Joseph Benton Sawyer, Co I, 2nd Michigan Cavalry

My name is Sharon Sawyer Mora. I am a great granddaughter of Joseph Benton Sawyer, a veteran of the Civil War and a survivor of the battle of Franklin and the Civil War.

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Joseph was a Corporal in the 2nd Michigan Cavalry, Company I.

From “Walking Thru The Shadows With The Sawyers” a family history compiled by Jane Brandal

“Joseph Sawyer left home in Grandville, Michigan to volunteer for the armed services for the Civil War.  When his mother became aware of what had happened, she immediately went to the commanding officer and explained that Joe was under age (about 16) and should not be enlisted.  Evidently she didn’t convince them that he was not old enough to enlist but, probably more so was the fact that the Union Army needed all the possible recruits they could get.  In any event, Joe Sawyer was mustered into Company I Second Cavalry on October 2, 1861, as a private.

When his first enlistment was completed, Joe re-enlisted in January 1864, at Mossy Creek (or Cleveland), Tennessee. Most of his former company did the same thing so there was a continuity of friendship between the troops.  Joseph returned home on leave and married his sweetheart, Hannah Almira Scott, on May 11, 1864.  He mustered out at Macon, Georgia on August 17, 1865.

Joseph was listed as Missing-In-Action at Franklin, Tennessee, when, as a mounted messenger, he was riding his horse down the road at dusk.  Suddently, two confederate soldiers stepped intothe road and ordered him to stop, advance, and be recognized.  As he advanced he was explaining that as a special messenger he was authorized to be there and had papers to substantiate his claim.  He reached into his pocket, pulled out a slip of paper, reached  into his pocket, pulled out a slip of paper, reached down to hand it to one soldier and at the same time kicked his horse in the flanks as hard as he could.  Needless to say, there was a flurry of action when he and his horse dove into the woods by the road with rifle bullets whizzing by his head.  Inasmuch as he was in enemy territory, it became imperative that he stay out of sight until he could get back to more friendly surroundings.  Hence, he was listed as “missing in action”.  Joseph was promoted to corporal on March 16, 1865.

At another time, regulations stated that no fresh meat was to be kept (or found) in camp.  The Second Cavalry, under Sheridan, had been issued repeating rifles as side arms, but they had to travel without the assistance of a supply company, consequently, they had to provide for themselves, the saying goes “you have to do what you have to do”.
One day at a snap inspection by battalion officers, Joe and his two friends, Milford Vosburgh and Adam Littlejohn, had a fresh ham in their possession.  Without much thought but a lot of quick action they grabbed the ham, ran behind the captain’s tent and tossed it under the tent flap.  When the truth came out and the dust had settled, it seems as if

Joseph was busted back from corporal to private.  This was not a new experience for Joseph, for he was an independent individual and Army regulations had a low priority in his estimation.

As was the custom during the Civil War, fighting stopped after the sun went down.  Often when they were near a town, Union soldiers would sneak out of camp and attend social gatherings such as dances, etc….   One night as Joseph and one of his friends were returning to camp, they heard footsteps of marching soldiers, took cover in some brush beside the road and discovered it was confederate troops.  Upon observing the circumstances, they discovered the troops to be going across a bridge suspended by three-
inch ropes.  The only tools they had between them was a pocket knife so they sawed and whacked away until the rope on one side of the bridge gave way, spilling soldiers into the water.  They quickly made their way back to camp and told the captain the circumstances.  By dawn the union soldiers were mustered at the river bank and took advantage of the confusion of confederate troops.”

Joseph was wounded during the war but it wasn’t at Franklin. No letters or diaries have been found.

When the war ended, Joseph and Almira farmed in Kent County, Michigan for several years and then moved to Osceola County, Michigan about 1875. They eventually bought a farm that was also farmed by two succeeding generations.

Joseph and Almira had 10 children, three of whom died in infancy.  Joseph passed away April 30, 1923, leaving many descendants.

I am posting four photographs. One of Joseph and his horse during the war, two of Joseph and Almira (one being their wedding portrait and the second at their 50th wedding anniversary). I also included a photo of his gravestone.

Joseph is buried in Cherry Valley Cemetery, Avondale, Hartwick Township, Osceola County, Michigan.

I can be reached at

Permission to publish:  yes

Sharon Sawyer Mora

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This entry was posted in 2nd Michigan Cavalry, Corporal. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Joseph Benton Sawyer, Co I, 2nd Michigan Cavalry

  1. Deborah Jeffery says:

    Thank you for sharing. This is very interesting

  2. Nice history and great stories. I am related to Adam Littlejohn, which is how I found this piece.

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