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Benjamin Henry Grierson papers

Identifier: VAULT-Ayer-MS-3039

Scope and Content of the Collection

Covering a quarter of a century of military service, the Benjamin H. Grierson Papers include correspondence; orders and reports (both manuscript and officially printed); miscellaneous military documents; miscellaneous material both professional and personal; some memorabilia, including cartes de visite of Grierson; and eleven maps, both published and manuscript.

The outgoing correspondence is mainly to Grierson’s wife, Alice Kirk Grierson, consisting of more than a hundred letters and telegrams. Among the few other letters are some to his brother John Grierson, to Indian Commissioner Felix Brunot, to President Grant, and to Generals Sheridan and Sherman. The large collection of incoming correspondence contains a number of letters from Grierson’s adjutants, Henry E. Alvord, Robert G. Smither and Samuel L. Woodward, as well as letters from Felix Brunot, William B. Hazen, Generals Ranald Mackenzie, Philip Sheridan and William T. Sherman. Other miscellaneous letters include one from William T. Sherman to Winfield Scott Hancock written in 1867 in praise of Grierson.

The military documents include journals of expeditions, orders to Grierson, and reports from Grierson, both officially printed and handwritten, and other miscellaneous military material include endorsements, pamphlets, rosters, etc. Among other miscellany are extensive reports and information on the 1887 Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation in New Mexico, newspaper clippings, poems and maps.


  • Creation: 1865-1890



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Benjamin Henry Grierson papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Benjamin Henry Grierson papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Benjamin Henry Grierson

United States Army officer.

Benjamin Henry Grierson was born in Pittsburgh in 1826, grew up in Ohio, and finally settled in Jacksonville, Illinois, where he taught music and started a business career. At the start of the Civil War Grierson volunteered and soon became a staff officer in command of several cavalry divisions, achieving distinction during the years of conflict.

Although not a graduate of West Point, after the war Grierson decided to remain in the Regular Army. Given the rank of colonel, he accepted the appointment to organize the 10th U.S. Cavalry, one of two mounted regiments composed of black enlisted men and white officers that became known as the Buffalo Soldiers. He was brevetted brigadier general and major general in the regular army in 1867, beginning a long and vigorous career serving on the western frontier.

Grierson headed the District of the Indian Territory, commanding Fort Riley, Kansas and Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, from 1867 until 1869. He selected the site for Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and commanded the post until 1872. After two years supervising recruiting efforts in St. Louis, in 1875 he was sent to Fort Concho, Texas, where he then commanded the District of the Pecos from 1878 until 1880. In the following years he was in charge of the District of New Mexico and then the Department of Arizona.

For nearly a quarter of a century Grierson was actively engaged in scouting and exploring throughout the western states and territories, often in the midst of the most hostile Indians of the frontier. He was known to treat both Indians and his black troops as tolerantly as was possible and seems to have earned affection and loyalty from those men who served closely with him.

Grierson married Alice Kirk in 1854, and they had seven children. Alice died in 1888, and in 1897, Grierson married the widow Lillian Atwood King. In 1890, after finally being awarded the rank of brigadier general in the regular army, Grierson retired to his ranch in Concho, Texas. He died of a stroke in 1911.


2 Linear Feet (5 boxes)


Volunteer military officer during the Civil War, organizer of the U.S. Army Tenth Cavalry in 1866, commander of various Western army posts and active in opening the Western frontier until retirement in 1890. Grierson’s papers consist of correspondence (including over a hundred letters to his wife, Alice Kirk Grierson), documents such as orders, reports and maps and other military material, as well as personal miscellany relating to his service in the Western Territories. Microfilm copy available in the Newberry Library.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence, 1865-1888
Box 1
Series 2: Incoming Correspondence, 1867-1890
Boxes 2-3
Series 3: Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1868-1889
Box 3
Series 4: Military Documents, 1866-1889
Boxes 4-5
Series 5: Miscellaneous Material, approximately 1865-1888
Box 5
Series 6: Maps, 1868-1889
Box 5

Collection Stack Location

VAULT 26 1-2


Purchase, 1938, 1942.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2011.

Inventory of the Benjamin Henry Grierson papers, 1865-1890
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States