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A Just and Righteous Cause

A Just and Righteous Cause

Benjamin H. Grierson’s Civil War Memoir

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Edited by Bruce J. Dinges and Shirley A. Leckie


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
476 pages, 6.125 x 9.25, 16 illustrations


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About the Book

General Benjamin H. Grierson is most widely known as the brilliant cavalryman whose actions in the Civil War's Mississippi Valley campaign facilitated Ulysses S. Grant's capture of Vicksburg. There is, however, much more to this key Union officer than a successful raid into Confederate-held Mississippi. In A Just and Righteous Cause: Benjamin H. Grierson's Civil War Memoir, edited by Bruce J. Dinges and Shirley A. Leckie, Grierson tells his story in forceful, direct, and highly engaging prose.

A Just and Righteous Cause paints a vivid picture of Grierson's prewar and Civil War career, touching on his antislavery views, Republican Party principles, and military strategy and tactics. His story begins with his parents' immigration to the United States and follows his childhood, youth, and career as a musician; the early years of his marriage; his business failures prior to becoming a cavalry officer in an Illinois regiment; his experiences in battle; and his Reconstruction appointment. Grierson also provides intimate accounts of his relationships with such prominent politicians and Union leaders as Abraham Lincoln, Richard Yates, Andrew Johnson, William T. Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, John C. Frémont, and Benjamin Prentiss.

Because Grierson wrote the memoir mainly with his family as the intended audience, he manages to avoid the self-promotion that plagues many of his contemporaries' chronicles. His reliance on military records and correspondence, along with family letters, lends an immediacy rarely found in military memoirs. His reminiscences also add fuel to a reemerging debate on soldiers' motivations for enlisting—in Grierson's case, patriotism and ideology—and shed new light on the Western theater of the Civil War, which has seen a recent surge in interest among Civil War enthusiasts.

A non–West Point officer, Grierson owed his developing career to his independent studies of the military and his connections to political figures in his home state of Illinois and later to important Union leaders. Dinges and Leckie provide a helpful introduction, which gives background on the memoir and places Grierson's career into historical context. Aided by fourteen photos and two maps, as well as the editors' superb annotations, A Just and Righteous Cause is a valuable addition to Civil War history.


Bruce J. Dinges is director of publications for the Arizona Historical Society and editor in chief of the Journal of Arizona History.

A professor emerita at the University of Central Florida, Shirley A. Leckie is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Unlikely Warriors: General Benjamin H. Grierson and His Family, The Colonel's Lady on the Western Frontier: The Correspondence of Alice Kirk Grierson, and the forthcoming Their Own Frontier: Women Intellectuals Re-visioning the American West.


“Ben Grierson wrote as well as he fought.  No one has told the story of his famous raid through Mississippi in 1863 as well as Grierson himself.  These memoirs offer an unmatched account of cavalry operations in the Tennessee/Mississippi theater of the Civil War.”—James M. McPherson, author of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief 

“A welcome addition to edited and annotated memoirs of the genre.”—Journal of Illinois History

“The memoirs have a conversational tone, and it is easy to imagine sitting by Grierson and listening to his story. There is much of interest and value in this account of a civilian who became a successful military leader during the war and then went on to serve in the postwar army.”—Journal of Southern History 

“Grierson's memoir is a solid contribution to Civil War literature and adds to the knowledge of cavalry operations in the western theater.”—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
“Historians seeking a military analysis of the western theater will greatly benefit from Grierson's thorough retelling of each campaign. At the same time, Grierson tackles issues of race, southern culture and exceptionality, and military strategy in frank and honest language.”—History: Reviews of New Books