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 Grants 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 generals legendary
ride. After the war, Reed completed several versions
of the work, including this one, which for many
years was owned by General Grants family.
Thomas Buchanan Read (18221872)
Oil on canvas, 1871
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Transfer from the National Museum of American
History; gift of Ulysses S. Grant III, 1939