Benjamin Andrew Coleman
b.28 Apr 1846 Alabama, United States
d.12 Mar 1928
Facts and Events
Benjamin Andrew Coleman was born 28 Apr 1846 in Alabama. He was probably born in Butler County. Benjamin was the youngest child born to Daniel W. Coleman and Hannah Pickett Coleman. His father Daniel W. Coleman died shortly after Benjamin's birth.
Benjamin Coleman is living in the household of his mother, Hannah Coleman in 1850 in Butler County, Alabama. Benjamin is 4 years old. By 1860 Benjamin is living in Rockingham in Richmond County, North Carolina. He is living with his sister, Louisa Coleman Covington and her family.
Benjamin must not have spent very many years in Rockingham because he enlisted in the CSA in Montomgery County, Alabama. According to the article written by Larry Coleman, Benjamin A. Coleman was mustered into service on 09 Sep 1861 at Montgomery in Montgomery County, Alabama. If this date is correct, Benjamin was only 15 years of age when he enlisted in the CSA. I have not yet located the document that verifies this information. The information was evidently obtained from the book by Illene D. and Wilbur E. Thompson, The Seventeenth Alabama Infantry, A Regimental History and Roster. This information is not included in the Compiled Service Record on Footnote nor is it found in the online database at the Alabama Archives and History website. From the records from Footnote, Benjamin A. Coleman was a private in Company K in the Seventeenth Alabama Infantry. Company K was also known as the Butler True Blues, established on the 09 Sep 1861, pursuant to Act of Congress [CSA] on 28 Feb 1861. Thomas J. Burnett was the Captain of the Butler True Blues until he sustained an injury in combat. Benjamin was captured near Nashville, Tennessee, 16 Dec 1864 and transported to the military prison at Louisville, Kentucky. On 13 Oct 1864, Private Benjamin A. Coleman was admitted to the General Hospital in Selma, Alabama for febris intermittens [usually malaria]. The date he returned for duty is not given; but Benjamin was transferred to Greenville, in his home county, Butler, on 14 Oct 1864 [Information from the Civil War Database - ADAH-not Footnote]. One imagines that he had a short reunion with his mother and other relatives. [Source again Footnote-CPR] By 24 Dec 1864, his new home was the infamous Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois. Fortunately for Benjamin Coleman he was paroled for an exchange with Union [USA] prisoners and forwarded to Point Lookout, Maryland on 20 Feb 1865. On the 28 Feb 1865, Benjamin was admitted to the Receiving and Wayside Hospital or the Receiving Hospital #9 in Richmond, Virginia. He was transported to Camp Lee in March of 1865. On 20 Jun 1865 in Montgomery, Alabama, Private Benjamin A. Coleman swore an oath not to bear arms against the United States of America. On this document, he is described as being 5' 1" tall, dark hair, blue eyes and a dark complexion. One wonders if his height of 5' 1" tall at the age of 19 could be a result of the military diet during his formative years between the age of 15 and 19. The dark complexion may be a natural state or the result of living outdoors for the majority of time during his service in the CSA.
A Tennessee CSA soldier surrendered and was a prisoner of war at Camp Douglas. He probably arrived at the prison about 20 days before Benjamin Coleman. He wrote a book about his experiences. Here are excerpts.
"The conflict o'er, many a valiant in his grave, The wretched remnant dwindled into worse than slaves Condemned in pestilential cells to pine."
As this eventful day was slowly fading into twilight, and the booming of cannon and rattle of small arms ceased to silence the living, six hundred of us marched over the Federal breast-works, under a white flag waving over our heads, and were immediately surrounded by an escort of Federal troops, armed with Springfield rifles, upon the end of which was a long sharp-pointed bayonet. The ground on the inside of the works was strewn with dead and wounded Federals, most of whom had been shot in the neck and head. Near the oak tree which was standing close to the cotton gin, D. S. Majors, a member of our regiment, was wounded by a stray minie ball coming from the direction of our own men. He fell against the tree, and as he fell, called me
Page 63 to come to him. I turned and started, but a Federal soldier presented his cocked gun at my head, at the same time ordering me to march onward with the other prisoners.
