General Philip Henry Sheridan
General Philip Henry Sheridan’s statue has stood in front of the New York State Capitol building in Albany for 101 years. Although Sheridan wasn't a leading figure in the Union Army at the start of the Civil War, he emerged a national hero by its end.
A photo of Sheridan during the 1860s. (Photo: en.wikipedia.org)
Sheridan began his military career in the Pacific Northwest. He was transferred to a post in the Midwest and steadily climbed up the ranks, eventually earning command of a cavalry unit. Sheridan excelled in this role and continued to impress once he became an infantry commander. When General Ulysses S. Grant assumed command of all Union armies in 1864, he selected Sheridan as his new cavalry commander.
After demonstrating his effectiveness in the Overland Campaign, Grant sent Sheridan to the Shenandoah Valley of Northern Virginia with a force of 40,000 infantry and cavalry. The fertile valley provided the Confederacy with most of its food. It was Sheridan’s job to turn this area into a “barren waste.” Opposing him were 15,000 Confederate cavalry troops under General Jubal Early.
Through September and October of 1864, Sheridan’s forces repulsed several Confederate attacks during the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. On October 19, rebel cavalry under General Early launched a surprise attack on the Union camp while Sheridan was absent from his army. The Northern troops were routed by the attack, but Sheridan heard the artillery and raced to the battle. When Sheridan returned, he encountered his fleeing army and rallied them into a daring charge against Early’s forces. Sheridan’s counterattack led to victory at Cedar Creek and hindered Early and his troops of any further action in the Shenandoah Valley.
General Sheridan leading his troops at the Battle of Cedar Creek. Painting by Kurtz and Allison. (Photo: history.army.mil)
In 1865, Sheridan’s cavalry command blocked General Robert E. Lee’s final escape of the Civil War at Appomattox. After the war, Sheridan remained in the U.S. Army and served as commander-in-chief for the last five years of his life.
Sheridan is believed to have lived in Albany, New York for two years while growing up. His statue was dedicated in front of the New York State Capitol building in 1916. It was designed by John Quincy Adams Ward and completed by Daniel Chester French, who is best known for the Lincoln Memorial. Sheridan’s sculpture depicts him in the full-dress uniform of the General of the Army.