Benson, Orlando P. (92nd New York)

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This is an example of one of many diary installments from Orlando P. Benson published in the pages of the Potsdam, NY Courier and Freeman in 1924-25.

SOPO Editor’s Note: The Civil War diary of Orlando P. Benson of the 92nd New York was found and published in The Courier and Freeman (Potsdam, NY) as well as the Massena NY Observer in the 1920’s, shortly after his death on November 4, 1924.  I’ve chosen to publish the portion of the diary covering Bermuda Hundred, Petersburg, Appomattox, and his postwar experiences through the end of the diary.  The rest of the diary from 1861-early 1864 appears in the pages of the 1925 Potsdam Courier and Freeman.  They can be found in image form here. Here is a COMPLETE TRANSCRIPTION of the entire diary from Jack Phend.  Check out a short intro to Benson’s life as well as the full list of installments below.  MANY thanks to Jack Phend for transcribing this entire diary for me.  It appears here solely due to his help. Are you interested in first person accounts at the Siege of Petersburg?  Check out our Letters and Diaries page for more!

Orlando P. Benson of Massena, NY was born on December 28, 1842 to Samuel and Cornelia Benson.  They had moved to Massena from Vermont in 1837, a few years before Orlando’s birth. Orlando grew up on his parents’ farm and helped with the chores until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Orlando P. Benson enlisted in the 92nd New York Volunteer Regiment in Company A with a rank of corporal when he was 19 years of age. He was sent to the training camp at Potsdam [NY] in October, 1861, leaving there in February 1862 for the front. The 92nd New York was involved in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, seeing the elephant at Williamsburg, Seven Pines and during the Seven Days from May-July 1862.  Benson must have been a good soldier and record keeper. He was promoted to Sergeant Major on October 1, 1862, and filled in for the 92nd New York’s Adjutant when he was away on leave. The middle years of the war were spent more peacefully, as the 92nd New York was stationed first in Suffolk, VA and the in New Berne, North Carolina in various backwaters of the war.  Benson and the 92nd New York again found themselves with the main armies in May 1864.  They moved to Bermuda Hundred at the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers to participate in Benjamin Butler’s Bermuda Hundred Campaign.  In late May to early June 1864 the 92nd New York moved to join the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Cold Harbor.  This arrangement would be short-lived.  When Grant crossed the James River and moved on Petersburg in mid-June 1864, the 92nd New York and the rest of the 18th Corps was again part of the Army of the James.

Benson remained with his regiment until the Second Battle of Fair Oaks, fought on October 27, 1864. Here, he was captured but avoided getting wounded. He was sent to Salisbury POW camp in North Carolina. Being an officer probably saved his life, and enlisted men were usually sent to Andersonville in Georgia. He was imprisoned there until late February 1865. He was transferred to the 96th New York on December 1, 1864 in absentia, with the remaining survivors of the 92nd New York. The latter regiment ceased to exist on that date. Benson embarked on a lengthy journey home through Wilmington, NC to Annapolis, MD, by train to his home in Massena, NY. He reached the farm on the evening of March 21, 1865, “tired and wet.” He never returned to his regiments at Petersburg while the fighting continued due to the conditions of his parole, or “detention,” as he called it. Through it all Benson kept writing in his diary, ultimately finishing in June 1865. He reasoned the war was over and so his need to keep a diary was at an end. It is believed he never again kept a diary for the remainder of his long life.

Orlando P. Benson of the 92nd NY filed a pension in 1888.

After the Civil War Orlando settled in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area, marrying Virginia native Susan C. Primmer in 1867. They settled down on a farm near Falmouth and started to raise a family.  There they remained until Spring of 1881, at which point the small family moved back to Benson’s home town of Massena. In fact, it seems they moved back to Orlando’s father’s farm.

Benson applied for a pension in 1888, though I do not know if he received a pension.  I would suspect he did as his record was surely strong and easily verifiable.  He was active in the Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR, a prominent Union veteran’s organization, serving as his post’s first quartermaster. Orlando and Susan raised many children and continued to live in Massena on the family farm for many decades as farmers, though the census and other records show conflicting information on names of the children and other details.  Susan passed away in 1919 and Orlando followed her in 1924, just shy of 82 years of age.  It seems he had at least nine surviving children, five daughters and four sons, along with many grandchildren, when he passed away. He had lived a long and fulfilling life after surviving the Salisbury prison pen. Luckily, his diary entries below provide a detailed, day by day account of his Civil War experiences.

Benson’s final resting place is Old Pine Grove cemetery in Massena, NY. (courtesy silentarcher99 at Find a Grave)

Orlando P. Benson’s Diary While at the Siege of Petersburg:

Sources:

Year: 1850; Census Place: Massena, Saint Lawrence, New York; Roll: 591; Page: 371b Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, 1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

 

Year: 1860; Census Place: Massena, Saint Lawrence, New York; Page: 620; Family History Library Film: 803855  Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. 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 Administration, n.d.

Year: 1870; Census Place: Falmouth, Stafford, Virginia; Roll: M593_1680; Page: 33B; Family History Library Film: 553179 Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. 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 Records Administration, n.d.
  • Minnesota census schedules for 1870. NARA microfilm publication T132, 13 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.

 

Year: 1880; Census Place: Falmouth, Stafford, Virginia; Roll: 1391; Page: 498B; Enumeration District: 141 Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, 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 use license and other terms and conditions applicable to this site. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

 

The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War; Series Number: M123; Record Group Title: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; Record Group Number: 15; Census Year: 1890 Ancestry.com. 1890 Veterans Schedules of the U.S. Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Special Schedules of the Eleventh Census (1890) Enumerating Union Veterans and Widows of Union Veterans of the Civil War; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M123, 118 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

 

Year: 1900; Census Place: Massena, Saint Lawrence, New York; Page: 14; Enumeration District: 0110; FHL microfilm: 1241157. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls.

 

New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 02 E.D. 01; City: Massena; County: St Lawrence; Page: 47 Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1905 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: New York, State Census, 1905. Population Schedules . Various County Clerk Offices, New York.

 

Year: 1910; Census Place: Massena, Saint Lawrence, New York; Roll: T624_1075; Page: 21A; Enumeration District: 0142; FHL microfilm: 1375088 Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original data: Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910 (NARA microfilm publication T624, 1,178 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA.

 

New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 01; Assembly District: 02; City: Massena; County: St Lawrence; Page: 47 Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: State population census schedules, 1915. New York State Archives, Albany, New York.

 

Year: 1920; Census Place: Massena, Saint Lawrence, New York; Roll: T625_1260; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 142 Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920. (NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 are on roll 323 (Chicago City).

 

Historical Data Systems, Inc.; Duxbury, MA 02331; American Civil War Research Database Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. Original data: Data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA from the following list of works. Copyright 1997-2009 Historical Data Systems, Inc.

 

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi.

 

Orlando P. Benson obituary. November 6, 1924 Massena Observer, p. 5, c. 2.

 

The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; NAI Title: U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934; NAI Number: T288; Record Group Title: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 1773-2007; Record Group Number: 15; Series Title: U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934; Series Number: T288; Roll: 32 National Archives and Records Administration. U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. Original data: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. T288, 546 rolls.

Benson, O. P. (Orlando) “Diary of a Civil War Veteran: The late O. P. Benson, member of the 92nd Regiment.” The Courier and Freeman. December 17, 1924 to April 1, 1925.
Thank you to Noah Andre Trudeau for pointing out this reference.
These articles were downloaded from http://guides.library.upenn.edu/historicalnewspapersonline.