Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Little Phil Walks It Back

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on November 19, 2014

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:


PhilSheridanSpeaking 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.



6 Responses

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  1. Bob Huddleston said, on November 19, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    Supposedly, when Phil first said this, a Texas newspaper wrote, “Bully for Sheridan! Damn a man who won’t stand up for his home!

  2. Craig L said, on November 20, 2014 at 1:31 am

    I’m fairly certain that Sheridan also marched a division or two or three from Brazos Santiago to Brownsville and back in July and August of 1865 where it’s harder to tell hell and Texas apart.

    • Andy Hall said, on November 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Deep south Texas has its own charms, but they’re not always readily apparent to newcomers.

  3. Dick Stanley said, on November 20, 2014 at 2:19 am

    Heh. Thanks for the post and the comment.

  4. Jack said, on November 20, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    This is the same guy who invaded the South, committed genocide against the Native Americans, and coined the phrase, “the only good indian is a dead indian”?

    • Andy Hall said, on November 20, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      That would be the one, although there’s dispute whether he actually said that.

      I’ve made the point before (and see no need to reiterate it here) that if you want to see how southerners would have dealt with Native Americans, you should look to Texas, which was the only Confederate state to have an active Indian frontier. The actions of the Texas Rangers were as brutal and exterminationist as anything done by the U.S. Army on the northern plains postwar. Extermination and expulsion were official policies of this state going back to the Republic. Ain’t nobody got clean hands on that account.

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