During these days of Civil War sesquicentennial, here is a story of a distant relative who, unlike my two direct ancestors who fought in the war, didn’t make it home.
When I was in high school in my hometown of Vandalia, IL, I used my grandma Crawford’s notes and my own research to trace the history of our Crawford family. My great-great-great-grandmother Susan Straub Crawford, a widow, had moved from central Ohio to Fayette County, IL in about 1849 with her eight children. My project was the history of the descendants of these eight children, of which my great-great-grandfather Andrew was the third.
But the first of the eight was named Mary Ann, and she died at the age of thirty in 1856. Buried in the same country cemetery as her mother and six of her seven siblings, she has a broken tombstone, and a Find-a-Grave memorial here. Her husband’s name was Martin Scrote, and at the time I knew some relatives of him and his second wife Caroline (buried in Vandalia’s main cemetery and memorialized here). I included Caroline’s and Martin’s descendants in my family history, too.
What happened to Martin Scrote (who would be my great-great-great-uncle-by-marriage)? At the time, I never found out. But not long ago, a hometown friend named Betsy Brannon Mills and I, chatting on Facebook about genealogy with another friend, put two-and-two together, and we realized we both had a family connection to Martin. She was a distant niece of Caroline. Betsy had done better than me and found information about him: he died in the Civil War. Here is her material:
Company “I”, 97th Illinois Infantry
Sep 8, 1862
Killed at Ft. Blakely, Ala., Apr 9, 1865
The 97th Illinois led the assault on Fort Blakely on the afternoon of April 9, 1865, the last battle of the Civil War, six hours after Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Martin Scrote was one of the 80 men of the 97th killed or wounded during the siege. This is from the Adjutant General’s report of the 97th at the battle:
On the 9th of April, at 4 o’clock, the general commanding had decided to storm the rebel works and the Ninety-seventh was selected to lead the assault. Promptly the men were in the rifle pits with rifles instead of with pick and shovel. It was a quarter to five when the commanding ofiicer of the Ninety-seventh gave the command, FORWARD NINETY-SEVENTH! CHARGE! and the whole Regiment, as one man, with a deafening hurrah, rose above the works, and with a gallantry seldom equalled in the annals of war. started on their dangerous mission.
Twenty minutes afterwards they were in Blakely and five thousand rebels and thirty-five pieces of heavy artillery, still hot of their deathly work, were captured. Eighty (80) killed and wounded in the Ninety-seventy were the human price of the victory, besides the losses of other Regiments that followed the Ninety-seventh.
The same night the Regiment slept in the main fort and General E. R. S. Canby, commanding the military Division of the Gulf, sent the following note to the commander of the Regiment: “Thank you! May God bless you and your brave boys.”
My friend hometown found the Adjunct General’s roster of the 97th: http://www.civilwarindex.com/armyil/rosters/97th_il_infantry_roster.pdf
She also found information about his likely burial place:
Mobile National Cemetery
1202 Virginia Street
Mobile, AL 36604
Mobile National Cemetery was established in 1865 after the Port of Mobile fell into Union hands under the assault of Rear Admiral David Farragut during the Civil War. …. When Union forces first took Mobile, they interred their casualties in portions of the city-owned Magnolia Cemetery, but following the Army’s request for additional burial space, Mobile provided the Union troops with three acres. The first interments were remains from surrounding military sites and forts. An inspector’s report of the cemetery, dated February 1871, states that of 841 burials only 124 were identified. ….
Mobile National Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
Monuments and Memorials
The 76th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment Monument was erected in 1892 by survivors of the Battle of Port Blakely, Ala., in honor of their fallen comrades. ….
841 Civil War dead, which includes 628 Union soldiers, 23 civilian employees of the U S Army, 112 Unknowns, and 78 US Colored Troops representing 10 Infantry regiments from various states. There are also 4 Confederate soldiers interred in the cemetery.
This was all interesting information—and, of course, very sad. I couldn’t help thinking about the narrator-character Paul in All Quiet on the Western Front, killed when the war was nearly over. Our hometown kin Martin had the distinction of perishing on the very day Lee and Grant met at Appomattox.
Another sad thing is that Caroline Haley Scrote, his second wife, was not quite 38 when she was widowed (actually the second time), and she lived to be 95. As my hometown friend Betsy, who found all this information, comments, one wonders what kind of information she may have received, if any, about Martin’s death and burial.
But one of the Scrotes granddaughters married a prominent local attorney, another married the owner of a local clothing store, and the extended family of a daughter includes Fayette County natives whom I’ve known over the years. Though Martin is buried in an unknown grave, his descendants became part of the fabric of our common hometown.