Sheridan a Full-Blooded Irishman—The Runaway Horse—Constitutional Fearlessness—Sheridan Goes to West Point—Sheridan's Apprenticeship to War—The Fight with the Apaches at Fort Duncan—He is Transferred to Oregon—Commands at Fort Yamhill in the Yokima Reservation—The Quarrel among the Yokimas—Sheridan Popular with Indians—He thinks he has a Chance to be Major Some Day—Sheridan's Shyness with Ladies—He Employs a Substitute in Waiting on a Lady—Sheridan's Kindness and Efficiency in Office Work—He Becomes a Colonel of Cavalry—His Shrewd Defeat of Gen. Chalmers—Becomes Brigadier—The Kentucky Campaign against Bragg—Sheridan Saves the Battle of Perrysville—Saves the Battle of Murfreesboro—Gen. Rousseau on Sheridan's Fighting—Sheridan at Missionary Ridge—Joins Grant as Chief of Cavalry—His Raids around Lee—His Campaign in the Valley of Virginia—He Moves across and Joins in the Final Operations—His Administration at New Orleans—Grant's Opinion of Sheridan.

Major-General Philip Henry Sheridan is a full-blooded Irishman by descent, though American by birth. He was born in poverty. So large a share of American eminent men have been born poor, that it might almost be said that in our country poverty in youth is the first requisite for success in life.

Sheridan's parents, after remaining a few years at the east, moved to Ohio, where their son grew up with very little schooling, and under the useful necessity of working for a living. There is a story current of his having been put upon a spirited horse when a boy of five, by some mischievous mates, and run away with to a tavern some miles off. He stuck fast to the horse, though without saddle or bridle, and without size or strength to use them if he had them. It was by a mere chance that he arrived safe, and when lifted off by the sympathizing family of the inn, the little fellow admitted that he was shaken and sore with his ride, but he added, "I'll be better to-morrow, and then I'll ride back home." The incident is of no great importance in itself, but it shows that even then the boy was already constitutionally destitute of fear. He seems to have been made without the peculiar faculty which makes people take danger into the account, and try to keep at a distance from it. The full possession of this deficiency (if the phrase is not too direct a contradiction in terms,) is quite uncommon. Admiral Nelson had it, as was shown, very much in Sheridan's own style, in his boyhood. The future victor of Trafalgar had strayed away from home, and got lost. When he had been found and taken home, a relative remarked, "I should have thought that fear would have kept you from going so far away." "Fear?" said the young gentleman quite innocently; "Fear? I don't know him!" He never afterwards made his acquaintance, either; nor, it would seem, has Sheridan.

When young Sheridan received his appointment to a cadetship at West Point, he was driving a water-cart in Zanesville, Ohio. The person who actually procured the appointment was Gen. Thomas P. Ritchey, member of Congress from Sheridan's district. The candidate was very young for the appointment, and very small of his age, insomuch that his friends considered it extremely doubtful whether he would be admitted. He was, however, and passed through the regular West Point course, in the same class with Generals McPherson, Scofield, Terrill, Sill and Tyler, and with the rebel general Hood, who was so fearfully beaten by Thomas at Nashville. His scholarship was not particularly remarkable, and as is often the case with pupils who have no particular want of courage, high health and spirits, or of the bodily and mental qualities for doing things rather than for thinking about it, he experienced various collisions of one and another kind, with the strict military discipline of the institution.

He graduated in June, 1853, and as there was at the moment no vacant second lieutenancy, he was given a brevet appointment, and sent out in the next autumn to Fort Duncan on the Rio Grande, at the western edge of Texas, and in the region haunted by two of the most ferocious and boldest of the tribes sometimes called on the frontier the "horse Indians"—the Apaches and Camanches.

From this time until the rebellion, Lieutenant Sheridan was serving, not exactly his apprenticeship to his trade of war, but what would in Germany be called his wanderjähre—his years as wandering journeyman. It was an eight years of training in hardships and dangers more incessant and more extreme than perhaps could be crowded into any life except this of the American Indian-fighter; and doubtless its wild experiences did much to develop the bodily and mental endurance and the coolness and swift energy which have characterized Sheridan as a commander.

