Bennett, Thomas W. (1831-1893)
Thomas Warren Bennett was born on February 16, 1831 in Union County, Indiana, and following a local education, he left in 1850 to attend Asbury University (now DePauw University), form which he received his law degree in 1855. He moved to Liberty, Indiana and practiced law there until the onset of the Civil War. At the outbreak of the war, Bennett raised a company of volunteers and was commissioned a captain in what became the 15th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. After service as major in the 36th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, he was appointed colonel of the 69th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and with this regiment he participated in many of the battles leading to the fall of Vicksburg, Mississippi, in July, 1863. He led a brigade during the Red River Campaign, and in September, 1864, the War Department detailed him to serve on the military tribunal which tried a group of Southern sympathizers who plotted to murder Governor Morton and force Indiana to secede. In October, 1864, Bennett was elected to the state senate representing Fayette and Union counties, and at the close of the war, he was brevetted brigadier general for faithful and meritorious service. In 1868 he moved to Richmond, Indiana and again took up the practice of law. He was elected mayor the following year, and remained in that position until appointed in 1871 by President U. S. Grant to serve as Territorial Governor of Idaho. He served as governor until 1875, after which he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, where he remained for one year (his opponent asked for, and received, a recount of the 1874 vote, after which it was determined the Bennett had actually lost the election). In 1876, Bennett returned to Richmond, Indiana and again resumed his law practice. He served as mayor from 1877 – 1883 and again from 1885 – 1887. Bennett was an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic and also served as president of the Indiana State Pension Association. Thomas W. Bennett died on February 2, 1893 in Richmond, and was buried in that city’s Earlham Cemetery.
Offered is a pre-war manuscript court document, written and signed at the conclusion by “T. W. Bennett” in his capacity as attorney. The case involved “Jonas Hunt vs Claiborn Highley and Isaac Boroughs” and states that “Now comes the said plaintiff and demand to the answer of the defendants and for cause says that the said answer does not state facts sufficient to constitute a defense to the plaintiffs complaint”. The verso of the document, used when the piece is folded for filing purposes, indicates the litigants, the nature of the document, when and by whom it was filed, and in this case, the signature of “Bennett atty” at the bottom. The document is accomplished in period brown ink on blue lined cream colored paper, and measures approximately 7.60 x 12.50 inches (only the top 6 inches or so are illustrated, the remainder of the document is blank). The top, bottom, and right edges are straight, while the left edge is ragged, as if torn from a ledger book of some kind. Though the content of this document is somewhat mundane, the life of the author is anything but. This piece is a nice example of the writing of this interesting individual, and it would be a wonderful addition to any Civil War or Western autograph collection.
The presently offered document is in very fine condition, with sharp contrast and nice eye appeal. Three horizontal folds are evenly spaced across the face, only one of which affects the manuscript portions of the piece. Light toning is noted across the entire surface of the item, with slightly darker bands flanking the folds and at the edges. Minor soiling is noted for accuracy, as most of the dirt is on the verso (this condition is to be expected as this portion was on the outside when the document was folded for storage). One large ink blot appears on the verso at the top of the page, with only a small amount of show through visible on the front. This piece would frame very nicely if accompanied by a portrait of Bennett.