Not an exulting shout went up from the Federal army after the battle terminated. On all former occasions, after an engagement, a victorious shout from the winning side would rend the air. We were marched back into the town, out of range of the cannon shot and shell which were still being fired at the Federal lines by the vanquished remnant of Gen. Hood's army. A double chain-guard of infantry was now thrown around us with orders to shoot any one who attempted an escape. I now, for the first time, discovered that my left arm, from the shoulder to the hand, was covered with the blood and brains of some one; my haversack and canteen had been shot away; my clothing well perforated with minie balls, but my body untouched.
Night now spread its sombre mantle over both friend and foe, and found fifty officers, with five hundred and fifty privates of our army, in the hands of and at the mercy of the Federal army.
Page 64 Many of us were very hungry and thirsty, as we had not eaten anything since early that morning at Spring Hill. But several of the Federals divided their rations with us. A friendly disposed old soldier gave me part of his rations, which consisted of pickled pork and crackers, and also a drink of water from his canteen, for which I kindly thanked him. Soon a conversation arose between the officers of both sides, relative to the length of time the engagement lasted. Some one of the Federal officers, who stated that he had timed it, informed us that from the time our front line of battle began to advance until the firing ceased, was one hour and forty minutes, but the destructive part of it—that is, from the time our infantry carried their advance line of intrenchments, lasted only forty minutes. This handful of prisoners presented a ghastly and powder-burnt appearance; the clothing was badly stained with blood, the faces blackened and blistered by the streams of fire from the enemy's guns during the engagement; the hair on many of their heads was somewhat singed and the eye-brows burned off. On this eve of sadness, this
Page 65 night of gloom, I found myself contemplating the utter folly of all those four long years of hardships and privations, which truly tried men's souls, and which to my mind, on this particular night, seemed as fruitless as if we had been scaling mountains of melting mist and traversing fields with weird apparitions. The classic hand of the poet never painted a sadder vision to human eye than passed before me at this particular time. There was, however, one thought more heart-rending than all these scenes combined, which filled our souls with greater misgivings than everything else we had been compelled to endure in the past. It framed itself in these words—What shall our future be? In losing this battle we felt that our beautiful Sunny South, which was already dear to our boyish heart by the ties of home and kindred, and which had grown doubly dear during all these long years in which we had done our very best to serve her, had received a blow from which it never could recover; our armies had been cut down and destroyed, until they were overwhelmingly outnumbered, and we knew that the torn and shattered
Page 66 remnant would soon succumb to the inevitable. While we were pondering over our recent misfortune, our captors reminded us that we were prisoners of war, under their commands, and at the disposal of President Lincoln and the War Department; that we had no time for that refreshing rest and sleep which our tired and worn-out bodies so much needed.
We were now informed that we must take up our line of march to Nashville, Tennessee, it being the nearest place from which transportation could be obtained to any point in the North; hence, some time during the latter part of the night of the 30th, we started on quick time for the city of Nashville, surrounded by a guard, consisting of Schofield's army. On the road between Franklin and Nashville, while Gen. Schofield's army and the prisoners were splashing the mud and water in crossing a creek, I tried to effect my escape, but in this I made an utter failure, and with this attempt I was satisfied.
General Hood's cannon frequently hurried us on the road from quick time to a swift run; in fact, we were almost constantly under the necessity
Page 67 of running very fast to keep beyond their range. We knew the calibre of Hood's guns, for we had been supporting them, on active duty in the field, for nearly three years prior to this. Our escort manifested greater interest in keeping out of the reach of those big guns than we did; they had often been forced to feel the effects of them upon several battle-fields, and were anxious to place themselves at a safe distance out of the range of these guns.
