Co. C - 14th Regiment Kansas Calvary Volunteers
My Great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Henry was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on December 1, 1837. He was commissioned on September 16, 1863, as a 2nd Lieutenant of Co. C, 14th Regiment, Kansas Cavalry Volunteers. My knowledge of his military activities is limited to an account from the weekly Kansas Chief of Troy, Kansas dated March 8, 1883. G.B. Nugum, Captain of Co. K, 14th Kansas Cavalry wrote it. The article is quite lengthy, but contains mention of my great-grandfather. On the 26th of September 1864, "a party of 46 men of the 14th Regiment, under the command of Capt. B. F. Henry, was sent foraging and whilst gathering corn about 13 miles south of Fort Smith, Arkansas, were attacked by a band of guerillas, under the command of Fitz Williams, a noted rebel. His command consisted of 40 white men and three hundred Indians. After fighting them most gallantly for 2 hours, Capt. Henry was severely wounded through the right arm and shoulder, and our gallant boys were compelled to retire, which they did in good order, with the loss of thirteen killed, two of whom belonged to my company".
As a result of my great-grandfather's wounds, which by the following June had still not healed and he had not regained use of the arm, he was discharged on June 25, 1865, at Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation.
He was eighteen years older than my great-grandmother, Sarah Ann Douglass. They were married in 1872 in Saline County, Missouri, when she was just 17 and he was 35. They had five children, two of which lived to adulthood. My grandfather, their eldest died when I was 7 years old. Their youngest daughter, my great-Aunt Della, was just 4 months old when their father died, so she had only their mother's memories and stories as knowledge of him. She gave me the original newspaper in which the above-mentioned article appeared, and a collection of letters from Benjamin to Sarah when he was working as a carpenter wherever work could be found.
The hardship and loneliness of the frequent and lengthy separations can be felt while reading those letters. His search for work took him to Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee. Apparently they dreamed of moving to California once they had saved some money, but the move never took place. He mentioned that dream of theirs several times in his letters. The last letter was written in 1879 so I assume that is when he came back to Miami, Missouri to remain with his wife and children. He became a schoolteacher, but I don't know for sure how long. He died December 2, 1884, five days before my grandfather's 12th birthday, and one day after his own 47th birthday.
I almost feel as though I know my great-grandparents thanks to Aunt Della. Great-grandma Sarah must have told her children about their father many times and kept his memory alive for them. I have a few mementos of his which Auntie gave me. The school bell he used to call the children to classes; a textbook he used for the older children, and a bow tie.
My great –aunt lived in California with her daughter for several years. She would come back to Missouri to visit family and friends once a year and I do wish I had thought to ask her many questions. She lived to
be ninety-seven and was sharp as a tack to the end, so she could have told me many things if I'd thought of things to ask!
My great-grandfather had been married once before but I don't know anything about that marriage. Apparently they had a child, and I'm assuming his wife died in childbirth or soon after because the child was 15 months old when Benjamin and Sarah were married. Benjamin mentioned him once in a letter to Sarah, mailed from Kansas, that he had visited him and that he seemed glad to see his father. Perhaps someone in his mother's family was raising him. I do know that he died at the age of 27 but I don't know if he had grown up with his half-brother and sisters. Evidently they were in touch, since the date of his death was known.
Benjamin was also an inventor of some labor-saving devices. I have the original patent papers and drawing of a 3 part-baking pan and cover, which he designed and made to be used in an oven, I presume. There was a compartment to be filled with water, and open posts (rather like the center core of an angel food cake pan) on which one would set another pan. I suppose the posts not held the pan of the water but conducted heat as well.
He also invented some improvements to a washing machine, but sold the interest in it, so I don't have a patent, just the official papers noting the sale.