Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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BENHAM, Henry W., soldier, born in Connecticut in 1817; died in New York, 1 June 1884. He was graduated at West Point, at the head of his class, in 1837, assigned to the corps of engineers, and for a year assistant in charge of improvements in Savannah river. In July 1838, he was promoted first lieutenant, and from 1839 till 1844 was superintending engineer of the repairs of Fort Marion and of the sea-wall at St. Augustine, Fla. During the three years succeeding he was engaged upon government works in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and elsewhere. He was with the army in Mexico in 1847-'8, and brevetted captain for gallant and meritorious services in the battle of Buena Vista, 23 February 1847. After the Mexican war he was engaged for a time on engineering duty in New York harbor, and promoted to the rank of captain in May 1848. He was also in charge of several other works of importance at Boston, Washington, and Buffalo, from 1848 to 1853. In the latter year he was assistant in charge of the coast survey office at Washington, and sent to Europe on duty connected therewith. During the following seven years he was occupied in professional work for the government at Boston, Newport, and Sandy Hook, and on the Potomac aqueduct. At the beginning of the civil war in 1861, Captain Benham entered upon active service; was on General Morris's staff as engineer of the department of the Ohio; was brevetted colonel for gallantry at the battle of Carrick's Ford, Virginia, 13 July 1861; in August was made brigadier-general of volunteers, and was engaged in the Virginia campaigns, including the actions at New Creek (16 August) and Carnifex Ferry (10 September). In 1862 he was present at the capture of Fort Pulaski (10-11 April) and James Island (16 June). Later in the year he superintended fortifications in Boston and Portsmouth harbors, and was in command of the northern district of the department of the south. He proved very efficient in throwing pontoon-bridges across the Rappahannock, the Potomac, and the James rivers, and was in command of the pontoon department at Washington in 1864. In the mean time he had, through the regular stages of promotion, attained the full rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of engineers, and in March 1865, was brevetted Brigadier-General and Major-General United States army, and Major-General United States volunteers, for gallant services during the rebellion and in the campaign that terminated with the surrender of Lee's army. In 1868 (7 March) he was pro-meted colonel of engineers, and during that year was engaged in government works on the coast of New England, and from October 1869, till July 1877, was similarly occupied in the works on Long Island Head. Subsequent to this he was in charge of the defenses of New York. He was placed on the retired list, 30 June 1882. He invented the picket-shovel used by troops in the field, and was an expert in pontoon-bridges, in the management of which he devised important improvements.
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