Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pathway to Hell: A Tragedy of the Civil War


The Battle of Fredericksburg, 13 December 1862. From an early draft of
Pathway to Hell: A Tragedy of the Civil War:
Charlie Robbins [of the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, the "Fighting Bucktails"] ran harder than he ever had in his life and tried to spring over one of those ditches. It was too wide, and he thumped hard into the ditch. Stunned and bruised, he looked back and saw the enemy swarming toward him. Running was useless now. He hunkered in the ditch and awaited inevitable capture. Others had beaten him to this exposed hiding place and more leaped in. To his amazement, some of them were Rebels he assumed were trying to desert. Charlie braved another glance over the top of the ditch, and saw Angelo [Crapsey] running toward him. "He was completely done out," Robbins recalled, "and could not run as the rest did to get away from the rebels." Miraculously, Robbins escaped capture to report Angelo's "wounding." Angelo must have been wounded, Charlie assumed. Angelo would never give up no matter how stacked the odds against him.

But he had. The lad who vowed never to compromise threw up his hands and shouted, "I surrender!" A bullet would have been more merciful. At least then Angelo Crapsey would have died gloriously.


Source: Crapsey, Angelo. Photograph. C. 1863. Digital copy from the Faces of the Pennsylvania Reserves website [http://www.pareserves.com/PRVCGALLERY/details.php?image_id=559]. Original photograph's whereabouts unknown. 2008.

Angelo M. CRAPSEY was the stepson of my 4th-great-grandmother, Lura Ann (JACKSON) PECK CRAPSEY. He was raised with Viola Gertrude (PECK) ROBBINS, my 3rd-great-grandmother, and served in Company I of the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry, later the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves with his childhood friend, Charles H. ROBBINS, who would become my 3rd-great-grandfather. Known as the "Fighting Bucktails" because of their reputation as sharpshooters, the 13th Reserves were often attached to other regiments in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, including Gettysburg, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Angelo was interned in the infamous Libby Prison, and was released before the end of the war. His incarceration horribly affected him, and for the rest of his short life, he engaged in one suicide attempt after another, finally succeeding on 4 August 1864, at the age of 21.

While researching the the intriguing story of Angelo Crapsey, Dennis W. Brandt read the many letters Angelo wrote during his war days, along with educating himself about the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry/13th Pennsylvania Reserves and the Pennsylvania communities of Roulette, Potter County and Smethport, McKean County. I am indebted to him for his research on the Robbins, Peck, and Jackson families, which he generously shared with me. He is also the author of From Home Guards to Heroes: The 87th Pennsylvania And Its Civil War Community (2006, University of Missouri Press; the Shades of Blue and Gray Series).

Pathway to Hell: A Tragedy of the Civil War has been recently published by Lehigh University Press and is available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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