Grierson Family Home
The long-time home of Benjamin H. Grierson. Grierson was a talented musician who wrote music for Lincoln's presidential campain, but he is more well known for his work in the military, serving as a cavalry commander during the Civil War, and the Indian Wars. Grierson was known to have been a personal friend of Lincoln.
Backstory and Context
The youngest son of two Scotch-Irish immigrants, Benjamin Grierson, even from a young age, possessed voracious interest in music. As his mother still held strong ties to her homeland, Benjamin recalls being raised on old Irish folksongs, and he quickly learned an impressive variety of instruments. By the time he had reached adulthood, he was regularly giving music lessons to those interested, organizing his own troupe, and even playing campaign music for William H. Harrison in 1840. He had also courted, and would eventually marry, Alice Kirk, a fellow Scotch-Irish immigrant from the area. By this time, the entire Grierson family took advantage of the economic opportunities in the West, and moved to Jacksonville Illinois. The couple spent a few years living in their in-law’s house, but with the birth of their first son, the two wasted no time in purchasing their own house in Meredosia, where he started a storefront. It would not be until later that they would return to the family home in Jacksonville. At this time, he once again took an interest in politics. A member of the republican party, Grierson wrote a campaign song for Lincoln’s candidacy, and the two eventually started a correspondence. Supposedly, Lincoln even spent a night in the Meredosia home.
While the Grierson family always shared a mutual contempt for slavery, none had taken a definite stand against it. However, as political tensions finally boiled over, and the Civil War began, Grierson, who had fallen upon economic hardships, began to look for work as a Union soldier to support his family. An old friend of his, Benjamin Prentiss, had recently achieved the rank of Illinois’ Brigadier General, was quick to offer Grierson a job serving as aide-de-camp. Over the course of several years, Grierson quickly found himself rising in the ranks as a cavalry officer, and eventually Chief of Cavalry for the Sixteenth Army Corps. He distinguished himself the most upon performing what would become “Grierson’s Raid”, one instrumental in Grant’s advances on Vicksburg, and the Union’s victory as a whole. Even after the Civil war, he still continued his military career in the Indian Wars, commanding the US 10th cavalry regiment, an all-black regiment that would become more well-known as the buffalo.
While Benjamin Grierson himself moved frequently due to his line of work, his wife and children were almost permanent residents of their Jacksonville home, Alice occasionally leaving Jacksonville to live with him for brief stints. In some cases, the older children would be left under the care of Louisa Grierson, Benjamin’s sister. Following his retirement in 1890, he would live between the Jacksonville home and his Texas ranch up until his death in 1911. Land rights to the home were never established, and was seemingly lost to the Grierson lineage following the death of Lillian, his second wife.
Leckie, William and Leckie, Shirley. Unlikely warriors: General H. Benjamin Grierson and His Family. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984.