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Individual Record
Giddings, Benjamin F.
MILITARY SERVICE
Age: 19, credited to Reading, VT
Unit(s): 17th VT INF, 2nd USSS
Service: enl 10/26/61, m/i 12/31/61, Pvt, Co. H, 2nd USSS, dis/dsb 6/25/62; enl 3/7/64, m/i 4/12/64, 1SGT, Co. G, 17th VT INF, comn 1LT, Co. B, 8/24/64 (9/27/64), pr CPT, 11/1/64 (11/19/64), wdd, Bethesda Church, 6/3/64, m/o 7/14/65 (occupation: student, 5' 9", light complexion, grey eyes, dark hair)

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations

VITALS
Birth: 07/05/1843, Cavendish, VT
Death: 09/28/1926

Burial: San Francisco National Cemetery, San Francisco, CA
Marker/Plot: SECTION OS ROW 11 SITE 1-A
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Linda M. Welch
Findagrave Memorial #: 3527812
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes
Portrait?: VHS off-site
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(State digraphs will show that this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldier's home)

Remarks: None
DESCENDANTS

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BURIAL:
Copyright notice
Tombstone

San Francisco National Cemetery, CA

Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.



Autobiography

[From: Families of Cavendish and the Black River Valley of Windsor County, Vermont, Vol. 3, by Linda M. Welch, (forthcoming Fall, 1998 from the Cavendish Historical Society, Cavendish, Vermont). For more information contact: lindamfw@charter.net, or write her at:
179 Meriden Road, Lebanon, NH 03766]

Benjamin Franklin Giddings7, {Hiram6, John5, Isaac4, Isaac3, Joseph Collins2, George1} was born in Proctorsville, Vt., 5 July, 1843. He m. (at the age of 40) in San Francisco, California, 2 June, 1884 Rose Mary Tatham (b. London, England, 30 Jan., 1854, only dau. of John & Ellen Tatham).

Ben was attending school in Duttonsville at the age of five years, and learned how to read at an early age by studying, reciting, and copying passages of the Bible under the tutelage of his mother. A Civil War soldier, he served as Captain of Co. "B", 17th Reg't Vt. Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps-- Army of the Potomac. Recently, and an old journal of Mr. Giddings' was uncovered by family members in Michigan, with a wonderful hand-written personal narrative inside. The transcribed narrative is included in its entirety, below. The volume, though incomplete, not only contained the very revealing narrative sketch of his life, it was also special for the numerous clippings and pictures of patriotic scenes and men he admired-- in particular material on President Theodore Roosevelt.

Ben and Rose had no children of their own, but were devoted Uncle and Aunt of Rilla Giddings Whelden's children, throughout their lives.

Memoirs and Memories of Seventy-Five Years, 1843-1918
by B. F. Giddings, Hayward, California, 1918

(dedicated to my sister, "Rilla", the one gentle sister whose smiles could destroy all the fanciful griefs of the passionate boy.)

No claim for literary merit, only a jotting down of remembered events called up by 'looking backward' through a long life of many changes and many scenes and many occupations and covering a large territory in this land of the stars & stripes, the flag I have followed and fought under and which I love.

I, Benjamin Franklin Giddings, was born at Cavendish, Vermont July 5, 1843 on a hill farm acquired by my paternal grandfather about the year 1812. He was a native of Massachusetts, born about 1750 at the little village of Boxford near Salem. He was a soldier of the American Revolution, being one of the Lexington Minute Men and serving later under Generals Gates and Arnold. He was at the Battle of Saratoga and the surrender of Gen'l Burgoyne's army in 1777. He moved with his family to Cavendish Vt. and settled upon 50 acres of land one mile from the little village and post office of Cavendish and about one and one-half miles from Proctorsville, the other village and P.O. of the town. Here, the Black River cuts its way through Hawk's Mountain by a deep and picturesque canyon and joins the beautiful Connecticut, a few miles away.

My father, Hiram Giddings, was born at Boxford, Massachusetts, July 31, 1790 and on breaking out of the war with Great Britain in 1812, joined the crew of a "Privateer" Brig of War, the Enterprise and when returning home from a cruise to the coast of Africa near the close of 1812, and when in sight of Salem Harbor, was captured by a British man-of-war, taken to England and confined with many hundreds of other prisoners in the famous Dartmoor Prison until the end of the war in 1814 when he was released and sent home. When finding his family had moved to Vermont, he joined them there. And as an older brother, who had accompanied his parents to Vermont, had died leaving a family, he took upon himself the care of his parents then advanced in years and of his brother's family, carried on the farm adding by purchase 100 acres more and living on this same farm for 50 years or until 1865. His father died about 1840, aged 88 years, and his mother in 1850, aged 99 years. I have no recollection of my grandfather or grandmother. I remember very well being seven years old when she died. She was a very bright active woman who read her Bible and the newspapers of the day without the aid of glasses. Having acquired her 2nd sight as I was told. She used to tell me stories of [what she knew of] the days of Salem witchcraft in New England of the great Earthquake of 1755 and of the 'dark day' of that period which so frightened the people. It has been related of my Grandma that she being engaged in spinning when the darkness came on, coolly lighted a candle and went on with her work. She raised a family of ten sons and three daughters, none of whom I ever saw except my father. They had left home and scattered over the earth, most of the sons being sailors, and were never heard of by my father except one brother, Edward Giddings, who lived for many years and died in Buffalo, New York. My father used to hear from him occasionally but they never met.

