Originally published in The Rock River Times.

David Benjamin and his wife, Frances were much like everyone else that settled in the early town of Guilford, Illinois.  Their parents moved here to make a better life for their families. Both families made their living by farming. When David and Frances took their wedding vows on March 19, 1861, they must have believed that their lives would mirror their parents.  The birth of their son, Charlie in December of 1861 was celebrated by both of the families.

But 1861 was a turbulent time for our country and the Civil War, though fought many miles from Rockford, would invade on David and Frances’ dreams for their family.

On August 15, 1862 David was 23-years old and he enlisted in the 74th Illinois Infantry here in Rockford.  His enlistment papers describe him as 5’ 11” with brown hair and blue eyes.  One can only imagine what was going through David’s thoughts as he said goodbye to Frances and Charlie. 

After training, David’s regiment was sent to Nashville, Tennessee to serve under General Grant.  Grant chose William Stark Rosecrans to lead the regiment along with several others.

At the end of 1862, Rosecrans would be the commander of the Army of the Cumberland after Grant sent him to replace Don Carlos Buell.  They were sent in to halt Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee advance. The Battle of Stone’s River was fierce and the casualties were many.  The battle raged for five days with the most intense fighting from December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863. 

The battle would later be second only to Gettysburg for its high casualty percentage. The National Park Service’s website about the battle claims that 24,000 men from the original 81,000 that fought that day were casualties.  The page also lists the rate of several other major battles. Gettysburg had a 31% casualty rate and Stones River was 29%. 

Rosecrans would be considered the victor of the battle but at a heavy cost.  David Benjamin was one of the casualties. The records only list that David died on February 10, 1863 from wounds he received in the battle.  David was buried in the cemetery at Stone’s River Cemetery.

Frances must have been devastated at the loss of her young husband.  She now faced raising her son on her own as she tried to hold on to the farm that she and David had built.  Frances was fortunate to have her family so close. Her father and brothers would help work the land while her mother and sisters pitched in with the house and the care of Charlie.  She would hold on to the dream that she and David had for their family.

But fate would step in once again.  Little Charlie had taken ill and though everyone around her was hopeful, Frances was filled with fear.  Those fears were realized on May 10, 1963 when Charlie died. 

Frances’ heart broke for the second time in 3 short months.  It was a blow from which Frances would not recover. She died on March 9, 1864 and was buried next to her son at Greenwood Cemetery.  Though David was buried many miles away on Tennessee, he is listed on the tombstone for Frances and Charlie.

All that is left of the hopes and dreams of this family is the obelisk shaped tombstone that Frances’ family had built for them.

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events