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 interred 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.

A Civil War Soldier: 2nd Lt. Merrick JACKSON (1822 – 1908)


Source: Jackson, Merrick. “Out of the Attic.” Potter-Leader Enterprise (Coudersport, Pennsylvania), undated clipping, c. 2000s. Original privately held by Joyce Jackson Bailey, address unknown. 2004.

How Related: Brother of my 2nd-great-grandmother, Lura Ann JACKSON

Born: 26 April 1822 in Pennsylvania

Parents: Joshua JACKSON (c. 1780 – c. 1828) and Elsie ROUNDS (1790 – 1869)

Siblings: older paternal half-sister, Asenath “Cena” JACKSON (c. 1800 – 1875); Lucina (1810 – 1882), Joshua T. (1814 – 1883), Prudence (b. 1820), Harriet A. (1820 – 1891), Jane Cordelia (b. 1824), Lura Ann (1826 – bef. 1900; my ancestor), and Noble Victor JACKSON (1827 – 1906).

Married: Sally WEIMER (1827 – 1897) before 1848, probably in Potter Co., Pennsylvania. Sally was probably the sister of Kate WEIMER who married Merrick’s brother Noble.

Children: Adelaide (b. c. 1848), Elsie (b. c. 1851), Lura Ann (b. c. 1853 – named for his sister/my ancestor), William B. (b. 1858), and Orlando Joshua JACKSON (1860 – 1929).

Source: Civil War Pension Index Card of Merrick Jackson. Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900. National Archives and Records Administration. Publication T289. Digital image purchased at Footnote [http://www.footnote.com/].

Enlisted: 13 September 1861 in Co. H, 46th Pennsylvania Infantry; private. Promoted to Full Sergeant on 30 October 1862. Promoted to full 2nd Lieutenant on 17 June 1863.

Side served: Union

Dismissed: 2 May 1864

Biography or Information of Interest: Since Merrick was a soldier who worked his way up the ranks from a private to a second lieutenant, I was surprised not to find information on him beyond his military service, or even a photo online. His namesake was my great-great-grandfather, Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, his grandnephew. I find it curious that Merrick’s Civil War Pension Index Card lists his “late rank” as private, and not second lieutenant.

Died: 3 April 1908

Buried: Watson Cemetery, Borie, Summit Twp., Potter Co., Pennsylvania

A Civil War Soldier: 2nd Lt. Merrick JACKSON (1822 – 1908)


Source: Jackson, Merrick. “Out of the Attic.” Potter-Leader Enterprise (Coudersport, Pennsylvania), undated clipping, c. 2000s. Original privately held by Joyce Jackson Bailey, address unknown. 2004.

How Related: Brother of my 2nd-great-grandmother, Lura Ann JACKSON

Born: 26 April 1822 in Pennsylvania

Parents: Joshua JACKSON (c. 1780 – c. 1828) and Elsie ROUNDS (1790 – 1869)

Siblings: older paternal half-sister, Asenath “Cena” JACKSON (c. 1800 – 1875); Lucina (1810 – 1882), Joshua T. (1814 – 1883), Prudence (b. 1820), Harriet A. (1820 – 1891), Jane Cordelia (b. 1824), Lura Ann (1826 – bef. 1900; my ancestor), and Noble Victor JACKSON (1827 – 1906).

Married: Sally WEIMER (1827 – 1897) before 1848, probably in Potter Co., Pennsylvania. Sally was probably the sister of Kate WEIMER who married Merrick’s brother Noble.

Children: Adelaide (b. c. 1848), Elsie (b. c. 1851), Lura Ann (b. c. 1853 – named for his sister/my ancestor), William B. (b. 1858), and Orlando Joshua JACKSON (1860 – 1929).

Source: Civil War Pension Index Card of Merrick Jackson. Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900. National Archives and Records Administration. Publication T289. Digital image purchased at Footnote [http://www.footnote.com/].

Enlisted: 13 September 1861 in Co. H, 46th Pennsylvania Infantry; private. Promoted to Full Sergeant on 30 October 1862. Promoted to full 2nd Lieutenant on 17 June 1863.

Side served: Union

Dismissed: 2 May 1864

Biography or Information of Interest: Since Merrick was a soldier who worked his way up the ranks from a private to a second lieutenant, I was surprised not to find information on him beyond his military service, or even a photo online. His namesake was my great-great-grandfather, Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, his grandnephew. I find it curious that Merrick’s Civil War Pension Index Card lists his “late rank” as private, and not second lieutenant.

Died: 3 April 1908

Buried: Watson Cemetery, Borie, Summit Twp., Potter Co., Pennsylvania

A Civil War Soldier: Sgt. Angelo M. CRAPSEY (1842 – 1864)



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.


