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Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss (November 23, 1819 – February 8, 1901) was an Americanmarker soldier and politician. He fought in the Mexican-American War and on the Union side of the American Civil War, rising to the rank of major general.

Early life, marriages and family

Prentiss was born in Belleville, Virginiamarker. (He was a direct descendant of Valentine Prentice, who immigrated from Englandmarker in 1631.) His early childhood was spent in Virginia until his family joined the migration and moved near Hannibal, Missourimarker. They then moved to Quincy, Illinoismarker, where Prentiss made his home until 1879. He then moved to Missourimarker.

In his early life, Prentiss was a rope-maker and served as an auctioneer. On March 29, 1838, Prentiss married Margaret Ann Lodousky; they had seven children before she died in 1860. In 1862, he married Mary Worthington Whitney, who bore him five more children.

The Civil War

Prentiss ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress in 1860. At the beginning of the American Civil War he defended railroad lines in Missourimarker until ordered to command a division under Ulysses S. Grant. His division was the first one attacked at Shilohmarker and suffered greatly during the opening hours of that battle. Prentiss reformed his command and put up a spirited fight in the "Hornet's Nest".

He was captured at the Hornet's Nest along with 2,200 other Union soldiers. He surrendered his sword to Lt. Colonel Francis M. Walker of the 19th Tennessee Infantry. After the battle he was considered a hero, having held off the Confederate States Army long enough to allow General Grant to organize a counterattack and win the battle. Grant would later play down Prentiss' role in the victory, possibly because of mutual dislike between the two generals.

After being released as part of a prisoner exchange, Prentiss was promoted to major general and served on the court-martial board that convicted Fitz John Porter. His dissenting voice in the final vote damaged his political clout. Prentiss was sent to Arkansasmarker and won the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. In 1864, he resigned to tend to his family. Historian Ezra J. Warner speculated that Prentiss felt that he was being shelved after having proved his abilities at Shiloh and Helena.

Post-Civil War career

After the Civil War, Prentiss became a lawyer. He was later appointed as postmaster by President Benjamin Harrison and was re-appointed by President William McKinley. He was a leader in the Republican Party of Missourimarker.

He died February 8, 1901 and is buried in Miriam Cemetery Bethany (Harrison County), Missourimarker.

See also


  • Retrieved on 2008-12-27
  • Daniel, Larry J., Shiloh: The Battle That Changed the Civil War, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997, ISBN 0-684-80375-5.
  • Fowler, John D., Mountaineers in Gray: The Nineteenth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment, C.S.A., Nashville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004, ISBN 1-57233-314-6.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.

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