Philip Henry Sheridan was an exception among general officers on both sides of the American Civil War of 1861-1865: He was too young to participate in the Mexican-American War, and he did not resign his commission after the Civil War ended to seek prosperity in the civilian sphere. Moreover, Sheridan lacked the common touch which characterized the likes of Grant, Sherman, or the luckless George McClellan. Still, he was popular with those who served with him, and he was not so prodigal with his troops as were many in command on both sides of the line.
Sheridan, who left West Point a year late after a year’s suspension for fighting, found war wonderfully beneficial in terms of rapid promotion—in little more than a year, he went from captain to brigadier. Sheridan’s rise through the ranks is all the more impressive when it is noted that his advancement came with service in a branch foreign to his past experience, that is, the cavalry. For all of that, Sheridan’s combative personality was more suited to the cavalry tactics of the day than to those utilized by the infantry. And there is no doubt that Phil Sheridan was possessed of a bit of a temper. Indeed, anecdotes which attest the fate of those who placed themselves in opposition to “Little Phil” Sheridan are legion.
This work is not a scholarly biography, nor, fortunately, is it an excessively reverent bowdlerized account. Although the author overuses certain novelistic devices (particularly the infamous “little did he know”), he provides a good introduction to the wars of Phil Sheridan while demonstrating that history need not be boring.