Cedar Creek (October 22, 1864)

"Sheridan's Ride," a sketch by Alfred Waud, depicted Sheridan's timely return for the Battle of Cedar Creek (Library of Congress).

“Sheridan’s Ride,” a sketch by Alfred Waud, depicted Sheridan’s timely return for the Battle of Cedar Creek (Library of Congress).

Today Meade writes about Philip Sheridan’s October 19 victory at Cedar Creek. He was mistaken about James Longstreet’s involvement, though. It was Jubal Early that Sheridan faced, not Lee’s “Old War Horse.” Sheridan’s forces, including the VI Corps under Horatio Wright, had plucked a victory out of apparent defeat after a surprise attack by General John B. Gordon had forced the Federals back in some disorder. Sheridan, who had been in Washington, arrived in time to rally his troops, a scene that has since become a bit of Civil War iconography.

Since I wrote to you we have received the news of Sheridan’s last victory—this time over Longstreet, and with an army that had been surprised and driven in disorder for four miles. This certainly is very remarkable, and if not modified by any later intelligence, will prove one of the greatest feats of the war, and place Sheridan in a position that it will be difficult for any other general to approach. We are now anxiously waiting to hear of his having followed up his success and taken Gordonsville, when he can destroy the railroad from Lynchburg to Richmond, which runs through Gordonsville, and is called the Virginia Central Road. If he does this, he will aid our operations here most materially, because, until that road is destroyed, we cannot compel the evacuation of Richmond, even if we succeed in seizing or breaking the Southside and the Danville Roads. I suppose, in a short time, a movement will be made to get on the Southside Road and complete the investment of Petersburg, from the Appomattox, below to above the town.

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), p. 235. Available via Google Books.

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