FICTION by sdfgsg234



                                       by Cherié L. Weible

                                 I magine my reaction when I
                                 received an e-mail from a park
                                 ranger employed with the Vicksburg
                                 National     Military    Park     that
                                 answered one research question and
                                 finally closed a chapter in regards to
                                 an ancestor’s life. For more than
                                 thirty years my mother and I had
                                 been trying to locate an elusive
                                 Benjamin Franklin Jenkins who
                                 fought and died in the Civil War.1
                                 The search for Benjamin became
                                 our ‘holy grail’ of genealogical
                                 research as we disproved one family
                                 myth after another in our attempt to
                                 learn his true story.
                                     Our tangled path of myths and
                                 false information all began with my
                                 father’s early years, growing up on
                                 the family farm in rural Missouri
                                 during the 1940s. Family members
                                 from many generations of both the
                                 paternal and maternal sides of the
                                 family surrounded him, teaching
                                 him the family lore. Perhaps, since

    he was the youngest of the group,                            This grandfather was believed to have               two, Sarah and Philena, were born in
    older family members found him                               fought for the Confederate Army                     Missouri, the younger two, Lacy and
    eager to listen to their stories.                            and, was believed, killed in 1863 at                Louisa (Grandma Wilson) had been
        The oldest member living on the                          the Battle of Gettysburg. My mother                 born in Iowa.5
    farm was Louisa Catherine Jenkins                            searched through the Missouri                          Perhaps Benjamin had not been a
    Finley Wilson, known as ‘Grandma                             Confederate military records trying to              Confederate soldier at all. The family
    Wilson,’ my father’s great-grand-                            find this information so she could                  had previously lived in Missouri,
    mother.2 Although confined to a                              begin putting the pieces of the puzzle              where both Union and Confederate
    wheelchair, Grandma Wilson was                               together. She found no Confederate                  loyalties were strong, Benjamin could
    mobile enough to keep an eye on her                          service records for Benjamin Jenkins.               have been a soldier in the Union
    young great-grandson. He, in turn,                               Undefeated, we took a family trip               Army.6 Once again, we requested the
    although not quite old enough to help                        one year to Gettysburg National                     Military records from the National
    by operating the farm equipment, was                         Park on an unforgettably solemn and                 Archives and this time a confirmed
    able to assist Great-grandmother,                            patriotic Memorial Day Weekend,                     match was located. Success! One
    keeping her company during the long,                         only to discover that Confederate                   myth was dispelled when we learned
    busy days on the farm.                                       Soldiers certainly weren’t buried                   Benjamin Franklin Jenkins volun-
        One of Grandma Wilson’s stories                          there! Nine at the time, I had just                 teered with the Union Army as a
    was my father’s favorite, about her                          begun to accompany my Mother on                     Private in Iowa’s 34th Regiment,
    own father, whom she had never                               genealogical research trips to the                  Company I.7
    known. He had died in the Civil War,                         library. I loved it, and our search for                Benjamin’s service records indi-
    in the summer of 1863; she had been                          Benjamin Jenkins hooked me!                         cated that he reported for duty in
    born in April of that year.3                                     Eventually, my mother went back                 June of 1863 after his release from
        When my mother began research-                           to the information for Grandma                      the hospital at Benton Barracks, St.
    ing this line of my father’s genealogy,                      Wilson’s generation in hopes of                     Louis, Missouri.8 He was then
    he was quite anxious for her to                              discovering a missed clue. Benjamin                 wounded at the Siege of Vicksburg
    discover the details surrounding this                        and his wife Elizabeth Marie Hicks had              on July 4th, 1863. His death the next
    mysterious great-great-grandfather.                          four daughters.4 Although the oldest                month at the U.S. General Hospital

                               Wounded soldiers being tended in the field after the Battle of Chancellorsville near Fredericksburg, Va., May 2, 1863.

                                                                                                                                                    SPRING 2005   53

Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
     at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis,                “Regimental Histories” including        the grounds. The Web page about
     Missouri, on August 27th, was                    details of the movements and            Iowa’s participation at Vicksburg
     caused by the amputation of his                  engagements for the infantry of the     also contained links leading to infor-
     right arm. Another myth dissolved.               34th Regiment. Although the regi-       mation about the numerous regi-
     Benjamin had not been mortally                   ment lost a total of 258 men, only      ments that participated in the siege.
     wounded in the Battle of                         eleven of the enlisted men and one      I read over the information for the
     Gettysburg, but instead, sometime                officer were mortally wounded in        34th Regiment, but nothing seemed
     during the final days of the Siege of            battle. Disease took the lives of 246   to indicate the soldiers had been
     Vicksburg. These events both                     enlisted men and officers. These        placed near any heavy battles. The
     occurred in July of 1863, which                  statistics seemed to indicate that,     first link I checked had photos of a
     could have helped create the myth                although the regiment was in service    smaller Iowa monument, now
     that Benjamin was at Gettysburg.                 from October of 1862 until August of    located on private land. It had been
        This line of the family tree lay              1865, it never encountered heavy        vandalized so the plaque and
     dormant for some years while other               fighting with large numbers of          inscription were missing. Then, I
     lines were researched. I recently                troops.                                 discovered in the regimental listing,
     returned to Benjamin Jenkins’ story                  At this point in the search, I
     in an effort to find more details of             turned to the World Wide Web to         Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