In 1836 my father was married to Rebecca French, whose family was among the earliest settlers of Cavendish. She was the youngest of a family of three sons and two daughters, all of whom married and settled in the town or near by--my Uncle Luther [French] being the furthest away living all his life on a farm near Saratoga Springs, New York.

I was the third of a family of four --two sons and two daughters. My brother died in infancy, my elder sister Calista married in 1866, Gilbert Hart and lived for forty years in Detroit, Michigan, dying in 1907. My younger sister Rilla married in 1867, Henry Whelden and lived in Proctorsville, Vt. until the death of her husband in 1874 when she moved to Detroit Michigan to be near her elder sister. She died in 1890 at San Diego, California, leaving a son Frank H. Whelden now living (in 1917) in Detroit, Mich. and a daughter Lizzie who died in 1894. My elder sister Calista, Mrs. Hart, had one son Frederick P. Hart, who died in 1903 at Detroit aged 28 years.

My boyhood and youth were spent on the quiet farm among the Vermont mountains. Our home was a large, well-built house of stone, quarried in the hills nearby, finished in 1846 and situated to command a lovely view toward the east and north with old Ascutney Mountain 20 miles away, while back of the house rose a high and beautifully wooded hill with a maple sugar orchard of 1,000 trees or more. Through our farm ran the "Twenty-Mile Stream," a fine trout stream it was too, which joined the Black River a mile away and finally the lovely Connecticut River. I attended the district school at Cavendish in winter and worked on the farm in summer. Often it was a hard fight with snow in winter time to get to school -- all over a road which we were obliged to maintain and keep open ourselves for a mile to where it joined the main highway. We were at the end of the trail and the only house on the road. Sometimes I can remember after a heavy fall of snow and a good deal of drifting, the neighbors would turn out with their ox teams and help open our road.

I can well remember the building of the first railroad through our town, -- the Rutland & Bennington connecting Boston with Lake Champlain. And how we children would run for one-half mile to the south of our home when we heard a whistle blow to see the train pass. By climbing the high hill in back of our house we could see the Connecticut River and the hills and mountains of New Hampshire to the east. And to the west, the beautiful Plymouth lakes with Killington Peak in the distance. Many of the hills were covered with the oak and butternut and were my favorite hunting grounds for the gray squirrel, while the spruce thickets often harbored the shy partridge. And the crow, the hen-hawk, and the woodchuck often fell before my trusty rifle which my father got for me in a trade swapping off a colt for it. I cannot remember that farm life and work in those days had many joys for me except sugar-making in the spring and cider-making in the fall. Often I would make several hundred pounds of sugar doing all the work myself-- boiling the sap in kettles hung against the ledge of rock in the 'sugar bush.'

Our cider apples were hauled to a cider mill several miles away, the mill run by water power from the Twenty-Mile Stream. Pay for grinding and expressing the juice used to be taken in cider, same as toll was taken at the grist mill for converting our grain into meal or flour. Rye and Indian was our chief staff of life --a blend of cornmeal and a good bread it was. We children were always expected to eat some of this brown bread before we could be served with any wheat or white bread.

I can remember that as a boy I led rather a lonely life having no playmates except my sisters. Our nearest neighbors lived a mile away and no boys there. Sometimes one of my schoolmates would pay me a visit from the village but my father would usually set him at work to help me at my job so his stay would usually be short. My mother was a woman of fine mind and of advanced ideas. She was a strong advocate of woman's rights and of dress reform. She was one of the first to adopt the "Bloomer Costume" and she wore it about her homework. She was a member of the Universalist church which sixty years ago was a strong church in New England, and we children were always required to go to church and Sunday school every Sunday--rain or shine. In her later years she seldom went herself preferring to remain home with our father who never attended church except on some special occasion or when some big fun was to fill the pulpit like one of the Ballous, or Streeter or Theo Parker. My father was called an 'Infidel" but he was a thinker, a reader and as I remember, a great admirer of Thomas Payne and his writings. Also of Theo Parker, Henry Ward Beecher, and of Napoleon, whose campaigns and battles he had closely studied. He was a Whig in politics and when the Republican Party was formed, was a strong supporter of it and of John C. Fremont, its first Presidential candidate in 1856. I remember the first book I ever owned, bought with my own money and which I still have. "The Life and Public Services of John C. Fremont." sold by subscription during the campaign of '56. I sold early apples which I would take to the village in a sack on my back and for which I would get 25 cents a peck. I saved up the money and so became the proud possessor of this book.

