Thursday, October 8, 2020

Injured at Perryville: Benjamin York,15th Kentucky Infantry

Today, the anniversary of the Battle of Perryville, seems like an appropriate day to share this story, thst of a common private soldier whose life changed on those Kentucky hills.

Another Campbell Countian whose Civil War service came to my attention thanks to the book The Battle Rages Higher is Benjamin F. York. The son of Joshua and Sarah (Moore) York, he was born in Alexandria, Ky., in July of 1844.

Location of Alexandria, Ky, courtesy

By 1860, the family, including Benjamin and his four younger siblings, still resided in Alexandria, but life quickly changed later that year when Republican Abraham Lincoln won the Presidency in the 1860 election. Several Southern states soon announced their secession from the United States and, in April 1861, the Civil War began. Six months later, in October, Benjamin enlisted for a 3-year term in Company H of the 15th Kentucky Infantry regiment, joining at Camp Webster, Kentucky. Paperwork in his file indicates he was 18 years old when he joined, though he may have actually been 17. That was under the minimum age to join the military, but it was not unusual for young men to lie about their age in order to become a soldier or sailor and officials did not always make thorough efforts to verify the ages of potential recruits.

As previous posts have discussed, the 15th Kentucky was a busy regiment and fought in some of the more famous battles and campaigns in the Western Theater of the war, including Perryville, Stone’s River, the Tullahoma Campaign, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and the Atlanta Campaign. 

Benjamin York was with the 15th for many of these, but he was wounded at Perryville - called “Chaplin Hills” in his file - and was in a hospital in Louisville for several months before returning to his command in April of 1863. He remained with the regiment for several weeks, but by around September or October had taken a role as a company cook, and, on December 10, 1863, was discharged from the army due to disability, as his wound at Perryville had cost him his hearing. 

Unfortunately, the certificate of disability for discharge in his file is difficult to read, but it still does provide some additional details. It confirms his inability to perform his duties was due to “Deafness, caused by gun shot wound received in line (illegible) at the Battle of Chaplin Hills,” and states that the bullet had entered near the “ramus of the inferior maxillary bone,” before causing damage as it exited through his neck. 

It further states that he was “sent to General Hospital, rejoined his command at Murfreesboro on April 6, 1863, at which time he was deaf and has continued to be up to the present time, in consequence of which he is totally unfit for the service. He is also unfit for the Invalid Corps.”

This injury ended his fighting days, but he managed to lead a long, productive post-war life, one of tens of thousands (or more) of American men carrying life-long wounds caused by the war. 

Benjamin married Nancy Cherry on October 6, 1865 in Alexandria and received a Civil War pension starting in February of 1869, according to a family history account. The couple had three children, all daughters - Mary Ann, Emma, and Cora.

Benjamin does not appear to be on the 1870 census, but by 1880 lived in Clermont County, Ohio, with his mother, a sister, and his three daughters. He worked as a flat boatman, likely on the nearby Ohio River. 

Unfortunately, Nancy had died in 1879, but Benjamin married Dulcena Perry in 1881, and they had two daughters, Bessie and Ella.

(Dulcena’s younger brother, Alexander, also served in the war, in Company F of the 192nd Ohio Infantry.) 

By the time of the 1890 Veterans’ schedule, Benjamin had returned to Alexandria. Ten years later, he remained in that same town, where he lived on a farm with his wife and two daughters.

Benjamin York passed away on March 19, 1910 in Covington, Kentucky at sixty-five years of age, and was buried in Linden Grove Cemetery.

Rest in peace, soldier.

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