     his life and military service.                   find more information about the
     Interested in discovering the move-              Siege of Vicksburg through the
     ments of Benjamin’s Civil War regi-              Vicksburg National Military Park’s
     ment, I consulted A Compendium of                Web pages.10 By taking an online
     the War of the Rebellion.9 Volume III            virtual tour of the park, I learned
     of    this     resource     contains             that Iowa has a state monument on
                    Below: Battery Benton (Union) located at Navy Circle, Vicksburg
                      National Military Park. Right: Battery at drill (Ringgold, Ga.).

                Iowa State Memorial, South Loop, Union Avenue, Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

a link to a 34th Iowa Regiment,               soldiers from the 34th Iowa,                      that Benjamin Franklin Jenkins had
Detached.11 I clicked on that link to         Detached, and their contribution to               served at Vicksburg but had died
learn that this small group of men            the Siege of Vicksburg at Battery                 after receiving wounds at Battery
from the 34th served at the ‘Battery          Benton. The story of these men                    Benton.14 A park ranger at Vicksburg
Benton’ as the area is now named by           begged to be found? Could                         checked the Official Records for the
the Park Service, in honor of the             Benjamin Jenkins have received that               list of casualties involving a mortar
ironclad USS Benton that supplied             fateful wound causing the loss of his             attack on Battery Benton on July 1,
the guns for this battery.12                  right arm, and eventually his life,               1863, but it was missing! However,
   Hopeful that the defaced plaque            while serving at Battery Benton?                  after a further check with the park
or Battery Benton might lead to                   Once again, I sent a short,                   historian, a letter was found
more clues, I sent a short e-mail to          concise e-mail message to the staff               describing the incident at Battery
the Vicksburg National Military               at Vicksburg National Military Park               Benton. The letter listed several
Park to learn if the words on the             asking for any information about the              names, including Benjamin Jenkins,
plaque had been recorded before its           names of the soldiers serving at                  34th Iowa, Company I, who died of
destruction.      Unfortunately,     I        Battery Benton. I also asked in my                wounds, August 27, 1863, at
learned that the monument was                 query, that a check with the park’s               Jefferson Barracks.15
vandalized in the 1930s and no                historian or librarian be made for                    The letter detailed the events
record remains of the inscription on          any additional information on                     that took place between Battery
the plaque.13 Feeling that my search          record about an action at the area                Benton (Union) and South Fort
had come to a halt along these                now known as the Battery Benton.                  (Confederate), as remembered by
avenues, I set my research aside in               Their reply I received a few                  Warren S. Dungan of the 34th Iowa.
an attempt to find some other unex-           weeks later, the e-mail mentioned at              He stated:
plored angle.                                 the beginning of this saga, brought                    The guns used by Gen. Herron at
   Still, I could not forget about the        excitement and joy. It confirmed                       ‘No. 1’ were borrowed from the Navy

                                                                                                                           SPRING 2005     55
                                                                                               Elijah Wayland, Co. E, both of whom
                                                                                               died that night or very soon thereafter;
                                                                                               and Benjamin F. Jenkins, Co. I, who
                                                                                               died of these wounds at Jefferson
                                                                                               Baracks [sic], Mo. Aug. 27th, 1863.
                                                                                               The others all recovered.16
                                                                                                Dungan’s letter continues to
                                                                                            describe the aftermath of the mortar
                                                                                            attack, and tells of his investigation
                                                                                            into the conditions under which the
                                                                                            thirty-seven Iowa soldiers faught.
                                                                                            There was no place for the men to
                                                                                            take cover from the Confederate
                                                                                            guns. It is likely that these Iowa
                                                                                            farmers, turned soldiers, found them-
                                                                                            selves in unfamiliar Mississippi enemy
                                                                                            territory without the proper training
                                                                                            in the use of a 42-pound rifle gun.
                                                                                                Wanting to get a feel for the
                                                                                            layout of the siege lines at
                                                                                            Vicksburg, our family took a short
                                                                                            trip over Memorial Day Weekend of
                                                                                            2002. My parents, coming from
                                                                                            southwest Missouri, met us and we
                                                                                            spent the weekend studying the
                                                                                            occurrances surrounding this histor-
                                                                                            ical event. I found it particularly
                                                                                            fitting that we had visited
                                                                                            Gettysburg over Memorial Day
         Louisa Catherine Jenkins Finley Wilson, ‘Grandma Wilson’ (1863-1954) and           Weekend so many years before in
        son Walter Horace Finley (1888-1972), ca 1952 in southwest Missouri. Louisa
       was the youngest daughter of Civil War (Union) soldier, Benjamin Franklin Jenkins.

