Sheridan rode into Union army legend on November 25, , at the battle of Chattanooga. The Rebels had nearly 30, men dug in on a ripple of Georgia land three miles east of the Tennessee River called Missionary Ridge. Grant himself considered the position invulnerable to frontal attack. They kept advancing, seeking safer ground closer to the Rebel ramparts.
Sheridan saw the opportunity and asked for orders to attack. He was denied. Then with sword in one hand and his hat waving in the other, he rode up the ridge. He chased them three miles, all the way to Chickamauga Station. Up to then the cavalry had been used primarily in defensive arrangements. Jeb Stuart. General George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, and Sheridan got into a huge argument over a mix-up in the placement of the cavalry.
Let him go ahead and do it. As Sheridan predicted, Stuart had to disengage from his offensive and race back to place his forces between Sheridan and Richmond. Sheridan had grown from the quiet shy boy into a respected, confident, and successful leader of men. Meanwhile, Lee sent General Jubal Early and a raiding force of several thousand men there to threaten Washington and reduce the pressure on Richmond. Abraham Lincoln was locked in a close reelection battle, and Lee hoped such a raid might lead to a Democratic victory and a negotiated peace.
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Returning from meetings in Washington, Sheridan heard the sounds of cannon and ran into bands of soldiers retreating in panic. Sheridan was not done in the Shenandoah. Sheridan ordered his troops to take all food and slaves and supplies they could carry and arrest all white men under fifty to keep them from helping Mosby. What was left, he said should be burned. He returned to the harsh lessons he learned from his Irish schoolmaster and punished the innocent along with the guilty. It was a policy he was to repeat through Reconstruction in Texas and Louisiana and later with the American Indian tribes of the West.
After the war, Sheridan went to Texas to oversee the return to civil government. His unusually harsh Reconstruction policies led to his being fired by President Andrew Johnson. In he returned west to command the Department of the Missouri and thereby to subdue the American Indians and place them on reservations.
With a mixture of brutal winter campaigns and peace treaties the government expected soon to be obsolete, Sheridan brought the tribes of the Southwest under toe. Only days before, the old chief had led a delegation of Cheyenne and Arapahos to Fort Cobb asking for protection. They were turned away. Sheridan welcomed Custer and his Seventh Cavalry back to camp after the massacre with a band blaring. Soon after that Comanche chief Tosawi brought his band into Fort Cobb to surrender, presenting himself to Sheridan.
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He was now in charge of the entire Rocky Mountains, an immense area that remained largely unexplored. The Sioux and other tribes still controlled vast hunting grounds. Sheridan decided he needed to tour the region and its forts to understand its geography and to get to know its defense needs and potential. It was that decision that put him on the stage from Corinne to Helena and in the proximity of Atkinson and his stories of wonderland.
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The first stories of Yellowstone to reach the East came in the aftermath of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in — John Colter, a Kentuckian, was allowed to leave the expedition on its return trip, beginning several years of fur trading and trapping. His travels took him through Yellowstone in the winter of — Other mountain men, including Jim Bridger and Osborne Russell, visited and trapped in Yellowstone, relaying back news of its unusual features.
It continues shooting up in this manner five or six minutes and then sinks back to its former state of slowly boiling for an hour and then shoots forth as before. According to the newspaper, he danced until dawn the night of his arrival in Helena. Sheridan soon learned that a group of respected Montana citizens were in the early stages of planning an expedition into Yellowstone.
The thirty-eight-year-old attorney from Indiana had arrived in Montana only a year before with his wife, Serena. He was no stranger to Sheridan. A Vermont native, Washburn served under Sheridan as a general commanding the Eighteenth Indiana Volunteers during the Shenandoah campaign. His troops, which took heavy casualties, fought with distinction at Cedar Creek, and Sheridan was not apt to forget it. Twice elected to Congress as a Republican after the war, Washburn chose to move to the arid climate of Montana as a Grant appointee to relieve the tuberculosis he contracted during the war.