The only entertainments in those days was going to town meeting and that often was quite entertaining. Also, a church festival, so-called, once a year, usually in midwinter to raise money for the church and Sunday School, the Fourth of July celebration at Ludlow, four miles away, Chester being six miles, or maybe to Rutland, 25 miles by rail over the Mountains and quite a metropolis I used to think, a trip long to be remembered. Then sometimes in summer a so-called "Caravan" would visit the village, pitch its tents and give an exhibition. Any show called a "Circus" was barred from the state by law on moral grounds, I suppose, so they used to go to towns in New Hampshire just across the Connecticut River from Vermont and give exhibitions drawing many hundreds of patrons from our state with their money spent in a neighboring state, which would drive all the benefit including the high license charged. A 'caravan' was mostly an animal show in which the lions and elephants and snakes had the call with plenty of side-show tents pitched near the entrance to the big tent.

Boston was only 120 miles away, but I never saw it or any city until I was fully grown. A married adopted sister who lived in the suburbs of Boston used to visit us in the summer and would tell me stories of the glories and wonders of the 'hub' for which I was glad to repay her by running over the mountains and gathering wild raspberries, filling many a big pail to be converted into jam for her to take home.

In the years just preceding the Civil War, my father who was a strong abolitionist and a hater of the institution of slavery and always much interest in its discussion in Congress, had a near neighbor whose farm joined ours on the southwest --Gov. Ryland Fletcher, who was also a strong abolitionist and who had been elected Governor of the State on that issue. He used to meet my father quite often for a talk and one day in the early Spring of 1859 when I was about 15 years old, Gov. Fletcher came to our house 'cross lots' bringing with him John Brown, who had even then become famous by his battles against the slave power in Kansas and who was now making ready for what was to be his last fight at Harper's Ferry. I can well remember his looks, especially his eyes-- the eyes of an Eagle! The three men had a long interview and I have no doubt but my father contributed something to the cause for which John Brown laid down his life, particularly if Gov. Fletcher asked him to do so. In later years I have come to look upon John Brown as one of the greatest and finest characters in American history. He was truly an apostle of liberty and his soul is still grandly marching on.

I very well remember the presidential campaign of 1856 when John C. Fremont, a very popular man of those times was the candidate of the then New Republican Party and have often thought that it was no doubt very fortunate for the Nation that Fremont was defeated for had he been elected it would probably have resulted in precipitating the War of the Rebellion four years sooner and it is hardly likely that Fremont, though an able man, would have been competent to have filled the place so ably as it was filled by Abraham Lincoln. In the campaign of 1860, I was not old enough to vote, being but 17, but I took a great interest in it and attended all the meetings I could and heard some prominent orators of that time who came to Cavendish and the surrounding towns on their speaking circuits.

On the breaking out of the Civil War in Spring of 1861, I wanted to enlist in the First Vt. Regiment of three months' men raised in our state in answer to President Lincoln's first call for 75,000 men, but could not get permission of my parents-- I being an only son and they well advanced in years. So in October of that year, I being then in attendance at a private school in Proctorsville, Vt., ran away from home and went to Brattleboro, fifty miles away, and enlisted in a company of "Berdan Sharp Shooters" being raised there, and as I was a fine marksman with the rifle, I easily stood the test required and finally obtained the consent of my parents and was accepted being then a little over 18 years old.

[Ben enlisted at Cavendish, 26 Oct., 1861, to serve three years, or during the war, as a Private in Capt. Gilbert Hart's Company "H", 2nd Regiment United States Sharpshooters, (or early known as the 2nd Berdan U. S. Sharpshooters), Colonel H. A. V. Post, commanding; Henry Herbert and Albert Buxton, Lieutenants. Colonel Hiram Berdan was from New York, and was the inventor of a rifle which he hoped to get adopted for use in the army, but failed. He served as Colonel of the 1st Regiment until after Gettysburg when he resigned, went to Russia, got his rifle adopted by the Russian government, became a Russian citizen and died a very wealthy man. Colonel Post was also from New York. He was a civil engineer by profession and a member of the New York state militia]

Our Company was filled during the Fall and was allowed to elect it own officers. Gilbert Hart of Dorset, Vermont, being elected Captain --a fine man, 33 years of age, a first-class mechanic who, after the war, married my oldest sister, went to Detroit, Michigan and founded one of the leading manufacturing firms of that now great city (The Detroit Emery Wheel Company), acquired a large fortune and dying there in 1912.