     and J. Frank Reed, Acting Master
     from the gunboat Benton, was in
     command. There were two of them.
     They were 42-pounder rifle guns. A
     detail of 37 men from the 34 Iowa
     was made to man those guns. Not
     an artilleryman was there to aid in the
     work. On the night of June 30, 1863,
     Col. Edward Higgins, commanding
     the river batteries, placed a large
     Morter [sic] in south fort (so now
     called). Our battery opened doing
     much damage, the morning of July
     1st. After the rebs had fired a few
     shots from their morter [sic], they got
     the distance acurately [sic], and a
     shell fell in the midst of our guns
     wounding seven of our men, three
     mortally, viz: Silas Williams, Co. B;

search of the same answers,              the Siege of Vicksburg. This                                  1858 for the births of the two oldest daughters.
                                                                                                  7    “Military Service Record for Benjamin Jenkins.”
wondering what Benjamin Franklin         genealogical adventure is dedicated                      8    A Regimental History of the 34th Iowa was
Jenkins had experienced during his       to my parents who taught me to love                           presented in1890 at Garden Grove, during a
                                                                                                       reunion of the veterans of the 34th. The
short life and military career. The      history, geography, and family. I                             history was written by J. S. Clark, Captain of
trip was highly rewarding and it                                                                       Company C and Historian of the Regiment,
                                                                                                       and states that, “. . . the regiment returned to
helped us to understand the fateful                                                                    Benton barracks on the 5th day of February,
                                             Cherié L. Weible is the Assistant Librarian
events of early July, 1863, and the          for the Information Resource Retrieval Center
                                                                                                       1863. The regiment at this time totally broken
                                                                                                       down.” This was due to the “100 or more cases
battle that claimed Benjamin’s life,         at the University of Illinois at Urbana-                  of small pox and varioloid,” (a mild form of
leaving his widow, Elizabeth, with           Champaign Library (UIUC). Ms. Weible began                smallpox occurring in people who have been
                                                                                                       previously vaccinated or who have had the
four daughters and a step-son to             doing genealogical research at age ten, under             disease). These events are reflected in the
raise.17                                     the guidance of her mother, Peggy (Harper)                Hospital and Company Muster Rolls contained
                                             Finley. While her research and publications are           in the “Military Service Record for Benjamin
    As with most genealogical                                                                          Jenkins,” who was ill for approximately five
                                             in the area of electronic information supply,
research, the doors have been                                                                          months. An online copy of the history can be
                                             genealogical research remains a favorite. She             found at:
opened to yet more questions. A              holds a M.S. in Library Information Services from         certificates/Iowa34th.html
man named Frederick Jenkins also             UIUC and a M.A. in history from Pittsburg State      9  Frederick H. Dyer, A Compendium of the
                                                                                                     War of the Rebellion. (New York: 1959).
enlisted with Benjamin from                  University at Pittsburg, Kansas.
                                                                                                  10 Vicksburg National Military Park Home Page.
Decatur County, Iowa, in 1862.18                                                             

