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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1881

Vol. III

(Born Ill.)

Benjamin F. Handforth

(Ap'd N. J.)


Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, Sep. 1, 1877, to June 11, 1881, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Second Lieut., 11th Infantry, June 11, 1881.

Served: on frontier duty at Ft. Sully, Dak., Sep. 29, 1881, to Nov. 17, 1881, — Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., to July 18, 1883, — and Ft. Sully, Dak., Sep. 1, 1883, to June 3, 1886; on sick leave of absence, to Nov. 23, 1886, and conducting Recruits to Ft. Snelling, Min., to Nov. 26, 1886; on frontier duty at Ft. Yates, Dak., to July 29, 1887; and in garrison at Madison Bks., N. Y., to Dec. 7, 1887.

Dismissed, "for Conduct unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman."​a1

Vol. IV
[Supplement, Vol. IV: 1890‑1900]

Civil History. — Unknown.

Vol. V
[Supplement, Vol. V: 1900‑1910]

Civil History. — Unknown. In asylum at Chester, Penn.º

Vol. VI
[Supplement, Vol. VI: 1910‑1920]

(Benjamin Franklin Handforth, Born Aug. –––, 1859.)

Military History. —

Second Lieut., 11th Infantry, June 11, 1881

Dismissed, Dec. 7, 1887
Per G. C. M. O. No. 88, A. G. O., Nov. 30, 1887.​a2

Civil History. — Inmate of Insane Asylum at Chester, Ill.,º Dec. 19, 1896, to Sept. 3, 1902, when he was transferred to the St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane at Washington, D. C., where he

Died, Jan. 15, 1905, at Washington, D. C., Aged 45

Obituary notice in Annual Report, Association of Graduates, for 1919.

Thayer's Note:

a1 a2 The following is a transcript of General Court Martial Order No. 88, as printed in the Army and Navy Journal, Dec. 10, 1887, p388:

Adjutant-General's Office,

Washington, Nov. 30, 1887.

G. C. M. O. No. 88.

I. Before a General Court Martial which convened at Madison Barracks, New York, and of which Lieut.‑Col. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Edward G. Bush, 11th Inf., is president, was arraigned and tried 1st Lieutenant Benjamin F. Handforth, 11th Inf.

Charge. — "Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, in violation of the 61st Article of War."

Specification 1st — "In this: that he, 1st Lieutenant Benjamin F. Handforth, 11th Inf., did attempt, without authority, to force an entrance into the quarters of 2d Lieut. C. W. Penrose, 11th Inf., and, having been resisted in this attempt, did, without just cause or provocation, at once engage in a disgraceful fight with the said 2d Lieut. C. W. Penrose, 11th Inf., and did violently assault, with intent to do bodily harm to the said 2d Lieut. C. W. Penrose, 11th Inf. This at Fort Yates, D. T., between the hours of 5.30 and 6.30 o'clock, P.M., on the 16th of April, 1887, in a public place and in the sight of officers and enlisted men."

Specification 2d — "In this: that he, 1st Lieutenant Benjamin F. Handforth, 11th U. S. Inf., he being a married man, did write and send the following letters and papers to Sister Martina, O. S. B., a teacher in the Indian school at Standing Rock Agency, D. T., the words, letters, and figures of said letter being as follows:

Fort Yates, D. T.

My Dear Sister: You will no doubt think it very strange that I should write to you, but I hope you will not be angry. My strong regard for you must at present be my only apology for writing, but I hope to be able to see you and explain more fully. I have been in arrest for some time, and have not been able to obtain permission to go beyond the limits of the military reservation, otherwise I would have gone to church or to the school.

I am living in the little house next to the fence which marks the line between the post and the Indian reservation. If it were possible I would like very much to see you privately, and yet I do not want any one besides yourself to know how anxious I am to see you. If you can for once break the conventional rules with which you are surrounded you may be able to do me an everlasting favor. Please be kind enough to call or at least let me hear from you.

Yours, sincerely,      H.

Strictly confidential.

P. S. — I think of you every day and dream of you often; my heart and soul are devoted to you. Oh! if you knew how I long to be with you continually, I feel sure you would take pity on me and at least allow me to see you and speak to you occasionally. Can you not come and see me some evening and allow me to have a long confidential talk with you? I hesitate to express myself on such a subject in writing. You will certainly think me foolish, and perhaps ridicule words and expressions which, under circumstances, would show themselves to be burning with love. I feel as though not only my only hope of earthly happiness but my only hope of Heaven depended upon gaining your love. The restrictions which hedge you about only serve to make my case to more desperate and hopeless, and yet I feel as though I was doing God's will. To me you represent all that is good and beautiful in religion: all that is desirable in Heaven. Your church can spare you far better than I can, and I cannot believe that God would be so selfish as to hold you to the strict letter of your vows when some one's earthly and eternal happiness depended upon their temporary or partial violation. I have often felt that if there is such a place as Heaven I would not care to go there unless I could meet some woman I loved. Your beautiful eyes haunt me continually, and I cannot bear the thought that I may never see you again.

B. F. Handforth, 1st Lieutenant, U. S. A.

this with the intention of making and pla­cing in the hands of Sister Martina an indecent and ungentlemanly proposal, that she, the said Sister Martina, should come to his quarters after night for a criminal purpose. This at or near Fort Yates, D. T., on or about the 5th day of May, 1887."

Specification 3rd — "in this: that he, 1st Lieut. Benjamin F. Handforth, 11th U. S. Inf., he being a married man, did prevail on Mrs. Kate Smith, who is the wife of Private Andrew J. Smith, Co. F, 11th Inf., to go into his personal quarters, and did there and therein make insulting proposals to the said Mrs. Kate Smith, and did ask her to kiss him, and did try to forcibly kiss her, and did attempt to force her, the said Mrs. Kate Smith, to go into his bed‑room for a criminal purpose. This at or near Fort Yates, D. T., on or about the 15th day of May, 1887."

To which charge and specifications the accused, 1st Lieut. Benjamin F. Handforth, 11th Inf., pleaded as follows: (Stood mute.)

The law concerning the plea of standing mute was read by the judge advocate, and the court, having determined that the accused stood mute from "obstinacy and deliberate design," directed the judge advocate to enter the plea of "Not Guilty."


The court, having maturely considered the evidence adduced, finds the accused, 1st Lieut. Benjamin F. Handforth, 11th Inf., as follows:

Of the 1st Specification, "Guilty, except the words 'did attempt, without authority, to force an entrance into the quarters of 2d Lieut. C. W. Penrose, 11th Inf., and, having been resisted in this attempt,' and also except the words 'at once,' and the words 'the said' after the word 'with,' and of the excepted words not guilty." Of the 2d Specification, "Guilty." Of the 3d Specification, "Guilty." Of the Charge, "Guilty."

Sentence. — "To be dismissed from the Service."

II. — The proceedings, finding, and sentence of the general court-martial in the foregoing case of 1st Lieutenant Benjamin F. Handforth, 11th Infantry, having been approved by the proper reviewing authority and the record forwarded, in accordance with the provisions of the 106th Article of War, for the action of the President of the United States, the following are his orders indorsed thereon.

Executive Mansion, Nov. 30, 1887.

The proceedings, findings, and sentence of the general court-martial in the foregoing case of First Lieutenant B. F. Handforth, Eleventh Regiment United States Infantry, are hereby approved.

Grover Cleveland.

III. — By direction of the Secretary of War the sentence of the general court-martial in the foregoing case of 1st Lieutenant Benjamin F. Handforth, 11th Infantry, will take effect December 7, 1887, from which date 1st Lieutenant Handforth will cease to be an officer of the Army.

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