THE WAR:

After being mustered into service, the Company left the State for Washington January 1, 1862. On our arrival there late on the evening of January 4, and without arms or uniforms, we were marched into the Capitol building and spent our first night in the rotunda, spreading our blankets on the marble tiled floor under the then unfinished dome. Next morning we were marched out to our camp on Meridian Hill about two miles where the two regiments of Berdan Sharpshooters were encamped. Our company was the last to arrive in camp, completing the 16 companies forming the two regiments. Colonel Hiram Berdan commanded the First Regiment and Colonel H. A. V. Post the Second. All the country for miles around Washington was covered with the camps of the great "Army of the Potomac" then being assembled and organized by General McClellan. We remained in this camp training and drilling in Company Battalion and skirmish drill until March 6th after being uniformed in green (the color for riflemen) and being armed first with Colt's revolving muskets which were soon discarded for Sharp's Target Rifles.

Our first march was a hard one. We had heavy knapsacks packed full of our belongings; two woolen and one rubber blanket, and overcoat --all weighing fully 80 pounds. We crossed the Potomac by the famous Chain Bridge into Virginia and camped the first night not far from Fairfax Court House in a cornfield. A cold rain came on during the night and we all got thoroughly soaked as we had pitched no tents. Next day we marched over the Bull Run battlefield of the previous summer to Bristoe Station on Orange and Alex Ridge and camped here for nearly a week in rain and mud, then moved on to Catlett's Station and early in April made a forced march of 40 miles to Fredericksburg. We were in the First Corps commanded by Major General McDowell, General McClellan having taken his army to the peninsular for the investment of Richmond, leaving McDowell's Corps of some 40,000 men to cooperate with him from the North.

Our brigade was composed of the 22nd, 24th, 30th NY Infantry, The Brooklyn 14th Zouaves = the 2nd Berdan Sharpshooters, The Harris Light Cavalry (under command of Lt. Col. Judson Kilpatrick, afterwards General and Commander of the Calvary Corps of the Army of the Potomac) and Capt. Gibbons Battery of Artillery. The Brigade was under command of Brig. General C. C. Auger, and the Division under General Rufus King of New York. Our Brigade was know as the First Iron Brigade. It was while on this advance to Fredericksburg that we had our first experience of real war. The Confederates had but a small force at this point. A small force of cavalry opposed our entrance into Falmouth on the north bank of the Rappahannock which was met by our Harris Cavalry under command of Lt. Colonel Kilpatrick. A few saddles were emptied on both sides and my regiment, deployed as skirmishers, followed the advance of the cavalry. The enemy retreated across the river, burning two bridges. A brigade of our division-- Patrick's, forded the river and occupied Fredericksburg while our Brigade camped on the pleasant Falmouth hills until well into May when we broke camp, crossed the river and started on our march south to join General McClellan in investment of Richmond. We advanced some eight miles when we were turned back and marched to Manassas.

June came. We were loaded on cars and sent up to the Manassas Gap, right into the Blue Ridge Mountains, to intercept Stonewall Jackson who had driven back the army of General Banks and was threatening Washington. On this movement we had a bad railroad accident, [colliding trains at Rectortown Station] killing and wounding many. I was in the front of the train near the engine and so escaped, though bruised and thrown out of the car. We finally reached Front Royal but Stonewall Jackson was gone having fallen back and rejoined General Lee's army in defense of Richmond, but accomplishing his object in preventing us from joining McClellan.

We then marched back to our old camp at Falmouth and it was on this long hard march that I became disabled by rupture and was obliged much against my will, to be discharged for disability. A cousin of same age and a Corporal of the same company, was taken ill on this march with typhoid fever while we were encamped at a place called Haymarket and when the Regiment marched away, I got permission to stay behind and care for him as best I could, but he became so ill that he was taken to a hospital in Washington and I followed on after my Regiment joining it in camp at Falmouth. I never saw my cousin Henry [Giddings] again. He died in a hospital, a great grief to me as we were like brothers. [The GAR post in Reading, Vt. was named in honor of young Henry Giddings]

While camped near Fredericksburg, our boys often visited the little city where were several flour mills and as we had plenty of coffee and the inhabitants none, we found no difficulty in effecting an exchange, one pound of coffee for ten pounds or more of flour. Then came pancakes for us to take the place of hard tack.

Home:

I remained in camp for some time until I got my discharge papers. [Honorable discharge dated 24 June, 1862] Then I went to Washington to get my pay and transportation home. I arrived there about time of return of McClellan's army from the Peninsular Campaign and the 2nd Battle of Bull Run where McDowell's and Pope's army was defeated by Lee. There was great confusion-- almost a panic in Washington which was in danger of capture by the Rebels. It was several days before I got my pay and transportation and started for home and after getting there, I read of the Battle of Antietam in which McClellan defeated Lee and saved the capitol from capture. I have always felt sure that had McClellan been supported and fairly treated by the administration on his Peninsular Campaign, he would have captured Richmond and ended the War in the summer of 1862.

