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Berry Benson's Civil War Book: Memoirs of a Confederate Scout and Sharpshooter Paperback – April 15, 2007
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This book showers well-deserved attention on one of the South's truly noble sons. Benson, who served his homeland from Charleston to Appomattox, won even greater glory late in life when he championed the innocence of Jewish factory boss Leo M. Frank, convicted of murder in 1913 in Atlanta and subsequently lynched. Benson was a terrific character and this volume does him justice.(Steve Oney author of And the Dead Shall Rise)
Well-told and very captivating.(Civil War Courier)
[Benson] knew how to tell an exciting story. . . . Unusually descriptive; his book contains a host of little details.(Richmond Times-Dispatch)
An outstanding memoir . . . Berry Benson's work is both truly personal, with its focus on such experiences as his capture, his life in Federal prisons, and his ultimate escape, and a fine narrative, for he tells story after remarkable story in a lively yet unromantic style. . . . Those who have not yet made his acquaintance will find him an intriguing figure and his book an engaging one.(Civil War History)
His highly illuminating story serves as a building block to the larger issues, such as the maturation of innocent youth into seasoned veteran in the span of a few short years.(Florida Historical Quarterly)
Well worth reading for any history buff.(Augusta Magazine)
Long recognized as one of the outstanding memoirs by a common soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia.(Civil War News)
Benson's straightforward narrative is clear, concise, and, given his amazing exploits, remarkably free of boasting. . . . Benson's experiences as a prisoner of war elevate his memoirs above other first-hand accounts of the Civil War.(Southern Historian)
From the Back Cover
Confederate scout and sharpshooter Berry Greenwood Benson witnessed the first shot fired on Fort Sumter, retreated with Lee's Army to its surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, and missed little of the action in between. This memoir of his service is a remarkable narrative, filled with the minutiae of the soldier's life and paced by a continual succession of battlefield anecdotes. Three main stories emerge from Benson's account: his reconnaissance exploits, his experiences in battle, and his escape from prison. Though not yet eighteen years old when he left his home in Augusta, Georgia, to join the army, Benson was soon singled out for the abilities that would serve him well as a scout. Not only was he a crack shot, a natural leader, and a fierce Southern partisan, but he had a kind of restless energy and curiosity, loved to take risks, and was an instant and infallible judge of human nature. His recollections of scouting take readers within an arm's reach of Union trenches and encampments. Benson recalls that while eavesdropping he never failed to be shocked by the Yankees' foul language; he had never heard that kind of talk in a Confederate camp! Benson's descriptions of the many battles in which he fought - including Cold Harbor, the Seven Days', Manassas, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg - convey the desperation of a full frontal charge and the blind panic of a disorganized retreat. Yet, in these accounts, Benson's own demeanor under fire is manifest in the coolly measured tone he employs. A natural writer, Benson captures the dark absurdities of war in descriptions such as those of hardened veterans delighting in the new shoes and other equipment they found oncorpse-littered battlefields. His clothing often torn by bullets, Benson was also badly bruised a number of times by spent rounds. At one point, in May 1863, he was wounded seriously enough in the leg to be hospitalized, but he returned to the field before full recuperation. Benson was captured behind enemy lines in May 1864 while on a scouting mission for General Lee. Confined to Point Lookout Prison in Maryland, he escaped after only two days and swam the Potomac to get back into Virginia. Recaptured near Washington, D.C., he was briefly held in Old Capitol Prison, then sent to Elmira Prison in New York. There he joined a group of ten men who made the only successful tunnel escape in Elmira's history. After nearly six months in captivity or on the run, he rejoined his unit in Virginia. Even at Appomattox, Benson refused to surrender but stole off with his brother to North Carolina where they planned to join General Johnston. Finding the roads choked with Union forces and surrendered Confederates, the Benson brothers ultimately bore their unsurrendered rifles home to Augusta. Berry Benson first wrote his memoirs for his family and friends. Completed in 1878, they drew on his - and partially on his brother's - wartime diaries, as well as on letters that both brothers had written to family members during the war. The memoirs were first published in book form in 1962 but have long been unavailable. This edition, with a new foreword by the noted Civil War historian Herman Hattaway, will introduce this compelling story to a new generation of readers.
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Berry Benson was a brave and loyal soldier. After the War he remained a respected and productive citizen until his death, always more interested in doing the right thing than merely doing things right. I'm glad he wrote his War memoirs, and I'm honored to have read them. We don't make men like Benson anymore. An "American today is anyone who breaths American air --- no other qualification is required.
He spent time in a Yankee prison and about his time there and his escape. How he ate apples and chestnuts while making his way back to the south. His love for the south and the cause he believed in. What they were thinking at the time and his brother fighting along side with him. Some humorous stories of him stealing a General's horse and catching a ride on the back of a train, chatting with a Yankee soldier who didn't know who he was. Getting into an enemy camp at night,darkness covering his grey clothes and the General capturing him when he heard his southern accent. How they both laughed over the incident. How he treated the Yankees with respect when they were captured, never taking anything from them, other than some shoes once. He never let his men plunder or burn a town, far different from the way the south was treated. How he respected all people and how after the war, the south was in bad shape, people were starving. He contacted the Agriculture Department to research which mushrooms where edible and gave that information to the blacks, because they were starving and no one was helping them. He loved literature, math, how he corrected dictionaries and his love of nature. He did research on the Leo Frank case and he was key in exposing the Ponzi scheme. How he wanted this book published all his life and died before it happened. Thanks to his children it was his one wish to publish his book and they finally made it come true. It's a great read and you won't be disappointed in this book. Thanks to his children for getting this book out for everyone to read. I grew up in the area he lived and I didn't know a thing about him until the book. There is a statue of him in Augusta depicting the confederate soldier. I'm so glad I purchased the book and got to read his story. He was a great man and as a southerner, made me proud of my southern heritage.
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Lest we forget !