For the Enquirer.
[From the Danville (Va.) Register.]
TO THE PUBLIC.
MY SON, DANIEL E. BENTLY, enlisted in the "Danville Artillery," Capt. L.M. Shumaker; and on May 15th, went down to Richmond to be mustered into service. He was elected here as 1st Corporal. On reaching the office of the Inspector General, he was returned, as underage, not being 17 until the [illegible] of June following. So anxious was his Captain and company to retain him, and so unwilling was he to return home, that a petition was gotten up, requesting Gen. Lee to make an exception in his favor, which with the co-operation of the Cols. McGruder, Pegram and others, proved successful. He was immediately promoted by the Captain to the office of [illegible] Sergeant, in which capacity he followed the fortunes of his company during all the trials, sufferings, and dangers of the regiment from Laurel Hill to Monterey. Shortly after reaching the later place a petition was gotten up, requesting Captain Shumaker to resign his command, and he, with [illegible] others, signed it. He [illegible] presented it to the Captain, who ordered the arrest of the offenders. They were kept under guard for 24 hours, when all were released except the Sergeants, who remained in close confinement several days longer. They were then allowed personal liberty although [illegible] military arrest. Charges of mutiny were then preferred against them, and a Court Martial ordered for their trial. The 1st Sergeant was tried and acquitted. I was there--having gone up to meet my son after his escape from Laurel Hill, &c., and after remaining there three weeks was compelled to leave before my son's trial. The company was removed to (Camp Bartow) Greenbrier river, and after some weeks, my son was restored to his office, without trial. I should not have alluded to this matter now, except to explain Capt. Shumaker's subsequent dislike to, and treatment of my son. After the company reached Greenbrier river, (Camp Bartow) nothing occurred of remark, until the morning of the 3d October. [illegible], whe the engagement between our forces and the enemy [illegible] Mountain took place. Sergeant D.E. Bentley and his gun [illegible] were assigned to the point most exposed to the fire of the enemy, and for 4 1/2 hours maintained their post, firing [illegible] times, and winning for themselves the approbation of all who witnessed the engagement. Captain Shumaker, knowing the importance of the position occupied by this gun, gave it much of his personal supervision, and no one connected with it had any reason to believe that he felt otherwise than gratitute at their conduct during [t]he engagement. On the morning of the 5th October, the company was called out, and an order read to this effect: that 4th Sergeant D.E. Bently was reduced to ranks for inefficiency, and Corporal Oliver P. Carter promoted to the office of 4th Sergeant, for his good conduct, &c., during the engagement. Nothing could have been more unexpected to all present. It is needless to attempt a description of the feelings of my son. Suffice it to say, he was surrounded by indignant and sympathizing friends, not only belonging to his own, but other companies, and cheered and sustained by assurances of their testimony in his behalf; an expression of their high approval of his conduct. His first step was to request of Gen. Jackson the calling of a Court of Inquiry to investigate this matter. It was promised, but delayed from time to time. With the statement of my sons mortifying reduction to ranks, I received letters, certificates, and statements from officers of high rank, non-commissioned officers and privates, in and without his company, bearing flattering testimony to his gallantry and good conduct. A few days after this event, Capt. Shumaker's official report of the engagement made its appearance, containing the following paragraphs: * * * "I ordered the fire to cease, and directed my chiefs of pieces to rest their men--cool their guns--load with canister and await my order to fire. The enemy, meanwhile, had been moving down to the right flank to the number of 2,000, when I heard two guns open to my left. I galloped to the point, and found my men in confusion, all of Capt. Rice's men gone but two--one man dying, and was told that Capt. Rice and one of my Corporals were badly wounded. I repremanded the Sergeant and he informed me that Cols. Johnson and Taliaferro ordered him to fire, and that he told them he had orders from me not to fire. Cols. Johnson and Taliaferro were not with the gun when I came up. He says also--Sergeant Bently, owing to his youth and temperment, was not efficient as a Sergeant--yet the gun was well managed by Corporal Calvin H.P. Eaton, until he was wounded, and then it was managed by Corporal O.P. Carter, who came back from the [illegible] piece to assist. [(]I wish to draw attention to the fact that three times in the first extract Capt. S. acknowledged that my son was acting as chief of the piece, and that, too, nearly at the close of the engagement)--1st, he ordered [illegible] to cool the gun, &c.--2d, he repremanded the Sergeant for firing without his order--3d, he (my son) told the Captain he had the orders from the Cols. J. and T. to fire--and yet he asserts in the second extract that my son did not have charge of the gun--but that it was managed by the Corporals and [illegible] found evidence of [illegible] justice here done him, is found in the fact that neither the Corporals nor Sergeant had discovered that this change had been made until they until they [illegible] it in the "official report." In reference to the remark that the Colonels were not with the piece, we refer the readers to the findings of the Court of Inquiry. In obedience to a special order of Gen. Jackson, a Court of Inquiry assembled at the Headquarters of the Commander of the Post, at 11 a.m., Oct. 10th [?] inst. The senior officer Capt. P.B. Anderson artillery, was selected as President, and the junior officer E.C. Crump, appointed Judge Advocate.