Another Enlistment:

I remained home on the farm, attended school at Fall term of "Green Mountain Liberal Institute," South Woodstock, Vt. --a Universalist institution and fine school. My elder sister Calista also attended and we boarded ourselves hiring a room in a private house and subsisting on supplies sent us from home 15 miles away. I also attended the Spring term following with my younger sister, Rilla.

I taught a district school the winter of '64 and in March [7 March, 1864] enlisted again for a three-year term in the 17th Vt., the last regiment raised in Vermont for the Civil War. [Ben was mustered in as 1st Sergeant of Capt. Eldin J. Hartshorn's Company "G", Colonel Francis V. Randall commanding] The Regiment left Burlington on April 18th as a battalion of seven companies under Lt. Col. Charles Cummings of Brattleboro, Col. F. V. Randall remaining in the State to recruit the other three companies. We joined the 9th Corps under General Burnside at Catletts Station, Va.

The Brigade then was composed of the 31st and 32nd Maine, 6th and 9th NH, 17th Vt., and shortly after the 56th Mass. --all New England troops and commanded by Col. S. G. Griffin of the 6th NH, a skillful and intrepid officer, afterward a Maj. Gen'l. The Division was commanded by Maj. Gen'l Robert B. Potter, a son of Bishop Potter of Pennsylvania, a splendid officer.

We broke camp on the morning of May 4th, 1864, and started on a forced march to reinforce the Army of the Potomac under General Grant, which placed our corps of 40,000 men on the Rapidan the morning of May 6th. We got in position between the 2nd & 5th Corps. We took part in the Battle of the Wilderness May 6th, and lost heavily. We went into this terrible battle in the woods with 380 muskets and though a new and 'green' regiment, never really experiencing a battalion drill, acquitted ourselves like veterans. While the Regiment was crossing the Rapidan on the night of May 5th, we went through the field hospital tents of the 6th Corps where a cousin of mine and an officer of the old Vermont Brigade lay wounded, unknown at that time of course, by me.

[This was George B. French], and his brother in First Vt. Cavalry had been killed the same day just as the fighting commenced. [this was Quincy French, see French Family], and another cousin was in the Battle both days, a Colonel of the 77th NY in the 6th Corps [this was Winsor French]

We fought at Spotsylvania May 12, where we were in line opposite the famous Bloody Angle and lost heavily. [losing 72 officers and men out of 250]. We crossed the North Anna May 24th, and on to Totopotomoy, Bethesda Church and Cold Harbor June 3rd where I was wounded in my left shoulder, and was obliged to go to the field hospital where I assisted the Surgeon of my Regiment, Dr. Edson, in charge of caring for the over 400 wounded from our own Division. The next morning, I accompanied the wagon and ambulance train with the wounded to White House Landing on the Pamunkey River, walking the distance twelve miles and serving men who were in the train, and wounded, with water as I could get it. From there we went by steamer to the hospital at Washington with many hundreds of other wounded, then to Philadelphia, and then sent to Brattleboro, Vt.

At Brattleboro I got furlough and went home for 20 days. On my return to the Brattleboro hospital I made application, but was refused permission to rejoin my Regiment by Surgeon Phelps in charge of the hospital, as my wound was unhealed. I watched for my chance, however; got a pass to town, and when I learned that a squad of convalescents were to be sent to the front, I got a pass downtown, took along my few things and when this squad of some 75 men or so came marching along the street in charge of an officer and detail of the "Invalid Corps," I fell in with them. This was the last part of July. I took the train with them to New York and we were put on Bedloe's Island or Fort Wood in New York harbor. I spent ten days here, and was then put on transport with many others, about 1,800 in all, then round by Fortress Monroe bound for City Point on the James River where I disembarked. I arrived August 17th and after walking all night, got to my Regiment in trenches before Petersburg at 2 o'clock the next morning, where I had been reported a 'deserter' from the hospital, but reported for duty.

