Sunday, December 15, 2013

A New York Soldier In New Mexico


From the University of New Mexico. New Mexico historical review (Volume 22):

In the words of Elizabeth Warfield Bennett, her father was born at East Avon [Livingston County], New York, January 8, 1831. At the time he was eight years old his father, Augustus A. Bennett, was robbed and murdered. This left my grandmother with three girls and three boys to support. Maria Pierson Bennett moved to a home on Prince Street in Rochester, New York, where she made a living by taking boarders. James supported himself by going from one relative to another to work a little and have his board. When he was eighteen he was visiting his mother in Rochester and so became aware of her financial need. Gold had just been discovered in California and that fact, together with his mother's hardship, was too strong a lure for him. He enlisted under the name of James S. Bronson because he was afraid his mother would not let him join the army in order to get to California.

Bennett enlisted in November, 1849. The following summer he was assigned to the 1st Dragoons and sent to New Mexico where he served for eight years. The memoirs end in 1856, after he had spent time in a hospital. Elizabeth Warfield Bennett writes :

He told me that he was sick again in the hospital at Albuquerque. Although he was on duty for two more years, his ill-health continued and rendered him unfit for his arduous army duty. Following the termination of his army service, he journeyed south into old Mexico in a desire to gain strength and wealth before returning to the States. While there he made good as a practical doctor and Trader. On his homeward way, all his possessions were seized or destroyed by Comanche Indians who demolished the Mexican wagon train with which he was traveling. His companions were killed but father escaped with his life but without arms, money, or means of transportation. He walked to Texas, borrowed money and finally reached Lima, New York, where he took up the study of medicine under his brother, Dr. George Bennett. He graduated from the University of the City of New York where he finished his medicinal studies just before the Civil War. He served as a doctor (Assistant Surgeon) in the New York Heavy Artillery Regiments during the war. He then took up the practice of medicine at Prattsburgh, New York. 

Dr. Bennett married Rowena E. Warfield on September 19, 1860. She died on December 19, 1889. In partnership with her brother, Myron Frank Warfield, he operated a drugstore, and was also active in fraternal order and civic affairs.

A nephew, Brigadier General Augustus Bennett Warfield, writes of his uncle :

Ofttimes I sat in wonderment listening to tales of his soldier and Indian adventures, in the far away southwestern territory where he was twice wounded . . . both times while he was on scouting duty 
with that famous Indian Scout, Kit Carson. 

Despite the hardships of army life in the Southwest in his time, Dr. Bennett lived a long life. He died on January 14, 1909.

Battle of Cieneguilla from Wikipedia:

"A combined force of about 250 Apaches and Utes laid an ambush for the U.S. dragoons. In his report two days after the battle, Davidson stated that "[He] came upon the Apaches near Cieneguilla who at once sounded the war whoop." According to Private James A. Bennett (aka James Bronson), a sergeant who survived the ambush, the battle lasted about four [or two] hours."

New York, State Census, 1875
Event Place: Prattsburg, Steuben, New York, United States
Household Gender Age Birthplace
James A Bennett M 43
Wife Rowena E Bennett F 40
Daughter Lizzie W Bennett F 11

United States Census, 1900
ED 102 Prattsburgh Township, Steuben, New York
Household Gender Age Birthplace
Head Ira L Smith M 36 New York
Wife Elizabeth W Smith F 36 New York
Father-in-law James A Bennett M 69 New York [Physician]
Servant Alice Mcgrain F 18 New York

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