For two years Sheridan was at Fort Duncan, and was then promoted to first lieutenant, transferred to the Fourth Regiment, and after some delay in New York waiting for some recruits, he accompanied them by sea to the Pacific coast, and immediately on reaching San Francisco was placed in command of the escort for a surveying expedition employed on a branch of the Pacific Railroad. On this duty, and afterwards in command of posts or on scouts and expeditions up and down those remote and wild regions, the time passed until the outbreak of the war in 1861.

In the fights and adventures of this rough life, Sheridan's soldierly qualities were often exhibited. While at Fort Duncan, being outside the fort with two men, the three were surprised by a gang of a dozen or more Apaches, whose chief, taking it for granted that the three had surrendered, jumped down from his horse, to tie them up and have them carried off. As he did so, Sheridan, quick as lightning, sprang up in his place, and goaded the wild mustang at full speed to the fort. On reaching it, he called instantly to arms, snatched a pair of pistols, and without dismounting or waiting to see who followed, wheeled and flew back as swiftly as he had come. His two men were fighting stoutly for their lives. Sheridan dashed up and shot the chief. The soldiers, following hard after him, charged the savages, and in a moment the discomfited Apaches were ridden down, dispersed and most of them killed.

During Sheridan's stay in Oregon, his commanding officer, Major Rains, (afterwards the rebel General Rains,) made a campaign against the Yokima Indians, in which Sheridan did right good service, and so conspicuously at the affair of the Cascades on the Columbia, April 28, 1856, as to be mentioned in general orders with high praise. The Indians having been subdued, were placed on a tract called the Yokima Reservation, and Sheridan was appointed to command a detachment of troops posted among them, to act substantially as their governor. He erected a post called Fort Yamhill, and remained there for two or three years, ruling his wild subjects with a good deal of success, and being quite popular with them, as well as praised and trusted by his own superiors. An eye-witness has told the story of an occurrence at Fort Yamhill, a good deal like the affair of the Apaches at Fort Duncan, and which equally illustrates the swift and vehement courage with which Sheridan always does his soldier's work. One day a quarrel arose in the camp of the Yokimas, outside the fort. These turbulent savages have no more self-control than so many tigers, and in a moment their knives were out, and a bloody battle-royal was opened. Sheridan was near enough to see that there was a fight, but happened to be alone. He put spurs to his horse, hurried to the fort, ordered what few soldiers were in sight to follow him, turned, set spurs to his horse again, and dashed off for the Indian camp at the very top of his speed; bare headed, sword in hand, without once looking round to see if he were followed; and he charged headlong into the fray, riding through the desperate Indian knife-fight as though it were a field of standing grain. The soldiers felt the powerful magnetism of their leader, just as Sheridan's soldiers have always felt it; and, our informant said, every man of them drove on, just like his leader, without looking behind to see if anybody followed. In they went, striking right and left, and in a moment or two, they had charged once or twice through the fight, and it was quelled.

Sheridan was an efficient manager of these Indians, and was popular with them, too. Their wild, keen instincts appreciate courage and energy, sense and kindness, quite as readily as do civilized men.

When the rebellion broke out, Sheridan was ordered East, and on May 14, 1861, was commissioned captain in the Thirteenth Regular Infantry. He was soon sent to Missouri, where his first actual service in the war was a term of office as president of a board for auditing military claims. He was soon, however, sent into the field as chief quartermaster and commissary under Gen. Curtis, and in that capacity served through the brilliant and victorious, but terribly severe campaign in which the desperate battle of Pea Ridge was fought. At this time his professional ambition was not very high, for he observed one day that "he was the sixty-fourth captain on the list, and with the chances of war might soon be a major."

