown. Exhaustion, along with widespread looting of the captured Union camps, however, reduced the strength of the already outnumbered Confederate army.

Sheridan, riding from Winchester that morning, was completely unaware of the disaster that had befallen his army. Upon hearing the growing sounds of battle, however, he quickened his pace and rode hard to the field. "Sheridan's Ride" (later celebrated in art and poetry) forever cemented his status in American history. Rallying his defeated forces, he then ordered a counterattack at 4:00 p.m. which swept the Confederates from the field, recaptured all of the lost artillery (plus 24 Confederate cannons) and over 1,200 prisoners. Total casualties numbered approximately 8,600 (5,700 Union and 2,900 Confederate), making it the second bloodiest battle in the Shenandoah Valley.

Early's army was shattered, and with it further Confederate resistance in the Valley ended. Occurring just three weeks before the presidential election, Cedar Creek gave sagging Northern morale a much needed boost and helped carry Abraham Lincoln to a landslide victory at the polls.

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