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A Just and Righteous Cause

Benjamin H. Grierson's Civil War Memoir

Edited by Bruce J. Dinges and Shirley A. Leckie

Publication Year: 2008

General Benjamin H. Grierson is most widely known as the brilliant cavalryman whose actions in the Civil War's Mississippi Valley campaign facilitated Ulysses S. Grant's capture of Vicksburg. There is, however, much more to this key Union officer than a successful raid into Confederate-held Mississippi. In A Just and Righteous Cause: Benjamin H. Grierson's Civil War Memoir, edited by Bruce J. Dinges and Shirley A. Leckie, Grierson tells his story in forceful, direct, and highly engaging prose.

A Just and Righteous Cause paints a vivid picture of Grierson's prewar and Civil War career, touching on his antislavery views, Republican Party principles, and military strategy and tactics. His story begins with his parents' immigration to the United States and follows his childhood, youth, and career as a musician; the early years of his arriage; his business failures prior to becoming a cavalry officer in an Illinois regiment; his experiences in battle; and his Reconstruction appointment. Grierson also provides intimate accounts of his relationships with such prominent politicians and Union leaders as Abraham Lincoln, Richard Yates, Andrew Johnson, William T. Sherman, Ulysses S.

Grant, John C. Frémont, and Benjamin Prentiss.

Because Grierson wrote the memoir mainly with his family as the intended audience, he manages to avoid the self-promotion that plagues many of his contemporaries' chronicles. His reliance on military records and correspondence, along with family letters, lends an immediacy rarely found in military memoirs. His reminiscences also add fuel to a reemerging debate on soldiers' motivations for enlisting—in Grierson's case, patriotism and ideology—and shed new light on the Western theater of the Civil War, which has seen a recent surge in interest among Civil War enthusiasts.

A non-West Point officer, Grierson owed his developing career to his independent studies of the military and his connections to political figures in his home state of Illinois and later to important Union leaders. Dinges and Leckie provide a helpful introduction, which gives background on the memoir and places Grierson's career into historical context. Aided by fourteen photos and two maps, as well as the editors' superb annotations, A Just and Righteous Cause is a valuable addition to Civil War history.


Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. xi

The editors thank, first and foremost, the Morgan County (Illinois) Historical Society for its advocacy and unstinting support of this project, in particular: Dr. Frank and Mrs. Frances Norbury (for their wonderful hospitality during General Grierson Days); Rand...

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Editors’ Introduction

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pp. 1-7

Benjamin H. Grierson and his wife, Alice Kirk Grierson, were living in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1873, enjoying a respite from Ben’s military service in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). As colonel of the 10th Cavalry, one of the U.S. Army’s two black cavalry regiments...

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pp. 8-10

To at once acknowledge my indebtedness to others, and show what has led to the writing of these volumes, it is proper to state that in 1873, when stationed at Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory, and comfortably fixed in excellent quarters, I received the following...

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1. An American Boyhood

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pp. 11-33

The Griersons who emigrated from Scotland to Ireland first settled in the Province of Ulster about the middle of the 17th Century, and subsequently removed to Dublin and other parts of that country...

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2. Rallying around the Flag

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pp. 34-59

For several years previous to the political campaign which resulted in the election of Mr. Lincoln to the presidency, my brother, John C. Grierson, had been a resident of Memphis, Tennessee. By the full correspondence kept up between us, I was well advised as to the true condition...

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3. Colonel of the 6th Illinois Cavalry

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pp. 60-84

The weak and vacillating policy of the government, while being gradually drawn under the influence of politicians, was discouraging and deplorable. When efforts were put forth to turn the army into slave catchers for the South, there was unmistakable evidence of coming...

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4. Scouting after Guerillas in West Tennessee

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pp. 85-109

About the middle of May two men, citizens of Illinois appointed judges for the purpose, came to Paducah, to take the vote of the Illinois troops for or against the new constitution, which was deemed by the Republican administration to be very faulty in its...

