Civil War veteran gets belated salute

Gregory Cranston looks at his great-great grandfather's headstone.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It took more than 140 years, but a Union Civil War solider was honored Friday evening for his service.

John Cranston died in 1871.  He was a member of the 17th Regiment Kansas Volunteer Infantry, but until recently had an unmarked headstone.

However, over the past two years, his family became interested in the family tree.

“My father died young,” Tom Cranston, John’s great grandson, said.  “My dad and I didn’t talk about the family much.  So when my son asked about John, I couldn’t even answer the first question.”

Gregory Cranston, Tom’s son, said Tom didn’t even know John’s name.  So Gregory did some digging at the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library.  “We found out he was buried in the Lindenwood Cemetery,” Gregory said.

The Cranston’s found John’s unmarked headstone, and looked for more records to connect him to the family.  They found out that the plot next to John was John’s granddaughter, Alice.  The family already knew Alice was a relative, which confirmed that John was also a part of the family.

“I found that Alice had sent in for a Civil War pension,” Gregory, who now lives in Steuben County, said.  “When I got the pension number, I sent it to Washington D.C. for John’s military records.  The records came back, and I found out he was in the Kansas Volunteer Infantry.”

According to the Gregory, John Cranston was born in Ireland, and then moved to Fort Wayne.  However, he would get a job in Kansas with a railroad company.  After that, John would enlist in the war.  After the war, the family returned to Fort Wayne.  John Cranston died in 1871 when a steer kicked him.

Next, Gregory asked the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs for an official headstone.  “Three weeks later, they sent one out,” he said.

Now, John Cranston is buried next to a gravestone that you would see at Arlington National Cemetery.  It has the Union symbol stamped on it.

Friday evening, members of the group called the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry paid its respects to John Cranston.  About 20 members of the Cranston family were on hand to see the ceremony.

“It’s an honor to do that for them and to do a ceremony for their relatives,” Capt. Steve Smith, who leads the volunteer infantry, said.

Smith said the group will do a couple ceremonies a year for families, but pick to go to the Lindenwood Cemetery each May 30.  That day was known as Decoration Day until 1971.  That year, Memorial Day replaced the holiday.

Smith’s infantry also participate in Civil War re-enactments.

The 30th infantry is made up of many people who have ancestors who served in the Civil War.  This group of volunteers honors soldiers at Lindenwood because that’s where Col. Sion S. Bass is buried.  Bass was the commander of the Indiana 30th Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.  Bass was killed during the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

At Friday’s ceremony, there were three riflemen, a drummer, a bugle player, along with Captain Smith.

“It runs through my mind that this might be the first time he was honored,” said Tom Cranston.  “His death was untimely and I’m sure at that time, the family was struggling financially.”

The Cranston’s aren’t done digging into the family tree.  Gregory and Tom said they hoped to travel to Ireland to look further back into their ancestry.

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