Sheridan is, however, thoroughly modest, and among ladies is—or was—even excessively bashful. There is an amusing story on this point about this very campaign. It is, that Sheridan, too bashful to seek for himself the company of a certain young lady near Springfield, used to furnish a horse and carriage to a smart young clerk of his, conditionally that the said clerk should take the young lady out to drive and entertain her—very much as Captain Miles Standish is said to have once deputed John Alden on a similar errand. The clerk did so, while Captain Sheridan stood in the door and experienced a shy delight in seeing how well the substitute did duty. No end is known for this story—except, indeed, that Captain Sheridan did not marry the lady.

There are on record some reminiscences of Sheridan's character as an officer in this campaign, which paint him in a very agreeable light, as at once energetic and thorough in duty, and kindly in feeling and manner. It was a fellow-officer who thus wrote:

"The enlisted men on duty at headquarters, or in his own bureau, remember him kindly. Not a clerk or orderly but treasures some act of kindness done by Captain Sheridan. Never forgetting, nor allowing others to forget, the respect due to him and his position, he was yet the most approachable officer at headquarters. His knowledge of the regulations and customs of the army, and of all professional minutiæ, were ever at the disposal of any proper inquirer. Private soldiers are seldom allowed to carry away as pleasant and kindly recollections of a superior as those with which Captain Sheridan endowed us. * * * No man has risen more rapidly with less jealousy, if the feelings entertained by his old associates of the Army of the Southwest are any criterion."

Sheridan's next service was as General Halleck's chief quartermaster in the Corinth campaign. Halleck seems to have thought very well of Sheridan from the first, though apparently rather as a trustworthy organizer and manager, than as such a military son of thunder as he has turned out to be. After a time the nature of the war in those parts occasioned a great demand for cavalry officers, and Sheridan being pitched upon for one, was on May 27, 1862, commissioned colonel of the 2d Michigan Cavalry, and was at once sent into the field to help impede the retreat of the rebels when they should evacuate Corinth.

In this and other similar work of that campaign, Sheridan became at once known to the army and to his superiors as a splendid officer, and from that time forward he rose and rose, up to the very last scene of the Virginia campaign, where he wielded the troops that struck the most telling of the final blows against Lee.

His first important service was to take part in Elliott's Booneville expedition. In June he had a cavalry combat with the butcher Forrest, and beat him, and was made acting brigadier. In July, having two regiments with him, he was attacked by the rebel Chalmers with six thousand men. Sheridan's position was strong enough, but he saw that he would shortly be surrounded and starved out by mere weight of numbers. So he contrived a neat and effective surprise; risky, it is true; but it is exactly the character of an able commander to take risks at the right time, and not lose. Sheridan sent round to the enemy's rear, by a long detour, a force of about ninety troopers, with instructions to fall on at a given time, when he would attack in concert with them. This was done; the bold squad fired so fast from their repeating carbines that the rebels, startled and perplexed, could not estimate on the probable number attacking them, and were thrown into confusion. At this moment, Sheridan charged in front with his whole force, and in his own manner, and Chalmers' men, instantly breaking, fled in total rout, and were pursued twenty miles, leaving the whole road strewn with weapons, accoutrements and baggage thrown away in their flight. General Grant, at this time Sheridan's department commander, reported in strong commendation of Sheridan's conduct in this affair, and asked a brigadier's commission for him, which was accordingly given, dated July 15th, the day of Chalmers' first attack. Sheridan seems to like to be attacked. He is sure of himself and of his men, conscious of his own coolness, view of the field, recognition of the "critical five seconds," and promptness in moving, and he prepares a return stroke apparently quite as gladly as he administers a first assault.

When, in the summer of 1862, General Bragg advanced by a line far east of the Union forces in the valley of the Mississippi, with the idea of reaching the Ohio, and carrying the war into the North, Grant sent Sheridan to Buell, commanding in Kentucky, who gave him a division and placed him in command of Louisville. Here Sheridan in one night completed a tolerable line of defence, and waited with confidence for an attack, but Bragg never got so far. On Bragg's retreat was fought the battle of Perrysville, which was given by the rebel leader to gain time for his trains to escape from the rapid pursuit of the Union army. In this battle, Sheridan with his division held the key of the Union position, repulsed several desperate assaults, and twice, charging in his turn, drove the rebels from their positions before him. His division lost heavily, but he inflicted heavier losses on the rebels, and his prompt tactics and keen fighting saved the Union army from defeat.

