September 16, 1864: Meeting of Grant and Sheridan


Sheridan and Generals

In the aftermath of the fall of Atlanta and the ongoing stalemate at Petersburg, the crucial theater of the War became the Shenandoah Valley, crucial because of the upcoming presidential election, which was now just over a month and a half away.  Union victories or defeats could have a great impact on that election, and it was the Shenandoah Valley which was the most likely venue for such battlefield successes or failures.  Grant recognized this, and on September 16th he conferred with Sheridan.  Here is his account of the meeting in his Personal Memoirs:



On the 10th of August Sheridan had advanced on Early up the Shenandoah Valley, Early falling back to Strasburg. On the 12th I learned that Lee had sent twenty pieces of artillery, two divisions of infantry and a considerable cavalry force to strengthen Early. It was important that Sheridan should be informed of this, so I sent the information to Washington by telegraph, and directed a courier to be sent from there to get the message to Sheridan at all hazards, giving him the information. The messenger, an officer of the army, pushed through with great energy and reached Sheridan just in time. The officer went through by way of Snicker’s Gap, escorted by some cavalry. He found Sheridan just making his preparations to attack Early in his chosen position. Now, however, he was thrown back on the defensive.  

  On the 15th of September I started to visit General Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. My purpose was to have him attack Early, or drive him out of the valley and destroy that source of supplies for Lee’s army. I knew it was impossible for me to get orders through Washington to Sheridan to make a move, because they would be stopped there and such orders as Halleck’s caution (and that of the Secretary of War) would suggest would be given instead, and would, no doubt, be contradictory to mine. I therefore, without stopping at Washington, went directly through to Charlestown, some ten miles above Harper’s Ferry, and waited there to see General Sheridan, having sent a courier in advance to inform him where to meet me.  

  When Sheridan arrived I asked him if he had a map showing the positions of his army and that of the enemy. He at once drew one out of his side pocket, showing all roads and streams, and the camps of the two armies. He said that if he had permission he would move so and so (pointing out how) against the Confederates, and that he could “whip them.” Before starting I had drawn up a plan of campaign for Sheridan, which I had brought with me; but, seeing that he was so clear and so positive in his views and so confident of success, I said nothing about this and did not take it out of my pocket.    

  Sheridan’s wagon trains were kept at Harper’s Ferry, where all of his stores were. By keeping the teams at that place, their forage did not have to be hauled to them. As supplies of ammunition, provisions and rations for the men were wanted, trains would be made up to deliver the stores to the commissaries and quartermasters encamped at Winchester. Know that he, in making preparations to move at a given day, would have to bring up wagons trains from Harper’s Ferry, I asked him if he could be ready to get off by the following Tuesday. This was on Friday. “O Yes,” he said, he “could be off before daylight on Monday.” I told him then to make the attack at that time and according to his own plan; and I immediately started to return to the army about Richmond. After visiting Baltimore and Burlington, New Jersey, I arrived at City Point on the 19th.

Published in: on September 16, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 16, 1864: Meeting of Grant and Sheridan  
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