14 Wharfside StreetCharleston, SC 29401
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14 Wharfside Street — Charleston, SC 29401
Oct 31, 2018
This pension file was abstracted by Alana Thevenet.
Benjamin Cohen was married to Caroline Wilson at Sampit, South Carolina about three years after the Civil War ended. Caroline had been married to Westbury Davis during slavery. Westbury, who lived on a neighboring plantation, was separated from his family during the war. Caroline heard various stories of what became of him. Some said he was taken away by his slaveholder at the beginning of the Civil War and never returned. Others thought he died about 1865. Still others said he went away in a boat many years before freedom. His family never knew exactly what became of him, but he was not seen or heard from after the war. Caroline had two children with Westbury Davis named Annie and Susan. Annie died before 1912. Susan Bryan, widow of (William) Bruington Bryan, was alive in 1912.
Caroline was born in Sampit, Georgetown County, SC and was enslaved by John Anderson. Her father’s name was Henry Wilson and her mother’s name was Lucy. Anthony Wilson, who also lived in Sampit, was her brother. Anthony was about two years younger than Caroline.
Benjamin Cohen was born about 1843 in Sampit, Georgetown, SC. He served in the 128th United States Colored Troops. Caroline and Benjamin were married in the Methodist church (called Secessionville Church) about 1868. The Reverend Philip Hartley performed the ceremony. Together Benjamin and Caroline had eight children. Their names and birthdates as stated by Benjamin Cohen in his declaration of 15 Jun 1898 were:
Five of their children were living at home when Benjamin died about 1901: Joseph, Thisby, James, Sarah, and Ella. By the time of Caroline Cohen’s declaration in 1913, Joseph had died, Thisby, James and Sarah had married and lived in their own households, and Ella, the youngest, was still living with Caroline.
Benjamin died in Georgetown, SC about 11 July 1901. Samuel W. Gailliard testified that Benjamin died 11 June 1901. James Small, of the firm of James Small & Sons, undertakers, testified that his records show he buried Benjamin Cohen on 12 Jul 1901. Benjamin was buried in Georgetown, South Carolina.
After Benjamin’s death, Caroline’s health declined. Her children helped with her support. When she was able to, she took in washing to support herself. Caroline died 10 Sep 1916.
Remarkably, Benjamin Cohen’s pension file included a photo of Benjamin.
Benjamin Cohen was a private in Company F, 128th US Colored Infantry. He enlisted on 27 March 1865 and was honorably discharged on 10 October 1866.
Benjamin Cohen’s original application for an invalid pension was assigned number 1.204.494. Caroline Cohen’s claim for a widow’s pension after her husband’s death was assigned number 778.52. Due to conflicting testimony about how Caroline and her first husband were separated (in one affidavit, Caroline stated first husband Westbury was taken away during the war and never returned; in another affidavit she stated he was believed to have died), the claim was referred to a Special Examiner for clarification. Caroline Cohen’s application for a widow’s pension was approved, and she was pensioned at $12.00 per month under the Act of April 19, 1908. Her pension certificate was assigned number 754.738.
Summary of letter regarding death of Benjamin Cohen, 26 March 1909: Affiant Samuel [Illegible] Gailliard testified that Benjamin Cohen died 11 June 1901.
Summary of Bureau of Pensions form, 21 May 1912: Caroline Cohen’s first husband was Westbury Davis. He died and she married Benjamin Cohen three years later. In a subsequent affidavit, Caroline stated Westbury went away before the war and never returned or was heard from afterwards. Witnesses testified he died about 1865 and that Caroline and Benjamin were married by a minister. Other witnesses testified Westbury went away with his master at the beginning of the war and never returned.
Summary of statement of Caroline Cohen, stamped 25 May 1912: Caroline stated her first husband was Westbury Davis who died before the war. Benjamin Cohen was her second husband.
Summary of letter from J.L. Mitchell, undated: Benjamin Cohen was helpless and destitute and had been in that condition for some time. The “old fellow is a physical wreck and has been for some time.”
