Benjamin Franklin Graves

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Benjamin Franklin Graves (1771–1813)[1] was a politician and military leader in early 19th century Kentucky. A Major in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Kentucky Volunteer regiment,[1][2] Graves was among the American troops who fought at the Battle of Frenchtown during the War of 1812.

Personal life[edit]

Graves was born in Virginia's Spotsylvania County and moved to Kentucky with his siblings and widowed mother in 1791. He was a two-term (1801 and 1804) state representative for Fayette County in Kentucky[1] He married Polly Dudley, daughter of Ambrose Dudley and Ann Parker,[3] and together they had six children.[1][4]

Military career and presumed death[edit]

Graves was Nathaniel G. S. Hart's commanding officer.[2] During the fighting at Frenchtown on January 22, Graves was shot in the knee, bandaged his wound himself and told his men to continue fighting.[5] After the death of Colonel John Allen,[6] field command of the Kentuckians came to rest upon Graves and Major George Madison.[7] [note 1]

He was among the survivors who surrendered to British forces upon General Winchester's orders.[5] His younger brother, Lieutenant Thomas Coleman Graves (a 1st Lieutenant of the 17th Infantry), was also killed during the battle.[2][8] After the surrender British officer Captain William Elliott, a Loyalist, asked to borrow Graves' horse, saddle and bridle. Elliott then promised that he would send back additional help for the wounded Americans but the help never arrived.[9] On January 23, Graves and other injured Americans were captured by Potawatomie Indians during the River Raisin Massacre.[1] Graves was imprisoned by the Pottawottamies along with Timothy Mallory, Samuel Ganoe, and John Davenport. Mallory and Ganoe were later able to escape.[8] He was started out on the march toward Detroit but then disappears from written records.[9][10] Graves was reportedly seen near Detroit on the Rouge River[11][12] but was not definitively heard from again and is presumed to have died during the march.[13][14] Winchester's February 11, 1813 letter about the Battle, written to the US Secretary of War, was widely published in American newspapers at that time, mentioned Major Graves and his fellow officers saying "they defended themselves to the last with great gallantry".[15] After Graves' disappearance while a prisoner, for years "his widow kept a light burning at the window of their home" in case he would return.[16]


Names of American officers who died at Frenchtown
(Kentucky War Memorial Frankfort, KY)

Graves County, Kentucky was created and named in his honor in 1823,[1] His name is enscribed, along with the names of his fellow officers who fell at the Raisin, on Kentucky's Military Monument to All Wars in the Frankfort Cemetery.[17]


  1. ^ Madison was a 2nd-cousin of President Madison and after the war was elected Governor of Kentucky. (See "The Kentucky encyclopedia", page 601.)


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kleber, John E. (1992). The Kentucky encyclopedia. University Press of Kentucky. p. 384. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "American Dead at the Battle of the River Raisin (sourced from Clift's "Remember the Raisin")". Government of Monroe County, Michigan. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ Pratt, Mary B. "Our relations : Dudley-Pratt families". Indianapolis: Pratt Poster Co. (Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky, Electronic Information Access & Management Center, 2002). p. 5. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ Pratt, Page 15
  5. ^ a b Young, Bennett Henderson (1903). The battle of the Thames, in which Kentuckians defeated the British, French, and Indians, October 5, 1813. J. P. Morton and company (Filson Club). p. 22. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  6. ^ Battle of the Thames, Page 21
  7. ^ The Federal Writers Project (1939). Military History of Kentucky. Works Progress Administration. p. 43. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Bunch, Mildred (July 15, 2003). Clark, Fran, ed. "War of 1812 Soldiers". Jessamine Historical Quarterly 2 (3): 7. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b C. Benjamin Richardson, ed. (1871). The Historical magazine, and notes and queries concerning the antiquities, history, and biography of America (The Massacre at Frenchtown, Michigan, January 1813 by Reverend Thomas P. Dudley). p. 30. 
  10. ^ Richardson/Dudley, Page 29
  11. ^ Antal, Sandy (2008). "Remember the Raisin! Anatomy of a Demon Myth". War of 1812 (10). Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  12. ^ H. Niles, ed. (1813). "Ensign Baker's Statement" (Niles' Weekly Register, Volume 4 - Saturday April 10, 1813). Baltimore: Franklin Press. p. 94. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  13. ^ Young, Battle of the Thames, Page 26
  14. ^ Hay, Melba Porter; Dianne Wells; Thomas H. Appleton (2002). Roadside history: a guide to Kentucky highway markers. University Press of Kentucky. p. 68. Retrieved November 7, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Copy of a letter from Brigadier General James WInchester (February 11, 1813)". Connecticut Mirror. March 22, 1813. p. 2. 
  16. ^ Thayer, William Roscoe (November 1915). "Memoir of Lucien Carr". Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 49. p. 92. Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  17. ^ Johnson, Lewis Franklin (1921). History of the Franklin Cemetery. Roberts Printing Co. p. 16. Retrieved November 8, 2011.