Sheridan found a wealth of information about the wonderland Atkinson had introduced him to only a day before. A detailed map had been published in , drawn by two Washburn employees who had explored the area. One of them, David E. A heavily edited account of his trip was published in Western Monthly in July It left out many of the details Folsom shared with Washburn, including his proposal to set aside Yellowstone as a national park. The spiritual value of nature had long been recognized in the cultures of the American Indian tribes who had lived and visited Yellowstone for more than 10, years.
When Sheridan made his stage journey in , the nation was engaged in a frenzied campaign to develop western lands. But with the frontier beginning to be tamed, a new movement to preserve what was quickly being lost was emerging. But the iconic power of these treasures did not reach so deeply into the character, culture, and evolving values of the wilderness movement.
It was the almost mystical landscape of shooting water spouts, smoking mountains, and mud pots that so aptly illustrated the transcendental vision of nature espoused by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The two New Englanders advocated that individuals should develop their own relationship to the universe and spirituality that tied them closer to nature. The land, the trees, and wildlife had value in sustaining not only life but the spirit as well. The lineage of the national park idea goes back to , when artist George Catlin, accompanying an army unit, steamboated into the West to paint the vanishing American Indian.
He saw that the wild character of the world he was painting was soon to be lost forever. Sheridan briefly forgot his mission to tour western forts. He already had decided he would cut the trip short so he could observe the Franco-Prussian War developing in Europe. He now spent two days in Helena talking with the explorers and looking for a way to aid their expedition. He stopped in St. His military career to that time had been strikingly uneventful despite service throughout the Civil War. But he desired to be an explorer.
But a shortage of officers and American Indian troubles threatened to prevent his participation. The thirty-year-old Illinois native urged Washburn to make a last-minute plea to Hancock to force his superior to send him. Doane, Washburn, and a colorful Montana politician named Nathaniel Langford would ride into the park that Sheridan skirted on his stage ride north from Utah.
The ride was never to gain the fame of his twelve-mile ride from Winchester in There is no end to the possibilities of wealth here. Jay, we have got the biggest thing on earth. Our enterprise is an inexhaustible gold mine. But his road to preserving Yellowstone was built on rails. Langford and Cooke had a very different idea of how to preserve Yellowstone than would Sheridan. Their conflicting values would lead to the events that made fire pivotal to later preservation and conservation policy.
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Langford, a New York native, had carved out a place for himself in Montana society in the mining boom of the s. He was appointed territorial governor by President Andrew Johnson in He had returned east through St. He would write the popular accounts of the trip— the first draft of history—and rewrite it many times to ensure that his version of events survived. The twenty-year-old had been in ill health when he left St.
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Paul in on a 1,mile wagon trip to the mining fields of southwest Montana and the boomtowns of Bannack and Virginia City. There he joined vigilantes, private citizens who took the law into their own hands. They were beginning their own reign of terror in an effort to fill the power vacuum of the frontier mining districts. The vigilantes hung twenty-one men, including the sheriff, Henry Plummer, whom they convicted in a trial of murder and highway robbery after his hanging.
Historians now question whether Plummer and others who were lynched had committed any crimes at all. As Langford would do for Yellowstone, he wrote the history of those vigilantes, giving both himself and his colleagues starring roles. Chase, the secretary of the treasury, who got Langford a job collecting taxes in the new Montana territory in That same year another event took place in Washington, D.
Congress and President Abraham Lincoln chartered the Northern Pacific Railroad in , one of several transcontinental railroads created from dreams and capital in the s. Much of the region was still under the control of the Sioux and other American Indian tribes, while vast stretches of the Dakotas and eastern Montana had no settlement at all. To subsidize the railroad and encourage settlement, Congress held out a huge incentive to Northern Pacific for laying track: forty million acres of land—an area larger than New England—stretching from Minnesota to Washington.
The task had turned out to be as incredible to investors as it was in reality. By it seemed only a wizard could possibly realize the dream. Now he was turning his sights west to increase his fortune. Jay Cooke was born in Sandusky, Ohio, in , the son of a lawyer who was elected to the Ohio legislature and later to the U.
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House of Representatives. In , Jay Cooke left to seek his fortune in Philadelphia, working for his brother-in-law in a shipping firm.