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Entry from November 17, 2006
“If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell” (Philip Sheridan)

“If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell” is a famous statement of U.S. General Philip Henry Sheridan in 1866. A later account (1883, below) tries to temper the impact of Sheridan’s words.
The statement is sometimes cited as “If I owned hell and Texas.”
Philip Henry Sheridan (March 6, 1831 – August 5, 1888) was a career U.S. Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who transferred Sheridan from command of an infantry division in the Western Theater to lead the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac in the East. In 1864, he defeated Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley and his destruction of the economic infrastructure of the Valley, called “The Burning” by residents, was one of the first uses of scorched earth tactics in the war. In 1865, his cavalry pursued Gen. Robert E. Lee and was instrumental in forcing his surrender at Appomattox.
22 February 1866, Mobile (AL) Daily Times, pg. 2, col. 1:
So Gen. Sheridan, who was obliged to stop in Texas while on duty, said if “he owned Texas and h—l both, he would rent Texas and live in h—l!”
19 March 1866, Pittsburgh (PA) Gazette, pg. 3, col. 1:
GENERAL SHERIDAN recently finished a tour of Texas. He was asked how he liked the state, and said in reply, “If I owned h—l and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place.”
14 April 1866, Wisconsin State Register (Madison, WI), pg. 2, col. 3:
GEN. SHERIDAN, after his recent Mexican tour, states his opinion succinctly and forcibly, as follows: “If I owned h-ll and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place!”
19 April 1866, The Independent, pg. 4:
But these states are not yet reduced to civil behavior. As an illustration, Gen. Sheridan sends word up from New Orleans, saying, “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.” This is the opinion of a department commander.
(The quote is also here.—ed.)
15 May 1866, Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman (Boise, ID), pg. 7?, col. 3:
GEN. SHERIDAN does not have a very exalted opinion of Texas as a place of resident. Said he lately, “If I owned hell and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place.” In former times, before Texas was “re-annexed,” Texas and the other place were made to stand as opposites. Thus, when Col. Crockett was beaten in his Congressional district, he said to those who defeated him, “You may go to hell, and I’ll go to Tex!” which he did, and found a grave.
15 September 1876, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 4:
It is related of GEN. SHERIDAN that when once asked to give his opinion of Texas, he replied that, if he were obliged to make a choice between hell and Texas, he would prefer hell.
19 December 1883, Washington (DC) Post, pg. 2:
General Sheridan as a Story Teller.
“I saw an item in THE POST, several days ago,” said an Army officer yesterday, “concerning Gen. Sheridan’s desire to avoid notoriety, and also that only a few anecdotes could be related of his public life. The story was correct but not complete. The General frequently relates a story himself which I consider the most amusing concerning his military career. He told it the other evening at a private social gathering, about as follows: “In all my life, gentlemen, I will never forget my first visit to the State of Texas. I had been bumped over its sterile plains for a week in an ambulance. I was tired, dusty and worn out. When I reached my destination I found some people there who wanted me to talk and be received and all that sort of thing, before I had a chance to get the sand out of my eyes and ears. One fellow was persistent. He asked me with pure American curiosity what I though of Texas. In a moment of worry and annoyance I said if I owned hell and Texas, I would live in the former and rent out the latter. The fellow who asked me the question proved to be a reporter. The next day, what I had said was in print and I never could stop it.’ You may naturally believe,” added the officer to THE POST, “that the General’s story created considerable amusement. The General is a remarkably fine story teller.”
19 December 1884, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 9:
As Gen. Phil Sheridan said: “If I owned Hell and Texas I’d rent Texas and live in Hell.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Friday, November 17, 2006 • Permalink

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