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Early could not make it a source of supplies. It was made so bare that a crow could hardly have found pickings. He destroyed more than two thousand barns and numerous mills filled with wheat, drove off four thousand head of cattle and killed for his troops three thousand sheep. He continued to fall back, still destroying, finally going into camp on the line of Cedar Creek. Here, a month later, came the most famous event in Sheridan's career.
He had been absent for some days on business at Washington, and reached Winchester on his return on the morning of October 19. He had hardly entered when an officer reported that he heard sounds of artillery, and Sheridan mounted his horse and rode through the town. Here the sound of distant guns was distinct and he rode forward with some anxiety for a mile or more, when he met fugitives hastening towards the town. On questioning them Sheridan learned what had taken place. Early, greatly strengthened, had attacked the army before daybreak and under cover of a dense fog, breaking its ranks, driving it back for miles, and capturing guns and prisoners in numbers.
Sheridan heard this with grimly closed lips and. galloped on at breakneck speed, with twenty mounted men in his train. As he met the thickening line of stragglers he swung his hat in the air and called to them, cheerily, “Face the other way, boys, face the other way! We're going to lick them out of their boots !"
The mere sight of Sheridan was like a corps of fresh troops to the men. They faced about, taking up his cry. On reaching the broken army, more than eleven miles from Winchester, he was hailed with a
tempest of joy. His presence put new life in the broken troops. They obeyed him readily, quickly reformed their ranks, and formed a compact line of battle just as the enemy came yelling forward in another charge. To their surprise they were met with sturdy resistance and their dismay was complete when they learned that Sheridan was on the ground.
At 4 o'clock he ordered a general advance. Under the influence of his enthusiasm the late disheartened troops pushed forward with resistless force. The Confederates, their order broken while rifling the captured camp, gave way on all sides, their repulse soon becoming a complete rout. The twenty-four lost guns were recaptured and as many more taken. Ambulances, caissons, battle-flags, etc., were among the spoil, and the pursuit was kept up till Early was driven many miles away.
Such was the famous incident that formed the climax of Sheridan's career and which, as Sheridan's Ride," has been celebrated in art, song and story. It was the end of Early's domination of the valley. Sheridan met him once more, on February 27, 1865, at Waynesboro, and crushed him so completely that he fled to Richmond, leaving Sheridan without a foe in his front.
At Richmond matters were now nearing an end. Sheridan joined Grant's army on March 19, and was sent to ride around the enemy and get on his rear. On April i he fought the last great battle of the war, routing Pickett and Johnson at Five Forks, taking their works and capturing several thousand prisoners. This closed the game for Lee. The next day he abandoned Richmond and began his final retreat. Sheridan was in an instant in pursuit and on the oth Lee found
him in his front, drawn up in a battle-line. Before he could charge the white flag was displayed and the war in Virginia was at an end.
The remainder of Sheridan's career must be briefly dealt with. After the surrender of Lee and Johnston he was sent to Texas, where Kirby Smith was keeping up a show of resistance. When Smith surrendered Sheridan was given command of the military division of the Gulf, with instructions to watch the war between the Mexicans and the emperor whom Napoleon III. had imposed upon them. The show of hostility he made had much to do with bringing that disgraceful affair to an end. Napoleon had no fancy for putting his troops against Sheridan's veterans.
Obeying Congress, instead of President Johnson, during the reconstruction troubles at New Orleans, he was removed and sent to Leavenworth, where he put down with a heavy hand the Indian troubles of that time. When Grant was inaugurated President in 1869 Sheridan was rewarded for his services with the title of lieutenant-general, and in 1883 he succeeded Sherman in the rank of general of the army. He had married in 1874 and he died August 5, 1888, his body being interred in the National Cemetery at Charleston.
We have given Grant's estimate of Sheridan as a soldier. No man in the army was more daring and self-reliant than he, and none could inspire his men with a greater enthusiasm. Yet he was as cautious as he was enterprising, always looking out for emergencies and never fighting without providing for a possible retreat. Throughout his career, and especially in the Shenandoah Valley, he showed that he was a soldier of the highest grade.
JAMES E. B. STUART, THE RUPERT OF
A HERO of romance to the South was its dashing and brilliant cavalry leader, J. E. B. Stuart, the thunderbolt of Lee's army, the foremost cavalry knight in either army until Sheridan came north to contest with him the palm for dash and daring. The novelty, boldness, and rapidity of his movements, their energy and headlong courage, with the success that generally attended them, brought him hosts of admirers, who regarded him as their Prince Rupert of the South. His story is one illumined with dashing enterprises and romantic episodes, ended by death in action in the height of his career.
James Ewell Brown Stuart, born in Patrick County, Virginia, February 6, 1833, was the son and grandson of soldiers, his grandfather having served in the Revolution, his father in the War of 1812. He followed in their steps, studying the military art at West Point, where he graduated in 1854. The following years of his life were active ones, first against the Apaches in Texas as second lieutenant of the regiment of mounted riflemen in that State, next in Kansas during the border troubles there, and afterwards in Indian warfare, during which he was in a fight with the Cheyennes on Solomon River. He went as an aide with Robert E. Lee to Harper's Ferry to put down the John Brown insurrection, identifying its leader as “Ossawatomie Brown," whom he had known in Kansas. He was in Virginia on leave of absence when that State seceded from the Union, and at once resigned from the army and joined the Confederate forces.
Such, briefly stated, was Stuart's career prior to the Civil War, in which he was to distinguish himself as a great cavalry soldier. He had been first lieutenant in the United States army, but was now appointed lieutenant-colonel, in July was made colonel, and in September, in recognition of his excellent services, was commissioned brigadier-general. These services were the following: When General Joe Johnston marched from Winchester to the field of Bull Run, Stuart screened his movement from General Patterson by active demonstrations in his front. Then speeding to the battle-field, he was of much aid to Stonewall Jackson and helped greatly in winning victory for the Confederate forces.
His most brilliant exploit in the early era of the war was in June, 1862, when McClellan's army lay before Richmond and Lee was planning his memorable attack
Stuart was directed to make a raid around the rear of the Union army, doing all the damage he could and locating the position of its left wing. This was a commission in his true vein, a chance for one of those bold, free, adventurous rides, full of the spice of danger, in which his soul delighted.
He sallied forth from Richmond on the 12th at the head of fifteen hundred horsemen and four pieces of horse artillery, and soon was riding with free rein northward and westward, cutting loose from all communications and dashing into a field of danger. At Hanover Old Church he met and dispersed two squadrons of Union cavalry, and swept on to Garlick's Landing, on the Pamunky River, where he seized and burned fourteen wagons and two schooners laden with forage.