America's Civil War

DARING DOZEN

POPULAR LORE AND LEGEND about the Battle of Gettysburg are peppered with heroic figures immortalized in countless books and articles, and, of course, movies. While the glory for those three days in July 1863 most often goes to well-known generals or civilian saviors who supported troops on both sides of the cause with muskets, meals, or medicine, there are any number of more obscure officers and common soldiers who performed gallant acts of lesser profile. America’s Civil War asked a select group of licensed battlefield guides at Gettysburg National Military Park to share the story of one of those men of their choosing. In alphabetical order, their selections follow. They include men who displayed not only courage, but also character, and include officers who rallied in the thick of the battle as well as officers whose valiant efforts in smaller skirmishes out of sight of the main event often get brushed aside. Whether singlehandedly capturing the enemy’s colors under fire, steadfastly refusing to retreat from untenable circumstances, or stoically leading weary troops across treacherous terrain and into murderous gunfire, all of these men acted to further the cause of their fighting army. They sacrificed their own interests, and in some cases, their own lives, for the greater purpose of the country they were fighting for, and they deserve a hero’s recognition.

Brigadier General

HENRY LEWIS BENNING

BENNING’S BRIGADE, HOOD’S DIVISION, LONGSTREET’S CORPS

Brigadier General Henry L. Benning, namesake of today’s well-known U.S. Army fort in Columbus, Ga., did not deliver a perfect performance at Gettysburg. During the July 2 fighting against the Union left, he essentially failed to follow the brigade he was supposed to trail during the assault by Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood’s Division across the Emmitsburg Road and through the Peach Orchard, leaving part of his brigade dangling and in danger of being captured. Also, as is true for many other Confederates at Gettysburg, his performance did not produce a Southern victory.

I firmly believe, however, that the deeds of “Old Rock” Benning and his four regiments of Georgians at Gettysburg are underappreciated. After all, Benning skillfully advanced his brigade over the most difficult terrain Gettysburg had to offer. He inspired his men during their deadly advance, kept his units together (even accepting some Texans into his ranks), and tipped the scales for the Confederates in capturing Devil’s Den for the second time. When his own men tried to claim capture of some cannons at Devil’s Den, Benning gave credit to the other units that deserved it. During a Union countercharge, Benning displayed his ferocity on combat: “[H]old your fire until they come right up. Then pour a volley into them, and if they don’t stop, run your bayonets into their bellies.”

Fighting savagely in areas of the battlefield now known as the Slaughter Pen, the Valley of Death, and Devil’s Den, it is not surprising that Benning’s men

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