How Related:
Step-brother of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Viola Gertrude PECK; best friend and step-brother-in-law of my 3rd-great-grandfather Charles H. ROBBINS

Born: 9 Dec 1942, New York

Parents: only child of Rev. John CRAPSEY, Jr. (1816 – 1903) and Mercy Rhuama “Mary” (BARNUM) FRANTZ (c. 1822 – 1952); step-mother, Lura Ann (JACKSON) PECK CRAPSEY (1826 – bef. 1900)

Siblings: Older maternal half-sisters Catherine (b. 1833), Anna Maria (b. c. 1835), and Ann Orilla FRANTZ (b. c. 1838); younger paternal half-siblings Alice (b. 1855), William Merrick “Willie” (1858 – 1946), Harriet, a.k.a. Hattie/Suky (b. 1860), and George Bayard CRAPSEY (1863 – 1943); step-sister Viola Gertrude PECK (1848 – 1918)

Married: never

Children: none

Enlisted: 30 May 1861 at Port Allegany, McKean Co., Pennsylvania in Company I, 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry (a.k.a “The Bucktails”); private. Promoted to full corporal. Promoted to full sergeant.

Side Served: Union

History of Unit: See the history of the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry (also known as the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves), including battles and rosters, here and here.

Discharged: 15 October 1863

Source: Libby Prison, 1865. Photograph number B-119. Matthew B. Brady Collection of Civil War Photographs. National Archives and Records Administration. Publication T252. Viewed at and downloaded from Footnote [http://www.footnote.com/] 16 Apr 2008.


Biography or Information of Interest:
Angelo’s widowed father married my widowed 3rd-great-grandmother, and thus he was raised with my 2nd-great-grandmother as step-siblings. When the Civil War began, Angelo enlisted, followed not long after by his best friend, my 2nd-great-grandfather Charles Robbins, who after the war, would marry Angelo’s step-sister.

During the Battle of Fredericksburg, Angelo was captured by the Confederates and imprisoned in the infamous Libby Prison on Richmond, Virginia. The deplorable conditions combined with shell-shock caused Angelo to lose his mind. When he returned to his community and family in Port Allegany, McKean County and Roulette, Potter County, he was suicidal and had to be watched continuously. Tragically, his attempts eventually were successful when he managed to get a hold of a gun.

His father later applied for his veteran’s pension. The pension application is full of details pertinent to my families, as his father, step-mother, step-sister and several Robbins family members gave their testimonies to his war experiences.

Source: Civil War Pension Index Card of Angelo M. Crapsey. Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900. National Archives and Records Administration. Publication T289. Digital image purchased at Footnote [http://www.footnote.com/].

Angelo’s is one of many, many tragic stories of the Civil War, and a reminder that not all men who die as a result of war die in battle. The complete fascinating story waits to be told in the as-yet-unpublished historical novel by Dennis W. Brandt.

Died: 4 Aug 1864 (age 21), Roulette, Potter Co., Pennsylvania, due to self-inflicted gunshot

Buried: Lyman Cemetery, Roulette, Potter Co., Pennsylvania

A Civil War Soldier: Sgt. Angelo M. CRAPSEY (1842 – 1864)



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.


How Related:
Step-brother of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Viola Gertrude PECK; best friend and step-brother-in-law of my 3rd-great-grandfather Charles H. ROBBINS

Born: 9 Dec 1942, New York

Parents: only child of Rev. John CRAPSEY, Jr. (1816 – 1903) and Mercy Rhuama “Mary” (BARNUM) FRANTZ (c. 1822 – 1952); step-mother, Lura Ann (JACKSON) PECK CRAPSEY (1826 – bef. 1900)

Siblings: Older maternal half-sisters Catherine (b. 1833), Anna Maria (b. c. 1835), and Ann Orilla FRANTZ (b. c. 1838); younger paternal half-siblings Alice (b. 1855), William Merrick “Willie” (1858 – 1946), Harriet, a.k.a. Hattie/Suky (b. 1860), and George Bayard CRAPSEY (1863 – 1943); step-sister Viola Gertrude PECK (1848 – 1918)

Married: never

Children: none

Enlisted: 30 May 1861 at Port Allegany, McKean Co., Pennsylvania in Company I, 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry (a.k.a “The Bucktails”); private. Promoted to full corporal. Promoted to full sergeant.

Side Served: Union

History of Unit: See the history of the 42nd Pennsylvania Infantry (also known as the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves), including battles and rosters, here and here.

