Civil War Wiki
Benjamin Hardin Helm
Personal Information
Born: June 2, 1831(1831-06-02)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: September 21, 1863 (aged 32)
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Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Confederate States of America
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Branch: Confederate States Army
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Rank: Brigadier General
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Commands: 1st Kentucky "Orphans" Brigade, CSA
Battles: American Civil War
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Benjamin Hardin Helm (June 2, 1831 – September 21, 1863[1]) was a Kentucky politician, attorney, Confederate brigadier general, and a brother-in-law of Abraham Lincoln. He was also the son of Kentucky Governor John L. Helm.

Early life[]

Benjamin Hardin Helm was born in Bardstown, Kentucky, to John L. Helm and Lucinda Barbour Hardin on June 2, 1831. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1851, 9th in his class of 42 cadets. He was appointed a brevet second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Dragoons, but resigned his commission the following year, after serving at a cavalry school at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and at Fort Lincoln, Texas.

Following the resignation of his commission, Helm studied law, was elected a Kentucky state legislator for one term, and became the state's attorney for the 3rd district of Kentucky.[2]

In 1856, Helm married Emilie Todd, the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. Helm was a cousin-in-law of U.S. General and Congressman John Blair Smith Todd.

As Kentucky's status in the American Civil War remained neutral in 1861, Helm was offered the job of Union Army paymaster by his brother-in-law, President Abraham Lincoln. He declined the job, instead returning to Kentucky to raise the 1st Kentucky Cavalry for the Confederate States of America.

Civil War[]

Helm was commissioned a colonel on October 19, 1861, and served under Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Helm's group was then ordered south. He was promoted to brigadier general on March 14, 1862, and was given command of the 1st Kentucky "Orphan" Brigade several months later.[3] Helm maintained command of the Orphan Brigade through the Battle of Baton Rouge and with the brigade joined the Army of Tennessee, where he was with Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge throughout the Tullahoma and Chickamauga Campaigns in 1863, when he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863. He died on the battlefield the following day, with his last word being "Victory." Following his death, Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln went into private mourning at the White House,[3] her niece recalling: "She knew that a single tear shed for a dead enemy would bring torrents of scorn and bitter abuse on both her husband and herself."[4] Emilie Todd Helm was granted safe passage to the White House in December 1863.[5]

See also[]


  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.
  • Clinton, Catherine, Mrs. Lincoln, Harper Collins, 2009, ISBN 978-0-06-07604040-3.


  1. Eicher, p. 293; Warner, p. 133.
  2. Benjamin H. Helm's Find a Grave page accessed September 29, 2006
  3. 3.0 3.1 "John LaRue Helm: Life and times of an Historic Kentuckian" Steven Lindsey. Available online at Accessed September 29, 2006
  4. Clinton, page 206
  5. "Emilie Todd Helm" available online at Mr. Lincoln's White House Accessed September 29, 2006