Benjamin was born in 1820 in Sterling, Vermont. (Yes, it was Sterling, even though several official records disagree.) When has was six, his mother died, and he went to live with his uncle and aunt in nearby Cambridge. This would be his uncle William Kenfield, and his wife, Achsa Mudgett.
He apprenticed to a blacksmith, Ansel Shepardson, in the neighboring town of Fairfax, later going into business with him. In 1847 he married the boss's daughter Aurelia. They had six children from 1850 to 1861. Three months earlier in 1847, Benjamin and his brother-in-law Merrit Shepardson bought the Shepardson Sawmill on Stones Brook in Fairfax.
Benjamin was a handsome man -- just like his grandson George Royce, his great-grandson Morris, and his great-great-grandson, TheDeke. ;-) He stood five feet nine inches tall, and had a light complexion, blue eyes and black hair. Benjamin was almost 42 years old when he enlisted for three years in August, 1862. (How do we know all this? Here's how.)
Company K of the 11th Infantry Regiment, Vermont Volunteers officially mustered in September 1. They were sent to Washington, DC and stationed at Fort Totten, one of the ring of new forts surrounding the city. In December, the regiment was converted to artillery, becoming the First Vermont Heavy Artillery. But before they could protect Washington with the new forts, they first had to build them.
It seems Benjamin was a better blacksmith than artilleryman, because in the very month the regiment converted to artillery, he broke his right kneecap in an accident. We hope he received medical treatment, but the record does not document any. He appears on the regular company bi-monthly muster rolls until May 1863. Starting May 27, he was granted a 30-day medical furlough in Vermont. He probably was suffering from more than lameness, based on subsequent events. For the next several months, his unit listed him as AWOL. He turns up again in the records of the Army hospital in Burlington, Vermont for September/October 1863. The hospital record for November/December shows him as returned to duty.
Benjamin did return to his unit, but effective November 18 was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps, also called the Invalid Corps. He was immediately sent to New York City, where on December 23, 1863 he was attached to Fort Wood Convalescent Hospital on Bedloe's Island. This is the old stone fort atop which the Statue of Liberty now stands. He remained at Fort Wood until his discharge on May 3, 1864. His Certificate of Disability for Discharge mentions lameness resulting from his knee injury, together with chronic rheumatism, asthma, heart valve disease and debility. It also says that he had been in hospitals since February 1863, although his company's muster rolls show him as "present" continuously through May 27 of that year.
After his discharge, Benjamin returned to Fairfax, Vermont and returned to blacksmithing. He also had a small farm. He is listed in the local business directory in the 1880s. He died in 1905 from influenza and "senile debility," in other words, old age. He was buried in the Sanderson Corners Cemetery in Fairfax.