Robert W. Bennett Letters
Scope and Content of the Collection
Robert Bennett’s correspondence from Aug. 15, 1861 through Dec. 12, 1863, written to his father, mother and sisters, as well as two letters addressed to Bennett from his cousins Nicholas and William, along with one letter written to Bennett’s father from another soldier in Company D. Correspondence consists of two identical sets of typed transcriptions (no originals).
The bulk of the letters are addressed to Bennett’s father, which contain descriptions of camp life, Bennett’s impressions of “Dixie,” and his actions with the regiment. The letters to his mother are similar but much briefer, and those to his sisters Martha (“Mat”) and Mary focus on home life. Among his tasks as a soldier, Bennett writes often about foraging, confiscating local property (such as horses, food and tobacco), and pillaging local crops. In a Feb. 12, 1863 letter, he writes: “We have quit garden [guarding] rebel property and take what we want of it.” Starting in March 1863, the 72nd Indiana became a mounted regiment, and Bennett writes several times about the company’s horses and his preference for riding scout missions over staying in camp. In a November 1863 letter Bennett notes the great number of black soldiers enlisting in the army. Bennett’s impressions of the southern landscape are generally bleak, and he occasionally notes the effect of Union pillaging on the environment. Matters of hygiene come up often, including water supply, disposal of dead horses, and the prevalence of “graybacks” or body lice. Several letters refer to Northern “sympathizers” for the Confederacy, and one describes an uncle who has “turen [turned] traitor to his country.” Another anecdote involves a deserter who was shaved, branded with a letter ‘D’ on his face, and drummed out of the regiment. The letters written in December 1863 contain the longest descriptions of battle, specifically the Union defeat at the Battle of Hartsville; in a letter dated Dec. 12, 1863 Bennett describes his work on burial detail after the battle.
Bennett talks about several Boone County soldiers serving with the 72nd Indiana, most often Lt. Lewis B. Garrett and Pvt. John M. Fall. Also mentioned are Pvts. Joseph M. Handlen, Morgan C. Frazier, George Flinn, and John Carter, along with Lt. Bob M. Sims and Capt. Arius U. Craven. All survived the war except for Carter, who died at Murfreesboro in April 1863.
The five letters from Aug. 15, 1861 through Sept. 9, 1861 might be misdated, although the transcription is probably correct. Bennett’s regiment was not mustered until August 1862, and the datelines of the letters (Indianapolis, Camp Lucy Carson, Lebanon) correspond to where the regiment was in 1862, not 1861. If the five letters were written in 1862, the collection likely begins with the letter dated Nov. 6, 1861 and sent to Bennett from his cousin William.
The transcription tries to retain the form of the originals. No punctuation or capitalization has been added. Where the original letter bore a stamp or insignia, it is described.
- Creation: 1861-1863
- Bennett, Robert W., 1844-1864 (Person)
Materials are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
The Robert W. Bennett Letters are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Robert W. Bennett Letters are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.
Biography of Robert William Bennett
Civil War soldier, a private in the 72nd Indiana Mounted Infantry, Company D.
Robert William Bennett, son of Henry I. and Sarah Bennett, was a farmer from Boone County, Indiana. He enrolled as a private at age 18 on July 21, 1862 and was mustered into the Union Army at Indianapolis on Aug. 16, 1862. He traveled with the 72nd Indiana through Kentucky and Tennessee, during which time the regiment became a mounted unit. He was captured at Westpoint, MS, on Feb. 21, 1864. He died of scorbutus (scurvy) at Andersonville prison in Georgia on Oct. 27, 1864. The inventory of his effects was signed by Captain A. U. Cravens at Nashville, Tennessee, on June 15, 1865.
0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)
Correspondence from Pvt. Bennett of the 72nd Indiana Mounted Infantry, Company D, written to his father, mother and sisters during his travels through Tennessee and Kentucky.
Collection Stack Location
1 4 7
Gift of Paul Judy, May 1, 2014.
Harunobu Coryne, 2014.
- Boone County (Ind.) -- Genealogy
- Boone County (Ind.) -- History
- Indiana -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources
- Kentucky -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources
- Murfreesboro (Tenn.) -- History -- Sources
- Tennessee -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Confiscations and contributions
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Desertions -- Sources
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Destruction and pillage -- Sources
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Participation, African American -- Sources
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources
- Inventory of the Robert W. Bennett Letters, 1861-1863
- Harunobu Coryne
- Language of description
- Script of description