Summary of statement of Caroline Cohen, 4 February 1913: She provided a framed picture of Benjamin Cohen that was taken several years prior to his death. She stated he had no whiskers when she married him and none when he was discharged from the army. Five of her children were living at home when Benjamin died: Joseph, Thisby, James, Sarah, and Ella. Joseph died, three were married, and Ella, the youngest, was still with her at the time of her statement. In order to support herself, she did washing when she was able to after the death of her husband. She stated she had no man after his death. She was a “weakly woman” long before Benjamin died and had been in poor health ever since his death.
Summary of Brass Richardson, 24 February 1913: Brass was a private in Company B, 128th Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. He knew Caroline Cohen ever since freedom and was not related to her. He knew her husband, Benjamin Cohen, in slave time and also knew he served in the 128th Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry. Brass saw Benjamin when he was at Beaufort, South Carolina and they visited each other while at Beaufort. Brass stated that Benjamin died in Georgetown, South Carolina and left a good woman who had not remarried or lived with any man after Benjamins death. He stated he served under the name of Brass Ward while in the army.
Summary of statement of Scipio Johnson, 2 January 1913: He served as a private in Company F, 128th US Colored Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. He remembered Ben Cohen very well. They were about the same size and color, marching together in the service. Scipio had not seen Benjamin after being discharged. He knew Benjamin came from Georgetown and that they were about the same age. Scipio was himself pensioned under certificate 925.090 and also went by the name of Scipio Anson. He signed his name to his testimony.
Summary of statement of Sutherlin Pyatt, 2 January 1913: He served as a private in Company F, 128th Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry. He was with that company all the way through the war. He knew Benjamin Cohen of his company very well. Sutherlin and Benjamin fought once. After discharge, Sutherlin gave Benjamin the present of a coat. Benjamin came from Georgetown. They did not see each other after discharge. Benjamin was older than Sutherlin. Sutherlin drew a pension of $12.00 per month for his military service.
Summary of statement of Louisa Wilson, 5 February 1913: She and Caroline Cohen grew up together, belonging to the same owner in slavery. They were not related. Caroline had a husband named Westbury Davis in slave time. He went off to the war and no one saw him after that. After the war, Caroline married Benjamin Cohen and lived with him until he died. They were the only two husbands that Caroline ever had. Caroline did not remarry after Benjamin died. Louisa and Caroline belonged to the same church and saw each other often. Caroline was poor, old, and had been in bad health ever since Benjamin died. She had a reputation as a good woman. Caroline helped her daughter wash and they lived together. Louisa knew Benjamin when he was a lad.
Summary of statement of Tony Alston, 7 February 1913: He was a private in Company G, 128th Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. He knew Caroline Cohen ever since the war ended. Ben Cohen was the only husband Tony ever knew her to have. She lived with Ben until he died and had not remarried. They belonged to the same church and he knew her to be a “…good old soul and leads a good, clean life.” Tony and Ben served in the same regiment but in different companies. They did not know each other in the army but they did after the war ended. They would often talk about the army. Tony himself was pensioned under certificate #1053876. He signed his name to his testimony.
Summary of statement of George Walker, 5 February 1913: He knew Caroline Cohen, Benjamin Cohen’s widow, before her husband died. George and Caroline belonged to the same church and he saw her often, knowing she had not remarried after Benjamin’s death. He stated that Caroline was very old and sickly and “…she practiced no foolishness…” He knew Ben Cohen in slave time and also visited him when he was a soldier in Beaufort.
Summary of statement of Sarah Keith, 5 February 1913: She knew Caroline Cohen after her husband, Benjamin Cohen, died. They belonged to the same church since Sarah was 18 [At the time of her statement, she was 30 years of age.]. They belonged to Class No. 3 and Sarah saw Caroline on a daily basis. Caroline did not remarry after Benjamin died. She led a “…right life. She is old and has been in feeble health ever since the death of her husband.” Sarah stated that all who knew Caroline would say she was a good woman. The photograph of Benjamin Cohen she saw was a good likeness of him.
