Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Fritz

Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Fritz, also known as “Fritts,” was born 1843 in Medina, Ohio, the son of John (b. 1816) and Parthenia (Irish, b. 1827).

Pennsylvania native John married Ohioan Parthenia, presumably in Ohio where they settled and resided for some years. Sometime after 1853 the family left Ohio and settled in Michigan. By 1860 Ben (known as “Franklin”) was attending school with three of his younger siblings and living with his family on a farm in Alaiedon, Ingham County. (Next door lived the Nelson Irish family, presumably Parthenia’s younger brother.)

Ben was an 18-year-old carpenter probably living with his family in Ingham County when he enlisted with the consent of the Justice of the Peace in Company E on May 13, 1861.

Some years after the war Benjamin recalled his first Fourth of July in the army, when he met President Lincoln. In June of 1861, Ben wrote in 1886,

we went to Washington, and encamped about four miles up the Potomac River on the Maryland side. On the 4th of July four of the young kids of Co. E, of whom I was one, were strolling up the River road, when we met a large cab driving toward the city. Two colored men sat on the driver’s seat, in suits of dark blue, with large plain brass buttons and plug hats. One of the boys remarked: “They think they are h__l don’t they? Let’s have some fun with them.” All agreed, and as they came up we kept the road. So did they. The team came to a halt, and a voice form the cab said, “What’s wanted?” and when we looked that way, there was a silver-haired man looking out the door. We told him we wanted to take a ride with him to Washington to see Old Abe. Thereupon he stepped out of the carriage saying, “Didn’t you ever see him?” and was followed by another man, and then another, until four men stood in front of us four boys. I had only noticed that they were fine-looking men, when the first one said: “Soldiers, I introduce to you the President of the United States; also, Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War; Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and myself, Hon. Gideon Wells.” The President stepped forward, shook hands with us and laughed at the joke; but our situation was beyond the laughing point, and soon there were four silly looking kids going for camp at quickstep gait.

Ben was reported on detached service in November and December of 1861, and from January of 1862 through April was present for duty. On June 30, 1862, he was reported missing in action at White Oak Swamp, Virginia, and subsequently returned to the Regiment on August 28 at Upton’s Hill, Virginia. He was again reported missing in action at Aiken’s Landing, Virginia, on September 13. In fact, he was taken prisoner on July 1 at Malvern Hill, Virginia, and paroled on September 8 or 18. According to the Richmond Dispatch of September 15, 1862,

Three thousand three hundred of the Yankee prisoners left Richmond on Saturday for Varina to be exchanged. – Such as could not walk were conveyed away in wagons. The officers, of which there were 61, went in carriages, provided for the purpose. As the long line filed past the C. S. Prison, on Cary Street, they greeted their less lucky compeers with a feeble cheer. A small cavalry escort accompanied them down. Another large gang were started for Aiken’s landing, on James River, yesterday morning. During Saturday and Sunday five thousand two hundred and twenty-eight were sent away. This leaves on hand only about seven hundred, a good many of whom are in the hospital under treatment for wounds or disease, who were unable to bear removal. Three Yankee women and eight Yankee deserters, or rather men who came over to us and professed to be such, were sent from Castle Thunder. Though these deserters professed to have left their brethren in great disgust, they were very willing to be sent back to the North. The departure of the prisoners will save the Confederate Government an expense of about $4,000 per day, which was the average that their food as soldiers cost.

Apparently, shortly after he was released from captivity, Ben was transferred to the regular cavalry. His service record states that he was a “paroled prisoner [and] has been exchanged and enlisted in regular cavalry [on November 5] and discharged from this Regt. Never reported for duty since exchange.” The War Department noted in his pension record, however, that he was discharged on November 5, 1862, “by reason of enlistment in the mounted service U.S.A., under G.O. 154, A.G.O. of 1862.”

For reasons that remain unclear, and apparently without being discharged from the cavalry, Fritz enlisted in Company L, First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics as a Private on July 15, 1863, at Clinton, Lenawee County, for 3 years, listing Clinton as his place of residence, and was mustered the same day at Detroit, crediting Clinton. He was reported on the rolls as present in July and August of 1863 and to April 30, 1865, and, according to one Benjamin Craig, also a member of Company L, Fritz was sick with jaundice in the summer of 1864 at Stevenson, Alabama. Craig also testified that Fritz had” the chronic diarrhea in December of the same year at Murfreesboro, Tenn.,” and further that he “Never saw Frank Fritz after December, 1864.”

According to several other postwar affidavits by former comrades in the E & M, Fritz contracted “rheumatism” in his back and hips while being exposed to the rain in late April of 1865, near Roanoke, North Carolina. He was absent in May and June, and under arrest in July and August of 1865, and absent in the military prison in Nashville, Tennessee from July 26, 1865, probably as a consequence of his having deserted from the regular army. In any case he was mustered out with his company at Nashville, Tennessee on September 22, 1865. According to the War Department, Fritz had enlisted in the Engineers and Mechanics in violation of the old Twenty-second (new Fiftieth) Article of War, “being a deserter at large from the mounted service U.S.A.”

After the war Benjamin returned to Michigan, probably to Ingham County, very possibly to the Mason area, where he worked as a farmer many years. In 1870 he was working as a farm laborer and living with his parents in Mason, Alaidon Township, Ingham County. (His parents were living in Alaiedon, Ingham County in 1880.0

According to a statement given in April of 1893, Jerome Loomis of Mason testified that he and Fritz had lived as neighbors “just across the public road, for the past twenty years.” Henry Every, also from Mason, claimed he had lived near Fritz as a neighbor for some fifteen years. Benjamin was living in Mason in 1886 and might have been living in Lansing in 1888. Ben gave his residence as Lansing when he transferred his Grand Army of the Republic membership from Phil McKernan Post No. 53 to Charles Foster Post No. 42 in Lansing in June of 1884 (the transfer was granted in September of that year).

He married Michigan native Ruth H. or A. Jeffreys (b. 1851) on June 3, 1878, in Clinton County, and they had at least one child: James P. (b. 1879). It is possible that Ruth was his second wife.

By 1880 Ben was working as a farm hand and living with his wife and son in Greenbush, Clinton County; also living with them was his daughter: Martha B. (b. 1867).

It is unclear what became of his relationship with Ruth since it seems that he was working as a farmer in Alaidon, Ingham County when he married a widow who had been working as a domestic, Canadian-born Sarah Fraser Rose (b. 1861) on March 25, 1894, at Mason. (Ben was residing in Alaiedon in 1894.) They were residing in Morrice, Shiawassee County in June of 1895.

In 1889 Ben applied for a pension (no. 713769), but the certificate was never granted.

Ben died on July 31, 1895, possibly in the vicinity of Morrice, and was presumably buried near Morrice.

His widow Sarah was living in Morrice, Shiawassee County when she applied for a pension (no. 619547) in September of 1895, but the certificate was never granted. Sarah remarried one C. B. Grinnell on January 18, 1896.