GENEALOGYTRAILS
HARRISON COUNTY, MISSOURI
Notable Citizens
Major General Benjamin Prentiss

MAJOR GENERAL BENJAMIN PRENTISS
1819-1901
Source: Bethany Republican Feb.13, 1901
excerpts transcribed by: Melody Beery

THE OLD HERO OF SHILOH PASSES AWAY

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss died at his residence in this city, at 7:40 o'clock Friday morning, Feb. 8, 1901, aged 81 years, 2 months and 16 days.

It had been known to our readers and to the people generally that the Generals health had been failing for the last year or so; also, that his mental facilities were weakening, hence, although at last the end came rather suddenly, it was not entirely unexpected.  His condition was not considered so very serious until Tuesday of last week, when he was taken with a sinking spell, and for a few hours he was in a critical condition, yet he rallied, and with the wonderful vitality he possessed, was able to be up and around the room, and partake of nourishment for supper.  But to Dr. J. Walker, his physician, and the attendants who waited upon him, this change seemed to impress them that some thing more serious would follow.  It came Thursday afternoon, Feb. 7, when the grand old hero was stricken with paralysis on his right side, and from that time until his death he never regained consciousness, and at 7:40 Friday morning, without a struggle, his spirit peacefully returned to Him who gave it.

The news of his death was soon known over town, and in a short time flags at half mast were displayed at the armory and at other businesses and residences where there were flagstaffs.  The services were held at the First Methodist Church.  The remains, under the escort of the G.A.R., were brought from the residence to the church at about 1 o'clock p.m., and from that time until the opening of the services at 2:30 o'clock. lay in state, and were viewed by hundreds of our people, as well as many from the adjoining towns, and also many from a distance.  Long before the time for the services the spacious church building began filling, and by the time the family and relatives arrived every seat in the auditorium, annex and class rooms were filled.


 

BIOGRAPHICAL OUTSIDE HIS MILITARY RECORD

Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss was born at Belleville, Wood County,Va., Tuesday November 23, 1819, and died at his residence at Bethany, Mo. Friday Feb. 8, 1901, aged 81 years, 2 months and 16 days.

In his early life his parents moved to Missouri and settled at a Little town north of Hannibal, called Taylors Mills.  Remaining there a few years the family moved to Quincy Il, in 1841, and there the deceased made his home until 1879, when he removed to Kirksville, this state.  Remaining there two years he moved to Bethany in 1881, which became his home until his death.  On March 29, 1838 he was married to Margaret Ann Lodousky, in Marion County, Mo.  to this union 7 children were born - Harrison Tyler (Tip), Guy Champlain Allen, Martha Rebecca, Jacob Henry, Ella, Benjamin Mayberry, and Clay.  Of these Harrison Tyler, Guy and Martha have passed away.  Jacob lives at Bethany as does Ella, who is the wife of Dr. C.J. Blackburn; Benjamin is a resident of Colorado, and Clay of Bethany.  Mrs. Margaret Ann Prentiss died at Quincy Il. August 21, 1860.

On November 11, 1862, at Quincy Ill. he was agained married to Mary Worthington Whitney.  Five children were born of this union- Joseph Whitney, now residing in Bethany; Arthur Oglesby, living in California; Jessie May, who died in infancy; Edgar Worthington, present postmaster in Bethany, and Mary, wife of J.W. Cover, of this city.  Mrs. Prentiss died July 28, 1894.

In early life he followed the business of rope making, and his services were in considerable demand as an auctioneer.  But he was a born soldier, and as soon as opportunity offered, his services in this line were given to his state and to the nation.

Politically, originally a Whig, he was one of the founders of the Republican party, and no man was more earnest, more sincere and more enthusiastic in espousing its principals.  As a political speaker, it was remarkable the enthusiasm he could arouse, and although very outspoken in regard to his sentiments, yet his earnestenss and honesty gained for him the respect of his opponents.  In years gone by he was prominent in State and National conventions of the party, and always met with a cordial reception.  He was a delegate at large from his state to the National Republican convention, held at Chicago in 1884, when Blaine and Logan were nominated, and was honored on that occasion by being selected to second the nomination of Gen. John A. Logan, between whom and the General a strong friendship existed.

In 1889 he was appointed postmaster at Bethany, by President Harrison, holding the same until 1893, after Cleveland's election.  The disastrous and pauperizing free trade administration of the latter, made the election of McKinley an easy matter in 1896, and Gen. Prentiss was again appointed; but on account of failing health he was compelled to tender his resignation a few months ago, and his son Edgar W., on whom all the cares and responsibilities of the office had long devolved, was appointed in his stead.

In this connection, we would state that in the telegraphic reports appearing in last Saturdays papers of the Generals Death, there were several misstatements, the most annoying to the family and friends being that the General left a widow in destitute circumstances, and that he and his wife, for some time, had been living on the charity of a married daughter.  The facts were that the General left no widow, she having died July, 1894; that he was not dependent upon the charity of a married daughter or anyone else, and that he owned, free from all incumbrance, one of the best residences in this city.




HIS MILITARY RECORD

On June 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 same rank.

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 kept.

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 frontier.

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.

His heroic 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 was.

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.

HE WAS NO RETREATER

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 ON SHILOH

Julian Hawthorne, the historian, in his history of the United States, in writing of the Battle of Shiloh, says:

"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 MISSOURI LEGISLATURE

On Monday the following resolutions and preamble were offered in the House of Representatives, by the Hon. J.D. Officer and unanimously passed:

WHEREAS:  This 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.
We understand that reolutions in the Senate were to be offered yesterday.



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