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Philip H. Sheridan (1831-1883)

“Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance,” famed Civil War general and commander of the post-war United States Army in the West Philip A. Sheridan told the 1875 Texas Legislature.


Members of that body had complained about rampaging buffalo hunters who piled up thousands of carcasses at a time with intentions to utilize only small portions of the magnificent beast, if any portions at all, They wanted Sheridan to stop the practice.


Five feet five inches tall and barely 115 pounds, “Little Phil” Sheridan emerged as one of the most colorful characters and greatest fighters of the War Between the States. Born to Irish immigrants, he grew up in Ohio. His pugnacity evidenced itself early, when his bayonet attack of an older cadet officer landed him a one-year suspension and near-expulsion from West Point.


Sheridan’s uncertain, and undistinguished, early military career continued with the coming of the War. Serving as quartermaster and commissary in Missouri with Samuel Curtis’s Army of the Southwest, he evidenced sloppy bookkeeping and careless observance of the rules, and barely escaped a court-martial. However, once he secured a commission as Colonel of the 2nd Michigan Cavalry in May, 1862, Sheridan began to thrive. Within two months, he advanced to command of a brigade. His military training, superb horsemanship, and fighting spirit, especially during the tumult of battle, spurred his advance up the ranks while a key lieutenant in U. S. Grant’s successful western campaigns.

Sheridan distinguished himself in several key battles. He commanded a division in the key October, 1862, Federal victory at Perryville, Kentucky. His tenacious refusal to give ground at Stone’s River, Tennessee, a couple of months later garnered him promotion to Major General. In November, 1863, he led the reckless and brilliant charge up Missionary Ridge that clinched the Chattanooga campaign and opened the way for Sherman’s March to the Sea.

When President Lincoln brought Grant east in early 1864 as General-in-Chief of all Federal armies, Grant brought Sheridan with him, first as Cavalry Chief for the Army of the Potomac, then as commander of the new Army of the Shenandoah. Sheridan cleared that Valley, the “breadbasket” of the eastern Confederacy, of Southern forces, then commenced to destroy it—home, crop, and livestock—from one end to the other.

Southern hatred of him for this unprecedented feat mounted after the war for his harsh policies as a Reconstruction-era occupation commander in Texas and Louisiana. So controversial was Sheridan’s rule that Grant himself removed him from one post. American Indians tasted his hard ways as he directed the post-war campaign against them on such fields of civilian massacre as the “Battle” of the Washita River.

The German military leadership consulted Sheridan while he toured the Franco-Prussian War in the early 1870s. His chronicle of the successful Northern prosecution of the recent American contest left the tough Prussians astounded and offended at what they considered the unchivalrous nature of the Federal policy of total war. His record in the United States, however, was one of fierce loyalty and unfettered triumph on hallowed fields like Missionary Ridge, Yellow Tavern (where his men mortally wounded Jeb Stuart), Cedar Creek, and Five Forks.

One of Sheridan’s singular contributions to the Federal triumph was his innovative—and insistent—notion that Northern cavalry be used strategically in their own right and in overwhelming force, not just as escorts for the infantry, artillery, and supply trains. According to journalist Sylvanus Cadwallader, who knew Grant well, the latter esteemed Sheridan above all his other generals, including William Sherman. Sheridan succeeded Sherman as General-in-Chief of the United States Army in 1883. His personal memoirs were published in 1888, only a few days before he died in Nonquitt, Massachusetts, honored and revered by his wife and children, and the United States he had served for nearly forty years.

 
The Oklahomans Vol 1

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Oklahomans Vol 1:

Ancient-Statehood

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