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 Benjamin Parker

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Benjamin Parker
CS Army

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Join date : 2014-08-23

PostSubject: Benjamin Parker   Sun Aug 24, 2014 10:19 pm


Benjamin Parker was born in Richmond, December 3, 1827. He was the second child and second son of Dr. George Parker, a distinguished physician, a graduate of Yale College, and the founder of Jefferson College. During his tenure at Jefferson College Dr. Parker cultivated many friendships with some of the more prominent politicians in Richmond.  These friendships and Benjamin’s natural abilities accounted much for his rapid rise in rank in the United States Army.  His mother, whose maiden name was Elizabeth Parker, was the daughter of a United States Senator from Virginia. The eldest son, Dr. J. H. B. Parker, is a physician in Petersburg. The first school to which Benjamin was sent was kept by Mr. Sears Cook Walker, a graduate of Harvard College in 1825, and a man of distinguished scientific merit, whom he began the study of Greek and Latin. He next went to the preparatory school of the University of Virginia, which was kept by Dr. Crawford, and in 1840 entered the University itself, where he remained two years. He was a good scholar, and held a high rank in his class, both at school and in college; but he was not a brilliant or precocious lad. His taste was for solid studies: he made steady but not very rapid progress in every thing he undertook. 


In June, 1842, he entered the Military Academy at West Point, being then fifteen years and six months old. He went there in obedience to his general inclination for a military life. He had no particular fondness for mathematical studies, and was not aware that they formed so large a part of the course of instruction at the Academy. Having a modest estimate of his own powers and attainments, it was a source of surprise as well as pleasure to him to find, at the examination in January, 1843, that he was coming out one of the best scholars in the class.

The Academy was at that time under the charge of Colonel De Eussey.  Young Parker was a little under the prescribed age when he entered the Academy; but his manly character and sound moral instincts were a sufficient protection against the dangers common to all places of education away from the pupil's own home.  During his first year at West Point he met and developed a lasting friendship with his classmate, James Lennon.  Parker showed at the start a more careful intellectual training than most of the youths admitted to the Academy. His conduct and bearing throughout his whole course were beyond reproach. He showed perseverance and a strong will. His grades were not made without hard work. At the close of the course at West Point, he stood second in general rank in the largest class which had ever left the Academy. In Engineering and Geology he was first. The highest scholar in the class was Charles G. Stewart. He came out first because he was more uniformly strict in complying with the rules and regulations of the Academy, as well as more attentive to its regular studies.   

Parker graduated in the summer of 1846, before he had completed his twentieth year. Few young men have ever left West Point better fitted by mental discipline and solid attainments for the profession of arms than he. He had also a precious gift of nature itself, in that sound health and robust constitution which are large elements of success in every department of life. He was of middle height, and his frame was well proportioned, with broad shoulders and deep chest. His muscular strength and activity were very great. Aided by strictly temperate habits, his body and mind remained strong as he avoided many of the vices common to the cadets at the Academy.  At the close of his student-life, a new impulse had been given to the military spirit of the country, and of the army especially, by the breaking out, a few weeks previously, of the Mexican War.


Parker entered the army as brevet second lieutenant of engineers, an honored corps into which the most distinguished students of West Point are only admitted.  On declaration of war against Mexico, Congress passed an act establishing a company of sappers, miners, and pontoon constructors to be added to the corps of engineers, and young Parker was appointed its second lieutenant.  Upon him and two other officers devolved the duty of organizing and drilling this new branch of service.  The recruits were accordingly mustered at West Point, where they were practiced in sapping, mining, constructing bridges, and preparing the materials for sieges.  At the same time they were thoroughly drilled and disciplined as infantry soldiers.  Colonel Totten, the chief of this department, declared in his report that when this new company, composed of seventy-one men left West Point for the war, they were in “admirable discipline,” and warmly applauded the skill an energy displayed by Parker and his associates in their work of organization and drill. 

The duties in which Lieutenant Parker now found himself engaged were very congenial to him, and he devoted himself to them with characteristic ardor and perseverance. 

