Little Phil Walks It Back
My colleague Ed Cotham tipped me to this little gem, from the time in the spring of 1880 that former President Grant and his family passed through Galveston on a tour through Texas. Phil Sheridan was with them, and at a grand dinner at the Tremont Hotel, the former Union general took the opportunity to clarify some intemperate remarks he’d made years before. Galveston Daily News, March 25, 1880, p. 8:
Speaking so kindly about Texas — and I speak from my heart — probably I ought to explain a remark I once made about it [loud applause], and I can do it this way: It was in 1866. At that time we had some trouble with Mexico, and I went down to the border …. 0n my return to San Antonio I found a dispatch there which required me to go with the greatest haste to New Orleans. I remember that I hired relays and coaches from San Antonio to Galveston . … 1 traveled day and night. It was in August and very warm, the dust being about as deep as it is in Mexico, where it has not rained in several months. One or two officers fell sick and I left them. I arrived in Galveston covered with dust. My eyes and ears and throat were filled with it, and I think I had about as much of the soil of Texas on me as would have raised a cotton crop. I went to a little hotel [the Washington]; and in that condition, as I went up to register, one of these newspaper men rushed up to me and said he: How do you like Texas?” I was mad, and said if I owned Texas and all hell, I would rent out Texas and live in hell. Now I want to assure you that by that expression I only meant to convey how much I was disgusted with that newspaper man. It did not represent my opinion of Texas … , and I have always had the highest regard for Texas. Every time I visit Texas I think a little more of it than ever before ….
I’ve never ridden in a hired coach non-stop from San Antonio to Galveston, but I did once drive from El Paso to Galveston, in a single day, in the summer, in a car with no A/C, with 100-pound dog that was prone to car sickness. I say we cut Little Phil some slack on this one.
Update, November 21: Over at Civil War Talk, author Eric Wittenberg, who knows a thing or two about the subject, says that “Sheridan was a horrid human being, just wretched. He was a pathological liar and a hypocrite–all of which is well-documented–so nothing along these lines surprises me in the least.”
I do wish he would say what he really thinks.