The Regiment was sadly depleted by its losses of July 30th in the terrible mine explosion in which the 9th Corps lost near 5,000 men. Officers were scarce, and I was put in command of Company "B", of which I was later made Captain, The company numbered less than a score of men and the entire Regiment had less than 150 men for duty. [Ben was promoted to 1st Lieut. of Co. "B", 24 Aug., 1864, and to Captain 19 Nov., 1864; He was at Burkesville, Va. when Lee surrendered and commanded the guard in charge of all guns and ordinance stores of Lee's Army. They marched to Alexandria, Va. and into camp and were on Grand Review May 23 and 24, 1865. Ben's Regiment had 133 enlisted men and 14 commissioned officers killed in action or died of wounds, a record not exceeded by an other Regiment]

I was terribly tired and sleepy from my long march in the night in search of my Regiment and from the still harder experience on the crowded transport in the heat of August, but after turning in to my bunk, I had not slept more than two hours when I was awakened. The Regiment was ordered out into line and started on a forced march to the left of our lines to support the 5th Corps in its movement on the Weldon Railroad. We marched many miles and reached a point where another Division of our Corps had been heavily engaged the day previous and I was enabled to supply myself with a musket and other accoutrements which I picked up on the battle field. These items were thickly strewn with the still unburied men and horses of the fierce engagement of but a few hours before, but which was a victory for our side and the Weldon RR had been captured as we learned. That night with our lines in thick woods, we were kept in line by the General of our division as he did not dare to put us in camp fearing an attack from the enemy to regain possession of the railroad. As we lay there in line, resting on our arms, I received a summons from the commander of our Regiment who ordered me to report to General Potter in command of the division for special duty and not being a commissioned officer, though in command of a company, I wondered why I had been selected.

On reporting to General Potter's headquarters, I was instructed by him to select half a dozen men from my company upon whom I could depend, form them into a skirmish line and advance through the woods in our front until I came near the enemy's line as I could get without attracting their attention and remain there through the night on watch. In addition, if I detected any indication of an advance in their force, I was to return with all haste and report. I returned to my Regiment, selected my men and advanced through the woods in the darkness and with indications of rain. About a mile as near as I could judge, until I got near the enemy's picket line as I dared, so near we could hear them talking and remained there through the night and in the rain which commenced to fall about ten o'clock. [Mr. Giddings narrative ends here. His handwriting showed signs of deterioration towards the last two pages. It is sad he was unable to complete this story. Ben Giddings received his final Honorable Discharge at Burlington, Vt. 14 July, 1865, by reason of the close of the war. We have only a few of Ben's letters home to family while he was a soldier. They follow:]

The Civil War Letters of
Benjamin Franklin Giddings
of Cavendish (Windsor County), Vermont

Camp of 2nd Regiment, USSA,
near Fredericksburg, Virginia, May 11, 1862

To: Cousin Quincy French, Proctorsville, Vt.
From: B. F. Giddings

Cousin Quincy: I guess you think by this time that I have forgotten there is such a person in the world as yourself, But, such is not the case. Although I have neglected writing you so long, I wrote you while at Washington, and received an answer. And after so long a time I will try and answer it. I saw your father in Washington a short time before I left there. I also saw George and Winsor there but have not seen them since as they are in a different division of the army. They are in McClellan's. I am in McDowell's Division. We marched from Catletts Station the morning of April 17th and made a forced march of over 30 miles and on the morning of the 18th we came up with Harris' cavalry which was in advance and had been driven back by a large force of rebels a few hours previous with a loss of several of their number killed and wounded. Our regiment then took the lead followed by the Brookline 14th and the other regiments of our brigade. We advanced very cautiously throwing out skirmishers on each side of the road. We met with no resistance whatever, the rebels having retreated to the other side of the Rappahannock. We soon came in site of their camp on the other side of the river. Our regiment was then halted. And one gun of Griffins' was sent up ahead. The gun was placed upon a hill and pretty soon the shells were firing among them - firing lively, but they did not reply, only by retreating as fast as possible and they, having set the bridge on fire, we could not pursue them. Our regiment was then marched to camp where we have remained ever since.

Do you hear from your brother George often? I have two Vermont papers which come regular every week. I saw the name of the killed and wounded of our Vermont boys at Yorktown. Saw among the list of the wounded the names of Capt. Atherton and Corporal William Carey. I believe neither of them were wounded dangerously. McClellan seems to be doing good business there and driving the rebels in our direction. I guess we shall be enough for them if they come here. I do not believe they will ever start again - they have been so terribly whipped. I see nothing for them but the capture of their entire army both here and in the West. They seem to be entirely surrounded. But I will write no more this time, please write me when you receive this and I will try and answer it sooner. I don't know whether to direct this to Springfield or to your home but think I will do the latter place. Your folks can send it to you if you are not at home. Yours most truly, B.F. Giddings.

Camp of 17th Vermont Volunteers,
Near Alexandria, Va.,
May 26, 1865

To: Miss Rusha French, Proctorsville, Vermont
From: Cousin Benjamin Giddings

Dear Cousin Rusha--: I have kept silent a long time have I? I really believe I have not written you since I returned from home last Winter, about three months. Well confound it, how am I going to get out of this? I have no satisfactory answers to give for not writing, so I won't try to give any reason; but plead guilty of gross neglect and laziness on my part, and humbly beg your pardon, promising to do much better in future if you will forgive me this once. There, will that do coz mine? Rilla wrote me that you told her to tell me not to write to you. I received her letter tonight and here I am writing to you. I am very good to obey am I not? But I thought by that remark that you was pretty mad and that if I did not write and compromise matters with you, I might incur your everlasting displeasure which I should be sorry to do. But this will do for the commencement of my letter, I guess.