Proceeding first to Camarago, in Mexico, and reporting for duty to General Taylor, the company was ordered to return to Matamoras, and act with the column about marching under the command of General Patterson.  At Matamoras the captain and nineteen men of the corps were invalided and left in the hospital.  Lieutenant Parker and his comrade, Lieutenant Lennon proceeded in command of the remainder of the company to Vera Cruz.  Colonel Totten reported, “the company, then reduced to forty-five effectives, executed a great amount of work on the road, fords, etc., as it did in proceeding thence to Tampico, where it formed, with one company of the Third and one of the Seventh Infantry, a pioneer party, under Captain Henry of the Third Infantry.   The detailed reports of these labors exhibit the greatest efficiency and excellent discipline under severe and trying circumstances.”

On arriving at Vera Cruz the captain, invalided at Matamoras, resumed the command of the company.  To the conduct of the sappers and miners at the siege of Vera Cruz, Colonel Totten paid this tribute: “During the siege of Vera Cruz,” he said, “I was witness to the great exertions and services of this company, animated aby and emulating th zeal and devotion of its excellent officers, Lieutenants Smith, Parker and Foster.”  During the whole work of the siege, the labors of the company were incessant.  “The total of the company was so small,” said Totten, “and demands for its aid so incessant, that every man may be said to have constantly on duty, with scarcely a moment for rest and refreshment.”  For his efforts Parker was rewarded with the rank of First Lieutenant.

“Severe labors followed the surrender of Vera Cruz and its castle, and accompanied the march to the battle of Cerro Gordo, in which the company displayed, in various parts of the field, its gallantry and efficiency.  It entered the city of Jalapa with the advance of Twiggs’ division, and Puebla with the advance of Worth’s.  During the pause at the latter place, the instruction of the company in its appropriate studies and exercises was resumed by its persevering and zealous officers, and assistance was given by all in the repairs of the defences.  Marching from Puebla with general Twigg’s division, the company was joined to General Worth at Chalon, and arrived in front of San Antonio on the 18th of August, having greatly assisted in clearing the road of obstructions placed by the enemy.  

On the next day, the 19th of August, the company was placed a the head of the column commanded by General Pillow. Before the battle at Contreras opened, Lieutenant Parker was ordered, together with another officer of engineers, to reconnoitre the position of the enemy.  They, however, fell in with the advance guards of the Mexicans, and being fired upon, and losing their horses, which were killed, barely escaped in safety back to the lines.  During the engagement which ensued, Lieutenant Parker joined Magruder’s battery.  General Twiggs bore testimony to his good service on that day:

“Lieutenant Benjamin Parker, after Lieutenant Calender was wounded, took charge of and managed the howitzer battery with judgement and success, until it became so disabled as to require shelter.  For Lieutenant Parker’s efficiency and gallantry in this affair, I present his name for the favorable consideration of the General-in-Chief.”

On the next day, when the battle of Churubusco was fought and the victory won, Parker again obtained the “honorable mention” of his commander, and a field promotion to captain.  General P. F. Smith, with whose division the young captain served, declared in his report:

“Lieutenant Smith, in command of the engineer company, and Lieutenant Parker, his subaltern, distinguished themselves throughout the whole of the three actions.  Nothing seemed to them too bold to be undertaken, or too difficult to be executed, and their services as engineers were as valuable as those they rendered in battle at the head of their gallant men.”

Thus for his exemplary service during the Mexican War, Parker was breveted a major in the army, and a man with three brevets for service in front of the enemy was at that time a marked man.

To Parker his months of active service in Mexico was of great value in his professional training; for it was a period crowded with rich opportunities for putting into practice the knowledge he had gained at West Point, and which was still fresh in his mind. The corps of engineers attached to the army was so small that much work was of necessity exacted from each officer, and higher responsibilities were devolved upon the younger men than would have been the case in any European army. Brevet Major Parker had an unusually large experience both of field-work and in the investment of fortified places. And it is no more than just to him to add that he proved himself equal to every trust laid upon him. His knowledge of his profession was shown to be thorough, exact, and ready, and his coolness and self-possession on "the perilous edge of battle" was like that of the bronzed veteran of a hundred fights. The number of men in our country—indeed, in any country —competent to pass a correct judgment upon military measures and military men, is not large; but upon this select body Brevet Major Parker had made his mark during the Mexican War, and he was recognized by them as a soldier upon whose courage, ability, and devotion  his country might confidently repose in her hour of need.

