1864: Elihu Alonzo Crandall to Katharine Mary Crandall

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A photograph taken of E. A. Crandall years after the Civil War

This letter was written by 17 year-old Elihu Alonzo Crandall (1847-1918) of Baraboo, Sauk county, Wisconsin, who enlisted on 17 December 1863 in Co. F, 23rd Wisconsin Infantry. Elihu wrote the letter to his cousin, Katherine (“Katie”) Mary Crandall (1842-Aft1900), whose brother, Robert Bruce Crandall (1839-1901) served in the same company. Elihu later transferred to Co. I, 35th Wisconsin Infantry and mustered out of the service at Brownsville, Texas in March 1866. Elihu was the orphan of Samuel Mortimer Crandall (1815-1855) and Elizabeth East (1823-1857).

Robert and Katie were the children of David Phelps Crandall (1802-1877) and Priscilla East (b. 1815) who came to Sauk county, Wisconsin, from Montgomery, Mississippi. Robert enlisted on the 14 Aug 1862 as a 1st Sergeant in Co. F, 23rd Wisconsin Infantry. He was later promoted to 2nd lieutenant for meritorious conduct and mustered out at Mobile, Alabama the 4th July 1865.

The 23rd Wisconsin served in the western theater of the war, primarily along the Mississippi River Valley. In this letter, Elihu describes the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads which took place on 8 April 1864 during Bank’s Red River Campaign. In the battle, Bank’s army was routed but rallied to make a stand in the Battle of Pleasant Hill the following day.

See also—1862: Robert Brice Crandall to Katherine Mary Crandall.



Camp of Red River
Grand Ecore Landing
April 12th 1864

Dear Cousin Katie,

Knowing how anxious you are about us, I spend a few minutes in letting you know how we are. We are all safe and sound. Robert did not get a scratch but I got a slight scratch—just enough to make it sting a little. The fight began in an old field near a sawmill. We drove them most all day when we planted pieces of cannon. We laid down (our regiment supported the battery). They massed their forces against us and drove us from the hill, took the cannon, and drove us 17 or 18 miles when we made a stand. We were reinforced by [Brig. Gen. Andrew J.] Smith with 11 thousand men. Smith took the command & whipped them badly. There was an opening on Pleasant Hill of about 80 acres and Sunday morning you could see them laying in every direction. The whole opening was just black as it could be. They tried our right flank but was repulsed. Then they thought they would try our left and Old Smith caught them in their own trap. He made the officers act as skirmishers and had a heavy force lying hid so they thought sure that they could drive them back, [and] get those cannon. We had some cannon on a hill so they could see them. He had the officers behind the heavy force of ours hold on. I will just draw it on a piece of paper so you can form something of an idea of the dreadful affair.

O! Katie, God keep me from seeing such a sight as that was the 2nd day. In one place I saw a Reb Colonel where a shell struck and bursted and one piece took him just at the point of the hip and his body went one way, his limbs another, leaving his bowels strung on the ground. And in one place where a Reb regiment was formed in line of battle and our artillery opened on [them] with grape & canister just mowed a windrow. They looked just as if they were a lying on the ground to keep out of the way of our musket balls.

We were 3 nights and 3 days without sleep or rest. We were either fighting or retreating. The first day we got up at 1 o’clock A. M., marched 6 miles, formed line of battle and we marched in line of battle all day. We marched, some of the boys, without their breakfast but I got mine before I left. Our regiment lost in killed, wounded & missing 62. Of our company, [we] lost 1 killed, 2 missing. Rev. J[ohn] Hague [of Winfield], killed; W[illiam] C. Reynolds, missing; [Jonas] Elwood [of Honey Creek], missing.

Our company came out well. When the Rebs charged on our boys, I did not expect to see any more of them very soon and some of them never in this world, but the most of them escaped unhurt. Some got hurt.

Well Katie, I am so tired that I can’t hardly hold my head up to write. If you can read this you can do better than I can. Well, I must close. Tell Gus Stanley his uncle is alright and I got his letter and picture and am much obliged. Tell him I will answer it as soon as possible. If you see Kittie Dowd, I will write her as soon as I get a little rest. G. P. got here the next day after the fight. He sends his best respects. I haven’t had a letter from home since I got that one of the date of February 17th. I begin to think you have forgot me, or else think I ain’t no account. Well I know I ain’t but I should like to get letters from home. Well I must close hoping that you will write soon. From your loving cousin, E. A. Crandall to his cousin Kittie M.

Tell Henry I thought of him when I was running through the woods as he did when he was at Carrion Crow [Bayou, La.].

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