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Michael Bennett, the son of Peter Bennett, was born in Nova Scotia, Canada in 1846. Prior to the outbreak of war, Bennett worked as a seaman. On February 17, 1864 while residing at Provincetown. Massachusetts, at eighteen years of age, he enlisted at Provincetown as a Private into Lieutenant James A. Littlefield's Company H, 56th Massachusetts Infantry, received an enlistment bounty of $325 and was mustered in on March 1, 1864. Also in Company H was a second Private Bennett, possibly related to Michael Bennett; one Henry Bennett.

The 56th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, a three-year unit and the First Veteran Regiment, was recruited during the fall and winter of 1863 at Camp Meigs at Readville, Massachusetts. A majority of the men enlisting in that, and other veteran regiments, had at least nine months prior service in some other organization. The first four companies of the 56th were mustered into service just after Christmas in 1863, the others being mustered in January and February 1864. Charles E. Griswold, formerly a Colonel of the 22nd Massachusetts Regiment, was made its Colonel.

The 56th Massachusetts left the State for Annapolis, Maryland on March 20, 1864. There it was assigned to Carruth's 1st Brigade, Stevenson's 1st Division in Burnside's 9th Corps. On the April 23, 1864, the corps received orders to march to Washington, D.C. where it remained for two days. Then on April 27th  it left for the Rappahannock, proceeding along the line of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Finally arriving at Bealeton Station on April 30th it remained in camp until May 4th when it began a march for Germanna Ford on the Rapidan River, crossed it, and followed the Army of the Potomac into the Wilderness. It was within a short distance of the battle which raged all day on May 5th. On May 6th Stevenson’s Division became engaged in heated action near the junction of the Brook and the Plank roads, with the 56th losing Colonel Griswold and eight men killed, 57 wounded, and 11 missing. Lieutenant Colonel Weld then took command of the regiment and was commissioned Colonel, beginning with the day of the engagement.

Moving to the left, the 9th Corps became engaged in action on the Union’s left, near the Fredericksburg pike, at Spottsylvania; on May 12th, the 56th Regiment lost another 10 men killed, 41 wounded, and one missing. In the final assault on the Confederate lines on May 18th, the 56th suffered a further loss of five killed and 40 wounded; with the division commander, General Thomas G. Stevenson being killed by a sharpshooter on May 10th.

The regiment again suffered a loss of seven men killed, 40 wounded, and 17 being taken prisoner near Ox Ford on the North Anna River on May 24th. Leaving the area and moving on to Cold Harbour, the 56th saw action on May 31st on the Union ‘s extreme right near Bethesda Church; losing one killed, 11 wounded, and one being missing. On June 3rd, just three days later, it was again engaged; losing two killed and seven wounded. From there the 56th crossed the James River on June 15th and participated in an assault on Petersburg, on June 17th, losing 19 more killed, 40 more wounded, and five more missing. It was during the assault on Petersburg that Bennett contracted pleurisy, jaundice, fever and chills, requiring him to be transported to City Point, Virginia and from there by ship to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, being admitted to Mower General Hospital, in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, and was often referred to as the Chestnut Hill Hospital; in ward 61. He remained under hospital care for some four months before being returned to duty. During the following six weeks the 56th lost an additional six men killed and 22 wounded by Confederate sharpshooters. At the "Crater" battle near Petersburg, Virginia on July 30, 1864, the 56th formed a part of Bartlett's Brigade in Ledlie's Division. That division led the advance after a Confederate fort was blown up near Petersburg. There the 56th lost 10 killed, 25 wounded, and had 22 prisoners taken. In less than two months after it crossed the Rapidan, the regiment had lost in known and recorded casualties 68 men killed, 283 wounded and 57 taken prisoner

The regiment participated with a greatly reduced force in the battle of Weldon Railroad on August 19th and at Poplar Grove Church or Peebles' Farm on September 30th.  Towards the last of November it moved to Fort Davis on the Jerusalem Plank road, where it remained until December 12th when it was transferred to Fort Alexander Hays; where it remained throughout the winter of 1864 & 1865.

On the morning of April 2, 1865, the 9th Corps then under the command of General Parke, joined the assault on the Petersburg entrenchments, with the 56th Regiment carrying and holding Battery 27; which had been built directly in front of Fort Sedgwick, on and across the Jerusalem Plank road. In that assault the 56th lost Captain Randall of Co. "D" in addition to two men killed and 13 officers and men wounded. After pursuing the Confederates as far as Burkesville, they remained there until after the surrender of General Lee and his forces.  The 56th was then sent to Alexandria, where it was mustered out on July 12, 1865; returning to Readville, Massachusetts where on July 22, 1865 the regiment was paid off and discharged.

According to Massachusetts census records, after the war Bennett made his home in Boston Massachusetts. Bennett made a good life for himself, taking a wife, Miss. Dolise Rose Durocher, and by 1880 they had migrated to Australia and settled down in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Bennet’s pension records reveal that on December 28, 1889 he sent an application to James P. Lesesne, the U.S. Consul at Melbourne at the time, applying for a disability pension; stating he was suffering from fever, Jaundice and pleurisy. At the time he was residing in Port Melbourne. He further stated in his application that his disabilities began on June 21, 1864 while at the Weldon Railroad in Virginia, at which time he had been treated at the Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; before returning to duty with his regiment in 1865. Bennett used a Boston, Massachusetts attorney, Charles E. Hapgood, formerly the Commanding Officer of the 5th New Hampshire Infantry, to assist him in his pension application, but he was not acting on his behalf as an attorney. His claim, however, was later abandoned.

In late 1892 Bennett contracted phthisis pulmonalis, known today as tuberculosis; which afflicted him from that time on. Michael Bennett died of lung disease, or tuberculosis, on June 20, 1895 at Collingwood, Victoria in Australia and was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton, Victoria, Australia; in the Baptist Compartment A, in grave number 238.  His gravesite remained unmarked until 1993, when a plaque was obtained from the American Veterans Administration and attached to his grave.

 

A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Frederick H. Dyer, New York, 1959

Death Certificate, Michael Bennett, June 20, 1895,

GAR Civil War Veterans, Department of Massachusetts 1866-1947, Sargent, A.

Dean, compiler, Heritage Books, Inc., 2003

Historical Data Systems, Inc.

Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, From its Organization,
      September 29, 1789 to March 2, 1903, Francis B. Heitman, 1903.

Massachusetts Census Records

Massachusetts Civil War Research Center

Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, Adjutant General, 1931

Melbourne General Cemetery

Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force of the United States Army 1861-1965,

Adjutant General's Office, Washington, 1865

Official Records of the War of Rebellion,  War Department, Washington

Pension Application, Michael Bennett, No. 758.227, SCV Camp

Regimental Losses in The American Civil War 1861-1865, 18th ed., William F. Fox,

Morningside House, 1985.

Sons of Union Veterans, Inc.

 

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