Terrible Swift Sword: The Life of General Philip H. Sheridan

Terrible Swift Sword: The Life of General Philip H. Sheridan

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by Joseph Wheelan
     
 

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Alongside Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan is the least known of the triumvirate of generals most responsible for winning the Civil War. Yet, before Sherman’s famous march through Georgia, it was General Sheridan who introduced scorched-earth warfare to the South, and it was his Cavalry Corps that compelled Robert E. Lee&rsquo

Overview

Alongside Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan is the least known of the triumvirate of generals most responsible for winning the Civil War. Yet, before Sherman’s famous march through Georgia, it was General Sheridan who introduced scorched-earth warfare to the South, and it was his Cavalry Corps that compelled Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. Sheridan’s innovative cavalry tactics and “total war” strategy became staples of twentieth-century warfare.

After the war, Sheridan ruthlessly suppressed the raiding Plains Indians much as he had the Confederates, by killing warriors and burning villages, but he also defended reservation Indians from corrupt agents and contractors. Sheridan, an enthusiastic hunter and conservationist, later ordered the US cavalry to occupy and operate Yellowstone National Park to safeguard it from commercial exploitation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Former AP reporter and editor Wheelan (Jefferson’s War), like all biographers of Sheridan (1831–1888), is handicapped by the destruction of the general’s papers in the Chicago fire of 1871. He nevertheless makes solid use of published material in this presentation of a commander whose ruthless approach made him an early advocate of total war. Wheelan describes Sheridan as willing to leave enemies, whether Confederates or Plains Indians, “nothing but their eyes to weep with” (as the general told Otto von Bismarck), He was no less willing to defend “what he believed needed protecting,” whether black freedmen, surrendered tribesmen, or law-abiding former. Confederates. And Sheridan shone in combat. As a leader he inspired soldiers in the throes of defeat—most notably at Cedar Creek in the Shenandoah Valley. As an organizer, he brought the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry from a bedraggled auxiliary to a battle-winning force that combined fire and shock in a way unmatched until Germany’s panzer divisions. As a tactician, he was uniquely successful in coordinating infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Above all, as Wheelan shows, Sheridan’s aggressiveness remains a basic principle of U.S. war making and continues to inspire “imitators and innovators” alike. 16 pages of b&w photos. Agent: Roger Williams, New England Publishing Associates. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
A former reporter and AP editor examines the career of one of the Civil War's great commanders. An undistinguished West Point graduate, Lt. Philip A. Sheridan served eight years in the west before the outbreak of the Civil War. By the time the war ended, only Grant and Sherman outranked "Little Phil." Battle by battle, Wheelan (Libby Prison Breakout: The Daring Escape from the Notorious Civil War Prison, 2010, etc.) charts the swift rise of the relentlessly aggressive Sheridan. Modest, energetic and brave, Sheridan was an innovator, using mounted troops both as an independent strike force and in support of infantry operations. His battlefield heroics, careful planning, use of intelligence and topographical information, and ability to improvise prompted Grant to conclude that he had "no superior as a general." Yet Sheridan has been slighted by historians, receiving far less attention than his adversaries and even his subordinate Custer or his postwar scout William Cody. Wheelan attributes this neglect to the loss of all Sheridan's papers in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Perhaps, but it's also likely that his lengthy postwar career has made him a problematic subject for modern audiences. Sheridan was reviled in the South, where his strict enforcement of Reconstruction only revived memories of his wartime devastation of the Shenandoah Valley. An early proponent of total war, he believed reducing the Confederacy to poverty was the quickest way to end the bloodshed. Moreover, as commander of all U.S. troops west of the Mississippi, he used the same tactics against the Plains Indians, once notoriously remarking, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead." Wheelan ably defends Sheridan, emphasizing the fierce sense of duty that also accounted for his stout protection of reservation Indians from rapacious agents, freedmen from ex-Rebels, settlers from Indians and Yellowstone National Park from poachers and corporate exploiters. A sympathetic portrait of "Grant's most dependable troubleshooter."
From the Publisher
"Wheelan has delivered an exciting and crisply written biography that, especially in his accounts of battles, fairly gallops across the page in the company of a personality who seemed to his own contemporaries like a god of war incarnated in the body of a pint-size Irish immigrant." —Wall Street Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306820274
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
08/07/2012
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.36(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Wheelan has delivered an exciting and crisply written biography that, especially in his accounts of battles, fairly gallops across the page in the company of a personality who seemed to his own contemporaries like a god of war incarnated in the body of a pint-size Irish immigrant." —-Wall Street Journal

Meet the Author

Joseph Wheelan, a former reporter and editor for The Associated Press, has written five books, including Jefferson’s War and Invading Mexico. He lives in Cary, North Carolina.

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Terrible Swift Sword: The Life of General Philip H. Sheridan 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a superb book especially post-Civil War activities of Sheridan. He was part of an unbeatable trio which included Sherman and Grant. Probably best book about Sheridan written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wasnt it "Stonwall" Jackson that was Lees 'Terrible Swift Sword"??? Why is this book rebranding Generals to sell it self. Title alone aludes to revisionism. Not read it yet, but will update on completion.