Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Civil War history in Orange County

The Orange County California Genealogical Society (OCCGS) is creating and will publish a collection of biographies of all of the Civil War veterans buried in Orange County. The beginnings of this project are viewable on their website.

The gravestone above -- located at Anaheim Cemetery -- is that of William Burton Crandall (1851-1945). Note the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) star next to the stone, and the Sons of Union Veterans plaque on the base, reading, "Last Soldier - American Civil War, 1861-1865." He was, so far as anyone knows, the last Civil War veteran to die in Orange County.

At age 12, Crandall took another man's place in the 52nd New York Infantry in exchange for $300, telling everyone he was 18. When Grant faced Lee at Fredericksburg in 1864, Crandall came away with shrapnel in his hand. Two weeks later, in a battle at the Spotsylvania Courthouse, he was shot in the head. While at the hospital, President Lincoln visited and was horrified to meet a 13-year-old casualty. Lincoln personally discharged him.

Crandall, a painter by trade, moved to California in 1919. Eventually, he moved in with the Woodward family of Yorba Linda. He died penniless, in a rest home in Orange in 1945. There was no marker on his grave.
"Uncle Burt" Crandall in the 1940s.
Then, in the 1990s, Charles Beal, Paul Gillette, Glen Roosevelt, and a couple other Sons of Union Veterans members started tracking down the graves (both marked and unmarked) of Orange County's Civil War veterans. Through many years of research and hard work, they identified many hundreds of graves. The federal government was successfully petitioned to provide headstones for those (including Crandall's) that were unmarked.

Crandall was the last Civil War veteran to die in Orange County, but his was not the last story that needs to be researched and told. There's still plenty of work to do on that front, and I'm glad OCCGS and the Sons of Union Veterans are on the job.

To read more about Crandall and the grave identification project see this 2006 Register article and my Aug. 4, 2007 post on the subject.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I never knew Civil War vets were buried in Orange County, California -- definitely an interesting read.