General Philip Henry Sheridan Monument

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General Philip Henry Sheridan Monument
John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum
Lincoln Park
Bronze figure on granite base
20 x 10 x 10 ft. 
Chicago Park District

Standing at the beginning of Chicago’s Sheridan Road in Lincoln Park, this statue looks more like a rodeo cowboy on a horse than a Civil War general! When you look at the monument, do you think that the horse played an important role in Sheridan’s life and in the Civil War? The sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, portrayed Sheridan’s horse with his mouth open, his hind legs bent, a front leg raised, and his tail curving upwards.

Originally named “Rienzi,” the horse was given to Sheridan by a fellow officer in 1862. Two years later, General Sheridan was the commander of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomoc in Virginia. On October 19, 1864, when away from his troops briefly, he heard the sounds of cannon firing in the distance. He quickly rode to Cedar Creek, where his men were defending against a surprise Confederate attack. This monument shows Sheridan looking over his shoulder, arm outstretched and hat in hand, rallying his troops to regain control of the battleground. His ultimate victory at the battle was so significant to Sheridan that he changed his horse’s name to “Winchester,” in honor of the town nearest the fight. After “Winchester” died in 1878, the horse’s body was preserved and presented by Sheridan to a military museum in New York. It is now part of the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. 

Borglum went on to make one of the most famous monuments in America—the giant sculpted faces of American Presidents on Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota. Out of admiration for one of the presidents whose face he carved there, the sculptor named one of his sons “Lincoln.”

1. Besides being a great example of an equestrian statue, this artwork represents a moment from an actual story, “Sheridan’s Ride.” Does the artist do a good job of “illustrating” that story? What does it say about people from the nineteenth century who could be counted on to know “Sheridan’s Ride?"

2. Is this an accurate representation of a horse? If you have been around horses, how does it compare?

Further reading:
Bach, Ira and Mary Lackritz Gray, A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture (University of Chicago Press, 1983).

“Public Art in Chicago” (blog) Accessed July 25, 2011.

“Web-based Guide to the Chicago Park District’s Fountains, Monuments, and Sculptures,” 2010.

Chicago Park District