Scouting for Grant and Meade

Title:                      Scouting for Grant and Meade

Author:                 Peter G. Tsouras

Tsouras, Peter G. (2014). Scouting for Grant and Meade: The Reminiscences of judson Knight, Chief of Scouts, Army of the Potomac. New York: Skyhorse Publishing

OCLC:    879371738


E Book



Scouting for Grant and Meade is comprised of the popular recollections of Judson Knight, former chief scout of the Army of the Potomac from August 1864 to June 1865. Originally beginning as a serialized column in the armed forces service paper National Tribune, Knight’s column “Fighting Them Over Again” offers a rare glimpse into the comings and goings of scouts behind enemy lines during the American Civil War. A must-have for any history buff, Scouting for Grant and Meade not only offers a day-to-day account of a scout for the Union army, but also provides valuable insight into historical events from the perspective of an eyewitness. Knight reveals his unique experiences behind Confederate lines, including how he came across many women living alone on their own plantations with their slaves. His account revealed to his contemporaries that slaves living in the South never betrayed Union scouts hiding behind Confederate lines. Working within a newly growing military intelligence field, Knight details his daring and resourceful experiences, often taking orders directly from General Grant himself. Noteworthy for being well written for its time, Knight writes with a conversational tone that remains easily accessible to the modern reader. Extensively fact-checked, Scouting for Grant and Meade offers a personalized account of the bloodiest war ever to be fought on American soil.

Date Updated:  March 8, 2017

Compiled and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake.[1]

Reliable firsthand accounts of Civil War intelligence operations are often truth-challenged and written to embellish the author’s reputation; the memoir of putative general La Fayette C. Baker is a good example.[2] Scouting for Grant and Meade is a welcome exception. Peter Tsouras has done far more than edit the reminiscences of Judson Knight, former chief scout for the Army of the Potomac. Tsouras’ lengthy introduction provides a summary of Knight’s civilian and military career—essential background for Knight’s articles, which were published some 30 years after the war in the Washington, DC, National Tribune that eventually became The Stars and Stripes. Although Knight’s accounts mention well-known officers, fellow scouts, and famous battles, he provides no sources. Tsouras sought to determine their reliability by examining Civil War records in the National Archives. He found many reports from generals-Sheridan, Grant, and Meade, to name three—that supported Knight’s accounts, plus other documents that attested to the accuracy of his remarkable recollections.

Judson Knight enlisted in the Union Army in 1861 and first served as a scout during the Peninsula Campaign, Second Bull Run, and Antietam. He became ill in 1862 and was discharged to recover. In the fall of 1863, he rejoined the Army as civilian chief of scouts under the command of Colonel George Sharpe, who headed the newly formed Bureau of Military Intelligence. Much of his scouting supported the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg; but one of his most valuable contributions was establishing the link between Sharpe and Union agent Elizabeth Van Lew. Knight had met Van Lew’s brother, who told Knight his sister wanted to cooperate. (p. xxxi) Elizabeth became the principal Union source in Richmond. (p. 205)

While most of the accounts in Scouting for Grant and Meade were written by Knight, Tsouras also includes some material written by Knight’s scouts. The story of Anson Carney and his role in the disastrous Dahlgren Raid—intended to free Union prisoners in Richmond—is one example. (pp. 72ff)

Although Knight worked directly for Sharpe, he also received tasks from General Grant. Knight’s account of his mission to determine whether General Lee was being reinforced after the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse is of particular interest, both for its intelligence aspects and for the identification of his contacts among the Confederate civilians whom he met.

Scouting for Grant and Meade is a fine contribution to the Civil War intelligence literature, one of the very few that is both well documented and well told.

[1] Hayden Peake, “Intelligence Officer Bookshelf,” The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Stuidies (21, 2, Spring/Summer 2015, p. 125) Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of his reviews cited have appeared in recent unclassified editions of ClA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found online at

[2] Baker, La Fayette C. (1889; 2012). The United States Secret Service In The Late War, comprising the author’s introduction to the leading men at Washington, with the origin and organization of the United States Secret Service Bureau, and a graphic history of rich and exciting experiences, North and South. Philadelphia: J. E. Potter and Co. Republished (2012) Forgotten Books [LCCN: 02019813]



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