150 Years Ago: Grierson rides out of LaGrange

On the morning of April 17, 1863 Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson launched one of the most important cavalry raids of the war:

In accordance with instructions from Maj. Gen. S. A. Hurlbut, received through Brig. Gen. W. S. Smith, at La Grange, Tenn., I left that place at daylight on the morning of April 17, with the effective force of my command, 1,700 strong. We moved southward without material interruption, crossing the Tallahatchee River on the afternoon of the 18th at three different points. One battalion of the Seventh Illinois, under Major Graham, crossing at New Albany, found the bridge partially torn up, and an attempt was made to fire it. As they approached the bridge they were fired upon, but drove the enemy from their position, repaired the bridge, and crossed. The balance of the Seventh Illinois and the whole of the Sixth crossed at a ford 2 miles above, and the Second Iowa crossed about 4 miles still farther up. After crossing, the Sixth and Seventh Illinois moved south on the Pontotoc road, and encamped for the night on the plantation of Mr. Sloan. The Second Iowa also moved south from their point of crossing, and encamped about 4 miles south of the river. The rain fell in torrents all night.

The next morning, April 19, I sent a detachment eastward to communicate with Colonel Hatch and make a demonstration toward Chesterville, where a regiment of cavalry was organizing. I also sent an expedition to New Albany, and another northwest toward King’s Bridge, to attack and destroy a portion of a regiment of cavalry organizing there under Major [A. H.] Chalmers. I thus sought to create the impression that the object of our advance was to break up these parties….

But you’ve seen this movie. Right?

Today LaGrange is often described as a “sleepy hamlet” with numerous old, interesting houses. Several state highway markers allude to its rich history, including the start of Grierson’s Raid.

Tenn 887

The actual road the raiders took south out of town is about a mile east of the marker. The wartime road is but a trace now.

I’ve not followed the Vicksburg Campaign to any extent with my sesquicentennial blogging. Others have done the campaign justice with quality posts. But it is not far away in my mind. Frankly, I’m torn between the Delta and the Low Country. I’m sure you can relate at some level.

(Grierson’s report is in OR, Series I, Volume 24, Part I, Serial 36, pages 522-529.)


One thought on “150 Years Ago: Grierson rides out of LaGrange

  1. An interesting discussion of Grierson’s Raid is Neil Longley York, _ Fiction As Fact: The Horse Soldiers and Popular Memory_ (Kent, OH: 2001). York looks at the original first hand accounts, then Dee Brown’s book, _Grierson’s Raid_ and Harold Sinclair’s novel built from it, _The Horse Soldiers_. Finally York examines the John Ford movie. The book is a delightful tour through the Civil War and its history, showing how each story teller has modified, changed and (especially in the movie) changed history.

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