Cover image for The colonel's lady on the western frontier : the correspondence of Alice Kirk Grierson
Title:
The colonel's lady on the western frontier : the correspondence of Alice Kirk Grierson
Author:
Grierson, Alice Kirk, 1828-1888.
Publication Information:
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, [1989]

©1989
Physical Description:
xiii, 255 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1260 Lexile.
ISBN:
9780803228863

9780803279292
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

The modern woman who tries to juggle private and public roles with equilibrium will discover a spiritual ancestor in Alice Kirk Grierson. The colonel's lady spent most of her lift at army outposts on the nineteenth-century western frontier, where she faced the problems of raising a large family while fulfilling the duties of a commanding officer's wife. Fortunately for history, she left a large and extraordinarily candid correspondence, which has now been edited by Shirley Anne Leckie.

Alice was the wife of Benjamin B. Grierson, a major general in the Civil War who won fame for a raid that contributed to the fall of Vicksburg. Her letters begin in 1866, when her husband reentered the army as colonel of the legendary "buffalo soldiers" of the Tenth Cavalry, and end with her death in 1888. During these years she chronicles the criticism experienced by her husband in commanding one of the army's two black mounted regiments and the frustration when he is repeatedly passed over for promotion, in part because he advocated a more humane Indian policy. All the while her position requires her to assume heavy responsibilities as a hostess. Her letters are just as unflinching in describing the daily hard-ships of raising a family at frontier posts like Forts Riley, Gibson, Sill, Concho, Davis, and Grant, where two of her seven children died young and two suffered from manic-depressive psychosis. They are extraordinary for their insight into nineteenth-century attitudes toward birth control, childbearing, marital roles, race relations, and mental illness.


Summary

The modern woman who tries to juggle private and public roles with equilibrium will discover a spiritual ancestor in Alice Kirk Grierson. The colonel's lady spent most of her life at army outposts on the nineteenth-century western frontier, where she faced the problems of raising a large family while fulfilling the duties of a commanding officer's wife. Fortunately for history, she left a large and extraordinarily candid correspondence, which has now been edited by Shirley Anne Leckie.

Alice was the wife of Benjamin B. Grierson, a major general in the Civil War who won fame for a raid that contributed to the fall of Vicksburg. Her letters begin in 1866, when her husband reentered the army as colonel of the legendary "buffalo soldiers" of the Tenth Cavalry, and end with her death in 1888. During these years she chronicles the criticism experienced by her husband in commanding one of the army's two black mounted regiments and the frustration when he is repeatedly passed over for promotion, in part because he advocated a more humane Indian policy. All the while her position requires her to assume heavy responsibilities as a hostess. Her letters are just as unflinching in describing the daily hard-ships of raising a family at frontier posts like Forts Riley, Gibson, Sill, Concho, Davis, and Grant, where two of her seven children died young and two suffered from manic-depressive psychosis. They are extraordinary for their insight into nineteenth-century attitudes toward birth control, childbearing, marital roles, race relations, and mental illness.


Author Notes

In her introduction Shirley Anne Leckie adds to the portrait of a forthright woman who stood up to unremitting demands without sacrificing her own identity. An associate professor of history at the University of Central Florida, she is coauthor, with William H. Leckie, of Unlikely Warriors: General Benjamin H. Grierson and His Family (1984).


In her introduction Shirley Anne Leckie adds to the portrait of a forthright woman who stood up to unremitting demands without sacrificing her own identity. An associate professor of history at the University of Central Florida, she is coauthor, with William H. Leckie, of Unlikely Warriors: General Benjamin H. Grierson and His Family (1984).


Reviews 3

Choice Review

Alice Kirk Grierson (1828-1888) wrote letters over a lifetime that will forever change the stereotypical image of the "madonna of the prairie." Leckie (University of South Florida) provides remarkably lucid editorial comment to this set of letters detailing how Benjamin Grierson's wife actively managed her home and children. Alice Grierson deals frankly with issues affecting the relationship of 19th-century husbands and wives. Rarely did women so openly state they would not come home for six months for fear of another pregnancy, or confess to unceremoniously ridding themselves of unwanted guests, or acknowledge so freely their sexual attraction. Plagued by the tragedy of death, and forced to deal with two adult sons' insanity, Alice Grierson neverthless challenged Victorian attitudes about women's dependency and became "a tough and intrepid woman." This is an excellent book, valuable as a research source because her letters are included, and equally valuable as analysis and chronicle because Leckie's editing is so precise. Absolutely necessary for collections of American west military and women's history, and complements the historical experiences of other women such as Elizabeth Custer and Martha Summerhayes. V. T. Avery Northern Arizona University


Publisher's Weekly Review

The remarkably resilient wife of a commanding officer in the U.S. Army, Grierson spent some 20 years (1866-1888) in remote military outposts on the western frontier. She writes frankly and intelligently, with minimal complaints, about hardships she experiences as an Army dependent--moving from one makeshift dwelling to the next; making 22-hour journeys by stagecoach to visit relatives; coping on her own while her husband fights against the Plains Indians; and raising seven children, three of whom die in their youth. Though she seems satisfied with her role as a wife and mother, the letters to her husband express support for equal rights for women, particularly at home. She emphasizes that she wants to exercise greater control over the frequency of marital relations and conception. Leckie's well-researched commentary provides an engrossing, detailed look at aspects of American social history, including the maltreatment of black enlisted men by white officers and their wives. Leckie is the co-author of Unlikely Warriors: General Benjamin H. Grierson and His Family. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice Review

Alice Kirk Grierson (1828-1888) wrote letters over a lifetime that will forever change the stereotypical image of the "madonna of the prairie." Leckie (University of South Florida) provides remarkably lucid editorial comment to this set of letters detailing how Benjamin Grierson's wife actively managed her home and children. Alice Grierson deals frankly with issues affecting the relationship of 19th-century husbands and wives. Rarely did women so openly state they would not come home for six months for fear of another pregnancy, or confess to unceremoniously ridding themselves of unwanted guests, or acknowledge so freely their sexual attraction. Plagued by the tragedy of death, and forced to deal with two adult sons' insanity, Alice Grierson neverthless challenged Victorian attitudes about women's dependency and became "a tough and intrepid woman." This is an excellent book, valuable as a research source because her letters are included, and equally valuable as analysis and chronicle because Leckie's editing is so precise. Absolutely necessary for collections of American west military and women's history, and complements the historical experiences of other women such as Elizabeth Custer and Martha Summerhayes. V. T. Avery Northern Arizona University


Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Early Years On The Frontierp. 11
Chapter 2 Fort Concho Life in "the Most God-Forsaken Part of Uncle Sam's Dominions"p. 71
Appendix Biographical Sketchesp. 199
Abbreviationsp. 217
Notesp. 219
Bibliographyp. 239
Indexp. 249