Summary of statement of Caroline Cohen, 12 August 1912: She did not know how old she was. She stated she had two children during slavery. She was the widow of Benjamin Cohen who served in the Federal Army during the Civil War. She stated she was born in Georgetown County, South Carolina near Sampit. She was the slave of John Anderson and remained so until freedom. Henry and Lucy Wilson were her parents. Anthony Wilson of Sampit, South Carolina, was her brother. They all belonged to John Anderson. She married Westbury Davis during slavery and had two children by him: Susan Bryan, a widow of Bruington Bryan, of Sampit was alive at the time of her statement. Westbury and Caroline were separated during the war and she had not seen him after that. She heard different stories about him. One was that he went into the war with his master. Another was that he went away on a ship and another was that he died. She did not know what became of him and had neither seen nor heard of him since freedom. Three years after freedom, Caroline married Benjamin Cohen at Sampit, South Carolina. They were married by Rev. Philip Hartley in the Methodist church on a Sunday night. The whole congregation was present at the time. Her brother, Anthony Wilson, was present. The church was called the Secessionville church. She knew Benjamin when he returned home from the army and had never heard that he had been previously married. She always understood that she was his first and only wife. He was Caroline’s second and last husband. They were given a marriage certificate by the preacher but it was lost. They lived as man and wife until Benjamin died in July ten or more years before her statement. He died on a Thursday but she could state the year of his death. She stated she and Benjamin had eight children and Ben left her no property. She had always been poor and they were never able to own a house. She did washing to earn a living.
Summary of statement of Antonio Wilson, 11 November 1912: He was the brother of Caroline Cohen. They had the same father and mother. Caroline was about two years older than Antonio. She had a husband named Westbury Davis during slavery and had two children, Annie and Susan, by Davis. He did not know what became of Westbury and could only say that “…he got scattered during the war and has never been seen or heard of since.” Soon after the war ended, Caroline married Ben Cohen and Antonio was present at the ceremony. Rev. Philip Hartley performed it in the presence of the entire congregation. They lived as man and wife until Ben died about some 12 years prior to this statement. Caroline never remarried. He knew Ben from his birth and Caroline was his first and only wife. He left her nothing and she always had to work for her own support. He signed his name as Anthony Wilson.
Summary of statement of Alec Trapier, 11 November 1912: He knew Caroline Cohen before the war. She had a husband in slave time named Westbury Davis who went away during the war and was never heard of or seen after that. A short time after freedom, Caroline married Ben Cohen. Alec and Ben belonged to the same slaveholder and served together in Company F, 128th Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry. He knew Caroline never had but two husbands, Westbury and Benjamin. She lived with Ben until his death and had not remarried. He left her no property and she had always been poor. Alec himself was a pensioner for his service in the 128th USCT. He signed his name to his testimony.
Summary of statement of Susan Bryan, 11 November 1912: She was the oldest living child of Caroline Cohen. Her father was Westbury Davis. He was separated from his family during the war and had not been seen or heard from since. Her mother never saw him after freedom because Susan was always with her mother and would have known. Two or three years after freedom, Caroline married Ben Cohen. Susan was not at the wedding. She was only a little girl and knew they were married at the church. She met them at the gate when they returned from the church after the wedding. Rev. Philip Hartley married them and they lived as man and wife until Ben died about 10 years prior to her statement. Caroline never remarried after his death. Caroline was a poor, hard-working woman all of her life. Ben left her no property at all. Susan lived with her mother and step-father until she married Bruington Bryan. His right name was William but he was called Bruington for short. Susan never heard that Ben had a wife before marrying Caroline.
Summary of statement of James Jerol, 11 November 1912: He first knew Caroline Cohen during slavery. She had a husband named Westbury Davis who, James had heard, was killed. He never saw of heard of Westbury after freedom. Westbury and Caroline had two children born in slavery, Susan and Annie. Annie was dead at the time of the statement and Susan lived in Georgetown, South Carolina. She was the widow of Wm Bryan. About two years after the surrender, Caroline married Ben Cohen who James knew as a child and up until Ben died. He knew Caroline was Ben’s first and only wife. James was at the ceremony performed by Rev. Philip Hartley on a Sunday. They lived as man and wife until Ben’s death and Caroline had not remarried.
