The End Came Peacefully Saturday Morning – Notable Funeral Yesterday – Elder Eubanks, a Confederate Soldier, Speaks in Eulogy of His Friend
The following, transcribed by Amy Feldner Lawlor, was published in the Mar. 11, 1903 issue of the Warwick Valley Dispatch.
Major James Wood Benedict died at his home near this Village on Saturday morning at half after five. Reports of his last illness have appeared in the Village papers from time to time, but the serious nature of his ailment was concealed because it was feared that a frank statement might have a depressing effect upon him…Major Benedict sprang from the purest strain of Colonial Revolutionary stock. Ten generations of the family are buried in American soil.
Major Benedict was a son of Jonathan Bell Benedict and Fanny Benedict, and was born in New Canaan, VT on Jan. 30, 1830. There were four children – a brother, Hubert, and a half-brother Andrew, and two half-sisters by a former wife. When Jonathan and Fanny Benedict came to Warwick in 1835, James was the only one of the children who accompanied them.
Fanny Benedict inherited the homestead. Jonathan Bell Benedict died in 1844, when James was 11 years old. The responsibility of the farm management fell upon this sturdy boy, who proved himself so efficient that at the age of 11 he had full charge of the farm and rapidly developed a business capacity and a strong individuality that became more and more pronounced with maturing years.
In 1851, in company with Hezekiah Hoyt, he made a memorable trip across country to Muscatine, IA, taking a drove of trotting stock from Chester to start a breeding farm there. This enterprise was a profitable speculation and was said to be the beginning of the breeding and training of trotting horses in that section of the country. They made the journey on horseback, leading and driving the horses, and were assisted by six young men most of whom stayed in the West, taking the Government land.
Benedict & Others Raised a Company to Form a Part of the 124th Regiment
In 1862, when the appeals were made by New York Governor Edwin Morgan and President Abraham Lincoln for three year volunteers to save the Union went almost unheeded for a time and the enemies of the Union were making covert efforts to prevent enlistment, James Benedict was one of those patriotic spirits that promptly responded by a deal of strenuous effort. Assisted by others of his fellow townsmen, he raised a company to form a part of the 124th Regiment, under colonel A. Van Horne Ellis, which regiment afterward became famous as the “Orange Blossoms.”
This was Company D. and James Wood Benedict was the Captain. From that day until the day he died, he was known as “Captain Benedict,” a title which he preferred to that of Major, to which he succeeded at the close of the war.
The following allusion is made to Captain Benedict’s company in Colonel Weygant’s history of the 124th Regiment: “Company ‘D’ was recruited and organized at Warwick – in which town nearly all of its members claimed not only a residence but birth-place. It was recruited by James W. Benedict and Daniel Sayer and reported in a body at Colonel Ellis’…on the 16th of August.”
The subordinate officers of this company were: Sergeant, W.B. Van Houten; First Lieutenant, Daniel Sayer; Sergeant, John Cowdrey, Jr.; Sergeant, James G. Irwin; Second Lieutenant, John W. Houston; Sergeant, and Thomas G. Mabee.
Company D was in the thick of the fight in all of the engagements of the “Orange Blossoms,” and although the ranks were thinned by the ravages of war, the gallant “Captain Jim” escaped unhurt, until the Battle of Spottsylvania Court House. To this engagement on May 12, 1864, he was badly wounded…Captain Benedict served with his company until the close of the war, being mustered out with the title of Major.
His first engagement was at Fredericksburg under Gen. Burnside. He was in every battle, skirmish and march with the Army of the Potomac until May 12, 1864, when he was wounded, as noted above, and sent to the rear. Later he was removed to the Armory Square Hospital at Washington, where he remained until he recovered sufficiently to go home. In Sept. of 1864, he returned to the front and was in the Battle of Hatcher’s Run. On Jan. 11, 1865, he was promoted to Major, to date from September 1864 and was mustered out on Jun. 3, 1865.
Struck with Bullets & Pieces of Shells
Although he had been wounded but once, he was struck with bullets and pieces of shells thirteen times, his clothes being torn and riddled, but his good fortune saving him from injury. He participated in twenty-eight engagements. Colonel Ellis, writing to a friend at home of the gallant behavior of his officers and men at front, thus describes an incident at the Battle of Chancellorsville, which tells of the coolness of Captain Benedict in a trying situation.
