Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My Civil War Ancestors: Benjamin Franklin McDaniel

In most cases, that of Peter Pelt being a sad exception, very little in the way of detailed stories is remembered regarding my relatives during the War Between the States.  The documentation for Benjamin Franklin McDaniel (September 1843 -- 3 March 1926) is a welcome exception, with most of the story coming from his application to the state of Florida for a pension as a Civil War veteran.

One interesting fact that shows up immediately is that the US War Department did not have any problem with helping Confederate veterans get their benefits.  The extreme bitterness of the War had passed, and many Confederate veterans were still alive, so they were not as easy to caricature as they are today.  In fact, Joseph Wheeler, who had been a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army and then, in the Spanish-American War, a major general in the US Army, died just a year before McDaniel's pension application.
The records show that Benjamin McDaniel, private, Company E, 4th Battalion Florida Infantry, also designated Company L, 11th Florida Infantry Confederate States Army, was enlisted October 12, 1863. On the muster roll of the company for November and December, 1864, last on file, he is reported absent sick in hospital at Richmond, Virginia, since September 17, 1864. 

The Union records of prisoners of war show that one Benjamin F. McDaniel, private (company not stated), 11th Florida Infantry, Confederate States Army, was surrendered with the regiment May 11, 1865, at Quincy, Florida, and paroled May 24, 1865, at that place. 

F. C. Ainsworth 
The Adjutant General
Why he was in Quincy at the end of the war is explained a bit further down.
... to the very best of my recollection I left Richmond during the latter part of the month of Dec 1864 under a sixty day furlow which later, owning to my continued bad health was extended thirty days about the expiration of the furlow. I started back to Richmond and got as far as Fort Gaines, Ga. at which place I was reliably informed that the Rail Roads were torn up and it would be impossible for me to get to my Company. I then returned home and in a very short while the Confederate Army surrendered. My health was at this time was not at all good.
Since he had sixty days of furlough beginning in late December 1864, followed by an additional thirty days, and since he does not mention it, he probably missed the Battle of Natural Bridge (March 6, 1865).  Presumably he was at his home in Wewahitchka at the time of the battle, and the distance from Wewahitchka to the battlefield is about 90 miles -- too far for him to have made it in the time available, even if word had gotten to him and he had been physically able to fight.  

One part of the documentation supplied for his application is a list supplied by Fred L. Robertson, who is in some places referred to as a colonel and in some places called a general.  Robertson played an important role in collecting and preserving information about soldiers from Florida, particularly in his book Soldiers of Florida in the Seminole Indian, Civil and Spanish-American Wars.  It's surprising how much bitterness he shows toward the men who served in the Home Guard so long after the war.  No doubt there were abuses, but I get the strong impression that just about every able-bodied man was sent to the front, and those left as Home Guard might well have been more hindrance than help.  Besides, there are more appropriate targets for his wrath:  the deserters who went over to the Union side, and even more the deserters from both sides who took advantage of the absence of able-bodied men to indulge themselves in crime.
Dear Sir: 
Yours of the 30th Ult. to hand and I give you the names of several members of the Company, and others of the regiment with the Post Office address of each. Out of these I sincerely hope you will be able to establish the needed proof. It is often extremely difficult to prove the record of the man who went to the front but Home Guards and Reserves can make all the proof they want and without trouble because neither the applicant or the witnesses ever got in reach of danger and, not being exposed they kept healthy. 

Very truly yours, 
Fred L. Robertson

The last few documents make for sad reading.  McDaniel suffered from the usual ailments of old age, and the medicine available a century ago was able to do little to help him.