Union Major General, American Civil War, b. 1831 d. 1888.
Sheridan is known as the third general of the triumvirate of "unconditional surrender" generals late in the American Civil War which also included Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. While many leaders on the Union side early in the war practiced careful tactics to the point of their operations being watchable shows for polite citizens looking on from picnics in the hills, Sheridan and company took to winning the war at any price. Sheridan was said to "love a good fight" and did not back down or retreat when casualties began to mount. He became known as "Little Phil" and was hated by southerners as much as Sherman thanks to his "scorched earth" policy, leaving towns and railroads in flames whenever he passed through.
Sheridan stated his place of birth as Albany, New York but records of the time show no hard evidence of this and it is widely believed he was born aboard a ship bearing immigrants from Ireland en route to the United States. His life brought him to West Point, where he graduated in 1853 after a number of controversial years there. He was nearly dismissed from the Academy twice and seemed to be in the crosshairs of any trouble that arose.
His first assignment during the War Between the States was in the western theatre. By June of 1862 he had risen in rank from a captain to brigadier general after victories at Boonesville, Missouri, Stone's River and Perrysville. In December of 1862 he rose to the rank of major general, commanding an army of volunteers at the battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge, amongst others.
Having caught the eye of and seriously impressed Generals Grant and Meade, Sheridan was given command of the Army of the Potomac's cavalry under Grant and Meade, and then in August of 1864 Sheridan took command of the Army of the Shenandoah. There he managed only to completely drive the Confederate Army out of the Shenandoah Valley and became one of the only generals to inflict serious defeat on Jubal Early, the famed Confederate general and raider who at times seemed invincible to the Union. Sheridan's army had engaged Jubal Early at Cedar Creek and were beginning to suffer heavy losses before Sheridan, appearing at the scene after an arduous twenty mile ride, rallied his troops to victory.
For the remainder of the war, Sheridan, now a major general in the regular army, defeated the Confederates at Petersburg, Five Forks and was an important part of the Virginia campaign that lead to Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
Although Sherman is best remembered as a villian to the south, Sheridan may have been the more vicious general. He was accused of using his influence in the Army to continue to retaliate against the southern states after the war ended. He succeeded Sherman as commander-in-chief of the Army in 1883, five years before his death in 1888.