In the terrible fight of Stone River, or Murfreesboro', Sheridan's part, instead of being merely creditable or handsome, was glorious and decisive. But for him, that great battle would have been a tremendous defeat. How desperate the need of the crisis that Sheridan met there, and how well he met it, may somewhat appear from the terms used by the best historian thus far of that battle, in prefacing the detailed account which he gives of the fighting of Sheridan and his men. Mr. Swinton says:

"The difference between troops is great; the difference between officers is immensely greater. While the two right divisions of McCook were being assailed and brushed away, an equal hostile pressure fell upon his left division (Sheridan's). But here a quite other result attended the enemy's efforts; for not only were the direct attacks repulsed with great slaughter, but when the flank of the division was uncovered by the withdrawal of the troops on its right, its commander effecting a skilful change of front, threw his men into position at right angles with his former line, and having thus made for himself a new flank, buffeted with such determined vigor and such rapid turns of offence, that for two hours he held the Confederates at bay—hours precious, priceless, wrenched from fate and an exultant foe by the skill and courage of this officer, and bought by the blood of his valiant men. This officer was Brigadier-General P. H. Sheridan."

Few fights were ever more splendidly soldierly than this of Sheridan's. We cannot detail it; but when left with his flank totally uncovered, and where he would have been perfectly justified in retreating, he changed front under fire—the most difficult of all military manoeuvres, repulsed the triumphant enemy four times, held his ground until all three of his brigade commanders were shot; fought until all his ammunition was gone, and no more to be had; then took to charging with the cold steel; and when at last he had to retreat, he brought off in good order the force that was left, "with compact ranks and empty cartridge boxes," having lost seventeen hundred and ninety-six brave men, and having gained the time which saved the battle; and reporting to Rosecrans, he said with sorrow, "Here is all that are left." The hot blooded Rousseau, who had been sent with his reserves into the dark, close cedar thickets where Sheridan was fighting, described the scene in words that enable the imagination to conceive what must have been the reality of which a soldier spoke thus:

"I knew it was hell in there before I got in, but I was convinced of it when I saw Phil Sheridan, with hat in one hand and sword in the other, fighting as if he were the devil incarnate, or had a fresh indulgence from Father Tracy every five minutes."

Father Tracy was Rosecrans' chaplain—Rosecrans and Sheridan both being Catholics. It may be added that those who know Sheridan's battle manners, may perhaps suspect that, he needed indulgence for some offence in words as well as deeds. Gen. Sheridan was made major-general for his services at Murfreesboro'.

We cannot do more than hastily sum up the later and even more brilliant portion of Sheridan's splendid career; and indeed it is so much better known that the task is the less needful. Sheridan was active and useful during Rosecrans' advance on Chattanooga. At the defeat of Chickamauga, his services were so conspicuous in making the best of a bad matter, that Rosecrans in his report, "commended him to his country."

Grant now succeeded Rosecrans, and gained the battle of Chattanooga, Monday, Nov. 23, 1863. In the storming of Missionary Ridge, which was the central glory of that fight, Sheridan and his men bore a conspicuous part. When Grant was made Lieutenant General, he quickly ordered Sheridan to report at Washington. Sheridan went, not knowing whether for praise or blame, and was placed in command of all the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac. When Grant crossed the Rapidan, and began that bloody and toilsome, but shattering and finally decisive series of movements which ended with the surrender of the Rebellion, Sheridan and his horsemen were employed in reconnoitering and guarding trains. May 9th, he set out on a raid around the rear of Lee's army, in which he cut up communications, destroyed supplies, and rescued prisoners; beat the rebel cavalry, killing its leader, J. E. B. Stuart; penetrated within two miles of Richmond, thoroughly frightening the rebel capital; extricated his force from a very difficult position on the Chickahominy, by his peculiar style of swift manoeuvre and furious fighting; and came safe through at last to Butler's headquarters.

