Fighting Chaplain of the 32nd Ohio

Transcribed by Larry Stevens

Russell B. Bennett, Chaplain of the Thirty-second, was known in the Seventeenth Army Corps as the "fighting Chaplain." He first enlisted in the regiment as a private, and was a good and brave soldier in the ranks. When Chaplain Nickerson resigned and left the service, Bennett was promoted to the chaplaincy of the regiment.
He not only believed in the efficacy of prayer, but also believed in the efficacy of shot and shell, and, instead of remaining in the rear during an engagement, he was always up in the front line, not only to minister to the wounded and dying, but, with gun in hand, took his place in the ranks and encouraged the soldiers by his coolness and bravery.
Of the many instances in which he rendered good services during a battle, we give one as related by the boys of the regiment.
On the day the brave and gallant McPherson fell, Atlanta, July 22, 1864, the Seventeenth Corps was hotly engaged. The Thirty-second Regiment was flanked on all sides, and was compelled to change front several times, not knowing in what direction to look for the enemy.
At one time, during a few moments' lull in the battle, the Thirty-second was lying down in the edge of a corn-field waiting for the next attack, the Chaplain, cautioning the boys to lie very still, and protect themselves the best they could, advanced into the corn-field to make a reconnoissance, and, mounting a stump some forty or fifty yards in front of the line, discovered the battle line of the enemy rapidly advancing, and moving back to his regiment, passed the word along the line that the enemy were close upon them; then, taking the musket of William B. Mitchell, of Company B - brother to John and James Mitchell, of Marysville - he fired on the advancing line, Mitchell, lying on the ground, would rapidly re-load the gun, and again Bennett would fire, and all the time exhorting the boys to "lie-low" until the enemy were close upon them, then to "fire-low."
All this time he stood erect, not seeming to have any thought of his own safety, but only solicitous for the soldiers of the regiment, whom he loved dearly. Mitchell was killed as he lay on the ground, and, his body falling into the hands of the enemy, was never recovered. Bennett was universally respected and loved by all of the officers and soldiers of the regiment, and to-day the boys all have a good word for Chaplain Bennett.

By: W.L. Curry

From: War History of Union W.L. Curry. Marysville. Ohio. 1883

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Last updated May 23 1999