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When Was the American Civil War a Done Deal?

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  • 'Pshaw,"said SHERIDAN,"it's nothing of the sort It's all right, or we'll fix it right


    Can't resist posting Harper's account of Sheridan's arrival at the battle of Cedar Creek. The florid language and images of glory must have excited readers back then. It does me. One has to smile imagining Custer lifting Sheridan off his feet and spinning him around at the celebration after the battle. This was as good as it gets in a time when there was no TV, radio or film to stir people's emotions.


    WE give on our first page a sketch of General SHERIDAN'S arrival on the field October 19. The victory gained at Cedar Creek that day surpassed in interest the victory gained precisely one month earlier at Winchester. It was a victory following upon the heels of apparent reverse, and therefore reflecting peculiar credit on the brave commander to whose timely arrival upon the field the final success of the day must be attributed.

    The General was at Winchester in the early morning when the enemy attacked—fifteen miles distant from the field of operations. General WRIGHT was in command. The enemy had approached under cover of a heavy fog, and flanking the extreme right of the Federal line, held by CROOK'S Corps, and attacking in the centre, had thrown the entire line into confusion, and driven it several miles. The stragglers to the rear were fearfully numerous, and the enemy was pushing on, turning against the Federals a score of guns already captured from them.

    This was the situation a little before noon when SHERIDAN came on the field, riding, says one of his staff, so that the devil himself could not have kept up. A staff-officer meeting him pronounced the situation of the army to be " awful."

    'Pshaw," said SHERIDAN, "it's nothing of the sort It's all right, or we'll fix it right !"

    SHERIDAN hastened to his cavalry on the extreme left. Galloping past the batteries," says the World correspondent, " to the extreme left of the line held by the cavalry , he rode to the front, took off his hat and waved it, while a cheer went up from the ranks not less hearty and enthusiastic than that which greeted him after the battle of Winchester. Generals rode out to meet him, officers waved their swords, men threw up their hats in an extremity of glee. General CUSTER, discovering SHERIDAN at the moment he arrived, rode up to him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him on the cheek. Waiting for no other parley than simply to exchange greeting, and to say, ' This retreat must be stopped ! Sheridan broke loose and began galloping down the lines, along the whole front of the army. Every where the enthusiasm caused by his appearance was the same."

    The line was speedily reformed; provost marshals brought in stragglers by the scores ; the retreating army turned its face to the foe. An attack just about to be made was repulsed, and the tide of battle turned. Then SHERIDAN'S time was come. A cavalry charge was ordered against right and left flank of the enemy, and then a grand advance of the three infantry corps from left to right on the Enemy's centre. " On through Middletown," says the correspondent above quoted, " and beyond, the enemy hurried, and the Army of the Shenandoah pursued. The roar of musketry now had a gleeful, dancing sound. The guns fired shafted salutes of victory. CUSTER and MERRITT, charging in on right and left, doubled up the flanks of the foe, taking prisoners, slashing, killing, driving as they went. The march of the infantry was more majestic and more terrible. The lines of the foe swayed and broke before it every where. Beyond Middletown, on the battle-field fought over in the morning, their columns were completely overthrown and disorganised. They fled along the pike and over the fields like sheep."

    Thus on through Strasburg with two brigades of calvary at their heels. Two thousand prisoners were gathered together, though there was not a sufficient guard to send them all to the rear. The guns lost in the morning were recaptured, and as many more taken, making fifty in all, and, according, to SHERIDAN'S report, the enemy reached Mount Jackson without an organized regiment.

    The scene at SHERIDAN'S head-quarters at night after the battle was wildly exciting. "General CUSTER arrived about 9 o'clock. The first thing he did was to hug General SHERIDAN with all his might, lifting him in the air, whirling him around and around, with the shout : By ----, we've cleaned them out and got the guns ! ' Catching sight of General TORBERT, CUSTER went through the same proceeding with him, until TORBERT was forced to cry out : ` There, there, old fellow ; don't capture me !'"

    SHELRIDAN'S ride to the front, October 19, 1864, will go down in history as one of the most important and exciting events which have ever given interest to a battle-scene ; and to this event will be attributed the victory of the day, Says General GRANT, " 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."

    (I've read in later accounts that Sheridan didn't arrive from Winchester to an "awful" situation. Gen Wright had already stabilized Union lines and was preparing a counterattack. Sheridan did, however, restore union morale and led a vigorous counterattack. Harper's reporting isn't at fault, as Sheridan's
    dispatches immediately after the battle made it seem he had saved the day.)
    To be Truly ignorant, Man requires an Education - Plato


    • JAD

      I am glad the more recent scholarship give Wright and Getty much more credit than Sheridan was willing to give them.

      While a stirring passage, not the best history!!!
      “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
      Mark Twain