While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Bruce J. Dinges

GRIERSON, BENJAMIN HENRY (1826–1911). Benjamin Henry Grierson, army officer, the youngest of five surviving children of Robert and Mary (Sheppard) Grierson, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 8, 1826. In 1829 the family moved to Youngstown, Ohio, where Benjamin attended common school. At the age of eight, he was kicked and nearly killed by a horse, an incident that left him afraid of horses and therefore a seemingly unlikely candidate for a military career. At age thirteen he was chosen leader of the Youngstown band. After 1850 he was a music teacher and band leader in Jacksonville, Illinois. On September 24, 1854, he married Alice Kirk of Youngstown. The couple had seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood. From 1855 to 1861 Grierson was a partner in an unsuccessful mercantile business in Meredosia, Illinois, and was active in Republican politics. During the Civil War he rose from volunteer aide to major general of volunteers. He became a Northern hero when he led a spectacular cavalry raid through Mississippi in late April 1863. Before the end of the war he organized cavalry for a projected invasion of Texas and commanded the District of Northern Alabama.

After the war, as a colonel in the regular army, Grierson organized the Tenth United States Cavalry, one of two mounted regiments composed of black enlisted men and white officers. He was commander at forts Riley and Gibson in 1867–69 and headed the District of the Indian Territory in 1868–69. He selected the site for Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and as commander (1869–72) supervised construction of the post. His support of the peace policy on the Kiowa-Comanche Reservation angered residents of the Texas frontier. In May 1871 he arrested Indian chiefs Satanta, Satank, and Big Tree, who had led what became known as the Warren Wagontrain Raid in North Texas. At Fort Gibson in 1872 Grierson supervised the removal of intruders from the line of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad. He then spent two years as superintendent of the Mounted Recruiting Service at St. Louis.

In the spring of 1875 he arrived at Fort Concho, Texas. As commander of the District of the Pecos (1878–80), he explored and mapped the Trans-Pecos, constructed wagon roads and telegraph lines, and opened West Texas to settlement and the railroads. During the summer of 1880 he defeated Victorio and ended the Indian threat to West Texas. In 1882 Grierson moved his headquarters to Fort Davis, where he greatly expanded the military facilities. He also invested heavily in land and organized a railroad-promotion company. He commanded the Department of Texas in September and October 1883. During his military service in Texas, he and his wife came to love West Texas and planned to retire there.

Grierson was transferred in the spring of 1885 to Arizona, where he commanded Whipple Barracks and later Fort Grant. As commander of the District of New Mexico (1886–88), he dealt sympathetically and effectively with problems on the Jicarilla and Navajo reservations. In November 1888 he assumed command of the Department of Arizona. He was promoted to brigadier general on April 5, 1890, and retired on July 8. Alice Grierson died on August 14, 1888, and on July 28, 1897, Grierson married Lillian Atwood King, a widow. After the marriage, Grierson's trips between his Jacksonville, Illinois, home and his Fort Concho ranch, which he had visited regularly since his retirement, gradually stopped. In 1907 he suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered. He died at his summer home at Omena, Michigan, on August 31, 1911, and was buried at Jacksonville.

Bruce J. Dinges, "Benjamin H. Grierson," in Soldiers West: Biographies from the Military Frontier, ed. Paul A. Hutton (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987). William H. and Shirley A. Leckie, Unlikely Warriors: General Benjamin H. Grierson and His Family (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984). Frank M. Temple, "Colonel B. H. Grierson's Administration of the District of the Pecos," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 38 (1962). Frank M. Temple, "Colonel Grierson in the Southwest," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 30 (1957).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Bruce J. Dinges, "GRIERSON, BENJAMIN HENRY," accessed August 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgr59.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...