Monday, March 31, 2008

Phil Sheridan On Improvised Explosive Devices

General Sheridan was an aggressive fighting man who was that rarest of birds in his day, an infantryman who commanded cavalry. He did rather well at it and a fair number of Confederates probably regretted the day he crossed their path.
What's this have to do with anything, you ask? How could it be cutting edge information?
Well, read on. It's from his memoirs.
Sheridan served under General Meade in the Army of the Potomac, and Meade insisted on issuing orders and movements to Sheridan's cavalry divisions, which brought matters to a showdown in which Sheridan opined that he could whip General J.E.B. Stuart's famed Confederate cavalry if Meade would let him, but since Meade wouldn't, Sheridan was going to issue no more orders to his troops. Meade went to his commander, Ulysses "Sam" Grant and complained about Sheridan's impertinence and mentioned that Sheridan had said he could whip Stuart. Grant said "Did he say so? Then let him go out and do it."
Meade did a complete about face, cut Sheridan's orders, and that is exactly what happened in the battles around Yellow Tavern, Virginia, where Stuart met his maker on the field.
Sheridan's troops were moving down the Mechanicsburg road on the south side of the Chickahominy River at around 11:00 at night on 11 May, 1864, and the Confederates had mined the road with IEDs-improvised explosive devices in the form of cannon shells connected by trip wires across the road.
Sheridan directed that the IEDs be removed and brought up Confederate prisoners to crawl forward on their hands and knees, feel for the trip wires, follow them up and defuse the IEDs. When the prisoners disclosed that a local Confederate sympathizer was the author of the devices, Sheridan ordered that some of the IEDs be placed in the sympathizer's basement under his house set to explode if the enemy came that way, while the sympathizer and his family were held as prisoners overnight, presumably so that they would be unaware of the little surprise that had been set for them.


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