Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grierson’s Raid

Grierson and his staff
To support his latest attempt to capture Vicksburg, Grant planned several diversions to distract Confederate troops. One of these was a cavalry raid by Benjamin Grierson. Up to this point the Confederate cavalry had ridden circles around the Union cavalry, often literally. The Confederacy had produced officers like Forrest, Stuart and Morgan, but their northern counterparts were notably lacking. However, 150 years ago today, Grierson set out with 1,700 troopers to try to change that.

At first glance, Colonel Benjamin Grierson would not be considered an ideal cavalry officer. Before the war he had been a music teacher, and he hated horses after he was nearly killed by one at the age of eight. Nonetheless, his raid was very successful. He rode on routes not yet touched by Union armies, tearing up railroads, destroying stores and freeing slaves. Along the way he set off smaller unites to distract his pursuers. One of the reasons he did so well was because of a lack of major Confederate pursuit. Nathan Bedford Forrest was busy dealing with another Union raid, that one under Abel Streight.

Grierson's men on their raid, taken by a Confederate scout

Grierson brought an end to his raid on May 2, 1863, when he arrived at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He had lost only three killed, seven wounded, nine missing, and five who fell sick and had to be left behind. Grierson would go on to rise to the rank of Major General later in the war, obtaining more successes as a cavalry officer.


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