Monday, September 17, 2007

Daniel Benton

Daniel Benton was born February 16, 1840, in Madison County, New York, probably near Rome or Lenox, the son of Melanchton (1799-1852) and Ruah (Benedict, 1802-1850).

Daniel’s father, who had been named for a German Protestant reformer who lived at the same time as Martin Luther, was living in Lenox, New York in 1824 when he married Ruah or Ruth Benedict. Sometime between 1848 and 1850, Melanchton and his wife and five sons joined his younger brother Eli in Michigan -- Eli had settled moved to Michigan around 1827 -- and staked out a claim in Otisco townsip, Ionia County, twelve miles northwest of Ionia village and three miles south of Belding. By 1850 Daniel was attending school with his two older siblings and living with his family in Otisco.

Although Daniel may have worked away from Ionia County for a time, as far as is known he farmed near his brothers in the Otisco area until the war broke out. According to the recollection of John Cooper, a neighbor in Ionia County, he and Daniel grew up together in Otisco Township, in Ionia.

Cooper also recalled that Dan was the first “boy” in the Township to enlist in 1861. And indeed Daniel was a 21-year-old farmer possibly living in Smyrna or Saranac, Ionia County when he enlisted in Company D on April 27, 1861, at Saranac, for three years. (Company D was composed in large part of men who came from western Ionia County and Eaton County.)

In fact, all five Benton brothers eventually enlisted in the army: the oldest, Charles M. died of typhoid fever in Louisville, Kentucky while serving in the Twenty-fifth Michigan infantry, Eli died of wounds in 1864 while serving with the Sixteenth Michigan, Alfred was serving with the Eighth Michigan infantry when he was killed during the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia in May of 1864; only George who served with the Twenty-fifth Michigan and Daniel survived the war.

Daniel was shot in the right shoulder on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, and according to his descriptive list written on September 22, 1862 by Captain Moses Houghton of Company D, Benton had in fact been wounded and taken prisoner at Second Bull Run on August 29 and subsequently paroled. “He has always proved,” added Houghton, “an efficient soldier.” By mid-September Daniel was in fact in E Street Baptist Church hospital in Washington, DC, and he remained hospitalized, probably at Detroit Barracks in Michigan until he was discharged for disability as a result of his gunshot wound at Detroit on December 19, 1862.

After his discharge from the army Daniel returned to Ionia County, probably to Saranac, and was living in Smyrna when he reentered the service in Company E, First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics on August 22, 1864, at Grand Rapids for one year, crediting Otisco Township, Ionia County. He probably joined the regiment near Stevenson, Alabama where part of the unit was engaged in building blockhouses along the rail line from Decatur to Stevenson.

In any case, Daniel probably spent very little time with the regiment. He was absent sick on October 14 in Alabama, and from December of 1864 through January of 1865 he was sick in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is quite possible that he rejoined the regiment sometime after the first of the year. It participated in the Carolina Campaign from January to April, 1865; in the advance on Raleigh April 10-14, and occupation of Raleigh April 14; in the surrender of Johnston and his army. The regiment then marched to Washington, D. C., via Richmond, Virginia, April 29-May 20, and was in the Grand Review on May 24. The regiment was ordered to Louisville, Ky. on June 6 (and would eventually be moved to Nashville where it would muster out in September), but Daniel remained in Washington, possibly still recovering his health. He was honorably discharged on June 6, 1865, at Washington, DC.

After his discharge from the army Daniel again returned to Ionia County, and in January of 1866 married Michigan native Ellen Hanks (b. 1849), presumably in Ionia County. They had at least two children: Ernest (b. 1866) and Frederick E. (b. 1870); Dan and Ellen were divorced in 1880.

By 1870 Daniel was working as a farmer (he owned some $2000 worth of real estate) and living with his wife and one child in Otisco, Ionia County; next door lived his brother George and his family. And just a few houses away lived Elam Moe and his family; Elam too had served in the Old Third. By 1880 Daniel was still working as a farmer and still living in Otisco with his wife and two sons, and he was living in Otisco in 1890. In fact, Daniel probably spent the remainder of his life on his old homestead near Belding, working as a farmer; he was living in Otisco in 1894.

He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and of Grand Army of the Republic Root Post No. 126, and reportedly attended the 1910 and 1920 reunions of the First Michigan Engineers & Mechanics Association.

In 1883 he was drawing $6.00 per month (pension no. 28,277), which had been increased to $65.00 per month by the end of 1928.

By 1897 Daniel had been diagnosed as “insane” and sometime before 1894 had been placed under the guardianship of his son Frederick, who, along with his own family, came to live on his father’s farm. Daniel was still under the care of his son in 1900 and 1912, and probably remained so until his death in 1928. Although curiously Daniel is not listed as living with either son in 1920.

Daniel died at his son’s (?) home in Otisco on December 28, 1928, and the funeral services were held at his home, the Rev. H. S. Ellis officiating. He was reportedly buried in River Ridge cemetery in Otisco Township.

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