Benjamin Gilden

Benjamin Gilden was born January 28 or February 3, 1840 in Norfolk, England, the son of Robert (d. 1877) and Susan (Grimes, d. 1892).

Benjamin’s family left England and immigrated to America eventually settling in Orleans County, New York by 1850. Around 1855 Benjamin left New York and moved westward, settling in Paris Township, Kent County along with his brother Robert. (In 1860 there was one Robert Gilden living in Carlton, Orleans County, New York.)

He stood 5’11” with gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was a 21-year-old farmer living in Paris or Grand Rapids, Kent County when he enlisted in Company A on June 10, 1861. He was reported as a pioneer, probably detached to the Brigade, from July of 1862 through October. According to his friend and comrade George W. Blain of Company K, Ben suffered from chronic diarrhea most of the summer of 1862 “and [it got] so bad at last that he was compelled to give up and go to the hospital in the fall. He was indeed reported absent sick from November of 1862 through February of 1863, and again on April 3, 1863. According to Blain Ben returned to the regiment smetime in the spring of 1863. He reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Grand Rapids, presumably returned home on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864 and rejoined the Regiment on or about the first of February.

Benjamin was shot in the left leg on May 5, 1864, at the Wilderness, Virginia, apparently hospitalized shortly afterwards. Another Third Michigan soldier, George Blain saw Benjamin in the field hospital on May 6. He “was talking with Comrade Gilden on [the morning of the 6th] in regard to his wounds. He had a very bad wound in the left side of the head almost directly over the left ear [and] also a bad wound in the left knee so bad he had to be carried [and] could not walk. Ben was still absent wounded when he was transferred to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.

In early August he was furloughed from the hospital and arrived back at his home in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, August 10.

This morning [wrote the Grand Rapids Eagle] Benjamin Gilden, a battle-scarred veteran hero of that once proud and invincible command arrived, and though sick and alone, his gallant service in freedom's cause covers him with glory, and involuntarily makes all loyal men feel like taking off their hats in reverence, not only for him, but for the wooden crutch even which enables him to move about upon his shattered limb. Young Gilden was wounded in that terrible battle of the ‘Wilderness’, and has since that time been lying in hospital at Philadelphia and Detroit, having just recovered sufficiently to enable him to return to his home. Who will not welcome him and all other hero warriors with warm hearts and open arms?

Benjamin probably remained at home for most of the remainder of the year, but as of December 26, 1864, he was at St. Mary’s hospital in Detroit, possibly awaiting final disposition. He was discharged as a Corporal on January 10, 1865, at Detroit, for “gunshot wound of left leg, ball entering just below the patella [kneecap], passing through the ligament rendering him permanently lame.”

After his discharge Benjamin settled back in Grand Rapids and lived out the rest of his days in Grand Rapids and Paris Townships. He was living in Paris, Kent County when he married New York native Mary C. Rosenkrans Hamblin (b. 1841), the widow of William Hamblin, formerly of Company F, Third Michigan infantry and who was killed in action in June of 1864 near Petersburg, Virginia, on December 7, 1865; they had one child, an adopted daughter Jennie (b. 1882).

In 1870 Ben was working as a farmer and living with his wife in Dorr, Allegan County. He was living in Grand Rapids and working as a farmer and living with his wife in 1880 and in December of 1883 when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and was drawing $2.00 per month for a wounded left leg (pension no. 41,960).

Benjamin was residing in Paris in 1887, in Grand Rapids in 1889 when he attended the reunion at Gettysburg and in 1890. In 1889 he was reported as working as a milk peddler and living on Wealthy Avenue one mile northwest of the Grand Rapids city limits. He was living in Grand Rapids’ Tenth Ward in 1894 and served as alderman from the Tenth Ward for two terms. He also served as a deputy sheriff, and as bailiff in Judge Grove's court for two years, and was a member of Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids and the East Paris church.

He was residing in Paris in 1897 when, during the 26th annual Old Third Michigan infantry Association reunion (held in December), a committee of three men, George Judd, Byron Pierce and Wilson Jones, was chosen to petition the government on behalf of Gilden’s wife in securing an increase to his pension. Gilden and his wife were then living in Paris Township and he was reported to be “palsied in tongue and limb”; apparently he had suffered two major strokes since 1896, which had rendered him speechless.

Gilden died of acute paralysis on Friday afternoon, October 14, 1898, while eating dinner at his home in East Paris; the cause of the paralysis was attributed to heart disease. His funeral was held on Sunday morning, October 16, at 11:00 a.m. at the East Paris church, and he was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: section H lot no. 8.

His widow received pension no 473474, drawing $30.00 per month by 1927. She was residing at the Soldier’s Home when she died in 1927.