This Day in History — September 20

On September 20, 1863, Benjamin Hardin Helm, a Brigadier General for the Confederate States of America, was killed in the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia. Hardin was born June 2, 1831 to John Larue Helm and Lucinda Barbour Hardin in Bardstown, Kentucky. His received his early education at the Elizabethtown Seminary and Kentucky Military Institute in Frankfort. It became apparent early on that Benjamin would be successful in the military. He enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1847, where in graduated ninth in his class in 1851. He served as Second Lieutenant in the 2d Regular U.S. Cavalry on the Texas frontier at Fort Lincoln for six months and then resigned from the Army at his father’s request.

Helm continued his education by studying law at the University of Louisville, graduating in 1853 and attending Harvard Law school for an advanced course before settling in Elizabethtown to practice with his father until 1856. From law, the natural progression was to seek political office and in 1855 he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he served one term. For three years following, Benjamin Helm served as commonwealth attorney for the 3rd district.

Helm married Emilie Todd, the half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln on March 20, 1856. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln offered his brother-in-law the position of paymaster of the Union army with the rank of major. Helm declined the offer, however, and turned to the Confederacy and began recruiting. He was appointed colonel of the 1st Regiment of the Kentucky Confederate Cavalry in September 1861. Helm served bravely for two years until he was struck down in the Battle of Chickamauga.


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