Henry Washington Benham

Henry Washington Benham was born in Connecticut on April 17, 1813. The place was probably Meriden, where his father and stepfather resided. Benham entered Yale in 1832, but later secured an appointment to the Military Academy, from which he was graduated first in the class of 1837. He was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers, engaged mainly in the construction of coast defenses, and was promoted to captain. He took part in the Mexican War, was wounded slightly at Buena Vista, declined a majority in the 9th Infantry in 1855, and continued his engineering duties. Appointed chief engineer of the Department of the Ohio, he took part in George B. McClellan's western Virginia campaign and led the advance guard of General T. A. Morris' column in pursuing Confederate General Robert S. Garnett from Laurel Hill to Corrick's Ford, where Garnett was killed. This action won Benham the brevet of colonel in the Regular Army, a commission as brigadier general of volunteers, and assignment to a line command, but his talents were entirely unsuited to his new duties. He was criticized by General William S. Rosecrans, McClellan's successor, and was relieved by General David Hunter after his unsuccessful attack on Secessionville, South Carolina, in June, 1862. In August of that year his brigadier's commission was revoked (the revocation was later canceled by President Lincoln) and Benham returned to his proper sphere. From the spring of 1863 until the end of the war he commanded the engineer brigade of the Army of the Potomac, rendering service which was rewarded by the brevets of major general in both the regular and volunteer establishments. On March 7, 1867, he was commissioned colonel, Corps of Engineers and, until his retirement from active service in 1882, he was in charge of constructing the defenses of the harbors of Boston and New York. He died in New York City on June 1, 1884, and was removed for burial to Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

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Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.