Michigan in the Civil War

Crane, Salmon, 1812-1888.

The papers of this Tecumseh, Mich., builder include Civil War letters from two of his sons:

Eugene W. Crane. Three letters written to his father (Sept.-Oct. 1862) in which he tells about Lieutenant Clark of Dundee and forty of his men being captured; dysentery in camp because of changes in food and water; frequent changes of camps because there are so many cavalry regiments near them there is not enough water for all, the best camp being in a grove near Georgetown until they moved to Lexington and encamped in a grove of elm trees. He was a sergeant in Company E, 18th Michigan Infantry, August 1, 1862 until November 7, 1864 when he was commissioned second lieutenant. He was mustered out June 20, 1865. He also became a carpenter and builder.

Theodore Horace Crane. Forty-six letters written to the family while he was serving in Company E, 18th Michigan Infantry, 1862-1865, are models in detailed descriptions. He tells about the receptions accorded the men by citizens along the way on the train trip to a camp in Kentucky. There are descriptions of various camps: Snow Pond, Ky.; Camp Chase, a parole camp where life was very dull; Lexington, where he lists, for his mother, every activity of the day from reveille at 5:00 A.M. to tattoo and lights-out, as well as an explanation of picket posts; and Huntsville, Ala., of which he drew a detailed diagram for his young brother. He stresses the importance of letters from home.

Activities include inspection; battalion drill; a grand review under General Gilmore; a dress parade which was a "splendid sight;" provost guard duty at the quartermaster's warehouse; and his work as a clerk in the provost marshal's office in Nashville, which he explains in detail, and where he sees "wearied and disheartened prisoners passing through to be exchanged or deserters coming into the lines to take the oath of allegiance."

He likes the Blue Grass country, "the most splendid country I ever saw, "and describes Lexington; goes to Louisville on the train with prisoners, "150 Of the worst looking lousiest men I ever saw . . . dressed in all kinds of butternut clothes," and thinks Louisville is "the most splendid place I ever saw." Huntsville is "accounted by many as one of the handsomest towns in the South" in contrast to Decatur "where the mud was always afoot and a half in depth, swamps on every side, and river water to drink."

Returning to the regiment July 17, 1863, after his capture at Danville, Ky., March 24, he notes the change in many of the men from being dirty and slovenly to neat first-rate soldiers, taking "pride in keeping themselves and their guns and accoutrements as neat and clean as possible and in doing their duty the best they know how." He makes many comments about officers and promotions; says the chaplain is a "plain good man, just such a one as we need;" shows the attitude of the folks back home concerning the draft, and his own views towards re-enlisting, the bounty "to old gray headed men and little puny boys" who "come down here" to become "a burden to the Govt. and die or be discharged." He dislikes the idea of recruiting Negroes as substitutes, and is incensed at the attitude of able-bodied men at home who make many excuses for not enlisting.

There is a special comment about McClellan in which he says, "He is a disgrace to the service" because of his peace-at-any-price platform. The regiment is almost solidly for Lincoln in the coming election.

The regiment is transferred to Decatur, and he comments on the 31st Wisconsin Regiment who will take over their guard duties in Nashville. He gives an account of the skirmishes around Decatur and of the siege of the city. He enjoyed the music and oration at the Fourth of July celebration. At Huntsville in 1865 the regiment goes on raids after bushwhackers without much success because of mountainous country. May 22 he was promoted to sergeant-major.

As many soldiers about to return home, he is troubled because "I don't know what I shall do for a living when I get home." In fact he became a carpenter and builder as was his father. One of his sons, Verner Winslow Crane, became a history professor at the University of Michigan.

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