Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bennett Young and the Missing Medal

Kentuckian Bennett Henderson Young early in life studied to be a Presbyterian minister, but soon found himself robbing banks for the Confederate cause. He survived through dangerous and trying times to become an outstanding Louisville attorney, an author of many books on a variety of subjects, a Confederate benefactor and a philanthropist. 

Bennett Young was born May 25, 1843on a farm in Jessamine County near the town of Nicholasville, the son of Robert and Josephine Henderson Young. When the War for Southern Independence started in April, 1861, Bennett Young was a student at the Bethany Academy in Nicholasville.

In September, 1861, Young entered Centre College, a Presbyterian school, located in DanvilleKentucky. He intended to study for the ministry, but was taken ill in 1862 with typhoid fever and had to discontinue his education.

By September 10, 1862, he was a Private in Company B, 8th Kentucky Cavalry under the command of Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan. Young served in Quirk’s Scouts during 1863 and rode with Morgan during the Great Raid into Indiana and OhioHe was captured in July of 1863 and imprisoned atCamp Douglas near ChicagoIllinois.

Young was able to escape and cross into Canada. He made his way bacto the South sailing through the blockade from Nova Scotia to Bermuda, and reportedly on to RichmondVirginia.  Young proposed, and Secretary Seddon approved (commissioning Young a Lieutenant), to return to Canada and undertake missions into the U.S. from there.

Once back in Canada, Lt. Young was able to recruit other escaped Confederates and form his own company named Young’s 5th Company Retributors CSA. Some of these young men orchestrated the most northern raid made by any Confederate land forces. On October 19, 1864Lieutenant Young’s small unitraided the town of St. AlbansVermont. The raiders were able to take more than $200,000 in greenbacks from several Yankee banks, but failed in their second objective to burn the town. Only one civilian was killed during this short visit to St. Albans. After crossing back into Canada they were arrested. However, a Canadian court determined that they were acting under legal military orders, and that Canada - being neutral in the conflict - would not turn them over to the U.S. Canada did return about $88,000 of the money the raiders had on them to Vermont.

After the War ended, President Andrew Johnson did not include individuals such as Lt. Bennett Young in his amnesty proposal. Young was able to make his way to Ireland. Some authors have reported that he studied law at the University of Ireland and at the University of Edinburgh. Other researchers say he may have studied in Canada as well.

In 1868, he was able to safely return to Kentucky and settle down in the city of Louisville where he became a prominent attorney. He married Mattie Robinson and they had two children.

The list of Young’s accomplishments is legion. He was instrumental in developing the Monon Railroad and the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge, and became President of the Louisville Southern Railway.

Young’s High Bridge was named for him in 1888 for the Louisville Southern Railway at TyroneKentuckyIt stands today as a unique and unaltered cantilever bridge over the Kentucky River. The bridge is no longer in use, but there have been ongoing efforts to find a way to utilize it. Bridge enthusiasts from all over the country visit Young’s High Bridge to study its design. It contains no middle piers and trains traveled over the top of the bridge instead of through the center of the structure.

Young was a representative to the 1878 Paris Exposition and was named President of the Louisville Public Library. He was instrumental in the formation of our current Kentucky Constitution as a member of the 1890 Constitutional Convention. Young was selected to be National Commander of the United Confederate Veterans and was made an honorary lifetime commander. It is likely he received the rank of Colonel within the United Confederate Veterans Association

Colonel Young was an active Confederate benefactor. He was chosen President of the Davis Home Association and under his direction, the Jefferson Davis monument was brought to completion in FairviewKentucky, the birthplace of President Davis. He was very much involved in the creation of the Confederate Veterans Home in Pewee ValleyKentucky. He was an advisor during the construction of the Captain Henry Wirz U.D.C. monument in AndersonvilleGeorgia.

From Page 162 of Valor in Gray by Gregg S. Clemmer: “On his own initiative, he organized the Bellwood Seminary and Presbyterian Normal School for orphan girls, ultimately contributing thousands of dollars of his own money when funds ran low. For many years Bennett Young—he was “General Young now to his friends in Louisvilleserved as President of the Kentucky School For the Blind, regaling youngsters well into the 20th century with his stories of the war times. When he gave of himself for the benefit of his community, he worked for all.  In 1879, he quietly led the effort to establish the Colored Orphan’s Home, serving as president of the charity for more than two decades. For 50 years, he had superintended the afternoon Sunday school at Stuart Robinson Memorial Church.”

