Benjamin Cavanaugh

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Benjamin Cavanaugh was born in Canada in March 1843 to Matthew and Elizabeth Cavanaugh. The family later moved to Pennsylvania before settling in Camden, New Jersey. In the 1850 Census, they were listed as residents of Camden’s South Ward. Benjamin started an apprenticeship as a bootmaker during the 1850s, learning the trade.

When the Civil War erupted, Benjamin Cavanaugh, at the age of 18, answered the call to duty and enlisted in the Union Army as a Corporal in Company G, Fourth Infantry Regiment New Jersey in April 1861. The Fourth Regiment, commanded by Colonel Matthew Miller Jr., served for three months. They were mustered into the U.S. service at Trenton on April 27, 1861, and on May 3, they left for Washington, D.C. The regiment encamped at Meridian Hill, where, a few days later, they were visited by President Abraham Lincoln, who praised their appearance.

On May 23, 1861, the Fourth Regiment joined the 2nd and 3rd regiments and quietly marched toward the bridge spanning the Potomac. They crossed the bridge at 2 o’clock on the morning of May 24. The 2nd Regiment was posted at Roach’s spring, while the 3rd and 4th regiments were stationed about half a mile beyond on the Alexandria road. In July 1861, the Fourth Regiment was assigned to guard the Orange & Alexandria railroad, and some of its members were stationed at Arlington mills.

On July 24, 1861, the term of service for the Fourth Regiment expired, and they returned to New Jersey, mustering out at Trenton on July 31, 1861. Benjamin Cavanaugh was among the members of Company G who mustered out with the regiment.

After his military service, Benjamin Cavanaugh, along with several fellow Civil War veterans from Company G, became involved in volunteer firefighting in Camden. In 1871, he took over as an extra man with Engine Company 1 of the Camden Fire Department, replacing Thomas Allibone. He quickly climbed the ranks and was promoted to Foreman of Engine Company 1 on June 3, 1873, akin to the position of a modern-day Captain. He served in this capacity until the spring of 1876.

Following a brief period away from the Fire Department, Benjamin Cavanaugh returned in April 1878 as an extra man with Engine Company 1. He later transitioned to Engine Company 2 as a stoker on July 2, 1878, replacing William B. Gordon. His brother Joseph Cavanaugh joined Engine Company 1 as an extra man in September 1878, and the two brothers served side by side until the spring of 1882.

Unfortunately, a change in political power in Camden led to significant personnel changes within the Fire Department in the spring of 1882. As a result, Benjamin Cavanaugh left active duty.

After leaving the Fire Department, he pursued work as a moulder and resided at various addresses in Camden over the years. By the early 1890s, he had moved to Philadelphia briefly but later returned to Camden to work as a moulder for different companies.

The 1900 Census found Benjamin Cavanaugh boarding at 230 Division Street, where he lived with a woman named Emma. Although the census listed him as single, it was likely that Benjamin and Emma were living together as a couple, but the census’s rigid classifications did not account for such arrangements.

Benjamin Cavanaugh faced various challenges in his later years and became an inmate at the Camden County Almshouse in Gloucester Township by the time of the 1910 Census.

Despite his hardships, Benjamin found a home at 234 Clinton Street in South Camden, where he passed away in November 1911 from paralysis, likely caused by a stroke. In recognition of his military service, he was buried in the Soldiers Plot at New Camden Cemetery on November 7, 1911.


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