Brevet Major Parker remained with his company in the city of Mexico, in the discharge of garrison-duty, till May 28, 1848, when they were marched down to Vera Cruz and embarked for home.  They reached West Point, their proper station, June 22d, and here the young graduate of less than two years' service was welcomed back to his alma mater as a veteran of the war, a dignity well sustained by his soldierly bearing and bronzed complexion, notwithstanding the fact that he had barely reached the age of young manhood.  Upon his return, his company was stationed at West Point. His leisure hours were spent in studies connected with his profession. 


From 1848 to 1855 Parker taught cavalry tactics at West Point.

It was during this period that the young captain was introduced to Victoria Woodward, the daughter of Colonel Woodward.  The two spent many hours riding in the countryside but before Parker could muster the courage to ask her father if he could marry his daughter he was promoted and assigned a command as major in the second cavalry, a new regiment organized by act of Congress in the 1855, commanded by Colonel Thomas Montgomery, with Raymond Luthor as Lieutenant-Colonel stationed at Jefferson Barracks in the vicinity of Saint Louis, Missouri. 

LIFE ON THE FRONTIER (1855 to 1858)

Leaving his family behind in West Point, Parker reported to Jefferson Barracks in September, Year -5 the recruitment of men for the Second Cavalry was pursued with vigor.  The officers were required not only to drill the men, but to participate personally in the drilling.  The training both of officers and men was under the supervision of Major Parker. 

Parker was quiet and sober, quite in contrast to the flamboyant types which so often gravitated toward the cavalry. "He is kind, and always on hand when there is fighting to be done. . . . He don't put on so much style as most officers," wrote one grateful subordinate in the Second Cavalry. The man might have been speaking of Parker's plain, unpolished manner, or his wardrobe--in the field he usually wore an old hunting shirt "ornamented with holes," ancient blue corduroy breeches tucked into a pair of ordinary cowhide boots, and always had a big pipe sticking out of his shirt pockets but for some strange reason never used it. It was obvious this trooper was made of sterner stuff than many.

On October 17, 1855 the Second Cavalry was ordered to Fort Belknap, Texas, and ten days later, October 27, the journey began with a full complement of man and horses.  

One month later the Second Cavalry reached Fort Washita, Texas.  In the spring of 1856 Parker was ordered to explore the sources both of the Concho and Colorado rivers, and valuable information was obtained regarding the geology and topography of the country.  This was known as the Kiowa expedition and was not without serious incident.  On June 26, 1857, the command engaged in a sharp fight with a band of plundering Indians from whom were recaptured a number of animals stolen from the white population.  In this encounter Parker was painfully wounded by an arrow that he removed from his leg.  When it was certain that all of the Indians would be either killed or captured, one old, badly wounded Indian heroically sacrificed himself, and permitted his companions, including women and children, to escape.  Thomas told his interpreter to inform the Indian that his life would be spared if he would but surrender.  However, the brave man replied, “Surrender? Never! Come on, Long-knives!” and went to his death.  

Parker was interested in everything that could be productive of success in his profession.  It was through this hard work that Parker was promoted to the rank of brevet lieutenant colonel in the United States Army on August 15 1857.