Much of his legal work for the poor was done pro bono and the list of his generosities goes on and on.

In addition, Young somehow found time to be a prolific author. A partial bibliography is at the end of this article. Confederate Wizards of the Saddle: Being Reminiscences and Observations of One Who Rode with Morgan is probably his best known work among students of the War for Southern Independence. However, The Prehistoric Men of Kentucky became a widely recognized archeological text (yes, Young gained a passion for archeology in the 1890's), and A History of Jessamine County, Kentucky remained a standard textbook in Jessamine County schools for many decades. Dr. Gander of Youngland was a posthumous publication gathering tales Young read to the children at the blind asylum (and was also published in Braille).

It is reported that when Colonel Young visited MontrealCanada, in 1911, a group of dignitaries (including a Vermont congressman) from St. Albans called on him at the Ritz-Carlton. The event was recorded in the Montreal papers, and apparently rather than being hated in St. Albans, Young had become something of a legend. Greeting the Vermont visitors in his uniform, Young had apparently brought with him ample stocks of Kentucky bourbon as gifts, which helped make the evening a very cordial one.

Colonel Young’s home known as “Youngland” is located in the southwestern part of Louisville at the corner of Youngland Avenue and Dixie Highway. This fine brick building stood empty and in a state of disrepair for years. Fortunately, it has now been rehabbed into attractive apartments.

It is said of Col. Bennett Young that he lived an exemplary life and was never known to play cards, use tobacco, drink or utter a word that could not be repeated before any woman. He died on February 23, 1919, and is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

Young was placed on the honor roll for a Southern Medal of Honor for the St. Alban's raid. According toValor in Gray: “His (Young’s) Confederate Medal of Honor is on permanent public display at the Kentucky Military Museum in FrankfortKentucky.” A spokesman at the Kentucky Historical Society which operates the Military Museum informed us that they have never had his medal! This is not true, as Past SCV Kentucky Division Commander, the late Frank Rankin, had presented the medal to the Museum. There was some postulation that Rankin had retrieved the medal, but on his death a complete inventory of his collection was taken and Young's medal was not there. The museum is operated in part by the Kentucky Historical Society, and considering the hostility towards Kentucky Confederate history regularly seen from the KHS leadership, the theory that political correctness led to Young's medal being "misplaced" has been popular.

Fortunately, the Sons of Confederate Veterans has had Young's Medal of Honor replaced. The new medal was presented to Division Commander Hiter this past May by SCV Executive Director Ben Sewell (a member of Camp 100) when both were in Vicksburg for the Kentucky Confederate Monument dedication there, and Cmdr. Hiter entrusted it to now Lt. Division Commander John Suttles, who had arranged for the medal to be on permanent display at the Tilghman House Museum in Paducah - a museum wholly owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. There it will be displayed proudly, and will not fall victim easily to neglect or political correctness.

Colonel Bennett Henderson Young’s large grave marker is designed with an open bible and engraved upon the open pages are these wordsI Have Kept the Faith. Indeed, he did.

Thanks are in order to my friend, Stewart Cruickshank of NashvilleTennessee, for shedding light on Bennett Young’s Confederate military service.

Photo by John Suttles.

The following is a partial list by date of articles and books written by Colonel Young:
In 1890, Eight Years of Presbyterian Evangelistic Work in Kentucky
In 1898, A History of Jessamine CountyKentucky
In 1903, The Battle of the Thames: in which Kentuckians defeated the British, French and Indians, October 5,1813with a list of the officers and privates who won the victory
In 1907, Kentucky Eloquence Past and Present, Library of Orations, After-Dinner Speeches, Popular and Classic Lectures Addresses and Poetry
In 1908, Complaint of Bennett H. Young et al Against the Synod of Kentucky 1908
In 1910, The Prehistoric Men of Kentucky
In 1914, Confederate Wizards of the Saddle: Being Reminiscences and Observations of One Who Rode with Morgan
In 1914, Colonel Roy S. Cluke’s Kentucky Raid, Forrest’s Pursuit and Capture of Streight, Forrest at Bryce’s Cross Roads all were published in the National Magazine
In 1921, Dr. Gander of Youngland 

Nancy Hitt – 2010

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.