The son of a Kentucky governor, Helm graduated from West Point (Class of 1851) and became Abraham Lincoln's brother-in-law but later joined the Confederate army and rose to brigadier general. He was killed during the Battle of Chickamauga. Before the war, Helm spent time in Carlisle, Pennsylvania at the army's cavalry school.
Stationed in Carlisle
Benjamin Hardin Helm
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
No. of Spouses
West Point (US Military Academy)
Attorney or Judge
US military (Pre-Civil War)
HELM, Benjamin Hardin, soldier, was born in Elizabethtown, Ky., in 1830; son of John Larue and Lucinda Barbour (Hardin) Helm, and grandson of George B. Helm and of Benjamin Hardin. He was graduated at the U.S. military academy in 1851, was assigned to the dragoon service at the U.S. cavalry school, Carlisle, Pa., and was afterward on frontier duty at Fort Lincoln, Texas. He resigned from the army in 1852, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1854, and [practiced] law in Elizabethtown, 1854-58, and at Louisville, 1856-61. He was a representative in the state Louisville, 1856-61. He was a representative in the state legislature, 1855-56, and state's attorney, 1856-58. He was married in 1856 to Emilie, daughter of Robert S. Todd. He joined the Confederate army in 1861 as colonel of the 1st Kentucky cavalry, and for bravery at Shiloh was made a brigadier-general, March 14, 1862. He commanded the 3d brigade of Gen. Charles Clark's 1st division in the army of Gen. John C. Breckinridge in the unsuccessful attack on Baton Rouge, La., Aug. 5, 1862, where he had his horse shot and was wounded. He commanded the 1st brigade in Breckinridge's division, D. H. Hill's corps in the battle of Chickamauga, where he conducted several brilliant movements, including a successful attack on Negley's infantry at Glass's Mill, Sept. 19, 1863. He was killed while leading his brigade on the morning of the 20th in an endeavor to carry the Federal breastworks in order to protect his men exposed to a flank fire. He died at Chickamauga, Ga., Sept. 20, 1863.
Rossiter Johnson, ed., “Helm, Benjamin Hardin,” The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, vol. 5 (Boston: The Biographical Society, 1904).
And when Mr. [William H.] Seward authoritatively announced that the garrison should be withdrawn from Fort Sumter, [Helm] had not yet been able to conceive that any body of public officers could harbor a thought of self-stultification and a secret design upon the institutions of his section; and he was so confirmed in the belief that there would be no war that he went to Washington to see Mr. Lincoln, with a view of again entering the regular army, which he sincerely wished to do, having never been satisfied with his profession as a lawyer. The President gave him to understand that he should be commissioned in accordance with request, and he returned to Louisville, still under the impression that no hostile proceedings would be instituted against the Southern States. But the very first subsequent developments aroused suspicions in his mind as to the real intentions of the administration. In a short time it was rumored that a fleet had sailed to relieve Sumter—then the fall of that place, precipitated by the approach of the naval armament, was announced, and he no longer hesitated. He was no man to "halt between two opinions," and when the path of duty was clear, he entered it without hesitancy. "He embraced the Southern cause," says a friend, "with all the enthusiasm of his extremely ardent and enthusiastic nature." He went at once to Montgomery, and tendered his services to the Confederate Government.
Ed. Porter Thompson, History of the First Kentucky Brigade (Cincinnati: Caxton Publishing House, 1868), 341.