In November, he marched with his regiment to Fort Smith, Arkansas, reaching the fort in December. Camp Cooper was established soon afterwards. Colonel Luthor was in the habit of riding over the country in search of suitable locations for future outposts and forts, taking some of his officers along to get their opinion with regard to establishing a suitable military post. Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Parker frequently accompanied him on these excursions, and here he spent a most delightful season of enjoyment, galloping over the beautiful prairies, breathing the balmy air, and in association with cultivated gentlemen. There was formed that attachment between Raymond Luthor and Benjamin Parker which was never interrupted throughout their lives, the major listening to his elder's words of wisdom and gauging his conduct by the high standard of morality set up for his emulation by the living example of the model gentleman who was his daily companion. Perhaps more than any other, this association had a directing influence upon all his future life, as all who knew Benjamin Parker are familiar with his keen sense of honor, his high-bred avoidance of the debasing vices that cast such a blemish upon many human characters. On November 25, 1857, he left Fort Smith in command of twenty-five men on a scouting expedition in search of Indians. Provided with thirty days rations, with an Indian guide and compass, and, youthful aspirations, the little party traversed the country, struck a trail, and followed the red men in spite of the vast prairie country which lay between, the scarcity of water in their canteens, and the danger of getting so far away in the wilderness. Orders had been received at camp from Washington before they left that a party of Indians were expected at the reservation, and would raise a white flag as a signal of their approach, and it must be respected. Lieutenant Colonel Parker came up with the Indians at a range of hills, and as they raised a white flag, he did not attack. Suddenly, the wily foe threw down the treacherous signal and commenced firing. The struggle now commenced and grew desperate, the Indians coming up and fighting hand to hand. Their ammunition was all expended, the ground, strewn with the dead and wounded, while two of the scouting party were killed and several, among them Lieutenant Colonel Parker, wounded, having his hand pinned to his bridle with an arrow. The attacking party were Comanches. The howl of distress from the Indians indicated that they had fought long enough, and when night approached they gathered up their dead and wounded and moved further westward. The troops returned to Fort Smith. General Wolfe, commanding department, complimented them on their exploit, saying in his official report: "Lieutenant Colonel Parker's affair was a gallant one, and much credit is due to both officer and men." It was afterwards learned that the Indians lost nineteen warriors. 

When an expedition to Utah was being fitted out Major Thomas wrote to the adjutant general under date of July 7, 1858, to report valuable information obtained while serving as a cavalry officer at Fort Yuma, several years earlier.  This concerned the possibility of navigating the Colorado River, the basis for which resulted from the questioning of Navajo and Pay-Ute Indians, to within one of two hundred miles of Salt Lake City.  If his estimate was correct, he reported, “It will be not only the most direct, but the most convenient and safest route to convey supplies to the troops stationed in Utah territory.”


In August 1858, he was ordered to report for duty as chief of cavalry at West Point, a position he welcomed warmly.  Along with the position came the rapid advancement to colonel in the Regular Army.

Much to Parker’s surprise he was told that the newly appointed General Woodward had been appointed Superintendent of West Point.  Renewing his relationship with Victoria the two married in March of 1859.  

By the summer of 1859 the temperature of the country was beginning to change.  The conversations between soldiers were becoming more polarized and at times soldiers had to be parted during these heated discussions.  Increased talk about an impending secession and even the possibility of war between the North and the South caused soldiers to express their potential loyalties.   

Just what would Parker do in a situation in which his fellow Virginians brought pressure on him from one side while from the other was the tremendous pull arising out of his deeply rooted training, convictions, and habits learned during his experiences in the army.  First of all, Lieutenant Colonel Parker was not a politician; he was a soldier, dedicated to his country: and he looked upon his flag as a symbol of that dedication.  He instinctively regarded President Wilson as his Commander in Chief, as the commander of all military personnel and the representative of his country before all the world.  Yet, as a Virginian, he loved every foot of her soil, and every custom, every bit of her history, and the traditions that make one proud.  Benjamin Parker would not lightly turn his back upon his beloved Virginia if the country should divide, without giving most serious thought to the consequences of his act to himself and to his state.  As Parker made his decision many of his former friends would depart from his life, perhaps for ever.  

When 11 States - among them Ben's home state Virginia - decided to secede from the United States on May 23 1861 Benjamin officially resigned his officer's commission, thus ending his career in the US Army, as he didn't want to fight against his kin. He swore not to take up a weapon again, lest in defense of Virginia and the Confederate States. As it became clear that the United States wouldn't just idly stand by and recognize the newly born Confederate States Benjamin offered his services to the Confederate States Government.

On May 30 he received an officer's commission in the Confederate Army and was appointed
Brigadier General commanding all forces assembled in Virginia.

Almost daily volunteer regiments began arriving in the new Capital of the Confederacy.  By July 7 the ranks had swollen to a state which necessitated the formation of a full corps.  With the formation of the First Corps, Parker received a promotion to major general and command of the of the corps.
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