I’ve thought for a long time that none of our ancestors fought for the U.S. in the Civil War. But I took another look at some family members in Missouri this summer, and sent away to the National Archives for the pension record of Benjamin Wright, [a,f] Grandpa Don Beazer’s [a,f] great-grandfather.
I got it back last month. It is amazing. It would be hard to ask for a better record to help confirm the Benjamin Wright who fought in the war is our ancestor. I placed information about the evidence and source citations at the bottom of this article — I’m excited enough just to share what I learned about his service.
Wright fought for the United States in the Civil War from 1862 to 1865 as a private in the 35th Missouri Infantry. His unit helped liberate Arkansas by fighting in the Battle of Helena, and being stationed in Little Rock as the war ended.
As an Arkansas resident, this is especially meaningful to me. I don’t have a lot of pre-21st Century connections to the state, so this is exciting. I’m hoping to take a trip out to Helena after the holidays to learn more.
Benjamin Wright enlisted in Company C of the 35th Missouri Infantry on September 2, 1862. The National Park Service says that regiment was formally organized at Benton Barracks in St. Louis that December. In January 1863 they were ordered to Helena, Arkansas, where they stood on garrison duty until April 1865.
The regiment repulsed the Confederate attack on Helena on July 4, 1863. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas states that Helena was a major Union base on the Mississippi during General Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign. Helena was dubbed “Hell in Arkansas” and served as a chokehold on the river. The Union victory helped secure eastern Arkansas for the United States.
The 35th also took part in an expedition from Helena to Arkansas Post in January 1864.
In April 1865, near the end of the war, the regiment moved to Little Rock and did garrison duty there until June, when they were disbanded. Wright was discharged on June 28th.
Wright suffered from various ailments after the war. His 1890 pension makes reference to a “chronic disease of the liver and spleen.” A friend who worked with Wright for 18 years said he was “affected in the back and [was] only able to do about half a day’s work.” His recorded height fluctuated in the pension records, possibly indicating the use of a cane, and he described “pain in the right side and shoulder.” He was blind before he passed away in 1899.
Civil War records show that a man named Benjamin Wright served in Company C of the 35th Missouri Infantry. This company was recruited from Mercer County, and there is only one Benjamin Wright listed as living in that county on the 1860 census.
Wright’s pension record further helps with his identification. It says he was born in about 1827 in Indiana, matching census records. It lists two living children – Rachel and Jacob – along with their birthdays. The record also notes that while he lived in Mercer County, Missouri, his post office address was for Pleasanton, Decatur County, Iowa and that his residence could also be listed as Lineville, Wayne County, Iowa. This helps explain some discrepancies in his family’s records.
The record does not include his wife’s name, but does list his marriage date, place and officiant – 18 Dec. 1853 in Jackson County, Indiana, by Charles Magmon. Jackson County records show that a Benjamin Wright married a Sarah Payne.
At first glance this contradicts the vital records of Rachel Wright and Jacob Wright, which list their mother’s maiden name as Kindred. But that marriage record also includes a notation showing that Sarah Payne was a widow when she married Benjamin Wright.
An earlier record from Jackson County shows a marriage between Sally Kindred and Hiram G. Payne on 24 Feb., 1842. Both were listed as minors who had to get their father’s permission to marry. This matches up with later Missouri census records for Sarah Wright, which say she was born in Indiana in 1826 or 1827.
Benjamin Wright’s daughter, Rachel Wright Stutevile McHargue, passed away in 1942. Her death certificate has her born in Mercer County in April 5, 1860. Vital records for her daughter Marie Stuteville and her grandson Don Beazer also clearly link the generations together.
Ancestry.com, 1860 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.Original data – 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1860; Census Place: Lindley, Mercer, Missouri; Roll: ; Page: 264; Image: 269. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1860usfedcenancestry&h=40479545&ti=0&indiv=try&gss=pt.
Ancestry.com, 1870 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.Original data – 1870 U.S. census, population schedules. NARA microfilm publication M593, 1,761 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Record), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1870; Census Place: Lindley, Mercer, Missouri; Roll: M593_; Page: ; Image:. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1870usfedcen&h=2492830&ti=0&indiv=try&gss=pt.
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1880 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. All use is subject to the limited), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1880; Census Place: Lindley, Mercer, Missouri; Roll: 703; Family History Film: 1254703; Page: 43C; Enumeration District: 223; Image: 0087. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1880usfedcen&h=48547132&ti=0&indiv=try&gss=pt.
Benjamin Wright, File Designation 580.424, Soldier’s Certificate No, 580424 (Pvt, Co. C, 35th Missouri Infantry, Civil War), Full Pension File; Case Files of Approved Pension Applications …, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files, Department of Veterans Affairs, National Archives record Group 15; National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/collection/1030/tree/33508710/person/18487328624/media/9bc3295e-4383-4c13-84d4-209433136317?_phsrc=wUY144&usePUBJs=true. https://www.familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/43423193
Jackson County (Indiana). Clerk of the Circuit Court, “Jackson County, Indiana, marriage records, 1816-1951” (on 16 microfilm reels ; 35 mm., 1982, 2004, Indiana. County Court (Jackson County), Jackson County, Indiana); FHL microfilm Film No. 004646673. Image No. 371. Date: 22 Feb 1842. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-T19Q-92?cc=1410397.
Jackson County (Indiana). Clerk of the Circuit Court, “Jackson County, Indiana, marriage records, 1816-1951” (on 16 microfilm reels ; 35 mm., 1982, 2004, Indiana. County Court (Jackson County), Jackson County, Indiana); FHL microfilm Film No. 1314624, image 116. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-T19H-8Y?i=115&wc=Q8SH-5HV%3A962974901%2C963036301&cc=1410397.
Missouri State Archives, Missouri Death Certificates, 1910 – 1960 (600 West Main St, Jefferson City, MO 65201, Missouri State Library), Missouri State Archives, 600 West Main St., Jefferson City, MO 65201, Certificate No. 21758. https://www.sos.mo.gov/images/archives/deathcerts/1942/1942_00021750.PDF.