Discharged: 15 October 1863

Source: Libby Prison, 1865. Photograph number B-119. Matthew B. Brady Collection of Civil War Photographs. National Archives and Records Administration. Publication T252. Viewed at and downloaded from Footnote [http://www.footnote.com/] 16 Apr 2008.


Biography or Information of Interest:
Angelo’s widowed father married my widowed 3rd-great-grandmother, and thus he was raised with my 2nd-great-grandmother as step-siblings. When the Civil War began, Angelo enlisted, followed not long after by his best friend, my 2nd-great-grandfather Charles Robbins, who after the war, would marry Angelo’s step-sister.

During the Battle of Fredericksburg, Angelo was captured by the Confederates and imprisoned in the infamous Libby Prison on Richmond, Virginia. The deplorable conditions combined with shell-shock caused Angelo to lose his mind. When he returned to his community and family in Port Allegany, McKean County and Roulette, Potter County, he was suicidal and had to be watched continuously. Tragically, his attempts eventually were successful when he managed to get a hold of a gun.

His father later applied for his veteran’s pension. The pension application is full of details pertinent to my families, as his father, step-mother, step-sister and several Robbins family members gave their testimonies to his war experiences.

Source: Civil War Pension Index Card of Angelo M. Crapsey. Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900. National Archives and Records Administration. Publication T289. Digital image purchased at Footnote [http://www.footnote.com/].

Angelo’s is one of many, many tragic stories of the Civil War, and a reminder that not all men who die as a result of war die in battle. The complete fascinating story waits to be told in the as-yet-unpublished historical novel by Dennis W. Brandt.

Died: 4 Aug 1864 (age 21), Roulette, Potter Co., Pennsylvania, due to self-inflicted gunshot

Buried: Lyman Cemetery, Roulette, Potter Co., Pennsylvania

CRAPSEY Photos…and a Rollerskating Bear

A week and a half ago, I posted some transcribed news clippings about my ROBBINS ancestors and their extended family who lived in Southbrook Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota from the mid-1870s to the early 1880s. These were sent to me by Mike Kirchmeier of Windom, Minnesota, who is working on a genealogical project of Southbrook Township citizens. He also sent me some photographs, as well as some genealogical information on these family members. I was very excited to get all of this. These have helped to “flesh out” some of the people in my family tree who were little more than names, dates, and locations to me.

First a little background: one of my paternal 4th-great-grandmothers was Lura Ann JACKSON (1826 – bef. 1900), whose earliest residences I’ve found have been in Potter County, Pennsylvania. She first married my ancestor, Nelson H. PECK (c. 1819 – 1849), and they had one child, my 3rd-great-grandmother, Viola Gertrude PECK (1848 – 1918). After Nelson died, Lura Ann married a widower, the Rev. John CRAPSEY (1816 – 1903), who had one child, Angelo M. CRAPSEY (1842 – 1864), by his previous wife. The family moved to neighboring McKean County, Pennsylvania, to land adjoining that of the ROBBINS family in Liberty Township. Angelo’s best friend was Charles H. ROBBINS, and the two signed up together after Fort Sumter was fired upon, and served in Company I of the First Pennsylvania Rifles (a.k.a. the Bucktails). Angelo was captured during a battle and spent some time in Libby Prison, the infamous Confederate prisoner-of-war prison in Richmond, Virginia. Although released later, he was there long enough to lose his mind, and tragically committed suicide after several unsuccessful attempts, at the home of a family friend, Laroy LYMAN, in Roulette, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

Charles and Viola were wed at the war’s end, married by her step-father, the Reverend CRAPSEY (see the photograph likely taken at that time, here). First, the ROBBINSes accompanied Charles’ parents to Oceana County, in Western Michigan, but later removed to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, where Viola’s mother, step-father and half-siblings were living. Angelo and his friend Laroy had purchased some land in Minnesota before his death, and that may have been what prompted the CRAPSEYs to move to that state. Charles and Viola lived about eight or nine years in Cottonwood County, on land neighboring her parents and also some of her adult half-siblings. By 1884, the ROBBINS had returned to the Oceana-Newaygo County area in Western Michgian. They named one of their sons Angelo, after their friend/step-brother. He is Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Sr., the father who is mentioned in the “Polar Bear posts” I have been writing.

Viola’s younger half-siblings (John CRAPSEY and Lura Ann JACKSON’s children) were:

  • *Alice (CRAPSEY) HANDY McBAIN (1855 – 1905)
  • *William “Willie” Merrick CRAPSEY (1858 – 1946)
  • *Harriet “Hattie” or “Suky” (CRAPSEY) HARDY (b. 1860)
  • *George Bayard CRAPSEY (b. 1863)

Below is a photo of Willie in 1940:

SOURCE: Crapsey, William “Willie” Merrick. Photograph. 1940. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Here is a photo of George and his wife Carrie [–?–]. She’s the one in the skirt!

