|Unit History Project|
Benjamin G. Hill, 11th Cavalry
Benjamin and his Family:
Benjamin G. Hill was born in 1844. The exact day and month is not found. His date of death is not found either. There are neither brothers nor sisters found listed. Benjamin was the son of Malinda Hill. His Grandfather was Richard Hill [B-abt 1775; D-abt.1855]; his G, Grandfather was Charles Hill [B-1778; D-?]; his G, G, Grandfather was Henry Hill [B-1760; D-?]. By records of the Madison County, Virginia 1850 Census, Benjamin was living with his grandfather, Richard (75 yrs.); his grandmother, Elizabeth (65 yrs.); his mother Malinda (38 yrs.) and Benjamin was 6 years old in that year.
(Ref: www.trees.ancestry.com) & (Ref: 1850 Virginia (Madison County); reel no. M432-958; sheet no. 66A; Reference: Handwritten page #131)
As a novice researcher and as the writer of Benjamin G. Hill’s Story, I have found very little about Benjamin’s family life in the historical documents. I could never find a “father” listed for Benjamin. This only leads me to the assumption that he was a child “out of wedlock” or his father’s name was never known nor recorded. His grandfather was listed as the “head of the house” along with his mother and grandmother in the Madison County, Virginia 1850 Census. (Ref: www.trees.ancestry.com)
[Benjamin’s service in the Civil War will be noted later in my story]
I find no information about Benjamin between the years of 1850 and 1870. At that time, in the 1870 Culpeper County, Virginia (Catalpa Township, First District) US Census, I find he is listed as living with his mother Malinda (55 yrs.) who is listed as “Keeping House”; and as the head of house. Benjamin (26 yrs.) is listed as “Livery Hand” for his occupation. (Ref: www.trees.ancestry.com)
I find no further information regarding him again until 1880. That year, in the Town of Culpeper (Culpeper County), Virginia, 1880 US Census, Benjamin is now 36 years old. He is listed as a “Bartender”; he now has a wife, named Mattie A. (21 yrs.), listed as “Housekeeping”; a son named Leonidas (3 yrs.); a daughter named Bertha E. (4 mos.) and his mother named Malinda E. Hill (73 yrs.) all living in the same household.
No other record regarding Benjamin G. Hill is found until a record of “Civil War Pensions” form is applied for. It lists the information that “Benjamin G. Hill (Dead)” served in “K Company, 11th New York Cav.”. The date of filing was “1886 July 26”. And there is a recorded 1890 Veteran’s Schedule”.
(Ref: “NARA, New York, roll #368; title Civil War Pensions; Publication: T 289”) and
From the “Civil War Pensions” record, I find no other records of Benjamin; his wife or any of his children, from that point on. Due to my lack of experience as a researcher, I feel I might have overlooked something and the lack of my expertise might leave this brave soldier’s story lacking a better ending.
Benjamin and the Civil War:
In the year of 1860, Benjamin would have been 16 years old (as recorded of him being 6 years old in the 1850 census). In 1861, there were rumors of a rebellion between some of the southern states and the northern states. By virtue of Benjamin being at such a young impressionable age of 17, he certainly would have been influenced by his older friends and peers as they all discussed “joining up” to fight. As the writer of this story, I certainly visualize him listening to them as they discussed the possibility of going to war to fight the “Yankees”. As time passed on, in 1862, young Benjamin would have been 18 years old; as recorded to his documented birth year of 1844. (Ref: www.trees.ancestry.com)
The first unit he served with: A Company, 7th Regiment, Virginia Infantry, CSA
Early in the spring of 1862, Benjamin had heard enough of his friends talking about and even joining up to fight for the “South”. On March the 1st, 1862 he enlisted into A Company, 7th Regiment, Virginia Infantry; CSA. According to his confederate military muster roll, he signed up for a period of 3 years. (Ref: www.footnote.com/image/11206183) and
The 7th Virginia Infantry was formed during the months of April, May, and June of 1861, at Manassas Junction, Virginia. Under the authority of Governor John Letcher and directed by Major General Robert E. Lee. Volunteers were mustered from throughout Virginia after the State of Virginia seceded from the United States. Company A was known as “The Richardson’s Guards”; with the name coming from General William Richardson. Company A was mustered into confederate service on July 1, 1861. The 7th Virginia Infantry Regiment became part of the Army of the Potomac (CS), Army of Northern Virginia, and Department of North Carolina. The 7th Virginia Infantry was engaged in approximately fifteen meaningful battles and campaigns. It had an illustrious career as a Confederate military Infantry unit.
