Timothy B. Smith
Savas Beatie, 2018, 336 pp., $32.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
I have been enjoying much of the coverage the Western Theater of the American Civil War has been gaining as of late. With the plethora of works coming out that are paying attention to this conflict, there has been little of that attention paid to Benjamin Grierson’s Raid. Most of those mentions come within the body of larger works and it is not fully described as much as I wanted it to be. The Real Horse Soldiers, by Timothy B. Smith is such a work that I have been waiting for. This book details everything about this raid and even more so, it gives the reader a deeper understanding of the Western Theater as a whole during the year of 1863.
Timothy B. Smith is a professor at the University of Tennessee and has authored many articles and essays. He also has a number of previous works under his belt including Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg, Rethinking Shiloh, and Corinth 1862. He received the Fletcher Pratt Award for and the McLemore Prize for Shiloh: Conquer or Perish. He also won the Tennessee History Book Award for Grant Invades Tennessee: The 1862 Battles for Fort Henry and Donelson. Timothy B. Smith has also served for the National Park Service.
To fully understand Grierson’s Raid, there must be a study wholly devoted to it, something Civil War Academia hasn’t had for some time. This book not only gives us an insight into how the plan was formulated, and how it all began, it is laid out for the reader in an interesting way. While reading this book, it almost felt like a thriller in many ways. There were even points where I felt that it read like a heist novel. It is that type of engaging writing that makes me glad that a book like this exists. It is informative without being too dry. But the book is not just about the exciting narrative, though it does help. This book gives us what we needed: a study on the raid itself. It was interesting to see the mindset of the man as he reached difficulties throughout the plan. But I would be remiss if I did not mention the attention to detail that Smith gave to the Confederate side as well. There were frustrations on Grierson’s part of not completely finding out where the enemy’s position was in certain portions of the book, and it is shown when describing the opposition here. Pemberton seemed like a force to be reckoned with, but in the end, Grierson overcame them all.
When I finished reading this book, one thought immediately came into my mind. Why are there not more works about this raid? It seems like an event in the Civil War that should be talked about more often, but it is glossed over. In other books about the Western Theater during the year of 1863, there are only mere mentions of how it aided in the cause, but a serious work was always lacking. That is one of the reasons that I recommend this book one hundred percent. I don’t only recommend it for the readers of the Western Theater, I recommend it all Civil War enthusiasts. This is a part of the war that should not be forgotten and I thank Timothy B. Smith for writing this work. I am glad to say that there is a well researched work on Grierson’s Raid that we can go to and I can see this becoming a classic.