• Grierson — from music teacher to general

  • Grierson is notable for his connection to Fort Leavenworth and the Buffalo Soldiers

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Fort Leavenworth has many streets and buildings named for veterans of the Civil War. Most are familiar to anyone with a general knowledge of the conflict. Grant, Meade, Sheridan and Sherman all served as general officers during the war and in the Army during Reconstruction.
    Other namesakes are those who, while brevetted to general officer rank during hostilities, reverted to lesser rank after the war. This group includes Brevet Major Generals George A. Custer and Benjamin H. Grierson, both of whom gained fame — or infamy — in the West after the war, and who both became the subjects of “major motion pictures,” Grierson’s with a more positive outcome than Custer’s. Grierson is notable for his connection to Fort Leavenworth and the Buffalo Soldiers.
    Grierson started his professional life as a music teacher in Illinois. At the beginning of the Civil War he rose through the ranks of the 6th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. He was reported not to like horses after having been kicked by one as child, but, ironically, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant considered him one of the best cavalry commanders in the Army during the Civil War.
    As part of the Vicksburg campaign in the spring of 1863, he led Grierson’s Raid, a major diversionary thrust deep into the Confederacy. Over 17 days, his command of 1,700 cavalrymen marched 800 miles, repeatedly engaged the Confederates, disabled two railroads, captured many prisoners and horses, and destroyed vast amounts of property, finally ending in Union-occupied Baton Rouge, La. He was brevetted a brigadier general and then major general for leading the raid.
    In 1959, a United Artists movie, “The Horse Soldiers,” directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne as Col. John Marlowe, a character loosely based on Grierson, dramatically tells the story of the Grierson Raid.
    Mustered out of volunteer service at the end of the war, Grierson rejoined the Army as a colonel and formed the 10th Cavalry Regiment in 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, where it remained for several months. He commanded it for almost 24 years. During his long command of the regiment, Grierson campaigned for the rights and recognition of black soldiers, for which he earned the respect of his men and reportedly earned the enmity of many fellow officers for his devotion to the Buffalo Soldiers. He was stationed at a number of frontier posts in the Midwest and Southwest, including Fort Riley, Kan.; Fort Gibson, Indian Territory (parts of present-day Oklahoma); Fort Concho, Texas; Fort Sill, Indian Territory; and Fort Davis, Texas.
    In November 1888, he assumed command of the Department of Arizona. He was promoted to brigadier general on April 5, 1890, and retired on July 8 of that year after 31 years of service as a volunteer and Regular Army officer. He was one of the few “civilians” — a non-West Point graduate — who attained the rank of brigadier general in the Regular Army in the 19th century. Grierson died in 1911 and is buried in Jacksonville, Ill.
    Page 2 of 2 - In 2012, a bust of Grierson was added to those in the Circle of Firsts near the Buffalo Soldier Monument to recognize his contributions of the Army as a leader of African American soldiers. Grierson Street is in the southwest corner of Fort Leavenworth near Hancock Gate appropriately connecting with 1st Cavalry and 7th Cavalry roads.
    For information on his book: Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the names, visit here.
    For more information on his book "Fort Leavenworth: The People Behind the Names" visit here. - See more at: http://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/article/20151105/NEWS/151109629/?tag=2#sthash.32p2kEHD.dpuf
    For the 1st installment of the People Behind Post Places Series, visit here.
    For the 2nd installment of the People Behind Post Places Series, visit here.
    For the 3rd installment of the People Behind Post Places Series, visit here.
    For the 4th installment of the People Behind Post Places Series, visit here.
    For the 5th installment of the People Behind Post Places Series, visit here.
    For the 6th installment of the People Behind Post Places Series, visit here.
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