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5. From Iuka to Holly Springs

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pp. 110-133

The battle of Iuka,1 fought in September [1862], demonstrated the fact that the rebels were concentrating their forces to make vigorous effort to regain the territory they had lost. From their movements, it was plain to see that Corinth was their objective point. The attack of Van Dorn...

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6. Grierson’s Raid

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pp. 134-186

On February 3, [1863,] I was ordered to Memphis to confer with General Hurlbut relative to [an] expedition southward into Mississippi.1 While there, I received some maps and other papers giving information of the country over which the contemplated march would probably be made...

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7. The Siege of Port Hudson

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pp. 187-196

By the middle of May, my command was again in condition for the field, and I was exceedingly anxious to leave Baton Rouge and start northward to join General Grant. The general [was] equally desirous to have me do so. He wrote to General Banks on May...

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8. Reorganizing the Cavalry in West Tennessee

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pp. 197-214

Our long service before Port Hudson was not without some minor annoyances. Colonel Edward Prince of the 7th Illinois Cavalry apparently became envious of the reputation gained by myself and command, and acted in an unwarranted and unsoldierly manner. Such manifestation...

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9. The Meridian Expedition

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pp. 215-224

On January 27, 1864, all the cavalry of the Department of the Tennessee was, by the orders of General W. T. Sherman, assigned to the command of Brigadier General W. Sooy Smith, U.S. Volunteers. The latter did not issue any orders formally assuming command of the cavalry, but...

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10. Operations against Forrest

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pp. 225-241

Leaving his army at Canton, Mississippi, General Sherman reached Vicksburg on February 27. The rebels were surprised that the Meridian campaign ended as it did. They expected that Mobile would be attacked, or that Sherman’s army would at least make a movement into the interior...

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11. Brice’s Cross Roads

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pp. 242-256

I had inferred from what General Sturgis had said to me at our interview near Ripley that we were to move forward on the Ellistown road, more to the right and southward. But he afterwards sent me word that he had concluded to advance on the Fulton road...

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12. A. J. Smith’s Operations in Mississippi

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pp. 257-278

The return of the cavalry from Brice’s Cross Roads was for no long rest. Even Sturgis’ inglorious defeat had kept Forrest, with an efficient force, away from the flank of General Sherman’s army and the main line of his communications, and the diversion was required for a yet longer...

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13. Reorganization and Controversy

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pp. 279-300

After the fight of the cavalry at Hurricane Creek, Mississippi, on August 13, in which Colonel M. H. Starr distinguished himself by driving the rebels out of their fortifications, he was permitted to return to Memphis to hasten the equipment of his regiment, which had not been fully...

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14. Raid on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad

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pp. 301-316

Throughout the southwestern states, the month of December 1864 was unusually stormy and disagreeable. The rains were frequent, and of long duration and severity. From the 15th of the month, in the vicinity of Memphis the downpour was almost constant, day and night, until the mud...

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15. A Visit to Washington

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pp. 317-322

We took our departure for the East on the morning of February 3, [1865,] and reached Pittsburgh at 3 o’clock a.m. on the 5th. The captain and I being on the sleeping car were dropped off, or run back, two miles from the station where we slept until morning, and did not get to the...

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16. Final Operations

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pp. 323-348

Being advised to go by the ocean route to New Orleans, and thinking it might be the most expeditious, we left Washington on the evening of February 15 with that purpose in view. But upon arrival at New York City the next day, [we] found that in order to embark on a through or fast...

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17. Reconstruction Duty

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pp. 349-368

My arrival at Jacksonville was opportune and highly gratifying to Mrs. Grierson as well as myself, for on August 27, 1865, a daughter, Edith Clare,1 was born to us. She at once became the light and life of our home. A few days after that important event, I went to Chicago to meet General...

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pp. 369-370

I left Washington early in May 1866 for my old home in Youngstown, Ohio, where, after visiting friends [and] recalling to mind familiar scenes and associations of bygone days, I again rejoined my family at Jacksonville, Illinois. Without making any arrangements in the way of business...


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pp. 373-417


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pp. 419-427


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pp. 429-449

Author Bios

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Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809387090
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809328598

Publication Year: 2008