Benjamin fought four battles in and around the Virginia and Washington D. C. area. At this point, I will list the battles that he fought in for the Confederate States of America:
1. Yorktown Siege (April-May, 1862)
2. Williamsburg (May 5, 1862)
3. Seven Pines (May 31-June 1, 1862)
4. Seven Days Battles (June 25-July 1, 1862)
There must have come a time in Benjamin’s life as a confederate soldier in the 7th Virginia Infantry that he began to doubt his reasoning for defending the “Southern Cause”. Certainly, I as a writer of his story, do not know what went through his mind. Nor do I know his reasoning; but on the 28th day of June, 1862, after he had fought and even possibly killed many men, Benjamin decided that he no longer wanted to fight for the Confederate States of America. It was during the Seven Days Campaign in an area around Richmond, Virginia when everything changed for him and his life.
On the 26th of June, 1862, of that campaign, General Lee launched his offensive across the Chickahominy River. Three confederate divisions, those of Maj. Gen’s. Ambrose P. Hill, Daniel H. Hill and James Longstreet, sat poised to strike, awaiting the arrival of Maj. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from the north. Jackson, however never reached the field on that day, and his strange performances throughout the campaign hampered the Confederate operations. This Battle of Mechanicsville cost the Confederates a total of 1,484 causalities as compared to Gen. Porter’s Union troop losses of 361 causalities. Gen. Lee, with most of his army now away from Richmond, had to strike Union Maj. Gen. Fitz John Porter’s troops again on the 27th of June. By late morning, the leading Confederates found Gen. Porter waiting near Gaines Mill, Virginia. (Ref: http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/genealogy/)
Somewhere during the night of the 27th and the day of the 28th of June, 1862; after seeing and experiencing all of this, and previous fighting and confederate wounded and dead; something or the accumulative experiences that Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill had, made him do what history has recorded that he did.
It is recorded on Benjamin G. Hill’s confederate muster roll “dated June 30, 1862”, which covered the months of “May & June, 1862”; on the “Present or absent” line, it is written “Absent”. On the “Remarks” line below that, it is written; “Left on the march near Gaines Mill June 28, 1862 without leave.” The next muster entry which is “not dated”, covering “July & Aug, 1862” is written on the “Remarks” line, “Deserted”. The remaining seven muster roll records all reflect the same information. As it is recorded by the confederate military historical records, Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill served as a “Confederate Soldier” in “A Company, 7th Regiment Virginia Infantry” for almost exactly 4 months.
The second unit he served with: K Company, 11th New York Calvary, Union
The origins of this New York Calvary unit began in December of 1861, to May of 1862 on Staten Island, New York. It was commanded by Lt. James B. Swain. He nicknamed his new Calvary unit “Scott’s 900”, after his good friend Thomas A. Scott, who was at that time, the Assistant Secretary of War. (Ref: www.itd.nps.gov)
Each company of the unit was formed in different New York cities. Company K (which Benjamin G. Hill later joined) was formed in the cities of; New York City, Auburn, Union Springs, Springport, Ausable Forks, Jay and Senneca Springs. The 11th New York left the State on May 5, 1862 for duty in guarding Washington, D.C.
The 11th New York was assigned to duty in the defenses of Washington, D. C. until March of 1864. While there, some members of different companies preformed many different duties. Some were assigned to stop Confederate recruitment around the Capital area; some were assigned to guard railroads and bridges; some were assigned to guard the ships and harbors; some were assigned to raid into Virginia to ward off the enemy and mainly, some were specially selected to guard and escort President Lincoln as he traveled back and forth from the Soldiers’ Home to the Capital.