Since I was in ole' Cavendish last, great changes have taken place and thousands of pages have been much etched in our Nation's history. In that short period of time, the tremendous fortifications of Richmond and Petersburg have crumbled away before our gallant hosts and the war is ended. The mighty armies which have done all this work are now gathered by myriads around the proud capital, like children returning to the comforts of fireside and home after a long absence. We have been in our present camp nearly a month and have enjoyed our repose hugely. The grand view of which you have of course heard, came off last Tuesday and Wednesday at Washington and was indeed a splendid affair. Our Corps was the first infantry received and after marching through the city, crossed the Potomac and back to our camp. I stayed and saw the 5th and 2nd Corps pass. It was a splendid as well as an interesting sight. This country never saw such a sight before as 200,000 men pass in view and the thousands who saw the grand pageant will never forget it. I saw Colonel [Redfield] Proctor in Washington and he wished me to be present the next day at Sherman's review but I was sick the next day and could not go which I regretted very much. I am hoping that the Regiment will go home soon even though I should not be surprised if we stayed until Fall, though I hope not for I am about sick of the service. The war is over and I have no longer any wish to remain a soldier.

What think you of the capture of Jeff Davis? Don't you think the dress of your sex was disgraced about that time! Ah, that was getting rather low for the President of the boasted Southern Confederacy, but it is what we might expect of such a man. Man did I say? Not unlike anything but a man. But he is captured and the strong walls of Fortress Monroe hold him. He is in the power of Andrew Johnson and will he pardon his enormous crimes? No never. Well did Jeff Davis know what his fate would be when he read after his capture the proclamation of the President offering a price for his capture. The paper dropped from his nerveless grasp and well must he have known that his fate was sealed. There is no doubt in my mind but that he will be found guilty of being chief instigation of the hellish plot which resulted in the murder of our noble President --and if he is, won't he be sorry! Better turn him over to the soldiers; you know what we have sung for four years, "We'll hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree."

Well, how are all the folks? Where is George and what is he doing this summer? I suppose his duties are not hard and he must be home often. I was shocked and pained to hear of Uncle Luther's death. I had not known of his sickness and knowing that he was a healthy hard working man, I had not thought that he would leave us so soon. The last time I saw him was that night at your house when Uncle and Marietta were there and we had such a grand time. How his children will miss him. He was a kind and indulgent father and a true noble hearted man. I suppose that Walton will remain on the old farm--will he not?

I had a letter from [sister] Callie yesterday written at East Lexington where she is taking her vacation. She wrote that she should attend the grand musical festival in Boston. You know she is all music! [Calista Giddings, Ben's sister, who would later marry Gilbert Hart and live in Detroit, Michigan] If I were her I should want a vacation all the time. I should not like the business of teaching fools. Should get discouraged. I had a very good time home last winter and enjoyed myself finely. To tell the truth, I was a little mad when I called for you to go with Rillie and myself to ride. I did not blame you any though for of course, you would not wish to go against your father's wishes. But, what I could not see at the time was why your father did not wish you to go, especially as I was your cousin, had not seen you for a long time, and could stay at home but a short time. But it is all right now, I forget it all.

But it is late and my letter is already confounded lengthy, and no doubt dull to read, so I will close, If you will forgive my long silence and write me, I will promise never to be so negligent again. My love to your father, mother and Mary.

My best wishes are yours, From Your Cousin --
Capt.
Ben F. Giddings, 17th Vermont.

Camp of 17th Vermont Vols,
Near Alexandria, Va.,
June 20, 1865

To: Miss Rusha French, Proctorsville, Vt.
From: Cousin Ben Giddings

Dear Cousin Rusha: I have just finished making out an application for a leave of absence, but as it has got to go through a great many red tape offices and receive the autographs of several 'starred' gentlemen before I see it again, I think I will make good my promise of writing soon and reply to your welcome letter of the 9th which was duly received and read. Thank you for the pardon so graciously bestowed. I hardly expected so much leniency on your part, but I see you have an excellent disposition and are willing to pardon delinquency in your correspondents, but if I were a Rebel or had ever been one, I should not care to have you for my judge, for from the tone of your letters, I see you have but little affection for at least Jeff Davis. I am of your Father's opinion in regard to his trial, for I believe that he is suffering now, the worst punishment which could possibly be inflicted upon him. But I am for consummating his earthly punishment by the use of the halter. Let him die a criminal death and leave the rest to a just God. Jeff Davis could never be punished in the world for the crimes he has committed against law, order, humanity, and God.