We believed that Hood's remnant of our army would make an effort to recapture us before we could reach Nashville, but alas, we were doomed to bitter disappointment. We arrived at Nashville before noon on the first day of December, both hungry and tired. Many of the prisoners were barefooted and could have been easily tracked by the marks of blood behind them. We were ragged, dirty and blood-bespattered. The appearance of this little squad of prisoners told the sad tale of the terrible conflict from which they had just emerged, and to the casual observer it was an easy matter to distinguish the victors from the vanquished as we were paraded
Page 68 on the capitol grounds. We were kept on public exhibition for five or six hours, and near five thousand people came out to view us. Amongst the number of whom I should make mention, was the noted Andrew Johnson, afterwards President of the United States, who greeted this little handful of half-starved, unarmed and defenceless men with a volume of abuse and vituperation; of course, he could afford to do this and be in no danger while we were enclosed by a wall of fifty thousand bayonets. This was our birth-place and around which clustered the fondest recollections of our earliest boyhood days. A majority of the citizens who came to look at us were ladies, whose sympathetic countenances, so saddened by grief, sent a deeper thrill of sorrow through our hearts than all we had witnessed besides. They were not allowed to approach nearer than the bayonet's point of the double chain-guard of Federal troops who were between us and them, nor permitted to exchange any words with us. But we saw their looks of tenderness and affection as the wife sought a glimpse of her long absent husband, the mother her cherished brave Page 68a
Page 69 boy, the sister her ideal soldier-brother, the daughter her scarred and weather-beaten fond father,—which were returned with despairing looks and quivering lips upon faces coursed with tears and countenances pale with grief. We were now ordered away from this sorrowful and grief-stricken crowd, to take up our temporary abode within the inclosure of the outer dismal walls of the State penitentiary.
The Federal authorities now issued rations of pickled pork and crackers to us, the first we had drawn since the night before we left Columbia. While we were preparing our meals, the Federal army surgeons came in to examine those who had been slightly wounded in the battle at Franklin. One of our soldiers, a mere boy, had been shot in the right foot; the ball hitting him on the instep, passed through the foot and came out at the point of the heel. We were impressed with the heroic fortitude this young man displayed in hopping on this wounded foot all the way from Franklin to Nashville, a distance of eighteen miles, as we never heard one impatient murmur
Page 70 or complaint escape his lips. An army surgeon, while examining his foot, good-naturedly asked him, "if he had been shot while his back was fronting the enemy?" The soldier replied, "that during the entire campaign he had never turned his back to the - Yankees." The surgeon, who appeared to be a gentleman, looked at him and remarked, "That is right; you are a brave boy and an American. Never disgrace the cause you espouse." Several others had been slightly wounded in the conflict at Franklin and their wounds were promptly attended to.
Hood, with the surviving remnant of his army, pushed on for Nashville, and the occasional firing of his heavy artillery kept the Federal troops who were occupying the city continually moving, and the citizens in a strain of fear and doubt. Every discharge of Hood's cannon was greeted by us with loud shouts, which rent the air and made the earth tremble. Sleep was not to be thought of upon this eventful night. The great excitement through which we had just passed, our anxiety to learn who of our freinds were
Page 71 numbered with the dead and wounded, coupled with the cherished hope that our army might be successful in an attempt to take the city and recapture us, made the desire for sleep impossible. This state of feeling lasted until near the hour of three on the following morning, when we were ordered to march out to the Nashville and Louisville depot. The last frail hope which we had entertained of being recaptured, now vanished as completely as the dew before the rays of the morning sun.
We were ordered to board a train of box cars, at the same time being informed that the city of Louisville, Kentucky, was our next place of interest, at which place we arrived in due time, and marched into quarters which were regular soldiers' barracks. The officers were separated from the privates. It appeared that they were destined for a different place from that in store for us, and we were informed they were soon started for Johnson's Island. The soldiers who were our guards from Nashville, now turned us over to a very hilarious set of troops, who seemed
Page 72 to know very little by experience of the realities of the front, and from their levity we all knew they had smelt no gunpowder as our former guards had.
In 1874 or 1875 Benjamin Coleman married Anna Elizabeth Toole. The marriage record has not been located, but it is possible this couple married in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. Anna Elizabeth Toole is enumerated with her family in the 1860 U. S. Census in Tuscaloosa County. By 1880 Benjamin and his wife Anna were living in Leon County, Texas. Anna's family evidently migrated with them because her family is enumerated next door to Benjamin and Anna Coleman.
Benjamin's nephew, Daniel Coleman Reid also moved with them to Texas. Daniel Coleman Reid was a son of Benjamin's sister, Cornelia. Cornelia married Felix Edwin Reid.
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