The battle of Five Forks in Civil War historiography : the quest for honor

Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 356 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Richard Hamm

Committee Members

Allen Ballard, Amy M Taylor


Civil War, Grant, honor, Pickett, Sheridan, Warren, Five Forks, Battle of, Va., 1865

Subject Categories

United States History


The Battle of Five Forks, by forcing the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to abandon its positions holding Petersburg and Richmond Virginia, can truly be considered the decisive battle of the Civl War or as one Confederate officer proclaimed it, "the Waterloo of the Confederacy. The unusual circumstances of this fight also provided the material for significant controversies in both armies. The Union Commander, Major General Philip Sheridan, generated the debate in the North when he relieved the commander of the Fifth Army Corps, Major General Gouverneur K. Warren from his command as the result of perceived deficiencies prior to and during the fighting. The objective of this dissertation is to examine the efforts that General Warren exerted to restore his honor and reputation as a soldier and the means that Sheridan and his benefactor, Ulysses S. Grant, as the senior officers in the army, used to ensure that their version of events would control how that time would be understood by their contemporaries and remembered by future generations. Despite Warren's persistence and willingness to sacrifice much to obtain a Court of Inquiry that examined the Battle and surrounding events in great detail (the most extensive record of testimony and argument at a United States military proceeding of the 19th Century), the reputations of Sheridan and Grant and their influence over public opinion have succeeded to such a degree that many current historians uncritically accept the Grant-Sheridan assessment of Warren and his lack of competence.


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