HIS MILITARY RECORD
8, 1846, Benjamin M. Prentiss volunteered as a soldier in the war with
Mexico; on the same day was commissioned Capt. of Company I, 1st regiment
Ill. Infantry, and was discharged with his company at Buena Vista, Mexico,
June 17, 1847.
The next call of his country found him ready and in
April 1861, he took the first company of Union Volunteers to Srpingfield,
Ill. On April 29, 1861 he was commissioned Colonel of the 10th
Regiment Ill., Inf. Vol.
On May 16, 1861, President Lincoln
promoted and commissioned him a Brigadier-General of Volunteers, his
commission as Brig.-Gen. being the same date as that of Gen. Grant to the
For gallantry in the field at Shiloh he was commissioned
a Major-General of Volunteers on Nov. 29, 1862. He resigned his
commission as Maj.-Gen., Oct. 28, 1863, being the first Maj.-Gen. of
Volunteers to tender his resignation.
Since Jan. 29, 1887 he
received a pension of $8.00 per month, as a soldier of the Mexican
War. This is the only pension he ever received or asked for.
Some years ago when his friends in Congress offered to pass a special act
pensioning him, he declined, and at that time stated to the writer, that
he believed that the private soldiers should all be pensioned before the
higher officers were given the larger pensions.
Gen. Prentiss was
detailed as a member of the famous court martial for the trail of Gen.
Fitz John Porter, and he was the last survivor of the members of that
famous court, and with him died its secrets so long and faithfully
After his return to civil life, he, for a short time followed
his profession as a lawyer, but when Grant became President he was
appointed United States pension agent at Quincy, Ill., and held that
office until the Illinois pension agencies were consolidated by law into
one agency at Chicago.
The life and public services of Gen.
Prentiss deserve more than a passing notice. In his early manhood he
become a pioneer, settling on what was then the extreme
Offering his services to his country at the first call to
arms, after arriving at mans estate, leaving his wife and young family, he
went forth as a common soldier, but his commission, and won his first
military laurels in the land of the Montezumas, and when he had served his
country until his services were no longer needed, returned as a true
volunteer soldier to the walks of civil life.
He discovered the
lowering war cloud in 1861 and was prepared for it. Before most men
thought of danger, he had a company ready for the first call to arms, and
took the first company of Union troops to Springfield, Ill, when the call
was sounded. A trained and tried soldier, he was among the first to
volunteer his services, when such men were badly needed.
fight at Shiloh on April 6, 1862, when he sacrificed himself and his
command, in obedience to orders, to hold his position at all hazards, and
thuus fighting and holding the flower of the rebel army at bay, until the
new lines could be formed, undoubtedly saved for the Unon cause, and won
for him the title of "Hero of Shiloh", which he everafterward carried, and
fully characterized his indominable character of standing for what he
blieved to be right without regard to consequences.
In the battle
of Helena, Ark, July 4, 1863, where he was attacked by the combined forces
of Holmes, Price, VanDorn, and Shelby, numbering more than three to his
one, Gen. Prentiss displayed military genius of a high order, and
administered a crushing defeat to the attacking rebel horde and had not
the country, at that time been electrified by the brilliant victories of
the great armies at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the battle of Helena would
have been hailed as a great Union victory, which, in fact, it
No man ever suffered more in reputation from the carelessness
or inaccuracies of the news reporter than did Gen. Prentiss, and even at
his death he was not escaped them from the time the army correspondent
cowering under the banks of the Tennessee River, reported that Prentiss'
division were surprised in their bunks and surrendered before 10:00
o'clock, to the time after his death, when the correspondents reported
that the General and his aged wife had for sometime been living on $8 per
month pension, and the charity of a married duaghter, he has been their
victim. Both statements were false. Indisputable history was
corrected the first; the falsity of the second is well known to his
neighbors, and I write this partly that his comrades and friends all over
the country may know the truth.
The last earthly remains of the old
hero, wrapped in the flag he had long loved and defended, were conveyed to
there final resting place, by the side of his wife, in Miriam Cemetery,
Bethany, Mo., on Sunday, Feb. 10, 1901, followed by his children, his
neighbors and his comrades. Some of these comrades had helped him to
create the "Hornets Nest" at Shiloh, and some had fought with him at
Helena. "Taps" have sounded; his light has gone out; a long life
devoted to the service of its country has ended; another hero gone.
He filled his place in the world; it was a high place, but he filled it
well. Let him rest in peace.
For more than twenty years the
late Gen. B.M. Prentiss was the victim of a singularly flase idea of the
part taken by his division in the battle of Shiloh. The first
reports of that almost hand-to-hand struggle between two great armies
stated that Gen. Prentiss division was surprised at daybreak and quickly
captured. As a matter of fact the division fough with the greatest
heroism for ten hours. It maintained its ground so stubbornly that
it was isolated and surrounded. The capture was due to the tenancity
with which the division held its ground from 6 o'clock in the morning
until 4 in the afternoon. But the first public impression of the
battle was hard to remove. Gen. Prentiss was often asked if he was taken
in his tent before he had time to form his lines. Many years after
the battle the Loyal Legion, realizing the injustice done to the General,
took hold of the matter and spread the truth about the prolonged and
manificent fight made by his division at Shiloh. If Prentiss had
known haw to retreat as well as he fought his division would not have been
made prisoners. GLOBE DEMOCRAT.
Julian Hawthorne, the historian, in his
history of the United States, in writing of the Battle of Shiloh,
"The Confederates, in a council of war, decided to surprise
the Federal camp at daybreak, on the 6th of April. Whether it was a
surprise or had been anticipated, may never be known, the southerners
think it was a surprise; Sherman and Grant appear to be of another
opinion. At all events the preparations to withstand it were not
effective. The pickets were driven in early in the morning, and
though a line was formed by Prentiss it did not stand before the rush of
Gen. Hardee's troops. Had Hardee pressed on he might have carried
the commands of Sherman and McClernand; but his men stopped to plunder
Prentiss' camp and they found the second Federal line more
stubborn....During the day Sherman was pressed hard by Hardee, supported
by Bragg, and began to be outflanked, and in the confusion was separated
from Prentiss. At two in the afternoon Sherman and McClernand on the
right were slowly being forced back, until they had lost a mile; Prentiss
and Wallace hasitly entrenched on a low hill, were holding the key of the
Federal battle, and the day depended on their resistance. Bragg
attacked again and again, and was repulsed with a terrible
slaughter. This was the "Hornets Nest", Bragg now attacked Prentiss
and Wallace position in the flank and carried it, Prentiss being
surrounded and captured, and Walllace mortally wounded, but they had
resisted for four hours, and, as it turned out, that was enough, for they
had saved the day for the Federals.
RESOLUTION BY THE
On Monday the following
resolutions and preamble were offered in the House of Representatives, by
the Hon. J.D. Officer and unanimously passed:
nation has suffered a great loss in the death of Gen. B.M. Prentiss, who
answered the last roll call on Feb. 8, and was buried yesterday at
Bethany, Mo.; and
WHEREAS: On the pages of history his name will
appear as one on whose bravery and indomitable courage hung the fate of
Shiloh battlefield, and, perhaps, the fate of the nation; a man who knew
what was right, and dared to tell it as he believed it; and
WHEREAS: The American people admire heroic courage and bravery,
whether in Blue or Gray; therefore be it
RESOLVED: The the House of
Representatives of the General Assembly of Missouri, through the chief
clerk, convey to the family of this illustrious soldier and eminent
citizen its profound sympathy in this sad hour of affliction, by
forwarding them a copy of this preamble and resolution.
that reolutions in the Senate were to be offered
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