On another similar expedition in June, he severely damaged the rebel routes of supply to Richmond from the north and west; and for some time after that, his cavalry were overrunning the country south of Petersburg and Richmond, while Grant was establishing himself in the lines before Petersburg.

Sheridan's great historic campaign in the Valley of Virginia was the crowning glory of his splendid career in the war; a career perhaps more brilliant with the gleams of battles than that of any other commander. This fatal valley had from the very beginning of the war been the opprobrium of the Union armies. From it came General Johnston and those forces that reinforced Beauregard at Bull Run, and turned that hap-hazard fight into a victory for the rebels. Through it, alternating with the ground east of the Blue Ridge, the rebels moved backward and forward, as they chose, like a checker-player in the "whip-row." In it, one Union commander after another had been defeated and made to look ridiculous; and it was the road along which every invasion of the North, east of the mountains, was laid out, as a matter of course.

Sheridan turned this den of disgraces into a theatre all ablaze with victories. He was appointed to the command Aug. 7, 1864; for six or seven weeks simply covered the harvests from the rebel foragers; during September was at last given leave by Grant to deliver battle; September 19th, defeated Early at Winchester; September 22d, defeated him again at Fisher's Hill, whither he had retreated; and when the rebel commander retreated again to the far southern passes of the Blue Ridge, Sheridan laid the southern part of the valley thoroughly waste, to prevent the enemy from finding support in it; on the 19th of October, after his army had been surprised by the persevering Early, defeated, and driven in disorder five miles, Sheridan faced it about, and turned the defeat into the most dramatic, brilliant and famous of all his victories.

In February of the following year, Sheridan took a place in that vast ring of bayonets and sabres with which Grant sought to envelop the remaining armies of the rebellion. On the 27th of that month, he moved rapidly up the valley of his victories, ran over what was left of Early's force, smashed it and captured two-thirds of it almost without stopping, then crossed the Ridge, destroyed the James river canal, and breaking up railroads and bridges as he went, rode across the country to White House, and thence once more joined Grant below Petersburg. Last of all, in the final campaign from March 29th to Lee's surrender on April 9th, Sheridan and his troops were the strong left hand of Grant in all those operations; thrust furthest out around Lee, feeling and feeling after him, clutching him whenever there was a chance, crushing him like a vice at every grasp, and throttling him with relentless force, until the very power of further resistance was gone, and that proposed charge of Sheridan's which was stopped by Lee's flag of truce, would really have been made upon an almost helpless and disorganized mass of starving, worn-out soldiers and disordered wagon-trains.

General Sheridan's administration as military governor at New Orleans, was a surprise to his friends, from its exhibition of broad and high administrative qualities. Yet there is much that is alike in the abilities of a good general and a good ruler. Gen. Grant is a very wise judge of men, and his brief and characteristic record of his estimate of Sheridan might have justified hopes equal to the actual result. To any one remembering also his early days of authority over the Yokimas in Oregon, it would doubtless have done so; for a Yokima community and the community of an "unreconstructed" southern rebel city are a good deal alike in many things. What Grant said of Sheridan was as follows, and was sent to Secretary Stanton just after Cedar Creek, and a little while before Sheridan's appointment as Major-General in the Regular Army, in place of McClellan, resigned:

"City Point, Thursday, Oct. 20, 8 p. m.

Hon. E. M. Stanton, etc.:

I had a salute of one hundred guns from each of the armies here fired in honor of Sheridan's last victory. Turning what bid fair to be a disaster into a glorious victory, stamps Sheridan what I always thought him, one of the ablest of generals.

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General."

The extraordinary series of popular ovations which have attended Sheridan's recent tour through part of the North, have proved that he is profoundly admired, honored and loved by all good citizens; and unless we except Grant, probably Sheridan is the most popular—and deservedly the most popular—of all the commanders in the war. Such a popularity, and won not by words but by deeds, is an enviable possession.

W. T. Sherman

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