A Civil War Biography

Charles Henry Crane

Crane was born 19 July 1825 in Newport, Rhode Island. He spent his early childhood at various military posts before being sent to the Maple Grove Academy in Middletown, Connecticut. His father, Ichabod Bennett Crane was an officer, eventually rising to the rank of colonel in the Artillery Corps of the US Army. [The elder Crane had met Washington Irving while both served during the War of 1812 and was the inspiration for the name Irving used in his 1819 work, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."]

The younger Crane graduated from Yale in 1844. He received a medical degree from Harvard and an advanced degree from Yale in 1847. That November he presented himself to an army examination board and was appointed an acting assistant surgeon. His commission to assistant surgeon was approved on 14 February 1848 while he was on route to Vera Cruz. He spent six months with an artillery regiment in Mexico. He was then sent to New York then Fort Pickens in Florida.

From 1849 until 1852 he participated in the campaigns against the Seminoles then was sent to the west coast where for four years he saw much field duty in California and Oregon against hostile Indians. Crane returned to New York in December 1856 assigned as assistant to the medical purveyor, attending surgeon, and examiner of recruits. He remained in this post, except while accompanying General Winfield Scott on a trip to the Pacific, until after the war began.

Crane was promoted to major and surgeon on 21 May 1861. In February 1862 he was detailed as medical director of the Department of Florida (Key West) then in June 1862 as medical director of the Department of the South.

In July 1863 he was recalled to Washington DC to be medical inspector of prisoners of war. On 3 September 1863, shortly after difficulties between Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and then Surgeon General William A. Hammond resulted in the latter being dismissed and Colonel Joseph K. Barnes being empowered to perform the duties of the Surgeon General, Crane was appointed executive officer and principal assistant in Barnes's office. Although he performed the duties of assistant Surgeon General, Crane was not officially given the title until 28 July 1866 when the medical department reorganization act was passed. With the title came promotion to colonel. He had been brevetted lieutenant colonel and colonel on 1 January 1865 and brigadier general on 13 March 1865. On 3 July 1882, after Barnes retired, Crane was named Surgeon General. He would not serve long as the head of the Army's medical department. He died 10 October 1883 from a hemorrhage at his home in Washington. At the time of his death he was also serving as commissioner of the US Soldiers' Home and was on the visiting staff of the Government Hospital for the insane and of the Columbia Hospital.

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