Summary of J.L. Davenport, Commissioner, stamped 3 December 1912: Records show that Benjamin Cohen was five feet, four inches in height. But the man who was examined in 1898 and 1900 was nearly five feet, nine inches in height.
Summary of statement of Caroline Cohen, 29 January 1903: Caroline Cohen was the widow of Benjamin Cohen who served in Company F, 128th Regiment US Colored Infantry. He enlisted on 27 March 1865 and was honorably discharged on 10 October 1866. She married Benjamin Cohen under the name of Caroline Davis, having first been married to Westbury Davis. Rev. Philip Hartley married Caroline Davis and Benjamin Cohen about 1868 in Sampit, South Carolina. Benjamin Cohen died 12 July 1902.
Summary of statement of Caroline Cohen, 4 March 1903: She was married to Benjamin Cohen about the year 1868 and lived with him as his wife until he died in July 1902. She bore him eight children during their marriage. She had lived with Westbury Davis as his wife during slavery but the marriage was dissolved by the death of said Westbury Davis about the close of the war. There was no record of that marriage and the marriage was not solemnized because they were both slaves at the time. Caroline did not know of any property, real or personal, except for her household furniture. She had neither owned nor disposed of any since July 1902. Benjamin Cohen did not own any property at the time of his death and he did not leave any life insurance or other monies. Caroline was entirely dependent upon her own labor to support herself.
Summary of statement of Caroline Cohen, 3 November 1905: She was the widow of Benjamin Cohen who did not leave any property at the time of his death. Caroline stated she possessed no property at all and had no income except from what she got from washing and scouring. Benjamin Cohen served in Company F, 128th Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry. She had not married anyone after Benjamin died. She lived with Westbury Davis during slavery as his wife but Westbury went away on a ship long before freedom and never returned.
Summary of statement of Caroline Cohen, 14 July 1908: Benjamin Cohen had been dead for several years and Caroline was his widow. She had not remarried after his death. She was married to him in the country where no records were kept by the church, “…the Negro preachers in those times being probably unable to make records.”
Summary of statement of Caroline Cohen, 28 November 1908: Her former husband, Westbury Davis, did not serve in the war. He left her and they were not lawfully married. She never heard from him after he left whether by letter or message. She had three living children out of eight born to her who were living at the time of her statement. Her youngest was eighteen years old.
Summary of statements of Samuel W. Gailliard and Joseph F. Frierson, 4 March 1903: Samuel stated he was raised on the same place and belonged to the same owner as Caroline Cohen. In their childhood, she was called Caroline Wilson. She married Westbury Davis about the first year of the war (1861) and lived with him until he died about the end of the war in 1865. Samuel was present at the marriage of Caroline and Benjamin Cohen in the third year of freedom at Secessionville Church in Sampit, Georgetown County, South Carolina. Rev. P.H. Hartley married them. Samuel said he saw Caroline frequently after that and knew she and Benjamin lived together as man and wife until Benjamin died. He was present at Benjamin’s death and assisted in the burial. He knew Benjamin had no property of any kind and left nothing to his wife. Caroline Cohen had no property and no one to whom she could look to for support. Joseph F. Frierson said he was raised on the same place as Caroline Cohen and knew she lived with Westbury Davis as his wife until he died in 1865. After three years after freedom, Caroline married Benjamin Cohen, Joseph being present at the marriage. They lived as husband and wife until Benjamin died in July 190-. They had never been divorced. Benjamin Cohen owned no property and Caroline had neither stocks, bonds, or other property. She had no income and there was no one who was bound to support her. She was wholly dependent upon her own labor for support. She had not remarried after the death of Benjamin Cohen.
Summary of statements of Cyrus Sanders and Cato Johnson, 3 March 1904: Cyrus, stated that he was 53 years of age and had known Benjamin Cohen for more than thirty years. At times, Benjamin and Cyrus worked together until Benjamin became unable to work. Cyrus knew Benjamin’s wife Caroline and their family. He knew Caroline was Benjamin’s widow and that she had not remarried after his death. Cato gave his age as over 60 and stated he was raised on the same plantation on Sampit Georgetown County where Benjamin Cohen was raised. He knew Benjamin all of his life. They served together in the same company and regiment during the war and together returned to Georgetown County when the war was over. He knew Benjamin had married Caroline Davis and lived with her until he died. Caroline did not remarry after his death.