Yes, the war is done and the right is triumphant. I can hardly make it seem possible that this mighty war is really ended and this gigantic rebellion crushed forever. That the war of the canon has ceased, and peace once more reigns all over our land. I have become so accustomed to the exciting scenes of war that to be in camp as we are now with nothing at all to do seems lonesome and unnatural. I have never been so homesick in my life as since I came to his camp and I feel as if I could fly. Soon I will get away from the sight of anything military. I hope my leave will be approved then I will turn my back on army blue and red tape for a few days. I am hoping that we shall be discharged 'ere long. I think we shall by September or October.

I have seen the close of the war and now no army for me. I am anxious for a transfer to the citizen's corps, but I am bound to stay until the whole Regiment goes. I hope to be at home July 4th. It will doubtless be a joyful day with all. I shall try to be home by that time. I think I shall go to Massachusetts, to Barre, Lexington, Worcester, etc., while home. I had a letter from Callie yesterday. She has been enjoying her vacation with Rilla Smith. She was dreading to go back to her duties at Dr. Burns. I should think she would get tired of teaching particularly fools, but she has a very pleasant time there and there are many things to enjoy.

How are Uncle and Aunt this summer? Is Mary at home and attending school? Please to remember me to all. Give my respects to George when you see him or write. I suppose he will be out of the service soon. I won't say write soon, for I hope to see you face to face 'ere long. Which will be worth more than many letters. The hour is late and I'll close. Accept my best wishes, Rusha. Truly your cousin --Ben.

At the taking of the 1870 census of Cavendish, Ben was employed as an insurance agent, but the daily life of a veteran soldier living in Vermont, was just not exciting enough for him. Both his sisters had moved Westward, and so too would he. In 1878 he moved to San Francisco and worked for H. S. Crocker & Co. and managed the publication of the Railroad Gazetteer, in the old Cosmopolitan hotel. He joined the GAR post (Geo. H. Thomas Post No. 2) in Hayward, which had a membership in 1885 of 450, and marched with these men in a great procession on the day of General Grant's funeral. A terrible fire occurred on 8 Oct., 1885, which destroyed the Crocker premises and many of Ben's own personal memorabilia, photographs and possessions went up in smoke with it.

In 1899 Ben moved to the Castro Valley at Hayward, California. He was a continual resident of the state of California for 48 years, but often came back to Cavendish to visit old friends and relatives-- and in particular "Aunt Valeria French" who lived to be well over 100 years old. Ben was a pensioner of the Civil War. He believed that George B. McClellan was a great general and at one time wrote a brochure about the General.

--Ludlow, 26 Sept., 1890: "James Pollard met on the street an old comrade in the person of Benj. Giddings, who was mustered out of service from the same company over twenty-five years ago. Though they had not met since, they recognized each other. Giddings is on a visit to B. F. Whelden's in Ludlow."

--14 Aug., 1891: "Benjamin F. Giddings of San Francisco, California, with his niece-- Lizzie Whelden of Detroit, Michigan, who have been guests at Henry P. Gammon's in Proctorsville this week, left Thursday on their return trip."

--Ludlow, 25 March, 1892: "B. F. Giddings, formerly of Cavendish, who for the past twelve years has been manager of the Railroad Gazetteer, has severed his connection with this publication in San Francisco and has taken charge of the advertising business in the new California magazine which has been started at Alameda with a capital of $100,000. Ben is a successful advertising manager and the new enterprise will, without doubt, be a success."

--25 Nov., 1892: "Ben F. Giddings, formerly of Cavendish, but a resident of San Francisco for the past twelve or fifteen years, is now located at Los Angeles, publishing the 'Guide Board to Southern California'."

Benjamin Giddings died at his home in Hayward (Alameda Co) California, 28 Sept., 1926 (age 84).

His death certificate lists the causes of death: "pulmonary edema, chronic myocarditis, gangrene of right finger following crutch paralysis." He had been hospitalized a few months before his death with an infected finger, but was sent home and was 'seemingly his old self' a few days before his death. A few months before his death, he had written an address glorifying the life of John Brown whom he felt the public had never fully known nor appreciated his full worth. The funeral service conducted by Rev. Josiah Daniel was impressive and showed great honor to Mr. Giddings' life.

From the lengthy obituary: "… Capt. Giddings was a soldier to the end. When he answered his country's call, it was to accept the service of his country as a life service and not as something he could lay aside with his uniform. He was as true and brave a soldier in the piping times of peace as in the stirring days of strife and bloodshed. Patriotism was in his blood--it was his heritage." "And only the Master shall praise us, And only the Master shall blame, And no one shall work for money; and No one shall work for fame. But each for the joy of working, And each in his separate star, Shall draw the thing as he sees it, For the God of things as they are."