Benjamin Carl Tracy was born in 1832 in New York, the son of Philander (1801-1873) and Anne (Rusell).
New York natives Philander and Anne ir Annie were married in January of 1827, probably in New York.
According to the Grand Rapids Eagle, in 1820 Philander left Cayuga County, New York, and took up sailing on the the “Upper Lakes.” He reportedly owned and sailed “the schooner Ainsworth, between Buffalo and Chicago for several years, with headquarters in Buffalo. With this schooner he visited Grand Haven [Ottawa County] as early as 1824,” and
came to Grand Rapids in the winter of 1835-6, starting from Chicago by stage; from White Pigeon [St. Joseph County] hiring a team to Kalamazoo [Kalamazoo County]; from there he could get no conveyance till he agreed to bring the mail, when a horse was furnished him and he started on horseback. The horse tired out, on the way, leaving the nag he proceeded on foot, carrying the mail bag and a heavy valise. Coming to the mouth of the Thornapple, he had a good exercise with his powerful lungs, hallooing to Hon. Rix Robinson across the river, a mile or more distant. He succeeded in making himself heard, was ferried across and then made his way down to ‘the Rapids’. . . . In 1838 he removed to Flat river, now Lowell, where he resided some seven years. While there he buried his [first] wife and subsequently married Julia Ann [Smith of Ada, Kent County]. Removing again to Grand Rapids about 1845 he has since resided here [and] his principal occupation has been that of lumberman, in which he was moderately successful.
(Indeed, there appears to be no record of a Philander Tracy in Cayuga County, New York in 1820 or in 1810. In fact Philander Tracy doesn’t appear listed in New York census records, with the exception of one Philander Tracey who was living in Troy, New York in 1860.)
By 1860 Philander was living in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward and also in the Third Ward in 1870. (In 1889 and 1890 one Elvira Tracy, the widow of Philander, was living at 163 Lake Avenue in Grand Rapids.) By 1859-60 Benjamin was living on the west side of LaGrave Street between Island and Oakes Streets, and in 1860 he was a lumber dealer working for George Nelson in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward.
According to his niece Georgie Yale, Benjamin had been married to one “Trazey Tracy.” Benjamin filed divorce proceedings against her in early 1861, charging several counts of adultery and he was granted a divorce in April of 1861 in Newaygo County.
Sometime in early 1861 Benjamin became actively involved in the Valley City Guard, the prewar Grand Rapids militia company whose members would form the nucleus of Company A, although he was 29 years old and living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted as Second Sergeant in Company F on May 13, 1861. Before the Third Michigan left Grand Rapids for Washington, DC, on June 13 1861, Tracy testified in the Kingin murder trial on June 10. Kingin was accused of killing Dan Barber, treasurer for Algoma Township, in late February, and Tracy was the one who found the body near Laphamville in Kent County.
Benjamin was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on January 1, 1862, and in May was absent sick in the general hospital in Yorktown, Virginia. According to Isaac Reed, formerly of Company K and who was detached to serve as a wagoner for much of the war, sometime in 1861 or early 1862 Benjamin “had been detached from the regiment to serve as asst. quartermaster 3rd brig 3rd div 3 army corps afterwards consolidated with 2nd corps. He thus became my immediate superior officer and our duties brought us together constantly. I well remember that about May 1862 Capt. Tracy became unable to mount his horse because of piles and at the same time he complained of diarrhea or dysentery. He was so bad that I had to run the wagon train alone for three or four days.” He was in the general hospital in Yorktown, Virginia in May.
According to Dan Crotty of Company F, Tracy was the Regimental Quartermaster during the battle of Second Bull Run on August 29, 1862, when he was “severely wounded in the hip.” He was promoted to First Lieutenant on October 25, 1862, commissioned September 1, replacing Lieutenant Simon Brennan, and was Acting Brigade Quartermaster from October 27, 1862, and chief of the ambulances for Third Brigade from December 5 through March of 1863. He was acting Third Brigade Quartermaster from April through May of 1864, and was mustered out on June 20, 1864, at Detroit.
After the war Benjamin returned to Grand Rapids and was a witness at the marriage of Miles Adams and Anna Reed in Muskegon in September of 1864.
He married his second wife, Vermont-born widow named Harriet Louisa Withey Devendorf (1834-1910) on May 31, 1865, in Grand Rapids (her first husband died in 1863) and they had at least three children: Minne Anne (b. 1866, Mrs. A. Johnson), Mrs. Caroline or Carrie E. Lindquist (b. 1868) and Estelle Louise (Mrs. F. C. Stevens). (She also had a daughter Harriet, b. 1855, by her previous marriage.)
For a while he worked as a teamster and lived at 250 South Division Street from 1867-69, and he was working in that capacity and living with his wife Harriet and three children in Grand Rapids’ First Ward in 1870. He eventually resumed his work in the lumber industry, and by the spring of 1878 Tracy was “in charge of Parson's lumbering camp, on the south branch of the Pere Marquette river, [and] after passing a couple of days with his family, left for his work again yesterday. He says there is in connection with Mr. Parsons logging operations a pole railroad, so-called, and that it works admirably.” He also served as a deputy U.S. marshall.
Ben eventually returned to Grand Rapids where he took up building and contracting, and by 1880 he was working as a contractor and living with his wife and three daughters in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward.
In fact, he was living in Grand Rapids in 1881-82, 1884-5, 1895-97 and was most likely a resident of Grand Rapids the remainder of his life.
He was living in the Second Ward in 1880, in the city in 1888, at 108 Monroe in 1889, and in the Third Ward in 1890 (at 52 Coit Avenue) and 1894.
He was an active member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, serving three terms as president from 1898-1900. He was also a member of Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids, the Old Settlers’ Association, and he was a witness for Charles Houbel’s pension. In 1885 he applied for and received a pension (no. 681262).
Benjamin died of valvular heart disease on November 3, 1902 at his home on 123 Paris Avenue in Grand Rapids.
During the funeral service General Byron R. Pierce, another former member of the Old Third, and “who was close to Captain Tracy during his war career,” spoke “in the highest terms of praise of the deceased. ‘Captain Tracy served with distinction all through the war,’ said the general, ‘and was promoted to the position of master of transportation of the division. He was a man who always loved his friends and he has probably helped bury as many of the Old Third boys as anyone. He was always on duty on these occasions.’”
He was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: section 1 lot 34.
In 1903 Louisa applied for and received a widow’s pension (no. 658334).