Benjamin Franklin Eshleman was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania on March 9, 1830. At age twenty he moved to the South to partake in the prosperous hardware business in New Orleans. He joined the Washington Artillery in 1857 as a private. He was promoted to lieutenant when the company was enlarged to a battalion and captain prior to leaving the city for Virginia in 1861. He commanded the first artillery duel of the Civil War at Blackburn’s Ford and the signal fire to start the Confederate cannonade prior to Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg.
He took part in all of the battles in which the Washington Artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia participated and continued to advance in rank until he assumed the position of Major of Artillery under Longstreet’s Corps on March 26, 1862.
His wartime talents did not go unnoticed. Confederate General John D. Imboden called him “one of the best artillery officers in the Army,” and General Robert E. Lee personally recommended him for his final promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on February of 1864. Eshleman took command of the battalion after Walton's resignation until the return of William Miller Owen from special assignment. He surrendered with the battalion at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.
After the war he returned to the mercantile business and became a partner in the established firm of Stark, Stauffer & Co., which became Stauffer, Eshleman & Co. in 1885. He postwar activities included presidency of the Washington Artillery Veteran Association.
“We thought we were doing our duty. It may have been an illusion, but nothing could have carried us through our work if our hearts and consciences had not been where we at least though they ought to be."