Benjamin Franklin Youngs, named after his grandfather who was named after the VERY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, would be one of these soon to be soldiers. Ben was born in 1844 to very well established farming and carpentry families in and around the Brookdale, Zorra, Embro and Stratford areas of Southern Ontario. In fact the town of Youngsville was named after his grandfather. A portion of the family original holdings of some 1000 acres is still farmed by descendants.
Ben would learn the trades of farming and carpentry. He would also add the skill of being an expert shot with the family's rifles and/or muskets of the day. Pictured at left in mid life, he would venture off to the US at an early age and lived in a place then called Dearbonville in Michigan. Today we call it Dearborn. At age 19 Ben would join a well respected regiment of good shots... the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters. He'd get a whopping $25 bonus for signning up. By war's end many were getting almost $3000 as a signing bonus. And $300 bought you a farm in those days.
Over the next 13 months Ben would participate in many battles, would be wounded twice, would become a Prisoner of War, would be admitted several times to hospital, would be promoted twice and would earn a Medal of Honor and falsely accused of being a deserter. All that in 13 months. Then he would come back home to Canada.
It would be here as a guard that Ben would get one of his his first tastes of military life. He and others would be guarding almost 7,000 captured Confederate soldiers from the Feb. 1862 Battle of Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in Tennessee. (It is here that I believe 4 sailors earned a medal of honor, which would make each a double recipient... and yet credited for such an accomplishment.) (while researching the previous few blogs I discovered that at least one... if not two women were fighting in that battle. )
Within 3 months of Guard duty Ben must have gained quit a reputation as he was promoted to Cpl. After about 8 months of guard duty his unit would move on towards Virginia and would be in fierce battles at the Wilderness (where several Canadians participated and one was awarded a Medal of Honor) at the NY and Po Rivers, and at Spotsylvania. Ben would be wounded 2... if not 3 times here and would require a short hospital stay of several days.
Retuning to his unit he would probably also be in the battles of North Anna, Totopotomoy Creek, Bethesda Church and Cold Harbor, all in Virgina while on the advance towards Richmond, the Confederates' capitol. During the move towards Richmond, it would be at Petersburg that Benjamin would earn his Medal of Honor.
Within a month Ben was back in hospital from yet another wound. Released within the month he would be back in time to fight his way through the horror known as the Battle of the Crater where thousands were killed within minutes. (more of that battle in a future blog) Next came the battle of Weldon Railroad where he was listed as Missing in Action. He actually ended up in hospital and not missing at all. Upon release from there he would be granted a 20 day furlough to go home and recover.
He did... and never returned to he war!
Benjamin raised a family in Ontario and several went into the carpentry trade. One actually played a major role in the building of the Stratford City Hall, opened in the early 1900's and still in use today.
During the Civil war it was often a case where men were listed as MIA or POW or deserter when clearly serious investigation would show that such a status may well have been inaccurate.
Records were flawed but still showed that in the Union army alone during the later part of the war there were over 7,000 so called deserters. And that was MONTHLY! Hundreds of these were ultimately hung or shot by firing squads. Who knows how many maybe have been executed without cause???
That aside, the Youngs file contains the above letter from the War department back in 1864, but Ben knew nothing for decades, that he had actually been awarded a Medal of Honor. It was ultimately withheld, under the official impression that he was a deserter.
In the early 1900's Ben fought this and finally won his case as evidenced by the Congressional record that is pictured to the left, that then revoked the deserter status, granting him a bonus for his service and thus again gave him back all priledges...read MOH... that were due him.
In 1913 Benjamin Franklin Youngs final got his Medal of Honor. It was obviously stored by the authorties for a very long time and the ribbon had deteriorated. But nevertheless it arrived through the mails and even came in its original presentation box. It is quite rare today to find a medal with the box which has long since usually gone missing. It should also be noted that the medal contains no date, rather rare. Further notice should be taken to the fact that it was issued in the WRONG NAME. His surname is in the plural..not singular.
A replacement medal of a later variety was later sent to Ben, with the correct spelling and even the proper dates of the battle involved. Both are now very proudly held by the family... and me most briefly.
In an earlier blog I told you about the ceremony held at his grave side in Los Angeles California in the spring of 2010 where we unveiled a new marker indicating that Ben was a Medal of Honor recipient. The day before unveiling ceremony I escorted about a dozen fellow Canadians to the Medal of Honor memorial at Riverside and was very priviledged to carry the two medals with me there and back and until the following day as the owner was ill an unavailable to attend the Riverside tour.
He unfortunately asked that I return them and did not for a minute believe my silly story that I left them behind at Riverside... hehe
And there you have it... yet another Canadian war hero.