Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book News: The Real Horse Soldiers

Grierson's Raid was one of the most celebrated mounted operations of the Civil War, and it even served (loosely) as the basis for John Ford's very popular 1959 movie The Horse Soldiers, but serious book-length studies have lagged behind (in quality, if not in number) interest in the topic. The classic account remains Dee Brown's Grierson's Raid (1954), and there have been some other popular treatments of more recent vintage (ex. the Underwood and Lilicki books) that I haven't read, but the most promising development on this front is news that Timothy Smith's The Real Horse Soldiers: Benjamin Grierson’s Epic 1863 Civil War Raid Through Mississippi (2018) is on the publishing horizon.

His The Decision Was Always My Own: Ulysses S. Grant and the Vicksburg Campaign (July 2018) will arrive first, but in terms of battles and operations history The Real Horse Soldiers will be Smith's first major return to the Vicksburg Campaign since his sterling debut Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg back in 2004. Vicksburg students will undoubtedly be delighted to learn that he's working on a book covering the May 19 and May 22 assaults, too. The Real Horse Soldiers also marks a homecoming with Savas Beatie after an extended sojourn among various academic presses (not surprising given Smith's career transition from park ranger to university professor).

In producing consistently excellent work at a startlingly rapid pace, Smith is rivaling Earl Hess at this point. At the rate both historians are checking things off my personal wishlist, I for one couldn't be happier.


  1. While not a history of Grierson's raid (though I remember it including at least a chapter on the real raid) Neil York's "Fiction as Fact: Horse Soldiers and Popular Memory" is a unique and occasionally fascinating look at the movie.

    1. I'll second that recommendation!

  2. John FoskettMarch 14, 2018

    Drew: Like you, I am continually impressed by Tim's "incessant" production of worthwhile work. He and Hess set the bar for combining quality and volume.


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