The following witnesses were called and examined seperately in behalf of Private, late Sergeant Bently. Col. Edward Johnson, of the 12th Georgia Regiment commanding Brigade, and Commandiant of the Post at Camp Bartow.
Colonel Wm. B. Taliaferro, of the 23d Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, commanding 5th Brigade of the N. West Army, Monterey line.
Colonel Wm. C. Scott, 44th Regiment Virginia Volunteers; Lieutenant Samuel C. Williams, company [illegible], 23d Regiment Virginia Volunteers; 4th Sergeant Carter, Danville Artillery, Corporal John H. [illegible], Danville Artillery.
Immediately after the examination of these witnesses, Captain Shumaker asked leave to have this statement incorporated in the proceedings, to which the court assented:
To Capt. P.H. ANDERSON, Pres't Court of Inquiry:
Sir--I desire to state, before the examination of the witnesses called to testify to the facts of Private (late Sergt.) Bentley's conduct in the engagement of the 3d of October, at this place, that the language of my official report, concerning said Bentley, was not desired to reflect upon him as a man of courage and cannot properly be considered. With me, as Captain of the company, it was a question of effiecency alone. Having voluntarily assured [illegible] of this, I think it but just to Private Bentley and myself to state it again, and at this point of the proceedings of the court.
I will here introduce the letter addressed by Captain Shumaker to myself and family, and request the public to compare carefully the two statements:
- (Signed) L.M. SHUMAKER,
- Captain Commanding Battery.
GREENBRIER RIVER, Oct. 25th, 1861.
Mr. and Mrs. Bentley:
I regret that the language of my official report of the conduct of my company in the engagement of the 3d instant, at this place, (in which reference is made to your son Daniel,) should be construed to reflect upon his courage. I did not so design it, and am free to assure you that I do not believe him to be wanting in that, one of the essential qualities of a soldier. I simply meant to assert that, as a sergeant or chief of piece, he was not efficient. It is a fact of which he is entitled to the [illegible] benefit, that he was with his gun detachment during the engagement, and that that detachment was more exposed to the enemy's fire than any other; but it is also a fact that he had to rely upon Corporals Eaton and Carter for the proper management of the gun, and was obliged to be present almost the whole time myself. When I left him in charge of the gun I gave him express orders not to fire until he got my orders; and when I returned to him, I found the men in confusion, the corporal severly wounded, the gun carriage injured--all the result of the disobedience of my order. However much I may regret the necessity to mentions his name in connection with the other sergeants and the pain the mention has caused yourselves; I cannot see, upon a careful review of the facts and the language employed, any reason to change the report. I believe that I have been conscientiously trying to get and keep my company in a condition to render it efficient service to my country, and I know that I am as [illegible] from wantonly wounding any man's feelings as I am from courting popularity.
It is only necessary to state that, after a long and [illegible] examination of all the witnesses in behalf of both Captain Shumaker and D.E. Bentley, the Court [illegible] in the following findings:
- L.M. SHUMAKER,
- Captain Commanding Light Battery
I certify that the foregoing extract from the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry in the case of Private (late Sergeant) D.E. Bentely, of Shumaker's Battery is correct.
- 1st. The position he occupied (D.E. Bentley) was a proper one, and to which he as assigned.
- 2nd. When he changed position behind the limber box, he was there by the order of Capt. Shumaker, engaged in cutting sperical case shot.
- 3rd. That he was absent for a time too look for aid for a wounded man. The time was short.
- 4th. That he was absent only once during the engagement.
- 5th. That he was not more excited than any others, and behaved well.
- 6th. That he endeavored to rally the men when in confusion, and begged them to fire the piece if possible.
- 7th. That in compliance with an order from Capt. Shumaker not to fire the gun until his return, he [illegible], having loaded with cannister shot.
- 8th. After this order and the cessation of firing, in obedience to an order from Colonel Edward Johnson, which was the reiteration of an order from Colonel Wm. B. Talaiferro previously given, he advanced the piece, and [illegible] fire upon the enemy, before the return of Capt. Shumaker.
I have already alluded to the certificated [sic], letter, and statements in my possession bearing testimony to my son's good conduct as a soldier, gentleman, and Christian. The extract I give, written immediately after the battle by an officer to a friend in the vicinity:
- (Signed) P.B. ANDERSON, Capt. Art'y,
- Pres't Court of Inquiry
- (Signed) EDWARD C. CRUMP,
- 2nd Lieut. 23d Regiment, Va. Cols., C.S.A.
- Judge Advocate
"All that I have heard speak of Daniel Bentley's conduct during the fight (and I have heard many) [illegible] to him, without a single exception, the most salient conduct. Several officers have complimented him to me, [illegible] not knowing his name, calling him Shumaker's Line Sergeant."
All those papers I shall be pleased to show [illegible] at any time, and, if necessary, at, the [illegible] publish them all, together with the whole [illegible] and entire proceedings of the Court of Inquiry. In the view of the above facts, [illegible] determined to get his discharge from the army, and have succeeded in doing so, he is now at home; but when the spring campaign [illegible], should his country need his aid; he will again cheerfully enlist in her service.
- WM. F. BENTLEY