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Benjamin Hardin Helm
Confederate General & Brother-in-law of Mary Todd Lincoln

Mortally Wounded at Chickamauga [Bibliography]

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Brigadier-General Ben Hardin Helm, another gallant son of Kentucky, was born in Elizabethtown in 1830. He was graduated at West Point in 1851 as brevet second lieutenant and was assigned to the Second dragoons. After a little more than a year's service, during which time he was promoted to second lieutenant, he resigned his position in the army and took up the study and practice of law. He was a member of the State legislature 1855-56, and state's attorney 1856-58. In 1856 he married Miss Todd, the half-sister of Abraham Lincoln. Notwithstanding their very great divergence of political sentiment, Lincoln and Helm were much attached to each other. In April, 1861, although Mr. Lincoln knew his brother-in-law to be a Southern Rights Democrat, he invited him to Washington. On the 27th of April he handed Helm a sealed envelope, saying, '' Ben, here is something for you. Think it over by yourself and let me know what you will do.'' The envelope contained Helm's nomination as paymaster in the United States army. Helm said: " I will try to do what is right. You shall have my answer in a few days." Returning to Kentucky he found his State much divided, and each side full of patriotic fervor for what it deemed the right. According to his convictions of duty he made his decision, and that was for the South. He wrote to Mr. Lincoln declining the position of paymaster. He organized the First Kentucky cavalry for the Confederate army, reporting for duty to Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston October 19, 1861, and received his commission as colonel and in March, 1862, he was commissioned brigadier-general. In June, 1862, when Breckinridge's division was sent to Vicksburg, Helm was in command of the Second brigade, which included the Fourth and Fifth Kentucky, one Mississippi and two Alabama regiments. He was on duty about Vicksburg during the naval operations in the summer of 1862, and in the latter part of July marched to Louisiana with the division. Just before the opening of the battle of Baton Rouge, during a stampede by some partisan rangers, General Helm was dangerously injured by the fall of his horse. He remained on duty in the district of the Gulf until the latter part of January, 1863, when he was ordered to take command of the brigade of the late General Hanson, in Breckinridge's division. He commanded this brigade, which included the Kentucky regiments of Breckinridge's division, during the Tullahoma campaign, and part of the time was in command of the division. On the morning of September 20, 1863, in the first assault upon the Federal breastworks, battle of Chickamauga, " the battle was opened by Helm's brigade with great fury." " This was one of the bloodiest encounters of the day," says General Breckinridge. " Here General Helm, ever ready for action, and endeared to his command by many virtues, received a mortal wound while in the heroic discharge of his duties." A writer in the New Orleans States says: " How brave a soldier the Confederacy lost that day history records. Ben Hardin Helm was, in the highest sense of the word, one of nature's noblemen. He was a patriotic Southern gentleman. As he understood it, his line of conduct was clear and he unhesitatingly trod the path of duty." It is said that when Lincoln heard of the death of General Helm, his grief was uncontrollable. Four who commanded brigades on each side at Chickamauga were either killed or mortally wounded. Helm of Kentucky was one of the four on the Southern side. The government has erected monuments to these officers on the spots where each one fell, without making any distinction between those who fell on the Northern or on the Southern side. May this be a token of the brotherly love that shall henceforth prevail between the once severed sections of our now united country.
Confederate Military History
Side Confederate
State Kentucky
Born June 2, 1831
Bardstown, Kentucky
Died September 21, 1863
Chickamauga, Georgia
Buried Helm Family Cemetery
Elizabethtown, Kentucky

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