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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1837

[image ALT: A photograph of a middle-aged man seated in an elegant wooden high-backed chair, seen in three-quarters from his left. He has a double chin is clean shaven, and has most of his hair including long sideburns; he wears a 19c U. S. Army uniform with a double row of brass buttons, and a star on his epaulets; over his belt he wears a sash with long tassels, and his left hand rests on the pommel of his sword. He has an air of tempered pride, concentration — and of not wanting to sit for the portrait. He is Henry Benham, the subject of a biography on this webpage.]

Vol. I

(Born Ct.)

Henry W. Benham

(Ap'd Ct.)


Henry Washington Benham: Born Apr. 17, 1813, Cheshire, CT.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1833, to July 1, 1837, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 1, 1837.

Served: as Asst. Engineer on Improvement of Savannah River, Ga.,

(First Lieut., Corps of Engineers, July 7, 1838)

Superintending Engineer of the repairs of Ft. Marion, and of St. Augustine Sea-wall, Fla., 1839‑44,​a — of repairs of the defenses of Annapolis harbor, Md., 1844‑45, — of repairs of St. Augustine Sea-wall, Fla., 1845, 1845‑46, — of repairs of Ft. Mifflin, Pa., and Ft. McHenry, Md., 1845, — and of repairs of Fts. Madison and Washington, Md., 1846‑47; in the War with Mexico, 1847‑48, being engaged in the Battle of Buena Vista, Feb. 21‑23, 1847, where he was wounded; as Asst. Engineer

(Bvt. Capt., Feb. 23, 1847,
for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Buena Vista, Mex.)

in the repairs of the defenses of New York harbor, 1848‑49;

(Captain, Corps of Engineers, May 24, 1848)

as Superintending Engineer of the construction of the Sea-wall for the protection of Great Brewster Island, Boston harbor, Mas., 1849‑52, — of building Buffalo Light-house, N. Y., 1852, — and of Washington Navy Yard, D. C., 1852‑53; as Asst. in charge of the U. S. Coast Survey Office at Washington, D. C., and on duty in Europe connected therewith,  p661 Mar. 29, 1853, to Nov. 1, 1856; as Superintending Engineer of the

(Major, 9th Infantry, Mar. 3, 1855: Declined)

building of Fts. Winthrop and Independence, Boston harbor, Mas., 1856‑57, — of Survey of site for fort at Clark's Point, New Bedford harbor, Mas., and repairs of Ft. Adams, Newport harbor, R. I., 1857‑58, — of building Sandy Hook Fort, N. J., 1858‑61, — and of Potomac Aqueduct, 1860; as Member of Special Board of Engineers for modifying plans of Sandy Hook Fort, N. J., 1860; and as Engineer of the Quarantine Commissioners of New York harbor, 1859‑60.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: as Chief Engineer of the Department of the Ohio, May 14 to July 22, 1861, being engaged on the Staff of Brig.‑General T. A. Morris in Military operations in Western Virginia, at Laurel Hill, July 6‑11, 1861, — and

(Bvt. Colonel, July 13, 1861,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Carrick's Ford, Va.)

Combat of Carrick's Ford, in command of the engaged troops, July 13, 1861; as Acting Inspector-General, Department of the Ohio, Aug. 5‑16;

(Major, Corps of Engineers, Aug. 6, 1861)

in Western Virginia Campaign, Aug.‑Nov., 1861, in command of brigade

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Aug. 13, 1861)

at New Creek, Aug. 16, 1861, — Action at Carnifex Ferry, Sep. 10, 1861, — and pursuit of Rebels from Cotton Hill to Raleigh County, Va., Nov. 12‑16, 1861; as Superintending Engineer of the fortifications of Boston harbor, Mas., Mar. 8‑20, 1862; in command of the Northern District of the Department of the South, Mar. 21 to June 21, 1862, being present at Tybee Island, Ga., during the Bombardment and Capture of Ft. Pulaski, Apr. 10‑11, 1862, — and engaged, in command, at the Attack on Secessionville, James Island, S. C., June 16, 1862; as Superintending Engineer of the construction of the fortifications of Portsmouth harbor, N. H., Sep. 8, 1862, to Feb. 28, 1863; in command of Engineer Brigade

(Lieut.‑Colonel, Corps of Engineers, Mar. 3, 1863)

(Army of the Potomac), being engaged in superintending the throwing of Ponton Bridges across the Rappahannock, for the passage and retreat of the Army at Chancellorsville, Apr. 29‑May 5, 1863, and at Franklin's Crossing, in face of the enemy, June 5, 1863, — and over the Potomac at Edwards Ferry, June 21, 1863; in command of Ponton Depot at Washington, D. C., July, 1863, to May, 1864; in command of Engineer Brigade, June, 1864, to June 8, 1865, being engaged in superintending the laying of a ponton bridge across the James River at Ft. Powhatan (two thousand two hundred feet long), June 15, 1864, — in the construction and command of the Defenses of City Point, Va., Oct., 1864, to Apr. 2,

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Campaign terminating with the Surrender of the Insurgent Army under General R. E. Lee)

1865, — in holding the captured lines at Petersburg, Apr. 2, 1865, — in repairing bridges across the Appomattox and Staunton Rivers, Apr. 3‑23,

(Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Mar. 13, 1865, for Faithful Services during the Rebellion)

(Bvt. Maj.‑General U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services during the Rebellion)

1865, — and on March to Washington, D. C., May‑June, 1865; and as

(Mustered out of Volunteer Service, Jan. 15, 1866)

Member of the Board of Engineers, June 20, 1865, to May 18, 1867, to  p662 carry out in detail the modifications of the defenses in the vicinity of Boston, Mas., as proposed by the Board of Jan. 27, 1864.

Served: as Superintending Engineer of the construction of the Defenses of Boston Harbor, Mas. (Ft. Winthrop, from June 17, 1865, —

(Colonel, Corps of Engineers, Mar. 7, 1867)

Ft. Independence, from Nov. 13, 1865, — Ft. Warren, from Apr. 9, 1867, — and Works on Long Island Head, from Oct. 25, 1869), to July 30, 1877, — of Provincetown Harbor Defenses, Mas., Jan. 20, 1866 to Feb. 4, 1870, — in charge of Boston Harbor Sea-walls, May 19, 1866, to Apr. 1, 1873, — and of Ft. Montgomery, N. Y., and the Defenses of New York Harbor (except at eastern entrance and on Staten Island), July 30, 1877, to June 30, 1882; and as Member of Board for the examination of Engineer Officers for Promotion, Oct., 1877.

Retired from Active Service, June 30, 1882, he being over 64 Years of Age,

Died, June 1, 1884, at New York city: Aged 71.

Buried, Congressional Cemetery, Washington, DC.

Thayer's Note:

a This PDF at West Point AOG has photographs of the surviving portions of that sea-wall, and additional interesting information.

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Page updated: 10 Apr 20