Philip Henry Sheridan (March 6, 1831 – August 5, 1888) was a career U.S. Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who transferred Sheridan from command of an infantry division in the Western Theater to lead the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac in the East. In 1864, he defeated Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley and his destruction of the economic infrastructure of the Valley, called "The Burning" by residents, was one of the first uses of scorched earth tactics in the war. In 1865, his cavalry pursued Gen. Robert E. Lee and was instrumental in forcing his surrender at Appomattox.
Sheridan prosecuted the latter years of the Indian Wars of the Great Plains. Both as a soldier and private citizen, he was instrumental in the development and protection of Yellowstone National Park.
Philip Henry Sheridan was born on March 6, 1831 either in Ireland, at sea, New York, or Ohio. Sheridan later proclaimed his birthplace to be Albany, New York, but there still remains some uncertainly. He was the son of John and Mary (Meenagh) Sheridan. His parents were Irish immigrants and, during his boyhood, were among the Catholic pioneers who moved to Somerset, Ohio. There his father worked at turnpike construction while young Sheridan received a basic education in the local schools.
Sheridan entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1848 and graduated in 1853, thirty-fourth of fifty-two cadets. He received the rank of brevet second lieutenant of infantry. He was sent to Texas in 1854 and to Oregon in 1855, serving with much credit in both areas settling difficulties with the Indians. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was made Chief Quartermaster under General Halleck, and in May 1862, was commissioned colonel of the Second Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. Rapid promotion followed, that of Brigadier General in July, and the command of a division of the Army of the Ohio in September.
During operations in the Southwest over the following two years, he greatly distinguished himself. Appointed commander of all the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac in April 1864, he was thereafter a chief reliance of General Grant in his operations in Virginia against Lee.
During a brief absence of Sheridan in Washington, General Early attacked the Union Army near Cedar Creek, October 19, 1864, and was at first victorious. Sheridan rode at full speed from Winchester and arrived during the retreat. He rallied his men and converted the disaster into a complete victory. General Grant, writing of this feat, said: "Turning what bid fair to be a disaster into a glorious victory, stamps Sheridan what I have always thought him, one of the ablest of generals".
In November 1864, his commission of Major General in the regular army was awarded him. His raids during the early part of 1865, to destroy the railroads and the other avenues of supply to Lee's army, contributed much to the final surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox in April.
After the war, Sheridan was at first appointed to command the Fifth Military District (Texas and Louisiana), then the Military District of the Missouri, and finally, in 1869, he was promoted to Lieutenant General in command of the Military Division of the Missouri.
In 1870-1, during the Franco-Prussian War, Sheridan visited Europe, where he was received with distinguished consideration at the headquarters of the German army, and was present at several important battles of the campaign.
On June 3, 1875 he married Irene Rucker, daughter of General Daniel H. Rucker.
Sheridan succeeded General Sherman as Commander-in-Chief of the Army in 1883, and on June 1, 1888, shortly before his death, he was confirmed as General of the Army. General Sheridan died at Nonquitt, MA, August 5, 1888, aged fifty-seven years.
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