I am always reminded of just how much military service to the United States is often the gateway to a future for many immigrants to our country. During the early 19th century many Irish immigrants arrived in America seeking a better life and many of them, or their sons, served their new country during the Civil War. This is one of those stories.
The years prior to the Civil War, there were only a few Bennet (sometimes written as Bennett) households in Tuscarawas County. Two of the families, one headed by John Bennet (1798-?) and the other by Michael Bennet (1800-1870), were Irish born. Their families both arrived in Ohio in the first quarter of the 19th century. Michael had seven sons by 1850 while John was raising two boys, one of which was William Bennet (1840-1862). Both families were living in close proximity to one another in Rush Township.
There is not a lot of historical documentation of William’s early life, other than that he likely worked on John Bennet’s farm, and perhaps others, during the 1850’s. It is not clear whether William Bennet served in a short-term unit before his later service, but on August 2, 1862 he was listed as a Private in Company K of the 98th Regiment Ohio Volunteer. Company K was principally raised from Tuscarawas County.
The 98th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry was organized at Camp Steubenville, Ohio and was formally mustered into service on August 22, 1862. William, along with the rest of the 98th, boarded a train bound for Covington, Kentucky where they detrained on August 24 and received their weapons for the first time. They were almost immediately sent into service in operations against General Kirby Smith’s Confederate force near Lexington, Kentucky. The 98th was then sent to Louisville, Kentucky where it worked on the creation of earthworks in anticipation of a Confederate attack on that city.
William’s company, along with the rest of the 98th regiment, marched October 1st until the 8th to Perryville, Kentucky. The regiment was attached to Colonel George Webster’s 34th Brigade, 10th Division, 1st Army Corps of the Army of the Ohio. The Army of the Ohio engaged with forces of Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Mississippi at Perryville on October 8, 1862 and William Bennet received his first, and last, experience with combat.
The 98th Ohio, along with two other regiments, was positioned in support of the 19th Indiana Light Artillery battery under the command of Captain Samuel Harris on a hill overlooking the Union and Confederate front lines. Eventually the regiment was moved in front of the battery to repel Confederate assaults across the field below the battery. Webster’s brigade, and Harris’s battery, faced onslaught after onslaught from the Confederate force. The brigade was forced from the field and lost its commander, Colonel Webster, who was killed in action. Among the wounded evacuated from the field was Private William Bennet.
Wounded, William was sent to the Union hospital in Lebanon, Kentucky. The nature of his wounds is not known, but William was at the hospital until his death from those wounds on December 12, 1862. His body was shipped home and he was buried at St. James Lutheran Cemetery in Tuscarawas. William’s soldiering experience had only just begun when he was called on to make the ultimate sacrifice to his country.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.