Saturday, March 05, 2016

Antietam KIA discovery: Image of 11th Connecticut private

11th Connecticut Private Benjamin Beach is buried at Antietam National Cemetery. 
(Beach image courtesy of descendant.)
Research at archives, historical societies and elsewhere has helped me tell the stories of several 11th Connecticut soldiers who were killed or mortally wounded at Antietam. Fennimore Weeks, an unmarried private in Company F from Norwalk, Conn., was shot through the head during the regiment's disastrous attack at Burnside Bridge, according to his captain, "and did not live but a few moments after he was struck." John Holwell, a 41-year-old corporal in Company H, concluded at least one of his wartime letters to his wife with the words "your husband to death."  A rope maker from Norwich, Conn., the Mexican War veteran also left behind two young children.

Beach's widow and son filed for assistance from the government
 after the 11th Connecticut private's death. (
Unfortunately, no images are known to exist of Weeks, Holwell and most of the other soldiers whose names are etched on the 11th Connecticut's monument on a knoll near Burnside Bridge. If an image of one of those fallen soldiers does turn up, it's a pretty big deal. A post on my blog five months ago led to a connection with a descendant of Benjamin Beach, an 11th Connecticut private who also was killed at Antietam. She kindly shared the faint wartime image of her great-grandfather that appears at the top of this post and also has been added to my Pinterest page of Connecticut soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice at Antietam.

Quick research yielded basic information about  Beach: A 25-year-old private in Company E, he mustered into the 11th Connecticut on Oct. 7, 1861. A farmer, Benjamin was married to a woman named Mary and had two sons, William and Ben. When U.S. census taker visited the Beach household in Norfolk, Conn., on July 6, 1860, he noted Mary was a year younger than Benjamin and William was only 2; Ben had not yet been born.

On Feb. 6, 1863, nearly five months after her husband was killed, Mary filed for a widow's pension, possibly because she had little means of financial support. One of Beach's sons also filed for government assistance after his father's death, perhaps soon after his mother died. My hope is that a visit to the National Archives this spring will uncover documents in Beach's pension file that shed much more light on the life of the young soldier whose remains lie today in the national cemetery in Sharpsburg, Md.

On the 11th Connecticut monument at Antietam, Beach's name appears among those killed or
mortally wounded during the battle on Sept. 17, 1862.

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