Confederate general Samuel Benton, a nephew of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, was born on 18 October 1820, probably in Williamson County, Tennessee. After a brief interval as a schoolteacher, Benton migrated to Holly Springs, Mississippi, where he became a prominent lawyer and politician. He represented Marshall County at the 1861 secession convention and voted for disunion.
His political status probably helped him win the captaincy of Company D, the Jeff Davis Rifles, in the 9th Infantry Regiment early in the war, and he was appointed colonel of the 37th Mississippi Infantry Regiment when it was organized in April 1862. The regiment was reorganized in early 1862 and renamed the 34th Mississippi. It participated in the 1862 Kentucky Campaign and fought valiantly at the Battle of Perryville on 8 October, reputedly suffering a 50 percent casualty rate. In late 1862 the command was transferred to a brigade led by Gen. Edward C. Walthall. At Chickamauga the regiment was heavily engaged, but Benton was apparently absent from his command, and a major led the unit.
Benton was back in charge at Lookout Mountain, where on 24 November 1863 the 34th Mississippi lost 4 wounded and 231 missing, most of them captured after they were assigned picket duty at the foot of the western slope and were overwhelmed by a rapid Union advance. By the time the Atlanta Campaign opened, the regiment was severely reduced in numbers, but at Resaca it lost 15 more men out of the 198 in action. The unit participated in the incessant maneuvering and skirmishing that marked the campaign, and when Walthall was promoted to divisional command, Benton took charge of the brigade.
At the Battle of Atlanta on 22 July 1864, Benton was leading his command when he was struck over the heart by a shell and sustained a wound to his right foot that resulted in amputation. Although Benton was commissioned a brigadier general effective 26 July 1864, he never knew of the promotion, dying in the hospital at Griffin, Georgia, on 28 July.
- Samuel Benton subject file, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
- Charles E. Hooker, Confederate Military History: Mississippi, ed. Clement A. Evans (1899
- Kenneth W. Noe, Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle (2001)
- Dunbar Rowland, Military History of Mississippi, 1803–1898, taken from The Official and Statistical Register of the State of Mississippi, 1908 (1988)