To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Great Task will feature Friends member submissions on the dates of the fighting, and many others throughout July to discuss the aftermath and other battle experiences. Today we will feature brothers Benjamin Franklin and Jacob Crabill of the 25th Ohio Infantry. Benjamin Crabill was the great great grandfather of Friends member David E. Wilkins of Findlay, Ohio. Many thanks to David for submitting his ancestor.
150 years ago, musicians were an integral part of both armies. Prior to the war, there were very few full-time musicians who played in military bands. The Marines and West Point had bands as well as a few state militias. When the war began, regimental bands could be organized for artillery and infantry units. A 24-member band was allowed for the infantry whereas artillery units were limited to 16 musicians. The bands played for recruitment rallies, parades, and concerts.
For the most part, regimental bands assigned to volunteer regiments were dismissed from service after the first year of the war and replaced by brigade bands which would serve the entire division. Musician could also refer to those who played the fife, bugle or drums. Those field musicians provided signals as well as ceremonial music. Today’s account will focus on two musicians – brothers who served with the 25th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Benjamin Franklin Crabill was born on August 13, 1843 to David and Elizabeth Eberley Crabill. He was the youngest of six children along with his twin sister Naomi. Jacob Crabill, Benjamin’s oldest brother, was born February 15, 1829. Both enlisted in the 25th Ohio in June of 1861 as musicians. Benjamin was only 18. Jacob was 30 and married to Rebecca Fisher, with whom he had a year old daughter. Both were assigned to Company F.
The 25th Ohio Volunteer Infantry recruited combatants for three-year terms from all of Ohio and was organized at Camp Chase in Columbus in June 1861. It was the longest serving Ohio regiment in the Civil War. Ohio was surpassed by only New York and Pennsylvania in the number of soldiers it sent to defend the Union, fielding almost 320,000. The regiment was involved in the fighting at the Battle of McDowell, Cross Keys, Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Honey Hill.
During 1862, the 25th Ohio was stationed in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Two significant events occurred at that time. The camp was near the Crabill Family Homestead and Benjamin, after meeting a young man from the area, found out that he was, in fact, related to the local Crabills. The young man he met was also named Benjamin and took him to the homestead. The Ohio Crabill spent an evening visiting with the Virginia Crabills who, according to family stories, tried to persuade him to join and fight “for The Cause”. He returned to his unit, crossing the picket lines under the flag of truce. Searching the available databases, there are many Crabills who fought for the Confederacy.
The second event of 1862 was not a pleasant one. Jacob Crabill succumbed to disease and passed away on April 24, 1862. He is buried in the National Cemetery in Grafton, West Virginia.
Benjamin continued with the 25th Ohio and served as a musician. He was awarded the Tiffany Medal (see below) that was made by Tiffany & Company in New York, and given by the State of Ohio to the “Veteran Volunteers” who re-enlisted under the War Department Orders No. 191.
In 1863, the 25th was involved in the “Mud March” and the Battle of Chancellorsville. Gettysburg was their next engagement. Lieutenant Colonel Jeremiah Williams was in command of the 25th Ohio at the Battle of Gettysburg until he was capture on July 1 and command was passed to Captain Nathaniel J. Manning. After Manning was injured, Second Lieutenant William Maloney took command and was subsequently replaced by Lieutenant Israel White.
The monument below, which commemorates the 25th & 75th Ohio regiments, stands where the 25th Ohio regiment was positioned on July 1, 1863 on Barlow’s Knoll on Howard Avenue.
The monument reads:
25th and 75th Ohio Infantry,2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 11th Corps,This monument marks the left flank of the 25th and the right flank of the 75th Ohio Infantry July 1, 1863. This memorial erected by the State of Ohio.
Arriving at Gettysburg from Emmitsburg July 1, 1863 the 25th and 75th Ohio Infantry advanced beyond the town and, under heavy cannonade, took position here, supporting Battery G, 4th U.S. Artillery. During July 2 and 3, they held an advanced line on East Cemetery Hill, and early July 4 led the advance into town.
The second monument dedicated to the 25th and 75th Ohio regiments is located on Wainwright Avenue and reads:
Ohio honors her brave sons. 25th & 75th Ohio Infantry 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 11th Corps. This monument erected by the State of Ohio.
After a severe battle in the open fields beyond Gettysburg on July 1, 1863 the 11th Corps withdrew to Cemetery Hill, and at dark on July 2 this position was held by the 25th and 75th Ohio Infantry when Early’s Confederates assaulted this hill and broke the Union line to the right, but was repulsed after a desperate hand conflict.
Of the 220 the 25th OH sent in the Battle of Gettysburg, 183 were lost- 16 were killed, 96 wounded, and 71 were missing.
Benjamin Franklin Crabill was promoted to Full Principal Musician on July 20, 1864 and to Full Private on July 1, 1865. He was mustered out of the 25th Ohio in 1866. He married Sarah Belle Parrish and lived to the age of 72. He died in 1915 and is buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, IN.
Music played a big part in the lives of the Civil War soldier on both sides. Music stirred patriotism and helped to unite soldiers. When the brothers set out in 1861 to defend the Union, however, it is doubtful that either fully realized how the war would impact their lives and the lives of their family. The realities of the conflict - coming face to face with just discovered relatives fighting for the other side and the loss of a brother – were two of the many things they probably did not expect to encounter as musicians.