Willaim Grier: Grant Makes Him a Colonel
By Thomas P. Farner, 2003
This is the final part in a series printed in the SandPaper on the life of General William N. Grier before he arrived in Manahawkin, New Jersey, as President of the Stafford Land Company in the early 1870’s.
Grier and his 1st U. S. Cavalry had played a key role in what has been called the Peninsula Campaign from May-June 1862. He received a saber wound leading a charge at Williamsburg, Virginia, and also suffered from other physical problems. He wrote in 1866, “At the time we left Yorktown, it was my misfortune to be suffering from dysentery. Nevertheless (against the recommendations of my surgeon) I remained with the Army of the Potomac until it reached ‘Harrison’s Landing’ on James River – avoiding the sick report during the whole xxxxxxx.”
But in August 1862 the situation became critical most effective weight loss supplement. Grier wrote, “I was no longer able to ride my horse half a mile without falling off; was sent from the field.”
For the hard charging cavalry officer of the American west, the opening of the Civil War 1862-65, saw him confined to a desk. First sitting on court-martials in St. Louis, Missouri from September 1862 to February 1863, then as a recruiting officer in Ohio and Iowa. Of this time in his career he remembered he was, “still suffering for a year and a half with chronic dysentery, and then with typhoid fever, and chills and fevers – yet, laboring hard at officer duties, and avoiding leaves of absence and sick reports.”
As the Civil War was winding down in March 1865, Grier was awarded the Brevet rank of Brigadier General for meritorious service in the war. With peace and improved health Grier again wanted to lead a cavalry regiment but the army was downsizing and commands were few and far between. In 1897, General U. S. Grant’s son Fredrick Dent Grant wrote an article for The New York World Sunday magazine about his father. A portion was entitled, ‘How Grier Became a Colonel.—
“A good illustration of how he appreciated a kindness may be given in his thoughtfulness of Lieut. (afterwards Col.) Grier, who was a tactical officer at West Point when my father was a cadet. My father occupied a room with Cadet [George] Deshon, who is now a priest in the Paulist Church in New York. Upon one occasion Deshon ventured forth upon a foraging expedition and brought back a turkey, and my father and he were cooking this treasure in their room when Lieut. Grier came in upon them while making a tour of inspection. The odor of roasting turkey was strong in the room and must have smote the officer in his nostrils before he crossed the threshold. He walked around, keeping his eyes continually upon the ceiling, and announced with ostentatious severity: ‘Gentlemen, it seems to me I can smell something cooking.’ Grier carefully avoided looking at the guilty faces of the two young fellows or towards the fowl on their hearth. It was perfectly clear that he had not the faintest intention of reporting them, and he did not do so. Of course he should have reported them, for their’s was a serious offense. His consideration saved the boys a great deal of trouble, and possibly from dismissal from the corps of cadets, and in after years, when the reorganization of the army took place, my father remembered the favor shown to him by Grier, and he did not allow the pressure brought by the friends of other officers to secure them places in the new army list to overweigh the just and proper claims of one who had rendered a kindness to him in his early life. Grier, who was a brave and efficient officer, became a Colonel.”
In August 1866, Grier was named Commander of the 3rd U. S. Cavalry. In July 1867. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had decided to revise the manuals of tactics used by the U. S. Army. On the 9th a Board of distinguished officers was convened to evaluate and recommend the new manual’s adoption. Heading the Board was General U. S. Grant along with General George Gordon Meade, hero of Gettysburg and designer of Barnegat Lighthouse and West Point classmate of William Grier, who was also appointed to serve on the Board.
After the Board disbanded Grier became the Commander of Fort Union, New Mexico where he remained until 1870 when the regiment was transferred to Camp Halleck, Nevada. Grier’s health began to decline and he was hospitalized in San Francisco. Later that year on December 15 he requested retirement after 35 years in the service of his country. It was his background of fighting Indians with Kit Carson, for dashing charges at the head of his regiment that Grier brought to the little cottage on Stafford Avenue and almost immediately The New Jersey Courier of Toms River began to refer to the Grier house as the ‘Cavalry Cottage,’ the name by which most people know it today.
It would appear even then that his adopted home wanted to show their respect for the new resident and its only fitting that 133 years after his retirement the modern citizens of Stafford chose to purchase and preserve the building and recognize the 35 years of faithful service he gave to his country.