There are a lot of reasons why Civil War soldiers are sought out and honored. But some are recognized more than others. There are the ones whom we genealogists find in our respective ancestry and choose to honor and remember. Less commonly, there are the soldiers who played an important part in a key battle. Rarer still are those who kept war diaries later discovered and considered historical documents.
But the vast majority of those who served weren't heroes and did not do anything famous. And some never left descendants. In my genealogy, I have a John Crans (Cranz, Crantz, Crance—pick a spelling, any spelling) who was the right age to serve. The only soldiers I find with similar names either died during the war or did not fit the other criteria needed. Whether he served or not may always be a mystery. But while researching the rest of his family members I came across two of his brothers who did serve, and die, in the service of the Union.
David Crans and Julius Crans were born in Ohio to James Crans and Elizabeth Thomas. David, the elder son, was born about 1844. He joined the 102nd Regiment of Ohio Volunteers and has a military file at the National Archives and Records Administration.
We know from this report that David had blue eyes, light hair and a fair complexion. That he was a farmer who, at about age 18, joined Company K of the 102nd Regiment of Volunteers of the State of Ohio. We don't know what prompted David to enlist. Perhaps, as his file indicates, he joined in September 1862 at Camp Mansfield, a Union military training base in Ohio. The timing would parallel the invasion of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, which had crossed into Maryland on Sept. 3 after Lee's stunning victory at Second Bull Run days earlier.
Or perhaps, as the record notes, David was mustered into service with others in August near Savannah, Ohio, by Union Capt. J.M. Sloan, who apparently was scouring the countryside for recruits. Whatever the case, we know David was "discharge[ed] by reason of death which occurred on the 6th day of Feb eighteen hundred sixty four (1864)."
David did not die in battle—he died of smallpox in an Army hospital in Nashville, Tenn. NARA records are all that remain of his life. Will anyone ever research this young man's life? Doubtful. He did not leave descendants, did nothing momentous, and died in obscurity. But his image lives on in a carte de visite.
David's younger brother, Julius, joined Company D, 100th Infantry Regiment Pennsylvania. His military record from the National Archives consists solely of muster cards. It states that he enlisted Aug. 28, 1861 in Beaver County, Pa. Aside from this, all we know of Julius is that he, too, took sick and died in the service, in Beaufort, S.C. He also has a carte de visite.