I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on the Civil War, but periodically I am surprised by an event that I have not read about. This is the case with Timothy Smith’s The Real Horse Soldiers.
The book is a great narrative and analysis of the Union raid led by Colonel Benjamin Grierson. Smith describes the strategic situation in Mississippi prior to the raid. He then explains in detail the Union plans to divert Confederate attention with several raids and how those raids were planned to be executed.
Smith also excels in his descriptions of the major officers and men (Union and Confederate) that proved pivotal in the main raid. For example, he rightly criticizes Confederate Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, area commander, for vacillating on whether to confront General Grant or pursue Grierson. This vacillation doomed the Confederacy at not only at Vicksburg, but also in the Western Theater.
Smith highlights numerous examples of Grierson’s superior decision making abilities. For instance, during the raid, he made the decision to push his troopers through the night in order to avoid pursuers and surprise a new target.
Smith’s writing is easy to read and follow. He explains complex strategy and tactics in simple terms that even the most novice reader can follow. He also includes plenty of maps throughout the book.