Report of Investigation into the Claim of Grace Deloni, March 17, 1874


In the case of Grace De Lony, widow of Benton late a Private of Company "A" 11" U.S.C. Troops in the war of 1861, Certificate Number 86407, and in which no charges are made, but an investigation as to the general merits of the case is desired by the Office, I have the honor to submit the following report, and herewith return the papers. The Adjutant General reports the soldier as having been "Mustered on the twentieth day of June 1863, at Corinth Mississippi" and as "Supposed to have been killed in battle at Fort Pillow April 12" 1864." The Surgeon General has no report. The Claimant declares in her Application that she is the widow of the deceased, and in three distinct declarations she fixes the time of her marriage respectively on the 10" of November A.D. 1860, on the 18th of August 1863 and 15th of August 1863, by Chaplain Alexander at Corinth Mississippi; and that she received a marriage certificate from the said Chaplain which was lost with her said husband as he carried it; Odell Smith Louisa Still, Sarah Price and Mary Graham, also Abraham Huggins and Ann Box, all declare that the deceased was the husband of claimant; the said Odell and Louisa say the soldier was known before enlistment as Benjamin, but that he enlisted under the name of Benton, and the said Odell says he knew deceased long before enlistment, and that he knew him by the name of Benjamin; he belonged to soldier's company and knows his name was borne on the Company Rolls as Benton from the fact, that his name at roll calls was always Benton, the said Odell and Louisa further say that they were present at the marriage as above, and witnessed the ceremony. Upon the above evidence this claim was admitted. Affidavit "A" by James Lee declares that he lived in the same room with claimant for over a year, and during that time he bought the provisions and she did the cooking, but that they had separate beds; that claimant has one child which he recognizes as his, and for which he has always, and does give claimt money now; that he has known her for years having first known her which he was a soldier in Company L in the 3rd U.S.C.H. Arty, and that he has known her ever since to this day and knows her to be a widow; that he does not live with her now, and that he never was married to her. Affidavit "B" by Africa Bailey declares that he is personally acquainted with the claimant, and that he knows she has not re-married since the death of the soldier; that he never knew the soldier; that claimant did live in adultery with one James Lee of this city for about a year, and the he so lived with her in the year 1869, or 1870; that the claimant was a member of his church, and in a church trial she made an open confession of her adultery, and promised to do so no more, and he is satisfied that thus far she has kept her promise; that the said Lee confessed to the above, and recognizes the child which she has as his; that so far as he knows, and he thinks he would know if it was so; the said Grace has not lived in adultery with any man other than the said James Lee. Affidavits "C" and "D" by James Hunt and Julia Ann Pope say they have known claimant for the last eight or ten years. The said said James Hunt says that claimant came with her said husband from Corinth he thinks in 1863, and early in the said year; that her husband was a member of Company "A" 11th U.S.C.T.; that when her husband's Regiment came to Memphis as above, he—deceased—made arrangements with him to have the said Gracie stay at his—affiant's—house, and that claimant remained at his house until long after the death of soldier her said husband Benton DeLony; that for about a year the said Benton and Grace lived as man and wife at his house, and that they were so recognized and so recognized each other; that he knows the said Grace who now lives in South Memphis and who is a Pensioner as the widow of the said soldiers is the widow of the soldier; that to his personal knowledge the said Benton was a member of Company "A" 11" U.S.C.I; that claimant has not re-married; that she has ever remained the widow of the soldier; that so far as he knows she has not lived with or treated any man as her husband since the death of the soldier; that he has lived in Memphis ever since the war and has seen the said Grace often and thinks he would have known it, if she had ever lived with any man as her husband; that she has one child now about two years old; that James Lee the father made his home with her more or less for about a year, and he is the only man he ever heard of being intimate with the said Grace. The said Julia A. Pope confirms the above. Affidavit "E" by Claimant declares that she is the widow of deceased; that she came from Alabama near Tuscumbia, and knew the said Benton in Alabama and that he lived about five miles from her in Alabama. That she was never married to deceased but one time and that was during the war and at Corinth Miss. but is not able to name the day, month, or year of her said marriage; that she was married to the said Benton by Captain Alexander who was an officer in the Regiment; that she had a certificate of her said marriage, but it was carried by her said husband, and was lost with him at Fort Pillow battle; that to her personal knowledge the said Benton was never married until he married her at Corinth Mississippi, that he brought her with him from Alabama to Corinth when he joined the Army, that she was with him from the time he brought her from Alabama until he left her to go to Fort Pillow and therefore, knows he never lived with, or treated any woman as his wife other than herself; that she never had any child or children by the said Benton; that he went by the name of Ben as a nick-name; that she never saw Odell Smith until after she was married to her said husband, and to the best of her recollection the said Benton was a soldier when she married him and that Odell was a member of the same company with her husband; that she has not seen the said Odell for more than two years and has not the least idea where he is; that she never lived about or near Corinth before the war, nor did her said husband Benton, that Louisa Still, Ann Box, and Sarah Price, have moved down the Mississippi River and she is not able to say where; nor has she the least idea; that she first knew said Louisa, Ann, and Sarah at Corinth Mississippi, and while Benton was a soldier; that she has no recollection of having seen Mary Graham until she saw her in Memphis, when she—affiant—was making up her papers in the claim filed by her for her Pension; that Abraham Huggins was a member of the same company with Benton, and that she has not seen him for a year or more, and has no idea where he is; that Odell Smith and Louisa Still, were present when she was married to Benton; that she has never re-married, lived with, or treated any man as her husband since the death of her husband Benton the soldier; that she has one child, and that James Lee is the father, but that she never lived with him in her life; that the said James never gave her any support, but has given her something since the birth of the child for its support; that while she does not live with any man if she must be candid she will say that she does go at times further than perhaps she should. Affidavit "F" by Jerry Steward declares, that he was a Sergeant in deceased soldier's company and knew him well and knows that he was killed at Fort Pillow on the 12" day of April A.D. 1864, as he saw him there and dead. That deceased and claimant were recognized and treated by all who knew them while deceased was a soldier as man and wife. That claimant has not so far as he knows ever re-married, but he knows that she lived with one James Lee of this place for a while as his wife and that she has by him one child. That she introduced said Lee to him at her house as her husband, but that he has no recollection as to who was present at the time. Affidavit "G" by Jane A. Pope and Claimant is simply a description of the soldier which agrees with that given by Jerry Steward. The above is about all the evidence I have been able to find. I think it quite evident that the soldier treated the claimant as his wife and that she was in some respects so recognized by others, but there seems to be but little if any evidence of marriage. There can be no doubt of the fact that many of the women who were around the camps and passing as the wives of soldiers were never married to them, and I think where the marriage is claimed after the enlistment of the soldier no proof short of a certificate of marriage is or ought to be taken as sufficient. I think there is no doubt but that the claimant is living to herself and that she recognizes or treats no man as her husband. From the evidence of claimant, it is quite certain that the evidence as filed in this case is worthless as to marriage, and I think the statement of claimant, that her said husband carried the marriage certificate, and that it was lost with him, is scarcely worth credit. I have seen several members of soldier's company but none of them know anything of any marriage in this case but agree that they recognized each other as man and wife. Here I respectfully beg to submit the case

I am Sir Respectfully,
Your Obdt Servt.

Daniel W. Atwood,
Special Agent.

Hon. J. H. Baker,
Commissioner of Pensions,
Washington D.C.

N.B. There is no record of any marriage of the claimant in the Marriage Record of this County.

D. W. Atwood
Special Agent.