Stones in the Road: Philip Sheridan at Chickamauga and Chattanooga

Part one in a series

At the close of the American Civil War,  three men received the most accolades for contributing to the capitulation of the Confederacy: Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Henry Sheridan. Of the three, Phil Sheridan seems to draw the most criticism.

Phil Sheridan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Phil Sheridan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

I will admit that I am no fan of Sheridan. It is only gritted teeth will I begrudgingly and  reluctantly give him credit for helping to bring about the downfall of the South. However, this may be a moot point. When I examine my bookshelves it is hard to underscore his role in the war. I own several books on Sheridan, including his memoirs as well as books concerning his post-war service. It seems that the number of literary works on Sheridan alone highlights the importance of his service to the United States during the War of the Rebellion.

Unlike Grant, whose rise began in early 1862 with the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, Sheridan’s ascendency to the mantle of fame began in the latter stages of the war. Much attention has been given to Sheridan’s actions in Virginia in 1864 and 1865. as commander of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac and commander of the Army of the Shenandoah. During this time, Sheridan enjoyed two key advantages that guaranteed his success: the respect of a benevolent benefactor (Grant) who always took his side when a controversy arose and the blessing of skilled and reliable subordinates.

But in the early fall of 1863 such notions were foreign to Sheridan. At the time, he was a Major General commanding a division in William S. Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland. Sheridan had cut his teeth at division command first at Perryville in October 1862 and again at the end of the year and early in the new at Stones River. As August turned to September, Little Phil could not imagine that the next three months would be pivotal in the shaping of his military career.

This entry was posted in Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Campaigns, Civil War Events, Emerging Civil War, Leadership--Federal, Personalities, Western Theater and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Stones in the Road: Philip Sheridan at Chickamauga and Chattanooga

  1. 14corps says:

    Daniel,
    I think your initial assessment of Gen. Sheridan is correct. His only credentials were that he was an Ohio officer that Gen. Grant protected. Here is a link that will indicate his poor performance at the battle of Chickamauga and the ‘spin’ he created to mask it.
    http://www.aotc.net/Sheridan.htm
    Best regards,
    Dave

  2. Daniel Davis says:

    Thanks Dave. I was actually looking at that link this past week in anticipation of the series. It is very well done!

  3. Amanda Warren says:

    I’m no fan of his, either, but it seems that he did hold things together superbly at Stones River in a dire situation. I look forward to more in-depth exploration.

  4. Meg Thompson says:

    Well, as you know, I never liked Custer much, and yet no study of Union cavalry is complete without him. Same is true for Sheridan. Perhaps getting to know them all will lessen the contempt. It seems to be working for me with George A.!

    • Amanda Warren says:

      Yeah, you’ve got to esteem a man who loved dogs as much as he did, if for that reason alone, and kept so many of them at once! (Learned about that from this site!)

      • Meg Thompson says:

        Yeah–dogs. I prefer cat men, but cats are just a pain in the neck on a forced march. Did any Civil War soldiers have a cat? Lincoln did–several.

      • Amanda Warren says:

        To Meg’s question below regarding cats: The book “Civil War Animal Heroes” describes an incident at the Battle of Resaca during the Atlanta Campaign, in which Federal artillerymen heard meowing in front of their line, and one of them rescued a cat apparently left behind when the resident family left the premises. The cat accompanied the battery from then on, often riding on the caisson or draped across a cannoneer’s shoulders. As Meg points out, cats were a rarity in the army–this one all the more so since he was a male tortoiseshell!

      • Amanda Warren says:

        Forgot to say–the men named the cat “Resaca.”

  5. He handled his division well at Stones River, not so much at Chickamauga- and his record as Grant’s chief of cavalry is checkered at best…. vastly overrated.

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