SOURCE: Crapsey, George Bayard with wife Carrie [–?–] and trained bear. Undated photograph. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Mike tells me that George found this bear as a cub while living in Wisconsin. He trained the bear and used to travel all over the country–possibly the world–to feature him in shows. Now isn’t this some fun information to add to my family history? Seems like the Robbins family and bears are destined to go together…first the rollerskating bear with my Great-great-great-grandma Robbins’ half brother; then my Great-grandfather Robbins’ experiences as a Polar Bear in Russia; and, oh yes! the bear that kept raiding my parents’ Alaskan farm back in 1975…but that’s another story…maybe even another blog altogether.

CRAPSEY Photos…and a Rollerskating Bear

A week and a half ago, I posted some transcribed news clippings about my ROBBINS ancestors and their extended family who lived in Southbrook Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota from the mid-1870s to the early 1880s. These were sent to me by Mike Kirchmeier of Windom, Minnesota, who is working on a genealogical project of Southbrook Township citizens. He also sent me some photographs, as well as some genealogical information on these family members. I was very excited to get all of this. These have helped to “flesh out” some of the people in my family tree who were little more than names, dates, and locations to me.

First a little background: one of my paternal 4th-great-grandmothers was Lura Ann JACKSON (1826 – bef. 1900), whose earliest residences I’ve found have been in Potter County, Pennsylvania. She first married my ancestor, Nelson H. PECK (c. 1819 – 1849), and they had one child, my 3rd-great-grandmother, Viola Gertrude PECK (1848 – 1918). After Nelson died, Lura Ann married a widower, the Rev. John CRAPSEY (1816 – 1903), who had one child, Angelo M. CRAPSEY (1842 – 1864), by his previous wife. The family moved to neighboring McKean County, Pennsylvania, to land adjoining that of the ROBBINS family in Liberty Township. Angelo’s best friend was Charles H. ROBBINS, and the two signed up together after Fort Sumter was fired upon, and served in Company I of the First Pennsylvania Rifles (a.k.a. the Bucktails). Angelo was captured during a battle and spent some time in Libby Prison, the infamous Confederate prisoner-of-war prison in Richmond, Virginia. Although released later, he was there long enough to lose his mind, and tragically committed suicide after several unsuccessful attempts, at the home of a family friend, Laroy LYMAN, in Roulette, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

Charles and Viola were wed at the war’s end, married by her step-father, the Reverend CRAPSEY (see the photograph likely taken at that time, here). First, the ROBBINSes accompanied Charles’ parents to Oceana County, in Western Michigan, but later removed to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, where Viola’s mother, step-father and half-siblings were living. Angelo and his friend Laroy had purchased some land in Minnesota before his death, and that may have been what prompted the CRAPSEYs to move to that state. Charles and Viola lived about eight or nine years in Cottonwood County, on land neighboring her parents and also some of her adult half-siblings. By 1884, the ROBBINS had returned to the Oceana-Newaygo County area in Western Michgian. They named one of their sons Angelo, after their friend/step-brother. He is Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Sr., the father who is mentioned in the “Polar Bear posts” I have been writing.

Viola’s younger half-siblings (John CRAPSEY and Lura Ann JACKSON’s children) were:

  • *Alice (CRAPSEY) HANDY McBAIN (1855 – 1905)
  • *William “Willie” Merrick CRAPSEY (1858 – 1946)
  • *Harriet “Hattie” or “Suky” (CRAPSEY) HARDY (b. 1860)
  • *George Bayard CRAPSEY (b. 1863)

Below is a photo of Willie in 1940:

SOURCE: Crapsey, William “Willie” Merrick. Photograph. 1940. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Here is a photo of George and his wife Carrie [–?–]. She’s the one in the skirt!

SOURCE: Crapsey, George Bayard with wife Carrie [–?–] and trained bear. Undated photograph. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Mike tells me that George found this bear as a cub while living in Wisconsin. He trained the bear and used to travel all over the country–possibly the world–to feature him in shows. Now isn’t this some fun information to add to my family history? Seems like the Robbins family and bears are destined to go together…first the rollerskating bear with my Great-great-great-grandma Robbins’ half brother; then my Great-grandfather Robbins’ experiences as a Polar Bear in Russia; and, oh yes! the bear that kept raiding my parents’ Alaskan farm back in 1975…but that’s another story…maybe even another blog altogether.