Finding Edwin Bennett

Well, we did know that Edwin Bennett was interred at Green-Wood and had served in the Civil War. His obituary in The New York Times told us that much. But we couldn’t find the details of his service. That’s where Sue Ramsey, a truly remarkable researcher, came in. Sue, who lives out in California, loves to research–her idea of a good time is to spend a week in Salt Lake City playing with the microfilm there. One of her passions is the Bodies in Transit records, but that’s another story.

Anyway, our biographical dictionary of Civil War veterans whom we have identified as being at Green-Wood has become so big that it is now in 8 sections. I had asked Sue to apply her research skills to one of the sections and see if she might find more information about some of these men. Sue got the A’s and the B’s. So Sue was working her way down the list, and came to Edwin Bennett. We knew he was a veteran, but couldn’t figure out the details of his service. He didn’t seem to match any of the information of the Civil War soldier databases we use. Sue went to work, finding an Edwin Bennett in the 1890 Veterans Schedule, a census of Civil War veterans. There he was: Edwin Bennett, Naval seaman, served aboard the U.S.S. Harriet Lane. A great find! Mystery solved? Well, not quite. Sue also found details about the Harriet Lane and other census information for Bennett. But Sue couldn’t quite figure out if this seaman was the same Edwin Bennett who was interred at Green-Wood on February 5, 1907. I thought it might help solve the mystery by checking Footnote, a great new website of the National Archives. They have great material posted, including a Civil War pension index database that sometimes lists date of death for the veteran. I gave it a try and there he was–Edwin Bennett, seaman, died on February 2, 1909. Oh no, why 1909? Shouldn’t that be 1907? Well, after I e-mailed Sue, telling her I had found Bennett’s Navy pension papers on Footnote, she worked into the wee hours of the California morning, reading through his file. And here’s what she found: Bennett’s daughter wrote to the Pension authorities in 1909, reporting his death–but telling them that it was the second anniversary of his death. So, Bennett, the seaman, died in 1907, but a clerk had wrongly recorded his death as 1909!

And, to sew things up, the Edwin Bennett who is interred at Green-Wood died on February 2, 1907, and last lived at 409 8th Street in Brooklyn, the same last address as that of the pensioner/sailor! But, not only were we now sure we had the right man. We also had discovered the account of his bereaved daughter, who letter in his file spoke of his death as “a blow so sudden [and] never forgotten, being alone with papa and keeping house for him,” but also described how he had attended the funerals of many veterans, but none had attended his, that he was “a Grand Army man of whose record I am proud . . . so I put the Stars and Stripes around his casket, and his Grand Army medals pinned on his shroud, or chest, and did what I thought was right . . . .” Would you like to help with research on Green-Wood’s Civil War veterans? If so, contact me at the Green-Wood Cemetery.

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