The Beall Chronicles: An account of a Dragoon officer to be
By George Stammerjohan and Will Gorenfeld
While stationed out on the western plains, Major Benjamin Beall recounted to Lt. Orlando Wilcox how, in the year 1814, he arrived at the Military Academy, a brash youth, fully “equipped with a pointer and a liquor flask.” Beall described his new cadet uniform as consisting of an “embroidered coat, tights, high top boots with tassels, cocked hat & sword” and mentioned how he almost got into a fist-fight in New York with a street urchin who had taunted him by “singing out ‘there goes a middy on half pay.” 1
Benjamin Lloyd Beall was born at Ft. Adams in Rhode Island late in the year of 1800. Lloyd Beall, his father, was a career officer who had served during the Revolutionary War and, in 1814, was a Major of Artillery who had commanded at Ft. McHenry. On March 25, 1814, Ben Beall, aged thirteen years and five months, was admitted to West Point. His application papers mention that at the time he was a resident of Virginia and that Lloyd Beall, of Harpers Ferry, Virginia, was his legal guardian.
At that time of Beall’s admission, the Military Academy did not have a systematic four year course of study for its cadets. This would all change in 1817 when Sylvanus Thayer became Superintendent of West Point. The energetic Superintendent Thayer was intent upon turning the Academy into a first class institution of higher instruction. He administered tests to the cadets in attendance and assigned them to classes based upon their test results.
Suffice it to say that by June of 1818, Badet Beall was ranked sixteenth in a class of nineteen cadets in his section. Academy records for 1818 indicate that Beall, despite having already having spent four years at the Military Academy was destined to be placed in the third (sophmore) class that fall. Worse, the record contained the ominous notation that Cadet Beall was “subject to be put back . . . [but] allowed to proceed until further notice.”
It is altogether likely that young Cadet Beall was disheartened by his low academic standing but, it was the death of his father in 1817 that caused him to absent himself without leave from the Military Academy. Prior to the start of the academic year Beall took his leave without obtaining the consent of his superiors. On October 16, 1818, the post adjutant ordered that due to his absence without leave, Cadet Beall be discharged from the Institution and his name . . . dropped from the rolls accordingly.”
This was, however, not to be the end of the military career of Benjamin Lloyd Beall. In 1818, with the aid of some influential friends of his late father, young Beall secured a clerkship with the War Department. He would remain there for the next 18 years. Responding to the need for effective troops to fight the Seminoles, Congress, in May of 1836, voted to appropriate funds with which to raise a second regiment of Dragoons. On 1836, Benjamin Beall, again using the influence of his late father’s friends, gained a captain’s commission in the 2d Dragoons.
1. Orlando Wilcox: Forgotten Valor, ed Robert Scott (Kansas State University Press 1999), 137.