This letter was written by Robert Bruce Crandall (1839-1901) who 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. 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. After the war he married Alice M. Knight (1837-1915), 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.
Robert was the son of David Phelps Crandall (1802-1877) and Priscilla East (b. 1815) who came to Sauk county, Wisconsin, from Montgomery, Mississippi. Robert wrote the letter to his sister, Katherine (“Kate”) Mary Crandall (1842-Aft1900).
Crandall’s 1863 Civil War Diary is housed at the Sauk County Historical Society and is transcribed and posted on-line.
Addressed to Miss K. M. Crandall, Baraboo, Sauk county, Wisconsin
Postmarked Cannelton, IN
On Board steamer, “Masonic Gem” ¹
Near Evansville, [Indiana]
November 21, 1862
Here we are, “sailing down the river Ohio” on the third day’s pull. We are on a small boat which takes only four companies and heavily loaded at that. Six companies with Col. [Joshua James] Guppey are on another boat ahead of us. Col. [Edmund] Jüssen is our commander on this boat expedition. Our pilot is drunk and runs us aground every little while, taking often hour’s time to get started again. So all the other boats ahead of us. But I don’t care for this because the longer we are on the boat, the less marching we shall do.
We are not far from a place called Evansville in Indiana. There we shall have a chance to send home mail. I am going to seize upon every opportunity for writing home. The letter I wrote just before leaving Louisville will reach you and you will think it rather strange that I didn’t send it by Henry Turner. The reason is this. We were expecting to be paid off at Louisville but were disappointed. Hence, Capt. and [Elisha L.] Walbridge had no money to send either waiters or trunks so they have taken both. I concluded to send my letter as you would get some idea of our whereabouts by it.
We are going, of course, directly to Cairo and shall not leave this boat until we reach Memphis. From thence our destination is not known. It seems reasonable to me to suppose that we are going to Vicksburg. One victory there and another at Richmond, Va.—our officers say—will win the whole thing.
We didn’t start that P. M. at three o’clock but had made all preparations for it when we received orders to cork two days rations. But we started early next morning in a heavy rainstorm. Our boat was a mile and a half distant. When we reached it, we were wet and muddy. The privates had to take the deck and the officers took the state rooms. poor boys! I feel sorry for them and would willingly share my berth with them could it be done. ‘Tis a hard berth to be an officer but a dreadful thing to be a private in an army. I sleep in a state room with Lieut. [Elisha L.] Walbridge and [Daniel C.] Stanley. I see not one officer about me engaged in anything useful. All are smoking and playing cards. But this is not my business. When not engaged in other duties, I am studying my tactics. I have my motto, “inveniam viam aut faciam” [which means] “I will either find or make a way.” And I write.
But I must give up my pleasant desk to the Quartermaster Sergeant. The jarring of the boat makes it rather inconvenient writing, however. Give my love to everyone. I will write at the next mailing depot. As ever, your affectionate brother, — R. B. Crandall
P. S. Continue to direct your letters via Louisville until otherwise ordered. R. B. C.
¹ The Masonic Gem was a cargo-bearing steamboat that operated for some time out of the White River in Indiana, running goods to southern markets, primarily Memphis. Sgt, Crandall said she was fully loaded with four companies which would have been roughly 400 men.