Monday, October 5, 2015

Bennett Murray of Fredericktown, Missouri

I devoted many research years to Bennett Murray. It was complicated by the existence of several other men of the same name. One, in particular, lived in an adjoining county and was about the same age as our Bennett. His descendants had a story about his parentage. It was that his father "crossed the river" and married his mother. Then he "went back across the river" to his own people and did not return. So his mother named him Bennett Murray after his father. This implies that Bennett Murray was also his father's name. I've never found anything to indicate the reality of this story, nor do I have any reason to doubt it either. These two Bennett Murrays could even be half brothers in the whole scheme of things; or they could be cousins. Since I have had no luck in locating Bennett's father, it remains a mystery waiting to be solved.

According to Lota Murray Campbell's family Bible, our Bennett Murray was born 5 October 1820 in Fredericktown, Madison, Missouri. Missouri was acquired from the French in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase. Missouri became a territory in 1812 and a state in 1821, so this was truly the frontier at the time. Sometime in the 1950's, Lota Murray Campbell received a letter from another branch of the family who wanted to exchange information. Unfortunately, that never happened and the letter didn't have anything in it to identify this family. Family tradition is that he was from a large family of brothers who were divided in their loyalties at the time of the Civil War. It is unfortunate that we do not have an 1820 census for Missouri. It might have helped us sort these people out. The state of Missouri has a nice historical timeline.

Bennett's Volunteer Enlistment into the Civil War contained many facts pertinent to his life. It was made at Rolla, Phelps, Missouri on the 6th day of August in 1862. He stated that he was forty years old and a farmer. He was five feet eleven inches tall and had gray eyes and dark hair. He was a man in his forties who was leaving his family to fight a war; not for choice, but for duty.

When he applied for his pension in 1898, he listed his marriages on the application. He was first married to Mary J. Barnes in Madison County, he said 1840. The day book of the Reverend Elias White sets the date at 8 June 1845. She died the next year. Mary Jane was the daughter of Samuel and Mary Barnes from North Carolina.

Bennett's second marriage was to Susan Perkins, and he noted that she died November, 1845, also in Madison County. In actuality, their marriage was recorded in Washington County, Missouri on 6 July 1848. Their daughter Sarah A. Murray, was born 4 November 1850. It is obvious that Susan died from complications related to the birth of their daughter. Efforts to locate Bennett on the 1850 census have not been successful. There is one possibility for Susan's parents, but it is also uncertain at this time.

At this point, Bennett was a young father who had lost two wives to death, and now had a small baby daughter. It appears he had his share of grief. His third marriage was to Olive Wood. His pension papers list the date of 10 January 1846, with a notation that she died in July, 1882. That cannot be right since Sarah was born in 1850 and Olive, age 17, was living with her parents on the 1850 census. This date has also been adjusted to accommodate other information available to us. The accepted date of their marriage is 10 January 1851, just after Susan's death. Bennett gets credit for remembering the day correctly, and the year has been adjusted based on the birth of Sarah and the 1850 census enumeration for Olive.

Bennett and Olive raised a large family of boys in addition to baby Sarah. Our ancestor, John Lewis, born 13 June 1854, was the oldest. His brothers were Francis Marion, James Henry, Bennett, Thomas Franklin, William Elisha and Ora. All of the boys were born in Missouri, except James Henry, who was born in Arkansas. That's interesting because there were Murrays living in Arkansas with similar family names. It may be that they were with some of their extended family at the time since tradition says some of them were in Arkansas, and their Missouri home was not farm from the border between Missouri and Arkansas.

In 1859 Bennett purchased land in Dent County, Missouri, about 85 miles west of their home town of Fredericktown. That is where his family lived during the Civil War. As was mentioned previously, Bennett enlisted in the Union Army on 6 August 1862. His military service was outlined by Herbert Campbell. He was enrolled at Benton Barracks, near St. Louis, Missouri, in Captain Joe Davis' Company on 20 October of that same year. He was paid $2 premium and $25 enlistment bounty. He served most of the time in Company C, 32nd Regiment, Missouri Infantry, and in Company D, Consolidated Battalion, 31st and 32nd Missouri Infantry. Bennett's regiment was in General Sherman's YAZOO Expedition from 22 December 1862 to 3 January, and in the assault and capture of Fort Hindeman, Arkansas Post, January 10-11. Bennett's regiment moved to Young's Point, Madison County, Louisiana about 15 miles from Vicksburg, Warren, Mississippi, and across the Mississippi River, with the Army of the Tennessee.

