Benjamin Prentiss

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Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss
General Benjamin Prentiss.jpg
Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss
Born (1819-11-23)November 23, 1819
Belleville, Virginia
Died February 8, 1901(1901-02-08) (aged 81)
Bethany, Missouri
Allegiance  United States of America
Union
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1846 - 1848, 1861 - 1863
Rank Union army maj gen rank insignia.jpg Major General
Battles/wars

American Civil War

Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss (November 23, 1819 – February 8, 1901) was an American soldier and politician. He fought in the Mexican-American War and on the Union side of the American Civil War, rising to the rank of major general.

Early life, marriages and family[edit]

Benjamin M. Prentiss was born in Belleville, Virginia. He was a direct descendant of Valentine Prentice, who immigrated from England in 1631. His early childhood was spent in Virginia until his family joined the migration and moved near Hannibal, Missouri. They then moved to Quincy, Illinois, where Prentiss made his home until 1879. He then moved to Missouri.

In his early life, Benjamin Prentiss was a rope-maker and served as an auctioneer. On March 29, 1838, he married Margaret Ann Sodowsky; they had seven children before she died in 1860. In 1862, he married Mary Worthington Whitney, who bore him five more children.[1]

Civil War[edit]

BG Prentiss ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress in 1860. At the beginning of the American Civil War he defended railroad lines in Missouri until ordered to command a division under Ulysses S. Grant. His division was the first one attacked at Shiloh and suffered greatly during the opening hours of that battle. BG Prentiss reformed his command and put up a spirited fight in the "Hornet's Nest".

He was captured at the Hornet's Nest along with 2,200 other Union soldiers. He surrendered his sword to Lt. Colonel Francis Marion Walker of the 19th Tennessee Infantry. After the battle he was considered a hero, having held off the Confederate States Army long enough to allow General Grant to organize a counterattack and win the battle. Grant would later play down Benjamin Prentiss' role in the victory, possibly because of mutual dislike between the two generals.[2] However, Grant said in his memoirs "BG Prentiss' command was gone as a division, many of its members having been killed, wounded or captured; but it had rendered valiant services before its final dispersal, and had contributed a good share to the defense of Shiloh".[3]

After being released as part of a prisoner exchange, BG Prentiss was promoted to major general and served on the court-martial board that convicted Fitz John Porter. His dissenting voice in the final vote damaged his political clout. BG Prentiss was sent to Arkansas and won the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. In 1864, he resigned to tend to his family. Historian Ezra J. Warner speculated that BG Prentiss felt that he was being shelved after having proved his abilities at Shiloh and Helena.[4]

Post-Civil War career[edit]

After the Civil War, Benj. Prentiss became a lawyer. He was later appointed as postmaster of Bethany, Missouri,[5] by President Benjamin Harrison and was re-appointed by President William McKinley. He was a leader in the Republican Party of Missouri.

He died in Bethany and is buried there in Miriam Cemetery, Harrison County, Missouri.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The History & Genealogy of the Prentice, Prentis & Prentiss Families in New England from 1631 - 1883, Linus Joseph Dewald, based on the 1883 Edition by CJF Binney
  2. ^ Daniel, p. 109.
  3. ^ Grant, Ulysses (1885). Personal Memoirs. 
  4. ^ Warner, p. 386.
  5. ^ Eicher, p. 438.

References[edit]

  • Daniel, Larry J. Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997. ISBN 0-684-80375-5.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
  • The History & Genealogy of the Prentice, Prentis & Prentiss Families in New England from 1631 - 1883, Linus Joseph Dewald, based on the 1883 Edition by CJF Binney

Further reading[edit]

  • Smith, Timothy B. Rethinking Shiloh: Myth and Memory (2013), chapter on Prentiss emphasizes his key role

External links[edit]