It is not often that ordinary lives of men and women in American history end with an extraordinary story deserving of more attention.
Lt. Benjamin Loring (1824–1902) lived the life of an everyman Civil War sailor. He commanded no armies and devised no grand strategies. Loring was a sailor who wanted to ensure that his men survived their ordeal and that he could again report for duty, where the biggest story of his life awaited him.
Covering almost a year of Loring’s service, I Held Lincoln: A Union Sailor’s Journey Home (Potomac Books, May 2018) describes the lieutenant’s command of the gunboat USS Wave, the Battle of Calcasieu Pass, the surrender of his ship, and his capture by the Confederates. He was incarcerated in Camp Groce, a deadly Confederate prison in Texas where he endured horrific conditions and abuse. Loring escaped twice. Evading capture for ten days behind enemy lines he was recaptured just a few miles from freedom. After an arduous second escape, he finally reached the safety of Union lines and gained his freedom.
“Gleaned from the actual documents of Lt. Benjamin Loring, I Held Lincoln tells the story of a Union sailor’s remarkable odyssey as he twice escapes from a Confederate prison, only to later find himself a player at Ford’s Theater at one of the most crucial events in American history,” said Webster Stone, producer of The Conspirator. “Richard Quest brings to life this extraordinary, fast-paced, and recently discovered story. I Held Lincoln could be The Conspirator’s prequel.”
This story gives insight into a little-known Confederate prison camp during the last days of the Civil War and provides a much-deserved recognition to a man whose journey was nearly lost to American history. Lt. Loring’s navy uniform coat he wore the night of President Lincoln’s assassination can be viewed in Owego, New York where he is buried.
Richard E. Quest is the founding president and executive director of the charitable nonprofit organization Books in Homes USA. Quest is a member of the Loudoun County Civil War Round Table and is a guide at the Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park in Virginia.
Quest will be signing books at the Barnes & Noble in Vestal, New York tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. and he will be giving a presentation at Tioga County Historical Society in Owego, New York on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.