“The Gray Wall” by Don Troiani (1985) Private Collection/Bridgeman Images
Civil Warm (sic) sharpshooter Berry Benson fought in several major battles with Gen. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Benson was captured and escaped from two notorious Union prisons before returning to his unit. At the war's end in 1865, he walked home with his two-band, London-made Enfield.
I first saw the monument in downtown Augusta, Ga., in 1966, as a young second lieutenant at nearby Fort Gordon. It was an impressive sight, and even though I was a Yankee from New Jersey, I was drawn to it. Statues of four Confederate generals, including the expected icons Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, along with lesser-known Georgians Thomas R. Cobb and William H.T. Walker, supported the base of a tall column topped by a figure of a lone infantryman at rest, a rifle in his hands. At the time I didn’t know that soldier was Berry Benson or, indeed, even who Berry Benson was. And then I left for Vietnam and my own war. Years later, while researching the Civil War and its small arms, I came across the story of Berry Benson and his Enfield rifle. And quite a story it was.
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