Summary of Certificate of Property Assessments for 1902: Benjamin and Caroline Cohen of Georgetown County, South Carolina owned no real estate.
Summary of statement of Samuel W. Gailliard, 31 May 1904: He was present at the home of Benjamin Cohen and his wife Caroline on 11 June 1901 when Benjamin died. Samuel assisted in preparing the body for burial. Samuel was present at the funeral the following day when Benjamin when Benjamin was buried in Georgetown, South Carolina. He lived near Caroline and Benjamin and knew Caroline all of his life. He knew Westbury Davis went away with his master about the beginning of the war and did not return. Samuel knew Benjamin Cohen in boyhood days and knew he was not married prior to marrying Caroline. He married Caroline the third year after freedom.
Summary of letter from James Small, 15 October 1908: James Small, of the firm of James Small & Sons, was in business as an undertaker and had been for several years. His firm kept records of all burials made by them. An entry upon his records showed the interment of Ben Cohen by his firm on 12 July 1901. James knew Ben Cohen during his life and knew the facts of his death and burial.
Summary of statements of James Smalls and Andrew Washington, 14 July 1908: Each of them knew Caroline Cohen for more than twenty-five years. They knew she was the wife of Benjamin Cohen. They knew when Benjamin died, leaving his widow Caroline. Caroline did not remarry after his death. James Smalls swore he was an undertaker and buried Benjamin Cohen. Andrew Washington lived not more than 300-yards from the house of Caroline Cohen and saw Benjamin Cohen after he died.
Summary of statements of Samuel W. Gaillard and Alick Trapier, 3 March 1904: Samuel stated he was raised on Woodland Plantation located about three miles from where Benjamin Cohen was raised. He knew Benjamin Cohen well, having gone to where he lived to for mail. They knew one another from the time Benjamin was about fifteen years old. Benjamin had not been married when he went into the army. Immediately upon his return, Samuel saw Benjamin and knew he was not married then. Benjamin married Caroline Davis and Samuel was present at the wedding. They lived as man and wife until Benjamin died and Caroline had not remarried after his death. Samuel was present when Benjamin died and assisted in preparing him for burial. He was also at the burial. Alick Trapier was raised in Sampit, Georgetown County, South Carolina on the same plantation as Benjamin Cohen. He knew Benjamin from boyhood. He knew Benjamin enlisted in Company F, 128th Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry. They served in the same company. Benjamin had not been married prior to marrying Caroline. He and Caroline lived as man and wife until Benjamin died and Caroline did not remarry after his death. Both witnesses signed their names.
Summary of statement of Benjamin Cohen, 15 June 1898: He stated he was a married man. He married abut 20 years prior to his statement in Sampit, Georgetown County, South Carolina. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Philip Hartley. No record of his marriage existed. He had not been previously married. Living children at the time of his statement were: Katey Ann Cohen born 30 October 1869, Mar[illegible] Harriot Cohen born 17 February 1871, Tisby Levenea Cohen born 28 September 1873, Joseph Benjamin Cohen born 15 April 1875, Frances Lizabeth Cohen born 28 July 1877, Sarah Jane Cohen born 27 February 1879, James Arthur Cohen born 5 March 1883, and Siller Rose Ella Cohen born 5 June 1885.
Summary of statement of Aleck Trapier, 28 November 1908: He was in Company F, 128th Regiment US Colored Troops and knew Ben Cohen. They enlisted in March 1865 at Georgetown, South Carolina and served in Company F until they were mustered out. Aleck knew Ben up until his death and also knew that his widow, Caroline Cohen, did not remarry. He knew Westbury Davis, Caroline’s first husband, left her before the war. Ben Cohen married Caroline in 1867.
