Becton Eckford and his younger brother William Wallace Eckford must have been very close, even for brothers. They were about two years apart in age, served in the same company during the War Between the States, and they married sisters on the same date one year apart. Becton and William were born in Scotland to Thomas and Delitha Eckford. Becton was born on 28 January 1839 and William was born in late 1840 or early 1841.
William was named after Sir William Wallace, Protector of Scotland. The younger son of a minor Scot nobleman, Sir William spent most of his short life fighting to free Scotland from the tyranny of the English king, Edward Longshanks. Americans are more likely to know of William Wallace as the character played by actor Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart. To Scots, however, Sir William Wallace holds a position nearing sainthood. This would have been especially true for the lower class, poorer Scots such as those who came to the United States in the mid-1800s.
Thomas brought his wife and children to the United States between 1844 and 1847. An older brother of Bectons, Fredrick Thomas Eckford, would serve as a Confederate cavalry officer and would not survive the War Between the States.
Becton was the first to enlist. He was 21 years old. He joined the 4th Infantry Regiment, Provisional Army of Tennessee (State Troops) at Germantown, Tennessee on 15 May 1861 for one year unless discharged sooner. Becton was enrolled by Colonel W.H. Carroll and assigned to Captain John B. Turners Company where he was appointed or elected 3rd Sergeant.
The 4th Infantry moved immediately to Randolph, Tennessee where it was assigned to the River Brigade under the command of General John L.T. Sneed. By 17 August the regiment had moved to Fort Pillow, Tennessee and was mustered in to the Confederate States Army. Becton remained a Sergeant after the mustering in. From Fort pillow the 4th Tennessee, as the regiment was now known, moved to Columbus, Kentucky. From Columbus, the regiment patrolled the area around Columbus, Kentucky and New Madrid, Missouri and down to Island No. 10. During this time William, who had most likely been traveling with the regiment unofficially, was mustered in as a Private by Captain J.A. Smith.
After the fall of Fort Donelson the 4th Tennessee moved to Corinth, Mississippi, arriving on 2 April 1862 with Becton, William and 510 of their comrades. One week later they participated in the Battle of Shiloh. Becton and William fought in Brigadier general Charles Clarks Division on 6 and 7 April 1862 and were instrumental in the capture of a Federal artillery battery.
One hundred ninety-one men were killed or wounded in the attack on the battery, and nearly half of the 4th Tennessee fell in the two days of battle. Among the wounded was Sergeant Becton Eckford. He was severely wounded in the leg and was in the hospital at Corinth on 10 April 1862. About this time the 4th Tennessee was reorganized and paid and Becton was demoted to Private on 25 April. On the same day his younger brother William was promoted to 2nd Sergeant. Perhaps William took the wounded Bectons place. From Corinth, William and Becton withdrew with their regiment to Tupelo, Mississippi and then moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee via Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama. During the hasty retreat, William lost his weapons and equipment.
On 17 August, Braxton Braggs Kentucky Campaign began. This campaign took Becton and William through Pikeville, Sparta and Gainesburg, Tennessee and on to Munfordsville, Kentucky. The latter city fell to the 4th Tennessee on 19 September 1862. The regiment lost 85 men in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky on 8 October 1862 and then retreated through Knoxville, Bridgeport, Tullahoma, and ended up in Murphreesboro, Tennessee. At this time the 4th Tennessee was consolidated with the 5th Tennessee Infantry. Becton and William were assigned to Captain John T. Barrets Company.
At the Battle of Murphreesboro on 31 December 1862 and 1 January 1863, Becton and William and their comrades formed the right wing of Stewarts Brigade. On 3 January they retreated to Shelbyville and went on outpost duty at Guys Gap until 28 June 1863.
William was reduced to the ranks (i.e. demoted to private) by Lieutenant Colonel Andrew J. Kellar on 23 March 1863. He was sent to the hospital on 15 August 1863 and stayed there until the end of February 1864. On 7 March 1864, Private William Wallace Eckford became a prisoner of war. He was either on his way home to recuperate, discharged because of his health, or returning to his unit in Dalton, Georgia. William was arrested near Bolivar, Tennessee and sent to the Military Prison in Louisville, Kentucky. He arrived in Louisville on 17 March 1864. On 2 April 1864, William was sent to Camp Chase, Ohio by order of Brigadier General Burnbridge and arrived on 3 April. Willaim remained at Camp Chase until his release on 9 January 1865. On this date William signed his Oath of Allegiance and went home to Tipton County.
Older brother Becton, meanwhile, remained with the 4th Tennessee and fought in the Battle of Chickamauga on 19 and 20 September 1863 and the Battle of Missionary Ridge on 26 November 1863. From Missionary Ridge, the 4th Tennessee covered the retreat of the Confederate forces to Dalton, Georgia. The 4th Tennessee went to winter quarters at Dalton. Becton was promoted to Corporal on 30 April 1864.
From 7 May through November 1864, Becton and the 4th Tennessee were engaged in the attempt to stop Shermans march to Atlanta. Becton fought in now-famous battles at Dug Gap, Mill Creek Gap, Resaca, Ellsbury Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, and Jonesboro, Georgia. On 12 August, Becton was paid for the first time in eight months.
From Jonesboro, Becton and the 4th Tennessee marched north to Spring Hill, Tennessee in General John Bell Hoods Army of Tennessee. They arrived in Spring Hill on 29 November 1864. On 30 November, the 4th Tennessee planted its colors on the Federal works in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee. Two weeks later at the Battle of Nashville, the 4th Tennessee was in the Granny White Pike area and assisted Major General Bedford Forrests cavalry troops in covering the retreat of the Army of Tennessee to the Tennessee River. They arrived at Corinth, Mississippi on 5 January 1865.
The 4th Tennessee was given a thirty day furlough and ordered to assemble at West Point, Mississippi. From West Point, Becton and the 4th Tennessee traveled by rail to join General Joe Johnstons last stand in North Carolina. They reached Bentonville, North Carolina on 19 March 1865 and 9 April the 4th Tennessee was assigned to the 3rd Consolidated Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel James D. Tillman.
Corporal Becton Eckford, Company I, 3rd Consolidated Tennessee Infantry Regiment was surrendered at Gainesville, North Carolina on 26 April 1865 and sent to Memphis, Tennessee. Becton was paroled at Memphis on 25 May 1865.
William married Annie E. Warmath on 12 December 1865 and one year later Becton married Annies older sister, Mary J. Mollie Warmath on 12 December 1866. Becton became a saloon keeper, and was the last saloon keeper on Covington, Tennessee. Becton and Williams younger sister, Martha G. Mattie Eckford married their brother-in-law, John N. Warmath. John Warmath had also served in the 4th Tennessee. Thus, the Eckfords and the Warmaths were joined together by three marriages and one war.
Mollie died in August 1887 and Bectons death followed in December 1887. Five of their six children were under the age of eighteen.