Colonel Ellis wrote: “While the regiment was lying down behind & supporting a battery, they were exposed to a perfect storm of bursting shells. Many were hit, but none uttered a sound; those killed died as they lay, and when the regiment arose to advance on the enemy, several of the Orange Blossoms remained prone on their faces. May the Creator receive their brave souls. During the above shelling, Captain Benedict of Warwick, Company D, was reclining on his elbow; a discharge of grape, about a bucketful, ploughed up the ground and threw some on him, he looked around and uttered something, I did not hear what but he would have moved more if a hen in scratching had thrown a little dirt on him.”
Among the souvenirs of the war which he most highly prized was a sword presented to Captain Benedict by the ladies of Warwick, when his company was formed in 1862 and a sword taken from General Lee’s army and carried throughout the service. These trophies hung on the wall of his dining room and were treasured, with many pleasant recollections.
After the War Captain Benedict Marries Harriet Durland
Returning from the war, Captain Benedict went to work on the homestead farm, where his mother, “Aunt Fanny,” was living and in February of 1866, he married Harriet Durland, a daughter of the late Thomas E. Durland. They went to Missouri and settled near St. Joseph, where Captain Benedict was engaged in farming for nine years and where all but the two younger of the children were born. The family returned to Warwick in 1874 and for several years Captain Benedict was engaged in bringing horses from the West to be sold in this vicinity.
Benedict Inherits Homestead in Warwick
In 1878, he went to Ohio to look after the interests of some Chester capitalists, who had invested money in hog raising there on a large scale. There he remained for over a year and on the death of his mother, in April of 1881, he inherited the homestead and returned to take possession. Since that time, Captain Benedict has been a farmer and a producer of milk. His fine farm, with the old ivy covered stone house that crowns the hill on the Chester pond just north of the Village, is one of the most slightly places in the whole Warwick Valley.
Here he was always delighted to entertain his friends and particularly those of his comrades in arms who had survived the war. Annual reunions of the “Orange Blossoms” were held here for many years and the ties of soldierly love were strengthened and kept alive with reminiscence and story.
Among those who loved to visit Captain Benedict was a grizzled veteran of the Confederate army, Elder Eubanks of Delaware who was twice captured by the 124th Regiment and who, coming to Warwick some twenty years ago to preach in the Old School Baptist Meeting House, was introduced to Captain Benedict at the station. They became fast friends and this friendship ripened into love as they grew older and it was but an earnest of his devotion to his departed opponent in arms that prompted Elder Eubanks to journey from Delaware to Warwick, to assist in conducting the funeral services yesterday.
In civil life, Captain Benedict was modest and retiring. He never sought office, but in the year 1866, he was induced to stand as a candidate for Member of Assembly on the Republican ticket and came within a few votes of election, although he made no effort on his own behalf. He once served as Highway Commissioner. From early manhood he took an interest in educational matters and was an incorporator of the Warwick Institute and for many years a member of the Board of Education of Union Free School District No. 12.
Captain Benedict was one of the organizers of the Army and Navy Association, but declined to join the Grand Army of the Republic because he did not believe in secret societies.
Mrs. Benedict died in June, 1884. At the time of his death, Captain Benedict’s family consisted of five children – Fanny, Jessie, Hugh and Sarah, all of who live at home, and Bell, wife of Charles R. Cline of Bellvale. Miss Martha Fancher, a niece of Captain Benedict, who was reared by him and who devoted her life to his comfort, is also one of the family.
Funeral Held at Benedict’s House
Among relatives present at the funeral yesterday was the Hon. Thos. E. Benedict, of Ellenville; Willard Hobbie, of New York; Miss Henry Bunee, a niece, of New York; and Mrs. Mary Benedict Comstock, a daughter of Andrew Benedict, who was reared in the Captain’s family as one of his children.
The funeral was held at the house yesterday afternoon at one o’clock. It was the most notable gathering in some respects that has been seen in Orange County since the close of the war. Surviving members of the Orange Blossoms were there in considerable numbers. They came from all parts of the county and when they stood up in a line in front of the house at the close of the services, one was struck with their vigorous, hardy appearance.
