ROBERT B. CRANDALL’S CIVIL WAR DIARY
As is often the case when working the in the Collections of the Sauk County Historical Society little gems pop up out of no where and take you by surprise. Such is the case of a little diary found in a collection of 19thcentury Crandall Family Papers. Tucked away among newspaper clippings, personal correspondence, and professional papers was a tattered 3inch by 4 inch notebook kept by 2nd Lieutenant Robert B. Crandall in the fall of 1863. Crandall, a native of Mississippi, grew up in Baraboo and joined Company F. 23rd Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers in August, 1862. Early on he achieved the rank of 1st Sergeant but by March 1863 he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant for meritorious conduct.
The 23rd Regiment served in the western theater of the Civil War, primarily along the Mississippi River Valley. They served in the Campaign and Siege of Vicksburg, fought in numerous battles including Arkansas Post, and Sabine Cross Roads, and later they participated in the Red River Campaign and in siege operations around Mobile, Alabama.
In the fall of 1863 the regiment was attached to a expedition up the Bayou Tesche in Louisiana. This expedition was one of those forgotten backwater campaigns which permeated the Civil War. This little diary (it is perhaps no longer than 40 pages or so) is filled with details cronicaling not only the campaign but daily mundane routines of Civil War army life. The excerpts shown here were transcribed as they were written, no attempt was made to correct spelling or grammatical errors of the original.
Friday Oct 2
Recieved orders this P.M. to be ready early in the morning to move for Brashear City. Accordingly traps were all packed and all tents, execpt officers, were struck wrote a letter to Kitty and one to Alice. And all tents are to be turned over except officers tents.
Just before noon reg fell in and marched once around camp with accoutrements and equipment, then stacked arms on color line ready to move when ordered [had] dinner at Mrs. Conrads. At about 4 P.M. recdorders to move on to Transport “North America,” an old Hudson river steamer, walking beam. Runs very still with the additonal quality of running very slow. We landed at Algiers. Opposite N.O. [New Orleans] very lateafter dark. Did not receive immediate orders to debark, hence the men streched themselves out for a little sleep. At 10 ½ o’clock moved off the boat and proceeded to take passage on the cars. When near half the reg. was on, all were ordered to remain until [undeciferable] but companies B & E proceeded to the depot and took shelter under its porjecting eaves. The hard ground, covered with small shells did not make a very comfortable bed. Lt. Stanley and myself were minus our blankets, having sent them with the officers baggage.
Arose a little before sunrise had an early breakfast of potatoes and squash pie which I purchased of a woman. We expected to move at 9 o’clock but the train did’nt arrive on time. While waiting bought a papers, “N. Orleans Times” and read of detention of the two iron clad rams in the Juersey. Also the detention of the ram Florida at Brest by [Menier]. Good news.
The boys found some “spirits” and very soon became “spiritualists” which caused the officers some little trouble in quelling the exhuberant feelings consequent. At 3 P.M. we left for Brashear. It is nothing but swamp the whole line. Every live tree is covered with moss. There are many dead ones supposed to have been killed by the moss. There are many and very large sugar plantations. The crops I should judge are very poor in this season. Arrived at Berwick at 9 o’clock went aboard the ferry boat immediately and landed on the opposite side. Within a few minutes, at Brashear, a very insignificant looking place about 12 houses. The water in the bay is brackish. The bay itself is 3/4 of a mile in breadth and 20 miles in length and the city is at the upper end. The water is poor in the wells being of a little brackish. It is said that our next march is 27 miles in length and not much water on the way.
Could not find my satchel last night, looked all over creation for it. This morning found it with the Adgt of the 60th Ind. But my sash and a pamphlet, “Diary North & South” by Wm Howard Russell, were gone. Some one stole them. Am greatful however that the loss is not greater. Pitched our tents early in the morning. Lt. Stanley and myself comfortably situated with bunk, table and seats. The boys have built themselves little huts with boards from fences and old houses which will make them comfortable in case of rain. Rumors are that we shall move very soon. Wrote letter home and to Ruthie this eve.
Rose at sun rise. Mended shirt then wrote a letter to Kittie + [Marrion] each. P.M. wrote to Alice. Dress parade this eve. Gen Ord present He criticized our manual of carry arms.
Had battalion drill in manual of arms this morning. Also assisted Lt. Stanley in making out Ordnance Returns for 3rd quarter. P.M. Reced orders to move our camp to better [locality] this [evening] had dress parade. It is said that Gens Frank and Banks have returned to [New Orleans] to make some further arrangements and that we shall ramain here until they return.
While on Battalion Drill this mourning Reced orders to move withing ten minutes notice with two days rations. We prepared accordingly and moved within an hours and a half from the time we reced the order. I, at first, supposed we were ordered to support the 19th Corps as they were then fighting some 13 miles distant. But we guarded the supply train. Perhaps it was for both these objects we were ordered out. [However] the enemy soon fled not being in large force. Our brigade lay in line of battle on the battle ground of the morning, during the night.
The Col. (Guppey) anticipating a flank attack had is up at 4 o’clock and ordered breakfast immediately. But Col Owen, commdg the Brig. seeing the fires ordered them to be put out until daylight. Late in the morning we were ordered to camp a little in advance on our bivouac and while we were forming line for camp our cavalry videttes were driven by the enemy. Genl. Burbridge anticipated an attack in force and ordered us to remian in line of battle most of the day. Two or three regts. of cavalry were sen to to recconoiter and a section of the 17th Ohio Battery. Reports agree that there was not more than 100 Rebs in P.M. we were ordered to pitch tents. A little [rain] all day.
Rose at daylight this morning. I was officer of picket from our regt. As we were about to form to move to Brig. Hd. Qrs. We had orders for regt to form line. The alarm had arisen from a N.Y. Regt discharging their pieces when relieved from picket. This was a piece of flagrant imprudence. A second of the kind would demand severe punishment. I am now on picket. The weather indicates rain. The wind is very strong from S. by W. Finished and sealed letter to Alice, ready for mail before starting. We are picketed in the edge of a broad prairie six or eight miles in diameter. It will be impossible for the enemy to surprise us if we are vigilant.
Relieved from picket about 10 a.m. It rained some during the night though it was not very unpleasant. Soon after I returned to camp we had orders to change camps immediately. Having an opportunity of mail letters I deposited the one I had written Alice and while the regt. Was moving to its new location I wrote half a sheet home. Immediately after tatto, there was some picket firing which was deemed sufficient to keep us in line for the length of an hour. Mail came late and I recived a letter from Kittie and the “Baraboo Republic.” We learn, too, that we have been deceived in regard to Rosecran’s victories. He still remains at Chattanooga.
At noon reced orders to move out on a [reconnoiter] with the 34th Indiana and a considerable amount of cavalry. We moved north out of the Opelusas road and encountered the enemy three miles distant. We had a sharp skirmish in which we had one horse killed and three or four men wounded. They took shelter in a ravine in the woods from which we could not move them not having force enough at night fall we moved back to camp.
Crandall remained with the 23rd Regiment through out the war, eventually mustering out in July 1865. After the war he married Alice Knight (the Alice mentioned in the diary), raised two sons, including Morris Crandall, a longtime, early secretary of the Sauk County Historical Society. Crandall worked for the local school system serving as principal for several graded schools eventually becoming Superintendent of Sauk County Schools. Later in life he moved to Olympia, Washington, where he died in 1901.