Civil War vet gets civil resting place

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Pacific Historian
Jun 4, 2005
Orange County, CA
Interesting story I read just now. Theres a couple dozen civil war veterans buried in the local cemetary. Seems that quite a few veterans from this war had moved to Orange County at the turn of the 19th century.

Note to any of you Europeans..... Orange County in the 1860's was an unpopulated area. Not even much agriculture. Los Angeles was a tiny town, hardly worthy of mention.

Article - News - Civil War vet gets civil resting place

The Orange County Register

By age 13, William Burton Crandall had run away from home to join the Union Army, taken a musket ball in his head and shaken the hand of President Lincoln.

The man deserves a dang headstone on his grave.

Crandall was the last Civil War veteran to die in Orange County. He passed on in 1945 at the age of 95 in a rest home in Orange.

At the time, he had no money and no family. The country was too busy burying World War II soldiers to think about veterans of a war that happened 80 years earlier. So Crandall was lowered into a pauper's plot at Anaheim Cemetery and forgotten.

For the next 61 years, his grave lay unmarked, bare but for the grass that grew over it.

Not anymore.

Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War launched the Last Soldier Project in 2003, asking members to fan out and find the last Civil War soldier who died in every county in the country and make sure their graves are respectable.

Charles Beal relished the challenge. A "misplaced New Englander," Beal lives in Yorba Linda with his wife and son.

He and a handful of other Civil War descendants have taken it upon themselves to hunt down, photograph and map every Civil War grave in Orange County. They began sleuthing in the late 1990s, tromping through cemeteries on weekends.

"We spent days and days out there," said Paul Gillette, senior vice commander of the local camp of the Sons. "It was just a blast."

So far, 785 Civil War graves have been located. Many of the men buried in them helped shape Orange County.

The first Superior Court judge was a Union veteran who lost an eye in the battle of Pea Ridge, Ark. The first district attorney survived "the Hornet's Nest" at Shiloh. The first mayor of Seal Beach was a Union sharpshooter. And a Confederate soldier wrote Orange County's bill of secession from Los Angeles.

The last Confederate veteran to die here was Willie Addams, who "carried six slugs in his body," his obit reads. He died at age 104 in 1941.

Four years later, Crandall succumbed to old age.

"The light went out with him," said Glen Roosevelt, commander of the local camp of the Sons. "That flame of the men who stepped forward to defend the Union."

In his search to locate Crandall's grave, Beal turned to old newspaper articles. They led him to Anaheim Cemetery. Turns out Civil War vet Erwin Barr donated a small plot in 1895 to bury destitute soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic. Crandall has four other soldiers for company. Of the five, only three had tombstones, and one of those was broken.

Roosevelt petitioned the federal government to have a headstone made for Crandall.

He ordered another stone for Pardy Moon, a private in the Indiana infantry who was gored to death by his bull in 1896.

A third stone was ordered for Edward Sweeney, a private from a Pennsylvania regiment whose body was found half eaten by wild animals in 1909. Sweeney had been hobbling back to the Old Soldiers Home in West Los Angeles after mining for silver and gold in Gypsum Canyon when he met with either an accident or a killer.

On Sunday, up to 150 Civil War descendants and enthusiasts are expected to gather at the graves. They picked Nov. 19 because it is the anniversary of the dedication of the National Cemetery at which Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address (known in the Civil War community as "Remembrance Day").

Crandall will be the center of attention.

In newspaper articles dating back to the 1930s, Crandall always tells the same story. And this is how it goes:

He was 12 years old in 1863 when he was traveling down the Hudson River on a riverboat captained by his father. A man named Alonzo Marsh told the boy he had just been drafted into the Union Army and would Crandall like to take his place for the sum of $300? Crandall sneaked off the boat at the next stop and enlisted.

Crandall told the Army he was 18 and he was assigned to the 52nd New York infantry.

On May 4, 1864, Gen. Grant led 118,000 Union soldiers right into the teeth of Robert E. Lee's army at Fredericksburg, Va. Crandall took shrapnel in his hand, but he soldiered on.

Two weeks later, one of the bloodiest battles of the war unfolded at the Spotsylvania Courthouse. Crandall was shot in the head and carried from the field, never to return.

Shortly after, the story goes, President Lincoln, visiting a soldier's hospital, came upon Crandall and asked his age. When Crandall admitted he was 13, Lincoln purportedly exclaimed: "My God, I didn't know we were taking them out of the cradle!"

Lincoln then personally discharged him from the Army.

Crandall's story certainly was a fine one, from start to finish. But was it true? "We were a little skeptical," Roosevelt said.

So on his next business trip to Washington, D.C., Roosevelt visited the National Archives Reading Room. There, he struck gold, finding Crandall's 140-year-old service records, including special order No. 201, discharging the lad because of his age.

"When you see the order signed by Abraham Lincoln, you just sit back for a second and say, 'Damn. It really happened.' "

Along with the service records was a copy of a New York newspaper dated 1845 that printed a letter Crandall had sent to his folks, telling them he had been shot in the head and describing the chaos of the battle.

"The rebel dead and wounded lay so thick that we could not help stepping on them," he wrote. "When I was hit I fell senseless … I was carried from the field."

Roosevelt e-mailed home: "Found it. It's all true."

After the war, Crandall earned a living as a painter back East. He moved to Pasadena in 1919 to be with his son after his wife died. Later, Crandall moved in with the Woodward family of Yorba Linda (there appears to be a Methodist Church connection). The Woodwards sometimes threw Crandall birthday parties, inviting the community and the press. Crandall ("known by all as Uncle Burt," one old article reads) would regale the guests with Civil War stories.

His final address was a rest home in Orange. There he died, penniless.

Gillette has a speech prepared for Sunday's ceremony.

"As the veterans here gathered are aware," he will tell the crowd, "a soldier cannot leave his post without being properly relieved. Crandall, you are now relieved; I have the post. Rest in peace."


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I think the last civil war vet died in 1958.

He was a Confederate soldier.

Deradler, were now getting closer to seeing the last of the WW1 vets pass on. I now know what the civil war historians from the 1940's and 1950's were feeling.
That man saw some changes ! From the musket to the tank to the jet engine.
syscom 3, Enjoyed your post about veterans of the War Between the States living in CA. This is not about States War vets but a rather famous Texas Ranger moved to CA sometime during the Gold Rush. His name was Jack Hayes and he led a group of Rangers in 1840(I think) in a fight with Commanches in what may have been the first battle where revolvers were used. Hayes' men were armed with Colt-Paterson pistols, five shots, cal. 36. Needless to say the Commanches were surprised. After moving to CA Hayes became the Sheriff of San Francisco and later the CA State Surveyor and laid out the town of Oakland. We were sorry to lose him.
Grant was not in command at Fredricksburg, Burnside was. That is the battle where Longstreet is supposed to have said to Lee, " if they keep on coming and we don't run out of ammunition, we shall kill them all." Wish we could get the Islamic terrorists in a twist like that.

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