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Franklin County native Crawford played pivotal role in Civil War

April 11, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

Samuel Wylie Crawford was at Fort Sumter when the first shots of the Civil War were fired, might have saved the day at Gettysburg, Pa., and later preserved a part of the battlefield where he fought.

A physician and attorney, explorer, author and preservationist, the Franklin County, Pa., native is commemorated at Gettysburg with a statue along an avenue bearing his name.

Born in 1829 at his family’s 300-acre Allandale estate in Greene and Guilford townships, Crawford graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1846 and the university medical school in 1850. The next year, he was commissioned an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army and was posted to Texas, according to a paper written for the Kittochtinny Historical Society by Dr. James A. Dickson.

During his time in the West, Crawford conducted botanical and zoological research, and wrote a report to the Smithsonian Institution, toured Mexico on another research trip and accompanied Maj. William Tecumseh Sherman on an expedition against the Indians, Dickson wrote.

Before the Civil War broke out, Crawford was assigned to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, S.C., then volunteered to become a line officer at Fort Sumter, where he commanded a battery.

In the ensuing months, Crawford moved up the ranks, and was promoted to brigadier general in February 1862, according to Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. Through that year, he led troops in a number of engagements, including that at Antietam, where he was wounded in the thigh.

He recovered at his Franklin County home until returning to duty in February 1863. That spring, Crawford was given command of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, which he led as part of Maj. Gen. George Sykes’ V Corps at Gettysburg. There, the Pennsylvanians helped repulse repeated Confederate attacks on the Union on July 2.

New York artist Ron Tunison sculpted a larger-than-life statue of Crawford that in 1988 was placed on Crawford Avenue in Gettysburg as part of the 125th anniversary of the battle.

Crawford continued to command in the battles of The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and Five Forks as the Union closed the noose around the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., according to the Encyclopedia of the Civil War entry.

Following his retirement from the Army in 1873, Crawford bought 49 acres of land at Gettysburg, the land over which the Pennsylvania Reserves fought and died, Dickson wrote. He left the land to the United States government and it eventually became part of the battlefield park.

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