Was Benjamin Grierson a successful cavalry officer?

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major bill

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Grierson did not attend West Point. However it would appear that he was a fairly good cavalry officer. He seems to have performed well during his two raids. I do not know enough about the Battle of Tupelo to decide how Grierson performed there.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Good thread on Grierson, Nate posted a paper-' fairly good 'may be a little light on praise?

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-reluctant-cavalryman-benjamin-grierson.74306/

" Sherman characterized Grierson as “the best cavalry commander I have yet had,” according to Dinges, [vii] an din 1863, when Grant needed someone for a dangerous mission deep in Mississippi, he asked for Grierson. "

That's from Nate's thread- there's an awful lot more out there but it'd be for someone who has a better grasp of his war.
 

mofederal

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After the war out west he held his own with other regimental cavalry commanders. He organized and led the 10th Cavalry, and he did extremely well as a career officer. He retired a Brigadier General. Although suspected and disliked by West Pointers he got the job done.
 
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Don Dixon

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Does anyone really think that Grant expected to get Grierson and his troops back when he sent them into Mississippi. Grant needed a diversion, and it was worth the expenditure of several regiments of cavalry to get it. Instead, Grierson not only accomplished his mission, but brought his troops home. It was a truly masterful use of cavalry.

By the end of the war Grierson was a Brevet Major General of Volunteers commanding a cavalry division. With the demobalization of the Federal Army, Grant appointed Grierson to command the 10th as a Regular Army colonel. Indicative of the faith Grant and Lieutenant General Sherman had in Grierson was the fact that Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer, who was a West Point graduate and also a division commander, reverted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the 7th Cavalry.

Grierson was one of the greatest cavalry commanders ever produced by the American military: north or south.

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Don Dixon
 

Carronade

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Grierson had an exit strategy in that as he pushed deeper into Confederate territory, he was also heading towards Union-occupied Baton Rouge and vicinity. While Grant and Grierson himself accepted the risk of sending a force behind enemy lines, I don't see any intention deliberately to sacrifice them.

The one I wonder about is the contemporaneous Streight raid. As Streight progressed into the Confederate rear areas, there was no evident route back to Union lines, either where he started or anywhere else. Add to that how poorly prepared the troops were for the mission, and it really does look like Streight was pushed out into traffic to get run over.
 
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Eric Wittenberg

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The one I wonder about is the contemporaneous Streight raid. As Streight progressed into the Confederate rear areas, there was no evident route back to Union lines, either where he started or anywhere else. Add to that how poorly prepared the troops were for the mission, and it really does look like Streight was pushed out into traffic to get run over.
Agreed. But you have to look at the big picture. By pushing Streight and his Lightning Mule Raid out into traffic, the federals very successfully drew off Forrest's cavalry. Be ensuring that Forrest would pursue Streight instead of Grierson, the failure of the Streight raid pretty much guaranteed the success of the Grierson raid.
 

TomP

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I do not know enough about the Battle of Tupelo to decide how Grierson performed there.
major bill, Grierson's performance during this campaign was not up to the standards he was later judged by. His cavalry division had been used hard in the preceding months by Hurlbut, Washburn and then Strugis and following the debacle at Brice's Crossroads they were hardly ready for another difficult summer campaign. His one major contributions to Smith's victory was sending out a very successful diversion from Ripley on July 8, and three more diversions from Pontotoc on July 12th. This gave Smith the intelligence he needed to steal a march on Lee/Forrest the following day. On July 13 the cavalry rode at the head of the Union column and arrived in Tupelo early and destroyed a section of the Mobile & Ohio RR but they were not involved in the two action of the day (Bertram's Shop and Coonewah Crossroads). On the day of the battle they were guarding the flanks and played only a minor role at the end of the day. On the 15th, as Smith moved back to Tennessee for more supplies, Grierson personally rode with the rear guard and his showing was very poor against Abraham Buford's pursuing division. He made three major mistakes; he allowed himself to get out of communication with Smith, was nearly out of ammunition, and was unaware of the plan for the army to encamp at Old Town Creek. Half of his men were dismounted and watering their horses in the creek when Grierson topped the ridge in a near rout. Capt. William Burns of Smith's staff; " Grierson, very much excited, rode up to Gen. Smith, and reported that we were in great danger from Forrest's army. He had evidently (as we used to say in the army) 'lost his head,' and his actions were demoralizing to say the least. Gen. Smith listened to him a moment and then angrily ordered him to keep quiet, and not expose his fears to the men. That he had just instructed Gen. Mower to look into the trouble in the rear, and if Forrest was there, there was no better man than Gen. Mower to take care of him."
In his official report Smith praised the performance of Mower but gave no similar praise to his other division commanders, Grierson and David Moore.
In his memoirs Grierson claimed to have made all of the important decisions which led to the victory and that Smith was confused and unsure of himself during the two week raid.
 
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