This letter was written by W. H. Benson who enlisted with the 15th U.S. Infantry during the winter of 1863-64. He tells his friend that he has been made a 2d Sergeant in Company A of the regiment. I can only assume he is the same W. H. Benson who died in the General Hospital at Chattanooga, Tennessee, on 31 August 1864. Military records state that he died from a “Contusion of the back” — possibly a wound that was received during the Atlanta Campaign in which the 15th U.S. Regulars were engaged. He is buried in the Chattanooga National Cemetery in Section F, Grave No. 1989. His grave marker indicates that he was a sergeant in Company C, however.
Albany, New York
February 20th 1864
A long time has passed since I have heard from you and I guess you have not heard from me directly or indirectly since I left Buffalo. I have started to write to you several times in the past few months but something would happen when my letter was half unfinished, it was laid aside for tomorrow, and tomorrow has just come. I shall finish it this time if the whole Potomac Rebel Army attacked my office while I am writing.
Sid, what do you and all others think have become of me. There must be lots of rumors in Rol. in regard to myself. Whether good, bad, or indifferent, I care not for Madam Rumor. My heart is marble and my constitution iron. Let them talk. Benson is bound to live until he dies and live well too.
My campaign in Buffalo was not as successful as I expected but no fault of mine. The old gentleman above saw fit to inflict a little punishment upon me for what, I don’t know or care, and sent Mrs. Typhoid Fever to make me a visit just the time my services could ill be spared. I was sick about 2 weeks that I did not get out of my bed. When I got up, I found that my recruits had gone to Canada to make a visit of indefinite length of time. The time which had been given me to raise my company had expired, my finances getting scare, and I better fitted to play the ghost of Hamlet than the part of a soldier. Made a successful flank movement and changed my base of operations from Buffalo to the high hills of Connecticut where I remained in retirement for one month, got a stake from Father, and left home again to seek a fortune, or an honest and romantic death on the battlefield fighting for the Constitution, the Laws, and the Darkie.
I can look far away into the future and see the name of General Benson placed in the history of this war with many other gallant generals who fought, bled, and died for the above-named Constitution, Law &c. “I ask you, isn’t it queer?” Well Sid, I am a United States soldier now — a member of the “Invincible” 15th U.S. Infantry, and hold the high position of 2d Sergeant, Co. A, 3d Battalion — a new company which is nearly full. My Colonel has promised me one of the three positions. I have passed the Board of Military Commission and found efficient a short time and the poor down-trodden Benson boy will have the honor to wear the shoulder straps of the Regular. Then, Sid, I shall make Rol. a flying visit and my old friends will find me the same as ever.
Sid, I want you to write me all the news, what you are doing, &c. Remember me to Mrs. Prentice & Tom. Do you ever see or hear of Gotter Hinds? My campaign in Rol. last summer was short but a brilliant one. Bill Handy I heard is married. Any other victory?
Tell Mrs. Prentice that I will write to her in a few days. Remember me to anyone you chose but beware of the yellow dog store. Do your trading at some other place. How is everybody and everything? Let me hear from you by return mail. Don’t wait 3 or 4 weeks before you answer this.
— W. H. Benson, 22½ Beaver Street, Albany, New York