Asher Jenkins had settled and            Endnotes                                                 11 Iowa Troops.
                                         1     “Military Service Record for Benjamin              12 Iowa 34th Infantry, Detachment.
purchased land near both men in                Jenkins,” File Co. I, 34 Iowa Infantry, Records
DeKalb County, Missouri.19 Further             of the Adjutant General’s Office (Record Group     13 Greg Zeman, Chief of Operations, Vicksburg
                                               94), National Archives and Records Service,            National Military Park, e-mail correspondence
searching has produced more clues              Washington, D. C. Note that records for                with the author, Champaign, Illinois, 23 May
that make it highly probable that              Benjamin fall under the name “Jenkins” and             2000.
                                               “Jinkins” and collaborating evidence has been      14 Barbara Justice, Park Ranger, Vicksburg
these men were younger brothers of             used to ascertain that the records pertain to          National Military Park, e-mail correspondence
Benjamin, but thankfully, that is              the same individual.                                   with the author, Champaign, Illinois, 18 August
                                         2     Louisa Catherine (Jenkins) Finley Wilson;              2001.
another story for another time,                Walter Horace Finley; Nathan Lewis Finley;         15 Warren S. Dungan of Co. E, 34th Iowa, letter to
which is not nearly as tangled with            Carroll Eugene Finley; Cherié Louise (Finley)          William T. Rigby, 13 August 1903. Letterhead
                                               Weible.                                                reads, “Iowa Vicksburg Park Commission.” Copy
misleading information, or proceeded     3     A birth certificate for Louisa Catherine Jenkins       in possession of the author.
by family myths.20                             has not been located. However, a certified copy    16 Ibid.
                                               of a “Standard Certificate of Death” issued 18     17 Benjamin had two sons from his first
    While the use of online sources            November 1968, by the Division of Health of            marriage to Permelia, who died before 1852
were instrumental in helping solve             Missouri and additional collaborating evidence         in Kentucky. By 1863, Samuel Jenkins (age
                                               from Federal Census Records and the “Military          17) was no longer living in the household,
the mysteries surrounding the life             Pension Record for Benjamin Jenkins,” File             but his younger brother Zachariah Taylor
and military service of Benjamin               153231, Records of the Veterans                        Jenkins (age 14) was still with the family.
                                               Administration (Record Group 15), National             “Military Pension Record for Benjamin
Jenkins, the print sources and                 Archives and Records Service, Washington,              Jenkins”; 1850. U.S. Census, District No. 1,
records were equally invaluable to             D.C. support this fact.                                Breckinridge Co., Kentucky. p. 142, National
                                         4     Genealogical Notes of Mary Etta (Finley)               Archives Microfilm M-432, roll 193; and 1860
the task of fitting the puzzle pieces          Glenn (daughter of Louisa Catherine (Jenkins)          U.S. Census, Dallas Twp., DeKalb County,
together. Although the researchers             Finley Wilson. Mary’s daughter Hazel Louisa            Missouri. p. 589, National Archives Microfilm
                                               (Glenn) Corley was in possession of the notes          M-653, roll 618.
of previous generations were                   and provided a copy for Peggy Louise (Harper)       18 “Military Service Record for Frederick
completely dependent on paper                  Finley. This copy is now in the author’s files.        Jenkins.” File Co. I, 34 Iowa Infantry, Records
                                         5     Another piece of information that was                  of the Adjutant General’s Office (Record
records, today’s genealogist will find         misleading was the discovery of Benjamin’s             Group 94), National Archives and Records
that using a combination of online             widow on the 1870 U.S. Census, Union                   Service, Washington, D.C.
                                               Township, Laclede Co., Missouri. National          19 1860 U.S. Census, Dallas Twp., DeKalb County,
and print records will enhance the             Archives Microfilm M-593, roll 786. This infor-        Missouri. p. 594, National Archives Microfilm
quality of the collaborating evidence          mation had been located prior to finding the           M-653, roll 618. Also, 2 April 1857. Sale-Cash
                                               Military Service and Pension Records for               Entry for Asher Jenkins. Preemption
needed to tell the stories of their            Benjamin Jenkins. It confirmed that Benjamin’s         Certificate No. 19846. 80 Acres in DeKalb Co.,
ancestors’ lives.                              widow Elizabeth had re-married, but the family         Missouri. S1/2NW, Section 8, Township 59-N,
                                               was homesteading in Missouri, and not located          Range 30-W. Also a veteran of the Civil War,
                                               in Iowa.                                               with service to Co. H, 29th Missouri Infantry.
Acknowledgement                          6     1860 U.S. Census, Dallas Twp., DeKalb County,
                                               Missouri. p. 589, National Archives Microfilm M-
                                                                                                  20 “Military Pension Record for Frederick
                                                                                                      Jenkins,” File 434219, Records of the Veterans
The author would like to thank the             653, roll 618. Also, 1 October 1856. Sale-Cash         Administration (Record Group 15), National
professionals employed at the                  Entry for Benjamin Jenkins. Preemption                 Archives and Records Service, Washington,
                                               Certificate No. 14393. 114.35 Acres in DeKalb          D.C.; and 1860 U.S. Census, Dallas Twp.,
Vicksburg National Military Park for           Co., Missouri. 2 Parcels of Land. 1SW, Section         DeKalb County, Missouri. p. 594, National
                                               31, Township 60-N, Range 30-W and S 1/2 2SW,           Archives Microfilm M-653, roll 618.; and 1870
their patience and diligence while             Section 31, Township 60-N, Range 30-W. This            U.S. Census. Union Twp., Laclede Co.,
answering questions relating to the            information was located after finding Benjamin’s       Missouri. Elizabeth M. Jenkins Horn [widow of
                                               Military records. We knew the family was               Benjamin] and her family was also in Union
park and the historical records of             located somewhere in Missouri in 1855 and              Township at this time.

                                                                                                                                          SPRING 2005      57

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