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Colonel Grenfell's Wars

The Life of a Soldier of Fortune

360 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

Civil War

  Paperback / 9780807120347 / October 1995

“All Grenfell has lacked is a biographer and now he has found one. Stephen Starr is obviously fascinated with his subject and he transmits his fascination to the reader.”—Virginia Quarterly Review In the predawn hours of March 7, 1868, four prisoners aided by a guard escaped from Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas and headed a small, open fishing boat into a violent storm in the Gulf of Mexico. The men were never seen again.

One of them, Colonel George St. Leger Grenfell, was a British soldier of fortune who had come to America in 1862 and earned himself a unique place in the Confederate Valhalla. In this biography Stephen Z. Starr recounts the fascinating story of this romantic and neglected character.

Grenfell was a talented cavalry officer who served with John H. Morgan, Braxton Bragg, and J. E. B. Stuart. Yet his congenital restlessness hampered his effectiveness. In one of his most fantastic adventures, Grenfell plotted to help northern Copperheads take over the governments of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and establish a Northwestern Confederacy. When the plan—the “Chicago Conspiracy” as it became known—to attack Camp Douglas, free Confederate prisoners, and capture Chicago was discovered, Grenfell, along with 150 cohorts, was arrested. He and six of the principal collaborators were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Grenfell and three fellow prisoners planned the escape that apparently ended in tragedy, although rumors that the legendary soldier of fortune was still alive persisted for many years.

“Starr has produced an admirable, objective biography of this mysterious British soldier of fortune.”—Journal of American History

Stephen Z. Starr's definitive trilogy on the history of the Union cavalry includes The Union Cavalry in the Civil War, Volume I: From Fort Sumter to Gettysburg, 1861-1863, The Union Cavalry in the Civil War, Volume II: The War in the East from Gettysburg to Appomattox, 1863–1865 and The Union Cavalry in the Civil War, Volume III: The War in the West,1861–1865, completed shortly before his death in 1985. His other books are Colonel Grenfell's Wars: The Life of a Soldier of Fortune and Jennison's Jayhawkers: A Civil War Cavalry Regiment and Its Commander.

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