During the Cardassian conflict, Maxwell was captain of the USS Rutledge, and was present for the massacre at Setlik III, wherein Maxwell's wife and children were killed. Maxwell's tactical officer at the time, Miles O'Brien, would later remark that Maxwell appeared to take the loss of his family remarkably well, not missing a single minute of duty. By the end of the conflict, Maxwell had been twice decorated with the Federation's highest citation for courage and valor.
By the year 2367, at which point a peace treaty had existed between the Federation and the Cardassians for nearly a year, Maxwell was in command of the USS Phoenix. When Maxwell came to believe that the Cardassians were re-arming and preparing for a strike on Federation territory, he undertook an unauthorized action against the Cardassians, in an attempt to prevent them from attacking. Maxwell began by destroying an outpost in the Cuellar system which, while claimed by the Cardassians to be a science station, was believed by Maxwell to be a military supply port. Later, while being pursued by the USS Enterprise, Maxwell ordered the destruction of a Cardassian warship and a supply vessel, killing approximately six hundred-fifty Cardassians. Eventually, Maxwell agreed to a meeting with Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard, explaining that he had undertaken these unauthorized attacks because he did not trust the "bureaucrats" in Starfleet to take decisive action, an assertion to which Picard responded by stating his opinion that Maxwell was simply seeking revenge for the death of his family. Subsequent to Picard ordering him to travel to Starbase 211 under escort, Maxwell feigned compliance, but altered course en route, leading the Enterprise to another Cardassian vessel, which Maxwell claimed was transporting weapons in preparation for an attack on Federation space. Imploring Picard to search the ship in an attempt to prove his assertions, Maxwell threatened to destroy the ship. He was eventually talked down by Miles O'Brien who, by this point, was serving as the transporter chief aboard the Enterprise. Realizing that he had lost, Maxwell willingly surrendered to Picard, turning over command of the Phoenix to his first officer. (TNG: "The Wounded")
Captain Benjamin Maxwell was played by actor Bob Gunton.
According to the script, Maxwell was described as the following:
He is not at all what one might have expected. Slight of build, short greying hair, chiseled, angular face – he could be Lenin. Or Lennon. But in the eyes there is warmth – and humor. Creases at the edges testify to a lifetime of smiles and laughter. He is genuinely at ease with himself, and consequently puts others at ease.