Summary of statement of Toney Allston, 24 February 1909: He knew Caroline Cohen was the wife of Benjamin Cohen. He knew them both for twenty years. Ben Cohen died in July 1901 and Caroline did not remarry. He thought she was about 69 or 70 years old at the time of his statement. She had a good reputation. He never heard anything of Westbury Davis.
Summary of statement of Benjamin Cohen, 10 February 1898: Benjamin Cohen stated his age as 55. He enrolled in March 1865 in Company F, 128th Regiment US Colored Troops as a private soldier. He was honorably discharged at Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina in October 1865. He had not been employed in the military or naval service since his discharge. He stated he was partially unable to earn support due to stiffness and rheumatism in his knees and knee joints. He stated he had suffered from those conditions for the seven or eight years prior to his statement.
Summary of statement of Benjamin Cohen, 26 October 1899: He enrolled in Company F, 128th Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry in March 1865. He was honorably discharged at Sullivan’s Island in 1866. He stated he was partially unable to earn support due to camp itch, shortness of breath, and rheumatism.
Summary of statement of Benjamin Cohen, 15 June 1898: He was a resident of Georgetown, South Carolina. From the date of discharge until his present place of residence, he lived about 14 miles from the city of Georgetown, at Sampit, South Carolina. His post office was at Sampit. After discharge, Benjamin worked as a laborer. He had never been known by any other name and had not served in the military or naval service after he was discharged.
Summary of statements of Prince Goddard and F.G. Mayhams, 9 March 1898: They knew Benjamin Cohen intimately for the 30 years prior to their statements. They lived near each other for that entire period of time. They knew Ben suffered from rheumatism for the twenty or more years prior to their statements and that he was unable to perform manual labor. They knew Benjamin to be a man of good moral habits.
Summary of statements of William M. Gourdin and Mathew Alston, 31 May 1899: William knew Benjamin Cohen for thirty years and Mathew knew him for three years. He was their neighbor and they visited him from time to time to assist him. They knew that for the past several years prior to their statements, Ben was unable to do anything for himself because of being sick. He was sometimes able to get up but could not walk without a stick. He could do nothing to support himself and had no one to support him. He had to live on the charity of the community.
Summary of medical examination, 15 January 1900: Benjamin Cohen, according to the physician, was so debilitated from tertiary syphilis that he had been confined to his bed for eight weeks. He was physically unable to go about. When the physician visited Ben on 13 January 1900, he found him confined to his bed. He had known Benjamin Cohen for about one year prior to his report.
Summary of medical examination, 4 August 1900: Benjamin Cohen was examined and found to be debilitated and unable to do any manual labor. He had been in that condition for about two years according to Benjamin’s claims. He complained of weakness in his knees and ankles, a loss of appetite, and camp itch. The physical had treated Ben about two years prior to this exam for Intermittent Malarial Fever and had not attended him since that time.
Summary of medical examination, 31 August 1898: Benjamin Cohen complained of rheumatism in his knees and knee joints as well as in his back. Upon examination, no signs of rheumatism were found. He was found to have cardiac hypertrophy. Except for that, all his other organs were normal.
Summary of medical examination, 22 May 1900: Benjamin Cohen’s lungs showed signs of old pleuritic trouble. There was some cyanosis of the lips and ears and his fingertips were slightly clubbed. There was no evidence of a history of alcoholism. He had chronic inflammation of the pharynx and chronic laryngitis with his voice almost inaudible at times. The doctor stated he had every reason to believe Benjamin was a syphilitic. There were several old points of suspicion about the scrotum though Ben denied an infection. Benjamin went to the doctor’s office, having walked about a half mile to do so. The doctor stated Benjamin’s conditions would not improve but grow worse. He was unable to perform such duties as he was trained to earn his living from and for all purposes, must be considered totally disabled.
Benjamin Cohen in the 1880 United States Federal Census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Santee, Georgetown, South Carolina; Roll: 1230; Page: 411D; Enumeration District: 054. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
International African American Museum, Center for Family History. Pension File Abstract, Benjamin Cohen, Company F, 128th United States Colored Troops, https://cfh.iaamuseum.org/cohen-benjamin-usct-pension-file-abstract-f-128th-usct-sampit-georgetown-sc/.
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