Philip Sheridan’s Uncertain Road to Triumph with the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac
This essay explores how Philip Sheridan's operations during the Appomattox campaign represented the culmination of an evolutionary process of the Union cavalry arm in the East from 1861 though the spring of 1865. Sheridan's aggressive style of command and gradual maturation proved central to its success. There were other senior cavalry officers in the Army of the Potomac who might have commanded the Cavalry Corps in 1864 including Alfred Pleasonton or David McMurtie Gregg. But Sheridan’s ascendancy and his leadership style ultimately restored a measure of fluidity to military operations in Virginia that had evaporated in the Overland Campaign. With an independent command in the Shenandoah Valley during the fall of 1864, Sheridan had deployed infantry in conjunction with the cavalry units, many of which carried Spencer repeating carbines – a tactic that would prove key as Federal forces pursued Lee’s army the following spring.
Keywords: Philip Sheridan, Alfred Pleasonton, David McMurtie Gregg, U.S. Cavalry, Army of the Potomac, Shenandoah Valley Campaign, 1864, Appomattox Campaign, 1865, United States – History, Military – to 1900, Spencer repeating carbine
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