Benjamin Grierson began his life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Through fate he wound up in Jacksonville, Illinois, where he made a profound impact. He is now honored with a mural purely dedicated to his accomplishments in life, proof that he is a man worthy of Jacksonville’s pride.
Backstory and Context
Grierson’s amazing musical ability peaked during his time in Jacksonville. In his biography he is mentioned saying that “much additional music was written and arranged for the excellent band and orchestra in Jacksonville, of which I was the leader.” He often wrote for private entertainments and Christmas family meetings, which he very much enjoyed. He never got around to publishing music, but many Jacksonville citizens urged him too. Instead he left them stowed away in his attic; a reminder of a dream he had for later in his life.
At the outbreak of the Civil War Grierson was 34, a husband, and a father of two young boys. At this point in his life he had no military training, but was active in politics within his community. He learned under many politicians-turned soldiers, and in 1862 Richard Yates made him colonel of the 6th Illinois Cavalry. During the war he served under “appreciative eyes” of William T. Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant. Unfortunately a knee injury interrupted his military career, but gave him time to visit those back home in Jacksonville.
Of his short return home he mentions, “I had been so well known at Jacksonville before the war that, although I remained quietly housed at our old homestead, many people came to see me there” (???). Many of his close friends in Jacksonville were the professors of Illinois College, and teachers of other learning institutes. Even without his contribution to his nation, Grierson clearly was a man of good stature.
Grierson, the military leader, was most famous for his leading of an amazing cavalry raid through Missouri towards the end of April in 1863. After the war he remained in the army and contributed greatly. In 1897 he married Lillian King, a widow of Jacksonville, and remained there for the remained of his life, dying in his summer home on August 31, 1911. He is buried in Jacksonville East Cemetery.
The mural was created by Dave Petri of Green Bay, WI to commemorate the accomplishments of Benjamin Grierson.
Dinges, Bruce J., and Shirley A. Leckie, eds. A Just and Righteous Cause: Benjamin H. Grierson Civil War Memoir. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008.