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R.T. Bennett

R.T. Bennett

Confederate (CSA)


Risden Tyler Bennett


(1840 - 1913)

Home State: North Carolina

Education: Cumberland University

Command Billet: Commanding Regiment

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 14th North Carolina Infantry


see his Battle Report

Before Sharpsburg

"When 17 years old, Bennett made a journey to the West, where he reported staying with Indians and viewing the Rocky Mountains. He also told the story of attending a funeral at which they 'lost the corpse and had to go back three miles to find it; everybody was drunk but me and the corpse.' Bennett returned to the East and, after earning a law degree from Cumberland University, began the practice of law in Anson County in 1860.

He enrolled as a private in Company C (Anson Guards) in April 1861. Fifteen months later, at the age of 22, he was promoted to colonel of the 14th North Carolina.

"After Malvern Hill, the 14th Regiment welcomed its new and third regular colonel: Risden Tyler Bennett of Wadesboro, Anson County. He received his colonel's commission July 5 [1862]. Of him, Brig.-Gen. William R. Cox wrote years later: he 'was of imposing presence, strong individuality, and an able commander. His voice was clear and sonorous and there was no mistaking or disobeying his commands'. "

On the Campaign

"With Jackson away and Longstreet moving to Hagerstown, the gaps through South Mountain were not heavily guarded as McClellan moved up. Lee sent D. H. Hill"s North Carolina division from Boonsboro to the gaps. This relatively small force (that included the 14th Regiment in Anderson"s Brigade) performed a remarkable feat in delaying for a day nearly half of McClellan's army. This tough resistance on Sept. 14 enabled Lee to consolidate his forces for battle. (The Rough and Ready Guards doubtless found the hill and valley country more to their liking, a relief from the flats and swamps of the Peninsula.)"

"The night of September 14 Lee's forces moved to the west of Antietam Creek and formed a line along the low hills in and near Sharpsburg. There Lee awaited the slow McClellan as his large army moved through the passes".

"The battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam), described as the bloodiest single day"s fighting of the war, caused the 14th Regiment to suffer its 'first great baptism of blood.' Its position (with Anderson's Brigade and D. H. Hill's division) was in the center along a sunken road that was to be known ever after as the Bloody Lane. This road, along the 'reverse slope of a long ridge,' was the scene of terrible fighting and the mortality rate was high. One of the Federals' assaulting columns was Meagher's New York [Irish] Brigade that was to win distinction for its charge at Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg. At the Bloody Lane, this brigade charged and, after a desperate encounter with Anderson's North Carolina Brigade - the fighting was at 30 paces apart - was obliged to withdraw".

"After long hours, Union troops gained a lodgment to the right of the brigade's line where they enfiladed the sunken road, forcing the Confederates to retire. Col. Bennett, in command of the brigade after General Anderson was wounded fatally, managed to extricate his men from a difficult situation and they passed some distance to the Federal front and left. Col. E. A. Osborne, in his account of the history of the Fourth Regiment, relates that Colonel Bennett, 'finding a piece of artillery which had been abandoned, manned it and opened fire upon the enemy's line.' The men who manned the gun were Lieutenant Frank M. Harney of Company F, Buncombe; Capt. Thomas B. Beal and Sgt. P. D. Weaver of Company I, Davidson County, all of the 14th Regiment".

Walter Clark, writing of Sharpsburg, said

'Anderson"s brigade had made the name of the "Bloody Lane" forever famous. Its position thrust out in front resembled that of the "Bloody Angle" at Spottsylvania later. It was overwhelmed by Richardson"s division. Its loss was great, but the fame of its deeds that day will abide with North Carolina forevermore.'

"The redoubtable Col. Bennett, writing years later of the great battle, said:
'Nature was in her most peaceful mood; the Autumn sun without caprice. It would be difficult for any true soldier to name a day in his battle experiences which he enjoyed more than the day at Sharpsburg. It was splendid.'

The rest of the War

"... On the second day [at Gettysburg] the regiment moved out and occupied a road leading south of the town. There it was exposed to sharpshooters and suffered casualties. The wounded included Col. Bennett."

"... At the Battle of Winchester September 19 [1864], when Early was pushed back up the Valley, the 14th regiment fought spiritedly. In pursuing a Federal force, it entered a wood in front of a battery and a division. Without support, the regiment was forced into retreat. Among the prisoners taken by the Federal troops were the regiment's commanding officer, Col. Bennett, and Second Lieutenant Gay M. Williams of the Rough and Ready Guards."

Bennett was confined at Fort Delaware, Del., until he was transferred to City Point, VA., for exchange on February 27, 1865.

After the War

He was solicitor of Anson County in 1866 and 1867; member of the State house of representatives 1872-1874; delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1875; judge of the superior court from 1880 until his resignation in 1882; elected as a Democrat to the Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Congresses (March 4, 1883-March 3, 1887); chairman, Committee on Expenditures in the Department of State (Forty-ninth Congress); engaged in the practice of law in Wadesboro, N.C.

References & notes

Interesting trivia: He had a WWII Liberty Ship named for him. It was built at Southeastern Shipbuilding Corporation, Savannah, GA, in 1944.

Sources: McCoy, George W., Buncombe "Roughs" In Last Charge At Appomattox, Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times, Sunday, December 24, 1961, and his Congressional Biography. His picture from a photograph in Maj. W.A. Smith's Anson Guards, Company C, Fourteenth Regiment, North Carolina Volunteers, 1861-1865 (1914), available online from North Carolina Digital Collections.


6/18/1840; Wadesboro, Anson County, NC


7/21/1913; Anson County, NC; burial in Bennett Cemetery, nr. Wadesboro, NC