Among those who came from a distance were Colonel T.W. Bradley, Congressman-elect for this district; Major C.B. Wood; Lieutenant Augustus Benniston of Washingtonville; Colonel C.B. Weygant of Newburgh; Captain Thos. Taft of Cornwall; Captain C.B. Wood of Middletown; Captain T.M. Roberson; and Captain L.S. Wisner of Middletown. Other members of the 124th present were William P. Uptegrove, James Scott, W.F. Benedict, Norman L. Sly, John H. Skelton, Adam W. Beakes, J.A. Beakes, Henry M. Howell, J.T. Roosa, J.T. Ogden, Corporal Moses Crist, James Irwin, Fred Dezendorf (who was continued for twenty months in Andersonville prison), James H. Conklin of Chester; Albert Parker of Montgomery; and E.L. Sproat and several others of Middletown.
There was a representative gathering present of all the prominent citizens and families of the Warwick and Vernon Valley and the house was inadequate to accommodate all who sought entrance to participate in the ceremonies. The Firing Squad of the 24th Separate Company of Middletown, under command of Sergeant Dudley, was there in uniform. One of the squad was stationed beside the casket in the hallway. The casket was covered with the flowers and floral emblems, one of which bore the inscription, “Orange Blossoms.” The regimental colors, a handsome silk flag, bearing inscriptions of battles, were gracefully arranged beside the casket.
Veteran of the Confederate Army Speaks at the Funeral
Elder J.G. Eubanks of Delaware, a gray-headed veteran of the Confederate Army was the first to speak. After reading the scriptures and talking briefly to his text, with his voice tremulous with emotion, he told of his first meeting with Captain Benedict, some twenty years ago, when he came to Warwick to preach at a meeting of the Old School Baptist Society.
They were introduced at the station and soon discovered that they had been near each other many times on opposite sides of the firing line during the war. In the Battle of Spottsylvania Court House, where Captain Benedict was badly wounded, Elder Eubanks was on the charging line on the Confederate side. He had been welcomed to Captain Benedict’s home and had learned to love this dear old man as a brother.
Each had conceded to the other in true soldier fashion, that respect for opinion that one soldier always has for another and the result was that the more they talked over the events of the great struggle, the more they loved each other. He could testify that Captain Benedict was in every sense an honest fighter. He was a true type of the same sort as General Grant, on whose tomb the inscription reads: “He was a foe in war; a friend in peace.” Such a man was Captain Benedict.
Many times they had talked of spiritual matters together and with deep satisfaction and joy, the speaker could testify that his departed friend was imbued with high principles and was a devout Christian, although he had never advertised his opinions. He was a man whose acts disclosed his conscientious regard for the right and whose generous heart illumined his life with generous deeds. It was an honor that he fully appreciated to be called by this dear family, all of whom he loves as his own, to speak at these services.
Elder Eubanks then chanted some verses entitled, “Death is only a Dream,” and was followed by Colonel C.H. Weygant. Colonel Weygant spoke feelingly of his old comrade, eulogizing him as a man of the highest honor and the sternest sense of justice. He took a fair, broad view of disputed questions, although holding firmly to his own convictions. An evidence of his catholic spirit was shown in a remark that he once made to the speaker, when he said, “Well, Colonel, if we had been born and raised in Virginia, it is altogether likely we would have fought on the other side.”
The Rev. Jesse Shaffer, of Newburgh, Chaplain of the Tenth Legion, closed the services at the house. Those who served as bearers were members of Company D – James. G. Irwin, who carried Captain Benedict off the field at Spottsylvania; William M. Mann, who by his faithful nursing service Captain Benedict’s life when desperately wounded; Norman L. Sly, William F. Quackenbush, Sylvester Quackenbush, and George B. Kinney, who for fifteen years has been a member of Captain Benedict’s family.
The procession from the house to the cemetery was notable for its length, although the roads were in a bad condition. The Firing Squad of the 24th Separate Company walked beside the hearse, followed by some of the Grand Army veterans; others of the veterans went to the cemetery in carriages.
At the head of the line of veterans who marched to the grave walked Congressman Bradley and Joe Ashley, side by side. As the procession passed through the Village the business places were temporarily closed and flags were at half mast.
The ceremonies at the grave were brief and simple and very impressive. After a few remarks by Chaplain Schaffer, comrades of the departed one cast sprigs of evergreen and flowers upon the casket and the Firing Squad fired three volleys over the grave; then the bugler of the squad sounded “taps,” and the benediction was pronounced.