Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Roughshod Through Dixie: Grierson's Raid 1863"

Given the renowned Civil War "story" of Grierson's Raid told in print and film, it's a bit surprising that a modern study has not arrived to surpass Dee Brown's decades old classic. Volume 12 of Osprey Publishing's Raid series and coming in at a slender 80 pages, Mark Lardas's Roughshod Through Dixie: Grierson's Raid 1863 [2010, ISBN:9781846039935 $18.95] is not such an ambitious attempt, but rather a sleek overview of the 1863 Union cavalry raid that set out from LaGrange, Tennessee, taking a disruptive and destructive course through Mississippi before concluding in Louisiana at Baton Rouge.

Always keeping in mind the raid's supporting role within the overall 1863 Mississippi campaign, Lardas takes the reader through it's planning and execution in daily increments (sixteen in all). A map and sidebar time and event markers further chart the progress of the mounted raiders, as they wrecked Mississippi transportation infrastructure and successfully diverted Confederate attention from the movements of Grant's army below Vicksburg. The author is correct that leader Benjamin Grierson materially aided the long process of capturing the Hill City, but is premature in asserting that the mid-1863 operation demonstrated that the Confederacy was "a hollow shell". That would certainly be the case in the following year, but Confederate mismanagement of their substantial western theater mounted forces was a much greater factor in this particular raid's success than a wider lack of resources.

This study has all of the typical visual presentation hallmarks of an Osprey book, with numerous period photographs and illustrations, as well as original color artwork [among them, bird's eye view paintings of the attacks on the towns of Enterprise and Hazelhurst]. The operational map traces the progress of the main force, as well as the movements of its trio of diversionary and supporting detachments. Confederate troop concentrations are also marked. Roughshod Through Dixie is a solid history of Grierson's famous raid.

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