Upon their arrival in Washington D. C. in early May of 1862, the 11th New York, as I mentioned earlier, started recruiting men from the D. C. area; in order to fill their allotment of men. As recorded from his muster roll, Benjamin G. Hill (listed as 22 years old) joined their unit on the 20th of August, 1862. He was signed up for three years of service. He was officially mustered in on the 30th of August as a Private in Company K of their unit. Here is an unusual point of interest. As with many of young men throughout all times of war, some of them would give a false age in order to get into the military. In Benjamin’s case; he was no exception. As it was recorded in the 1850 Virginia Census, Benjamin was 6 years old at that time. If one calculates the time from that date until 1862 when he joined the 11th New York Calvary, Benjamin was 18 years old instead of his “listed” age of 22. (Ref: www.archives.nysed.gov) & (Ref: www.trees.ancestry.com)
I have completed much research on the 11th New York Calvary; and the rosters of the same, I find that a soldier named Pvt. William F. Cost was in the same K Company, 11th New York Calvary as Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill was assigned to. It is only my assumption; these two soldiers knew each other and became good friends. They both were from Virginia, but it is not documented as to whither they knew each other before, or until after they enlisted. One thought I have, as the writer is; due to the fact they both were assigned to K Company and they enlisted only two days apart; [Benjamin on 22 Aug. and William on 20 Aug., 1862] leads me to believe they did not know each other before joining. Most likely, they met and became good close friends while serving together.
Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill’s new friend, Pvt. William F. Cost had been guarding President Lincoln; due to his earlier D. C. Infantry duty experience. As a Calvary soldier with the 11th NY, William most likely had a carbine rifle as his main weapon to carry; Benjamin quite possibly could have had one too, but no information is found regarding his weapon. In William’s case, he carried a Burnside Carbine rifle. As a matter of fact, a Burnside Carbine with the serial number 18390 [even though no exact record of its assignment is found] has the name “W F Cost” carved into the right side of the stock and the initials “B G H” carved into the left side of the stock. It is presently owned by this writer. Records from the Springfield Research Center show that Burnside Carbines with the following serial numbers were issued to the following units:
18358 -- CO C 12th NY CAV
18365 -- CO E 4th WISC VOL CAV
18390 -- [With “W F Cost” & “B G H” carved into the stock and is owned by this writer]
18396 -- CO C 12th NY VOL CAV
18406 -- CO C 12th NY VOL CAV
Be as it may, history proves both of these two soldiers carved their mark on the same Burnside Carbine rifle which has the serial number 18390; (Ref: owned by this writer)
[I will have more information and history on Pvt. William F. Cost in another story]
It is not known wither Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill helped Pvt. William F. Cost with the guarding of President Lincoln or not. It is very possible that he did. The President was guarded on his daily commute between the Soldiers’ Home and the Capitol every day by members of the 11th New York Calvary. It was one of their major assignments in the Defenses of Washington, D. C. until March of 1864. Most of company’s A, B, C and F fought in and around the D. C. areas in battles such as Bolivar Heights, Blue Ridge Mountain, VA., Edward’s Ferry, Poolesville, Md., Harper’s Ferry, Rockville, Md., and near Fairfax Court House, Virginia.
In March of 1864, the 11th New York Calvary was ordered, from the Military District of Washington, to proceed south to the District of La Fourche in the Department of the Gulf. They stayed there until June, 1864. From there, they moved to the District of Baton Rouge, La., Department. They stayed there until August, 1864. From there, they moved to 2nd Brigade, Calvary Division, Dept. of the Gulf until February, 1865. From there, they moved to 2nd Brigade, Calvary Division, District of West Tennessee until July, 1865. On July the 21st, 1865, the 11th New York consolidated to a Battalion in the District of Memphis, Tennessee until September of 1865. While they were in the Memphis, the unit was mustered out on September 30th, 1865. (Ref: www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/template.cfm)
After researching and studying the lives and military histories of Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill and Pvt. William F. Cost, I know in my own heart they were good friends. From my own life’s experiences there can be acquaintances, and then, there are “good friends”. In the time of war, as a veteran I know; men become close friends; they bond to and take care of each other because their lives depend upon it. When the order was issued for the 11th New York Calvary to move south, I truly believe Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill was performing one type of duty and Pvt. William F. Cost was still guarding the President. Benjamin left Washington with the 11th New York and William stayed there to guard the President.
