Benjamin H. Grierson, became the colonel of the 6th Illinois Cavalry in April of 1862. In November of 1862, Grierson was given command of a cavalry brigade in the Army of the Tennessee. In April of 1863, General U.S. Grant was in preparation of assaulting Vicksburg, Mississippi, and to assist that operation, Grant sent Colonel Grierson’s cavalry brigade on a diversionary raid deep into the heart of “Dixie” with the intention of drawing away needed Confederate support and materiel away from the Vicksburg area. The mission known as “Grierson’s Raid” met with success in disrupting enemy movements toward Vicksburg, destroying railroads, and huge quantities of Confederate supplies, also taking on many enemy prisoners and horse. The raid ultimately proved that the Confederacy was an empty shell. Grierson’s cavalry reached Baton Rouge, La in early May, and it is highly likely that is when this CDV was taken by McPherson & Oliver, Photographers, Baton Rouge.
For his outstanding, and dramatic raid, Grierson was promoted to Brigadier General, with command of the cavalry attached to the 19th Army Corps, under Major General Nathaniel Banks. The cavalry under Grierson, worked closely in support of all the operations of the infantry in that corps, and in particular with Major General C.C. Augur, who had command of the Division that was preparing and ultimately assaulting the defenses of Port Hudson. This is certainly the reason that this image was in 1st Lt. Francis G. Ogden’s photo album. Ogden was the regimental adjutant of the 48th Massachusetts infantry that saw heavy and bloody service in those assaults. Grierson’s cavalry was in close support of the infantry in the 48th’s first combat at the Battle of Plain Store on May 22nd.
Grierson, the music teacher before the war, had proven himself to be a bold and effective cavalry commander, and at the war’s end, was promoted to a full major general’s rank in the volunteers. He remained in the Regular Army following the war, with a Colonelcy and command of the 10th U.S. Cavalry, one of two black cavalry regiments in the regulars at that time.
From 1867 to 1890, Colonel Grierson and his regiment fought many heated skirmishes and battles in the American Southwest against the Apache, Kiowa, and other tribes, yet remained sympathy and courtesy to the Native American tribes, as well as proving the great worth of the black soldier in the Army. Grierson retired in 1890 as a brigadier general.
The image shows Grierson in the rank of colonel, and has stated previously, was taken shortly after the completion of his famous raid in the spring of 1863. The pose is a rare one, as Grierson was usually photographed from the side, because of the scars from a horse kicking accident earlier in life.