Reappraisal (September 27, 1864)

Philip Sheridan and his generals, Henry E. Davies, David McMurtrie Gregg, Wesley Merritt, Alfred Torbert, and James H. Wilson. Tis Brady photograph was probably taken in July 1864 near City Point (Llibrary of Congress).

Philip Sheridan and his generals, Henry E. Davies, David McMurtrie Gregg, Wesley Merritt, Alfred Torbert, and James H. Wilson. Tis Brady photograph was probably taken in July 1864 near City Point (Llibrary of Congress).

Meade takes a second look at Philip Sheridan’s success and the Shenandoah Valley and decides it hasn’t been so brilliant after all. He was correct that Sheridan had the advantage of numbers. At Winchester (Opequon Creek) the Union had about 35,000 troops to Early’s 12,000. At Fisher’s Hill, Early’s force had been reduced to around 9,500 and he faced Sheridan’s 29,000. So this is not entirely sour grapes on Meade’s part and he does graciously acknowledge the importance of Sheridan’s activities in the valley.

Sheridan’s victories are undoubtedly important, as all victories are; but it now turns out Early was preparing to leave the Valley, and a considerable part of his force had already gone, so that Sheridan when he attacked had greatly superior numbers. This is the secret of a great many brilliant victories. Nevertheless, the destruction of a part of Early’s forces, and the number of prisoners taken, are matters of great importance, sure to inspirit our army and people, and depress the enemy. These are points gained.

Meade’s correspondence taken from The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Major-General United States Army, Vol. 2, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913), pp. 230-31. Available via Google Books.

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