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Benniah Terwilliger

85th New York Infantry, Company D

by Ruth Thoden

Benniah Terwilliger was born 3/28/1832 in Guilford, Chenango Co., New York, the son of Levi Terwilliger and Susan Odell.

When Benniah was four years old, his parents migrated to Allegany Co, New York State and in 1840 census are in the town of West Almond.  They were to eventually build a home in southern part of the town of Birdsall where Benniah grew up and remained with his family until the Civil War.

Both he and his brother, David, left home in October, 1861, traveling to Elmira where they enlisted.  They both felt, as most young men did, that the War would be over by spring planting time, and their dad would surely need them come spring.  They enlisted, according to Miscellaneous records of Allegany Co., NY on October 14, 1861, both as privates in Captain W.E. Starkweather's Company of the 85th NYS Volunteer Infantry.  They were sent to Washington DC's Camp Warren.

The following letter was written by Benniah and sent to his beloved sister, Mary Elizabeth:

Washington City: Camp Warren, March 14th, 1862: Well, Lib, I have received your letter tonight.  It stated that you and my folks were well.  I am lucky to hear from you all.  I am well except for a cold.  You rote (sic) it is very sickly there. But I don't think it can be much sicker there what it is here where they are dying of heat like sheep.  You rote that Lo Carpenter talks of getting him a woman.  I hope he will.  Well, Lib, I expect we gotta leave this place.  We have received marching orders last night to be in readiness in one hour's time. They say we are going to Port Royal.  We are going on a boat.  We may go tonight.  We may not go in 2 or 3 days.  It is just like a lottery to us.

We are packing up our things to be ready to start any minutes warning.  The Rebel has left Manassas and gone farther south to kill us off with the fever.

I should like to be at home tonight to take supper with you all.  They are cutting our rations down so we don't get nuff to eat now.  Your letter said that they have drove our colts or Peter Youngs has drove them.  Tell them to drive them and be careful of them and make them work and earn their living.  And don't lend my buggy and cutter.  And take good care of my colt.

It may not do me any good but I can't tell.  But tell Mother don't worry about me.  I will stand a good chance as anyone.  I'd rather be here than anywhere else If I have my health.  I have got used to sleep on the ground.  I think I can stand it a little while longer.

Well, Lib, I will send home some merry verses.  I want you to keep good care of them, and I want to learn them.

Tell our folks to write.  Tell the boys to be good boys til I get home.  We have bin paid yet.  The first money I have drawn I have lent it to the captain.  He will pay me when he get his pay.  I will have 56 dollars.

I should like to see you all.  So good-bye to you all.  Direct your letters the same you have been.  If we leave it will be sent on after us.

Lib, rite rite everyday. MET BT



To Whom It May Concern: Know ye that Beriah (sic) Terwilliger, a private of Captain W.L. Starkweather's Company D, 85th Regiment of NY Volunteers who was enrolled on the 14th day of October 1861 to serve three years is hereby discharged from service of the United States this 20th day of December, 1862 at Fort Monroe, VA by reason of Surgeon's Certificate of Disability. Said Beriah Terwilliger was born in Chenango County in State of New York, is 29 years of age; 5' 11 1/2" high; light complexion, hazel eyes, brown hair and occupation when enrolled a farmer. Given at Fort Monroe, VA this 20th December, 1862.

By command of Major General Dix
Wilson Bartow
Capt. VADC



Sctg. Ass't. Adgt. Genl. (endorsed) paid by 2d auditor March 16, 1864 by certif. No. 6059 for $99.66; recorded on the 16th day of May A.D. 1867 at 2 o'clock P.M. George W. Green, Clerk. (See Liber "D" of Miscellaneous Records, Belmont, Allegany Co, NY)

From the diary kept by Benniah Terwilliger:

Year: 1862 August 24: We started our livery. We arrived to Fortress Monroe about 6 o'clock. We marched 25 miles today; it was very muddy traveling today. Our ambulance was full of sick and tired out men. It is awful to see it.

August 25: Very cool at night and great deal of heat this morning. We moved our ambulance today in a different place. We are stationed close by the burying ground. They buried last night three; two tonight and two night before last.

August 26: Very cool morning. This morning when I got up, I was very sick; it continued all day long. They buried two more soldiers tonight; they most all sick. It is hard to get wood to burn here; it is far off to get it.

August 27: It is cool and windy and rainy today. I am some better this morning. Company cannot raise but 20 for drill today; they most all sick. They had to take the teamsters to drill.

August 29: Very warm. I done some washing for myself than I went to Yorktown. Just at night we had order to move at 9 o'clock tonight. It commenced to rain; it rained all night long. We took about 50 sick to York hospital.

September 5: Very windy but clear; not much going on today.

September 6: Very hot today; we went out 3 or 4 miles to bate our horses but did not stay great while; the guard sent us back.

September 7: Sunday - Very hot and dry this moprning. It is so hot we are glad to crawl in the shade. There is some firing across the river this morning. I went fishing this afternoon and ketched a mess; had them for breakfast.

September 8: It is very cool this morning and had heavy rain and wind storm. It beat all to see the ground was all a float. It rained for 3 or 4 hours just as hard as it could. Have "rote" a letter to Garret and one to David. {David had been sent into Virginia......}

September 16: Very hot and dry weather; not much going on today. I have taken sick so they had to send for the doctor.

October 22: Wednesday - very pleasant and comfortable today. The diretor was going to inspect this hospital but he did not come.

October 23: Thursday - Cold this morning; it is very chilly today in the hospital.

October 24: Feeling very chilly today.

October 25: Saturday; very pleasant this morning. We are read for the inspector, but he did not come.

October 26: Sunday; very cool. It commenced raining about noon. The inspector came about noon today and inspected this morning.

Benniah after his discharge returned to NYS in March, 1864.  However, his illness was too great for him to recover and he died at home of his parents on 4 Jun, 1864.

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Created on ... July 27, 2006

© Vivian Karen Bush 2006
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