Bennett left camp on 20 March 1863, and apparently went home to see Bennett, Jr., who was born on January 25th of that year, and to help with the spring planting. He was placed on the Desertion List to the Provost General, dated 21 April 1863. He was arrested in May and taken to the Provost Marshall in Rolla, Missouri. From there he was sent to St. Louis, Missouri in the charge of Lt. White's Provost Guard on June 22nd. He returned to Company C, operating around Jackson, Hinds, Mississippi, and was with the Army on the Tennessee on 9 July. He was charged with desertion, "did desert said service on or about the 20 March 1863 at or near Youngs Point, Louisiana and remained absent from his command until on or about the 17th July 1863, at which time he voluntarily rejoined his command. Since which time he has been a good and obedient soldier," but was not court martialed until 1865. As was often the case, men would leave their duty to go home to take care of family business and then return to their service.

Bennett's regiment had nearly twenty times as many casualties from disease as from combat. This was undoubtedly due to lack of knowledge of proper sanitation and living and fighting along rivers and swamps. Bennett was admitted to USA Hospital Steamer, Charles McDougall on 5 September 1863 from Vicksburg with an intestinal fever. He was transferred 8 September to Overton USA General Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee with atrophy of the testicles. On 19 September, he was again transferred to USA Hospital Steamer, Memphis with mumps. On 23 September, he was transferred to the USA General Hospital, Jefferson barracks, near St. Louis, Missouri with a lame back. He returned to duty on 30 November. He was sick again on 22 December at Bridgeport, Alabama and admitted to Cumberland USA General Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee on 23 December 1863. The complaint was rheumatism, with an added diagnosis on inflamed bronchi. Following all of this illness, he was furloughed from 12 February to 14 March. He was then transferred to Brown USA General Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky on 15 April, with a diagnosis of chronic rheumatism. He was detailed to Ward 9 on 21 May, and returned to duty 8 October 1864.

After Bennett's return to duty, his regiment was in the operation against Confederate General Hood in northern Georgia and Alabama until 3 November. Due to losses, the 32nd Regiment was consolidated to a battalion of three companies and further consolidated with three companies, the 31st Missouri Infantry as consolidated Battalion 31st and 32nd Missouri Infantry. General Sherman instructed the army's surgeons to examine every man with a history of illness to be sure they would be able to make it all the way to Savannah, Georgia. No man was retained who was not capable of the long march. No one anticipated that the route would be to our nation's Capitol, over 1000 miles, and would require over six months. They crossed mountains, rivers, and swamps and fought numerous battles in General Sherman's March to the Sea, and in operations in the Carolinas and Virginia against Confederate General J. E. Johnston. (General Robert E. Lee surrendered 27,800 Confederate troops to General U. S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on 9 April.) General Johnston surrendered 31,200 troops to General Sherman on 18 April 1865, at Durham Station, North Carolina, ending the last major organized military resistance. (General E. K. Smith surrendered about 3000 west of the Mississippi on 26 May.) The Consolidated Battalion 31-32 regiment marched to Washington D. C. via Richmond, Virginia, (the Confederacy capitol until 2 April) from 29 April to 20 May. They marched in the Grand Review up Pennsylvania Avenue on 24 May 1864. They were moved to Louisville, Kentucky and redesignated the 32nd Missouri Infantry on 20 June.