I base my theory due to the following facts:
1. The reason I believe Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill moved south with the majority of the 11th New York is contained in the record of his muster out roll itself. As recorded on the New York record, Benjamin G. Hill was mustered out as “at Memphis, Tenn. For G. O. (? 8 [?]) War Dept. May 8, 1865”. Therefore, Benjamin was physically in Memphis when he was released from service in May of 1865.
(Ref: www.archives.nysed.gov) (Microfilm Roll: 855)
2. The reason I believe Pvt. William Cost stayed in Washington to guard President Lincoln is contained in the record of his muster out roll itself. As recorded on the New York record, William F. Cost was mustered out as “on Detachment. Muster-out-roll at Memphis Tenn. per G. O. (??) War Dept. May 8, 1865”. Therefore William was not physically in Memphis when he released from service with the 11th New York in May of 1865. (Ref: www.archives.nysed.gov) (Microfilm Roll: 853)
3. After William was discharged as “on Detachment” in “Memphis” in 1865; while he was still in Washington, he joined the 20th Veterans Reserve Corps as a Sergeant and continued there until he was mustered out of that unit sometimes after June, 1865.
After Pvt. Benjamin G. Hill was mustered out and released from the 11th New York Calvary in Memphis, Tennessee in 1865, it is not known wither he ever met up again with his good friend and fellow soldier Sgt. William F. Cost or not. Sgt. Cost was actually in Washington D. C. when he, himself, was mustered out in absence, “on Detachment”, in Memphis, Tennessee. Benjamin was living in Madison County, Virginia when he first joined the Confederacy. William was living in Loudoun County, Virginia when he first joined the D. C. Volunteer Infantry.
One can only assume; these two men had fought for three years during the Civil War and were lucky to have survived. They both, I am sure, missed their families very much and were emotionally drained and yet, excited about the fact they were finally, going home. From my research of both of these two men for an extended period of time, I find that William F. Cost married in Virginia and moved his new family to Florence (Lauderdale County) Alabama about a year or so after the war. There, he died from an apparent heart attack on the 23rd of May, 1881.
(Ref: “Lauderdale County Alabama Cemeteries-Township 3 Range 11; Florence City Cemetery; Section 5 / Row 8” cemetery records) & (ref: www.search.ancestry.com)
All that I can document, at this writing, is the fact that Benjamin G. Hill was released from service duty in Memphis, Tennessee in 1865. As per the 1870 Catalpa Township (Culpeper County), Virginia U. S. Census; Benjamin was listed as the
“head of household” and lived with his mother. So is proven that he did make it back home. As per the 1880 Culpeper (Culpeper County), Virginia U. S. Census; Benjamin was married, had two children and his mother lived with them. (Ref: www.search.ancestry.com)
There are two other records found regarding Benjamin. There is a “Pension Index” which was filed by his “widow” as recorded by the State of New York dated July 26, 1886.
The last record I could find on him is a “Special Schedule-Surviving Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines, and Widows, etc.” form. There is no date on this form, but the record listing of it states that it is an “1890 Veterans Schedule; Lincoln Post-3, Washington, D. C.” form. On this form, it clearly stated that Benjamin G. Hill was a “Sergt.” (Sergeant) when he mustered out of the 11th New York Calvary. This form also states that Benjamin’s
“Post-Office Address” was listed (on line number 35) as; “Proffit (Albemarle County) Va”. (Ref: www.search.ancestry.com)
These two records create a new question altogether to me as a researcher and writer of Benjamin’s Story. If Benjamin’s widow and daughter were able to get a pension based on a “July 26, 1886” “Widow’s Pension Roll” from the State of New York; that means Benjamin was dead at that time. The big question is how can he be listed as a surviving veteran on a “District of Columbia Census, 1800-90 D. C. Veterans Schedule”??
As I must end my story of Benjamin G. Hill here due to lack of records, I can only deduce he joins one of the many, many soldiers whose final chapter may never be known.
Researched, composed and written by me this 17th day of April, 2008; e-signed: Andy Bryant.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History