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Sat, 07.08.1826

Benjamin Grierson, Teacher, and Officer born

Benjamin Grierson

*Benjamin Grierson was born on this date in 1826.  He was a white-American teacher and career military officer.

Benjamin Henry Grierson was born in the borough of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, today, a section of Pittsburgh. He was the youngest of five siblings. He was afraid of horses as a child. In 1851, he became a music teacher and bandleader in Jacksonville, Illinois. He married Alice Kirk of Youngstown, Ohio, on September 24, 1854. The couple had seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood.  

During the early American Civil War, Grierson enlisted as a volunteer aide-de-camp to Maj. Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss. Promoted to major on October 24, 1861, he joined the 6th Illinois Cavalry and was promoted to colonel on April 13, 1862. His regiment was engaged in several small skirmishes and raids on railroads and facilities in Tennessee and Mississippi that spring and summer. In November, he became a brigade commander in the Cavalry Division of the Army of Tennessee.

In December, he participated in the pursuit of Confederate Earl Van Dorn after his Holly Springs raid against the supply lines of General Ulysses S. Grant.  In the spring of 1863, he led Grierson's Raid, a major diversionary thrust deep into the Confederacy, ordered by Grant as part of his Vicksburg Campaign.  He diverted the attention of the Confederate defenders of Vicksburg away from General Grant's main thrust. Gen. William T. Sherman considered Grierson's raid "the most brilliant expedition of the war." Grierson was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in June. After ending his raid in Louisiana, he took part in Nathaniel P. Banks' siege of Port Hudson as commander of the XIX Corps cavalry.  I

In June 1864, Grierson commanded a cavalry division during Samuel D. Sturgis' ill-fated encounter with Nathan B. Forrest at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads. After that battle, Grierson was transferred to the Cavalry in the District of West Tennessee.  Between December 21, 1864, and January 5, 1865, Grierson led an expedition of two brigades of the Cavalry Division against the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. On Christmas Day, he captured Forrest's camp at Verona, Mississippi. On December 28, he engaged a train carrying an ad hoc Confederate force of approximately 1,200 men at Egypt Station, Mississippi. He captured more than 500 troops, including 253 former Union prisoners. For this expedition, Grierson was promoted to the rank of major general.  In the spring of 1865, he participated in Canby's successful campaign to capture Mobile, Alabama. 

Grierson decided to remain in the Regular Army after the war and received the rank of colonel. His lack of West Point credentials made him suspect many fellow officers. He organized the 10th U.S. Cavalry, one of two mounted regiments of black enlisted men and white officers, called the Buffalo Soldiers. This assignment also made him unpopular with other officers because of his support for and trust in his troops. His sympathy and courtesy to Native American tribes also led to questions about his judgment.   His wife, Alice, died on August 14, 1888. He later married Lillian Atwood King, a widow, on July 28, 1897.  In 1907 he suffered a debilitating stroke. Benjamin Grierson, who taught and led during the Civil War and in the American Old West, died on August 31, 1911, in Omena, Leelanau County, Michigan. He is buried in Jacksonville East Cemetery in Jacksonville, a Morgan County, Illinois town.  

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