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Philip Henry Sheridan (1831–1888)

Speaking about General Philip H. Sheridan after the war, Ulysses S. Grant said that “as a soldier, as a commander of troops, as a man capable of doing all that is possible with any number of men,” there is no one greater than he. Placed at the head of Grant’s cavalry in 1864, Sheridan put these qualities to the ultimate test on October 19 of that year during his campaign against Jubal Early in the Shenandoah Valley. Informed that his troops were being flanked and overrun at the ensuing Battle of Cedar Creek, he leapt on his favorite horse, Rienzi, and galloped from his post at Winchester some twenty miles at breakneck speed to rally them. He arrived on the field in two hours and turned an almost certain defeat into a victory.

News of this event stirred the imaginations in the North as few other triumphs of the war had. President Lincoln was personally pleased because he could not afford setbacks on the battlefield with the presidential election only weeks away. Presently, artist Thomas Buchanan Read was paying a visit to Sheridan to make preliminary sketches for a painting of the general’s legendary ride. After the war, Reed completed several versions of the work, including this one, which for many years was owned by General Grant’s family.

Thomas Buchanan Read (1822–1872)
Oil on canvas, 1871
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Transfer from the National Museum of American History; gift of Ulysses S. Grant III, 1939


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