The Real Horse Soldiers

Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid Through Mississippi

Timothy B. Smith

Based upon years of research and presented in gripping, fast-paced prose, this book captures the high drama and tension of the 1863 horse soldiers in a modern, comprehensive, academic study.
Date Published :
February 2020
Publisher :
Savas Beatie
Illustration :
36 images, 13 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781611215304
Pages : 376
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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Winner, 2018, Operational / Battle History, Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Book Award
Winner, 2018, Fletcher Pratt Literary Award, Civil War Round Table of New York

Benjamin Grierson’s Union cavalry thrust through Mississippi is one of the most well-known operations of the Civil War. The last serious study was published more than six decades ago. Since then other accounts have appeared, but none are deeply researched full-length studies of the raid and its more than substantial (and yet often overlooked) results. The publication of Timothy B. Smith’s The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid through Mississippi rectifies this oversight.

There were other simultaneous operations to distract Confederate attention from the real threat posed by U. S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee. Grierson’s operation, however, mainly conducted with two Illinois cavalry regiments, has become the most famous, and for good reason: For 16 days (April 17 to May 2) Grierson led Confederate pursuers on a high-stakes chase through the entire state of Mississippi, entering the northern border with Tennessee and exiting its southern border with Louisiana. The daily rides were long, the rest stops short, and the tension high. Ironically, the man who led the raid was a former music teacher who some say disliked horses. Throughout, he displayed outstanding leadership and cunning, destroyed railroad tracks, burned trestles and bridges, freed slaves, and created as much damage and chaos as possible.

Grierson’s Raid broke a vital Confederate rail line at Newton Station that supplied Vicksburg and, perhaps most importantly, consumed the attention of the Confederate high command. While Confederate Lt. Gen. John Pemberton at Vicksburg and other Southern leaders looked in the wrong directions, Grant moved his entire Army of the Tennessee across the Mississippi River below Vicksburg, spelling the doom of that city, the Confederate chances of holding the river, and perhaps the Confederacy itself.

Novelists have attempted to capture the large-than-life cavalry raid in the popular imagination, and Hollywood reproduced the daring cavalry action in The Horse Soldiers, a 1959 major motion picture starring John Wayne and William Holden. Although the film replicates the raid’s drama and high-stakes gamble, cinematic license chipped away at its accuracy.

Based upon years of research and presented in gripping, fast-paced prose, Timothy B. Smith’s The Real Horse Soldiers captures the high drama and tension of the 1863 horse soldiers in a modern, comprehensive, academic study. Readers will find it fills a wide void in Civil War literature.

About The Author

Timothy B. Smith (Ph.D. Mississippi State University, 2001) is a veteran of the National Park Service and currently teaches history at the University of Tennessee at Martin. In addition to many articles and essays, he is the author, editor, or co-editor of eighteen books, including Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg (2004), which won the nonfiction book award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, Corinth 1862: Siege, Battle, Occupation (2012), which won the Fletcher Pratt Award and the McLemore Prize, Shiloh: Conquer or Perish (2014), which won the Richard B. Harwell Award, the Tennessee History Book Award, and the Douglas Southall Freeman Award, and Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Forts Henry and Donelson (2016), which won the Tennessee History book Award, the Emerging Civil War Book Award, and the Douglas Southall Freeman Award. He is currently writing a book on the May 19 and 22 Vicksburg assaults. He lives with his wife Kelly and children Mary Kate and Leah Grace in Adamsville, Tennessee.


“Major Civil War author Timothy B. Smith has done it again. He insightfully sheds important light on U. S. Grant’s use of Union cavalryman Benjamin Grierson’s speed and stealth to confuse the Confederates and help him capture Vicksburg. Another well-researched and well-written military history by one of the nation’s leading Civil War historians.”

- John F. Marszalek, Executive Director of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, Mississippi State University

“Adding his best work yet to an impressive and ever-expanding list of publications, Tim Smith’s release of The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid Through Mississippi promises to be a blockbuster the magnitude of John Ford’s 1959 film starring John Wayne and William Holden. This epic account is as thrilling and fast-paced as the raid itself and will quickly rival, if not surpass, D. Brown’s Grierson’s Raid as the standard work on what William T. Sherman called the war’s ‘most brilliant raid.’”

- Terrence J. Winschel, historian (ret.), Vicksburg National Military Park

“Ulysses S. Grant proved he was the master of the strategic cavalry raid by launching Col. Benjamin Grierson’s spring 1863 cavalry ride through the heart of Confederate Mississippi. The bold and exciting raid created so much havoc within Southern command circles that Grant was able to sneak across the Mississippi River against minimal opposition, dooming Vicksburg. The Real Horse Soldiers, award-winning Western Theater historian Timothy B. Smith’s excellent new release, draws upon a wide variety of previously untapped primary sources and brings to life in vivid detail the importance of this cavalry thrust. I highly recommend it.”

- Eric J. Wittenberg, award-winning author of Holding the Line on the River of Death:

"Impressively informed and informative, exceptionally well researched, written, organized and presented, "The Real Horse Soldiers" is enhanced for academia with the inclusion of maps, illustrations, a sixteen page bibliography, a twelve page list of acknowledgments, and an eleven page index."

- Midwest Book Review

“A very valuable contribution to the literature of the Vicksburg campaign and the role of cavalry in the Civil War, this also throws some light on the art of deception as practiced at the time.”

- The NYMAS Review

‘’Highly recommended for ACW enthusiasts, especially those seeking active employment for their cavalry, and for anyone who has seen the film and wishes to learn more about the people and historical events upon which it is so loosely based.’’

- Miniature Wargames

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