John Warren Grigsby
John Warren Grigsby was born on
September 11, 1818, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the son of Joseph and Mary
Ashley Warren (Scott) Grigsby. His younger brother, Andrew Jackson Grigsby, was
later colonel of the 27th Virginia and commander of the Stonewall Brigade. One
cousin was future General E. E Paxton; another cousin married into the McCormick
Reaper family. A precocious youngster, J. Warren Grigsby edited a Rockbridge
County paper at age sixteen.' At age twenty-two he was appointed U.S. Counsel in
Bordeaux, France, serving abroad from 1841 to 1849. Upon his return to the U.S.,
Grigsby studied law and opened a practice in New Orleans. Marrying Susan Shelby,
the granddaughter of Kentucky's legendary Governor Isaac Shelby, Grigsby removed
to Kentucky and settled near Stanford in Lincoln County. There he farmed until
Like many other southern-leaning Kentuckians who respected their state's neutrality in the early months of the war, Grigsby does not appear to have been actively involved in the fighting until the Confederate invasion of Kentucky in the fall of 1862. That invasion, and the presence of a friendly army to protect them while they enlisted, prompted many Kentuckians to join the Confederate army. Assisting in raising a new cavalry regiment, the 6th Kentucky Cavalry, Grigsby was elected colonel of that regiment on September 2, 1862. The 6th was attached to Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler's cavalry corps of the Army of Tennessee, and Grigsby and Wheeler began what would be a long and close association. Grigsby was wounded in action at Milton, Tennessee, on March 20, 1863, while heading a charge against a Union battery. After this engagement his regiment was attached to the Kentucky cavalry brigade of Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan. Grigsby participated in Morgan's 1863 Ohio raid but, luckier or wiser than his chief, he escaped the capture (by swimming the Ohio River) that befell most of the brigade and returned to the South with about four hundred of Morgan's men. During the 1864 Atlanta campaign Grigsby led a brigade of Kentucky cavalry regiments in Wheeler's corps. The campaign opened with a Union division attempting on May 8, 1864, to seize Dug Gap, a mountain pass on the left flank of the Confederate main line. Unsupported, Grigsby and his troopers held off the Union attack all day, helping to save the main army's line of retreat. It was his finest hour as a Confederate. In the summer of 1864 Grigsby was relieved of his brigade command when appointed inspector general of all cavalry in the Army of Tennessee. By 1865 Grigsby was chief of staff of Wheeler's cavalry corps. A fellow trooper remembered Grigsby as "brave, determined, fearless, enterprising; he established a splendid reputation."
Returning to Kentucky, Grigsby
lived for a while in retirement on his Lincoln County estate, Traveler's Rest,
the old Shelby homestead. He then moved to Danville, Kentucky, to practice law.
Grigsby was elected, as a Democrat, to the Kentucky General Assembly in 1875. He
died in office at Lexington on January 12, 1877, and is buried in Lexington
Cemetery.' "One of the most distinguished men of Ky.," it was said of Grigsby
that "in him were centered all the qualities that make a man at once noble and
pure, generous, just and great."
SHSP and CV list Grigsby as a general. The latter has him appointed from Kentucky in 1864. However, he is mentioned in the OR as colonel as late as April, 1865, and he was paroled in May, 1865, as colonel. Perhaps his service as inspector general led to his being called "general."
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.