The Right Man for the Job

Today in History, August 1: 1864 – Over the objections of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who thought he was too young for the command of an army, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant names Gen. Phillip Sheridan as commander of the Army of the Shenandoah. Throughout the war, each time the Union began to encroach on the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Virginia, the South would send an army through the Shenandoah Valley to threaten Washington, DC, forcing the Union to protect it’s own capitol. Grant didn’t fall for this, however as he lay siege to Petersburg, which protected Richmond. The Confederacy sent Gen. Jubal Early through the Valley to threaten DC. The Shenandoah was not only the route north for the Confederate armies, it was the “bread basket” for the south, much as the midwest is for the country now. Grant sent Sheridan to command a new Valley of the Shenandoah, and ordered him, “The people should be informed that so long as an army can subsist among them recurrences of these raids must be expected, and we are determined to stop them at all hazards. … Give the enemy no rest … Do all the damage to railroads and crops you can. Carry off stock of all descriptions, and negroes, so as to prevent further planting. If the war is to last another year, we want the Shenandoah Valley to remain a barren waste.” The Confederates called Sheridan’s campaign “The Burning”, precursor to the scorched earth campaign that Sherman enforced in Georgia. Sheridan not only drove Early from the valley, but lay waste to all resources in the Shenandoah, depriving the South of the much needed resources. Lincoln, Stanton, and Grant sang his praises, as did the nation.

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