Bennett was court martialed for desertion from March to July 1863 and punished with loss of pay for the period absent and pay was stopped for transportation in the amount of $11.50. An Act of Congress, approved on 5 July 1884, removed all unauthorized absence charges against soldiers who subsequently had good records. First Lieutenant Beverly A. David of Company C had entered on Bennett's charges that Bennett had voluntarily rejoined his command, "since which time he has been a good and obediant soldier." Bennett was mustered out of Company D, 32rd Regiment, Missouri Infantry on 18 July 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky. Pay due Bennett was $21. (for 20 1/2 months less the court martial) plus $75. for increased enlistment bounty which was approved during the war.

Bennett returned to his nearly destitute (due to military and guerrilla operations in the area) family in Norman, Dent, Missouri. His eldest son John L., later described Bennett as being covered with bandages because he healed slowly. He said they only had a cup of turnip seeds to plant the next spring. They farmed for several years before moving to Short Bend township. In 1880, Bennett and Olive were living in Short Bend, Dent, Missouri. James, Bennett, Thomas, Elisha and Orin were still living at home at the time. He listed his occupation as "collier" and his parents' birth states as being North Carolina. Olive died 3 July 1880 and is buried at the Sligo Cemetery, Sligo, Dent, Missouri.

There are two other marriage records for Bennett. He married Margaret McCoy on 5 November 1882. He married Millie Taff on 20 July 1884, both in Dent County. I have not done any research on these two events.

When he applied for his pension, he made his declaration on 17 October 1891. He was a resident of Licking, Texas, Missouri. He stated that he was honorably discharged at St. Louis on 22 July 1865. "He is now totally unable to earn a support by reason of disease of the eyes, disease of back result fallin of the mumps and disease of the heart. That said disabilities are not due to his vicious habits and are to the best of his knowledge and belief permanent." S. A. Mitchell and Josiah Bradford appeared to vouch for him at that time. The original declaration for his pension stated that he contracted mumps while serving at Vicksburg. His application approval was delayed for over twelve years because he had stated he became ill in July 1863. The legal reviewer recommended disapproval because he determined that the mumps was contracted during his period of desertion. Subsequently, medical records showed that the mumps was contracted in September, almost two months after his return. With his application finally approved, Bennett received for his service $12. a month, which was to be retroactive to 22 October 1891.


Leta Murray Boucher's memories of Bennett were when he was an old man and lived with their family for a time. He chewed tobacco and she had the unsavory job of washing his beard. She also remembered him listening for the children and taking his cane and trying to trip them when they ran past him. She made a face when she told about it. He also enjoyed shocking family members with his colorful language.

Bennett died on 25 March 1902 at Birchtree, Shannon, Missouri. The following appears in the Birch Tree Free Record on Friday, 28 March 1902- "Bennett Murray, commonly known as Grandpa Murray, died in Birch Tree at the home of his son, Bennett Murray Jr., last Tuesday and was laid to rest in the Baptist Cemetery, Wednesday. He was born in Tennessee and came to Fredericktown, Missouri in an early day, where he married Miss Ollie Wood, with whom he lived till death parted them, some twenty years ago. He was a professed Christian and a member of the Baptist church. He was a Union soldier and served his country faithfully for three years and four months, as a private soldier in Company C, 32 Missouri Volunteers. He was in his 83rd year and had been blind an invalid for several years. He leaves six sons and one daughter do mourn his departure."

3 comments:

mudderbear said...

I was just nosing around here. Hope you don't mind. Wow, what a story. You really filled in a lot of details and information. I really like the historical journey and feel like you've portrayed Bennett with so much life and experience. It was very interesting.... very nice.

patrick17 said...

Whoever wrote this, please give me your email. I am the descendant of a child of Bennett with Fannie Hiltebrand that apparently predates his first marriage, and I have an 11-page memo of my own trying to reconstruct what the origins of our family. You have opened up a blank page in our family history. Many thanks,
Charles Murray
charlesamurray@comcast.net

Anna said...

Hi, I'm the daughter of the above commenter (we've been furiously emailing back and forth). I think we're the descendants of the mysterious half-brother you mentioned in the first paragraph whose father "went across the river" and then "back again," as this sounds a lot like our own family legends.
Would love to hear any theories you have on the subject!
Anna Murray
anna.cox.murray@gmail.com