Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson

Colonel Benjamin Henry Grierson (shown above as Brigadier General) commanded a brigade of cavalry at Port Hudson under General Bank's command.

One of Grierson's main goals was the defeat and elimination of the Confederate cavalry forces under the command of Colonel John Logan, which operated outside the Port Hudson garrison throughout the siege.  Logan's men harassed the Union troops from the rear, attacked supply wagons, and were otherwise a major nuisance to Banks.  There were repeated skirmishes between the two cavalry units, but none decisive.  On June 3rd, Grierson led 1,300 men supported by eight cannon toward Clinton, determined to finish the Confederate cavalry.  Logan was alerted and a battle ensued, resulting in Grierson's forces being defeated and forced to retreat back to Port Hudson.  Banks then sent General Paine with a powerful force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery back to crush Logan, but the Confederates had escaped.

Prior to Port Hudson, Grierson had become famous for leading a cavalry raid (April 17-May 2) through Confederate areas of Mississippi to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this being known as "Grierson's Raid".  Primarily as a result of this he was promoted to Brigadier General, effective June 3, 1863.  The movie, "The Horse Soldiers", made in 1959 starring John Wayne, was based on Grierson's foray.

Benjamin Henry Grierson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 8, 1826.  After being educated in Ohio, he moved to Illinois and taught music, then entered business.  When the Civil War began, Grierson joined the army at Cairo on May 8, 1861, serving initially as a volunteer aide, with the nominal rank of Lieutenant. On October 24, 1861, he was commissioned Major of the Sixth Illinois Cavalry, and on March 28, 1862 was promoted by choice of the regiment to be colonel.  While ascending through the military ranks, he took part in raids and skirmishes in West Tennessee and northern Mississippi.  He pursued the Confederate forces after their raid against the Union supply depot at Holly Springs, Mississippi.  Because of this action, he was given command of a cavalry brigade.  Although he lacked a formal military education, Grierson became a skilled Union cavalry leader.  After the Civil War, he was appointed colonel of the 10th US Cavalry, and took part in several actions against Indians.  Eventually, he became one of the few civilians who attained the rank of brigadier general in the Regular army.  Grierson died on September 1, 1911, in Omena, Michigan.

 

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