Little Doctor on the Black Horse Post #1 – Doctor David DeForest Benedict Joins the Union Army –

Little Doctor on the Black Horse

Doctor David DeForest Benedict Joins the Union Army

by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton


War is often pictured as a vast pageant, with the roar of cannon and bombs, with flying flags and bemedaled heroes, glorious victories and tragic defeats. But War is also a million personal stories, of quite ordinary men and women, caught up by forces beyond their control. For them, War is a strange new way of life. This is the story of one of these.

David Benedict was born in Norwalk, Ohio in 1833. He lost his mother at an early age, and when his father also died in 1851, David used part of his inheritance to go to college at Kenyon (where his dearest friend was Fred Tennard of Louisiana, a boy with strong southern views). After graduation, David married Hattie Deaver of New Haven and enrolled in Western Reserve Medical School in Cleveland, from which he graduated in 1861. At any other time, life would have been quite uncomplicated for David. He had only to take the state exams and then open an office in his home town, where he already owned his late father’s home, and begin raising his fast-appearing family (he had three little girls by that time). But this was the spring the nation was shaken by the firing on Fort Sumter, and Lincoln was calling for volunteers.

David DeForest Benedict

Doctor David DeForrest Benedict


David established his wife and babies in the house where he had been born, and enlisted as a “contract surgeon” in the Union army. He was named director of the military hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, [1] to which casualties were brought from the Western Campaigns” of Tennessee. He had left home Jan. 3rd, 1862. A year later he was commissioned as Assistant Surgeon in the 17th Volunteer Infantry.

New Orleans had fallen to the Union, the battles of Forts Henry and Donnellson, of Pittsburgh Landing and Shiloh were over. The battle line was across the south edge of Tennessee, centered around Murfreesboro, and it was here that David joined his regiment and began the series of 58 letters to his wife which form the basis for this memoir (there are some letters missing).


[1] This is from the Firelands Pioneer, an article by Caleb Gallup (a cousin) in 1901. However, it may have been in Cincinnati, as Eleanor is sure that at one time he and his family were in Cincy, while he was with a hospital there, but perhaps that was after the war.

NEXT – With the Army of the Cumberland – Part I



harriott-wickham-1915-20-2About the Author: Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton   (1890-1981) was born in Norwalk, Ohio to Frank and Agnes Wickham. Her father was the youngest of twelve children of Frederick and Lucy Wickham, early settlers of the Firelands, and her mother was the great-great granddaughter of Platt and Sarah Benedict, who founded the city of Norwalk. Educated at Norwalk High School and Wooster College, she became a teacher. She marched as a suffragette and worked for the Labor Department during World War I. After the war, she went west to teach school, and became one of the last homesteaders, proving up a property near Wheatland, Wyoming. She married Angus Barton in 1924 and they raised four children on the homestead through the Dust Bowl and World War II. In the late 1940s, she and her Angus moved to Ohio, where they spent the rest of their lives. During the 1950s and ‘60s, she wrote “Little Doctor on the Black Horse,” poetry, and short stories, some which were published in various journals and magazines.

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© 1961 by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton. All rights reserved.

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