By Jaeger Held
Charles Christian “Carl” Krauss was born on April 5, 1832, near the town of Herrenberg in the Kingdom of Württemberg in present-day Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He was the second of four children born to Georg Heinrich Krauß, a glove maker by trade, and Friedricke Catharina Krauß, née Oerthle. His parents were married as Lutherans. In 1848, revolutions swept across Europe and in 1849, at age seventeen, Carl and his family, including one older and two younger brothers immigrated to the United States. His youngest sibling, Paul, only eight years of age, died at sea during the Atlantic voyage, and Charles’ surviving younger brother Gustavus was deaf and could not speak. Ten years after the family’s arrival in America, his mother died, leaving his father a widower at age sixty. Charles eventually settled in the small town of Lowell east of Grand Rapids in western Michigan where he kept a saddle shop. He was living there in 1862 as the American Civil War entered its second year. On August 1, 1862, at age thirty, Charles Krauss enlisted in the Union army, and on August 28 he was officially mustered in as saddler of Company A, 6th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Eighteen men from Lowell, out of an 1860 population of 547, enlisted in the 6th Michigan Cavalry—including seven in company A, eight in company M, and one each in companies G, H, and the regimental staff. Carl likely formed bonds with some of these men who came from the same small community he called home.
Shortly before Carl’s enlistment, his father had fallen ill with chronic rheumatism and as a result was unable to continue his trade. Charles’ regiment was sent to Washington, D.C. in December 1862, and that month, he sent his father forty dollars from his army pay to help sustain him and his handicapped younger brother. During the winter of 1862-1863, the regiment served in the defenses of the capital city, participating in several scouting missions in northern Virginia until June 1863, when the Michigan cavalry brigade, consisting of the 1st, 5th, 6th, and 7th Michigan cavalry regiments, was designated as the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac. The entire 5th regiment and two companies of the 6th were armed with seven-shot Spencer repeating rifles, advanced weaponry at the time. On June 23, 1863, while Charles’ regiment was camped near Gainesville, in northern Virginia, he wrote home to his father in Michigan in his native German language:
[Translation of letter] “Gainesville, Va. June 23, 1863. Dear father, I write to inform you that our Regiment together with the whole division, 9 Regiments of Cavalry have started from Fairfax and are now in this neighborhood. I have at present very little opportunity to write, I have ways to work to prepare for march; have been very unwell since several days. I have sent you today my watch, together with forty dollars in greenbacks through our regiment’s saddler, who is going to visit his family in Lansing. He will leave the package in Detroit in the Express Office. Please write me whether you received the same. I must conclude having received notice to join my Co[mpany]. My respects for You & Gustav. Your faithful Son, Charles C. Krauß.”
The Wolverines rode north in pursuit of J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry and one week later fought their first battle on June 30, 1863, near Hanover, Pennsylvania. The 6th Michiganders, 611 strong, arrived near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 2, and were ordered to move northeast toward the small town of Hunterstown, Pennsylvania, about five miles from Gettysburg. A brigade of Confederate cavalry under General Wade Hampton were posted near the village to guard the left flank of the Army of Northern Virginia. Upon their arrival, the Union cavalry brigades of Brigadier Generals George A. Custer and Elon J. Farnsworth, both newly appointed to their commands, of H. Judson Kilpatrick’s division deployed to attack. Cavalrymen dismounted and formed into skirmish lines as Battery M, 2nd United States Artillery unlimbered and began firing toward the Confederates south of Hunterstown.
Around sundown, the brigade commander, Custer, led Company A of the 6th Michigan Cavalry down the Hunterstown road in a mounted charge against the Confederate position. Charles’ company was fired on and counterattacked by several companies of Cobb’s Georgia Legion. During the fighting, Saddler Krauss suffered a gunshot wound through the spine. The wound proved mortal, and he died soon thereafter, with some records listing his death as occurring that evening and others the next day. Custer himself was unhorsed and nearly killed by a southern cavalryman during the charge, but he was rescued by one of the Michigan men. Firing continued for a short time, but no further mounted attacks were made that evening. Private Krauss had lost his life in a skirmish where relatively few casualties were sustained on either side. The engagement in which he died has been referred to locally as North Cavalry Field.
On July 3, the 6th Michigan Cavalry moved off to the southeast and was positioned in support of Captain Alanson Randol’s U.S. Artillery Battery on the edge of what is now known as East Cavalry Field, while the remainder of the Michigan Brigade led by Custer fought Confederates under J.E.B. Stuart. During this engagement, the regiment suffered additional losses, and total casualties for the regiment during two days of fighting numbered one killed, twenty-six wounded and one missing. Saddler Charles C. Krauss was the only member of the 6th Michigan Cavalry at Gettysburg who would not live to see the battle’s end.
Following the Battle of Gettysburg, the 6th Michigan Cavalry, along with the rest of the Michigan Brigade, pursued the retreating Confederate army through the mountains into Maryland, skirmishing heavily along the way. The regiment later saw service through the Overland and Shenandoah Valley campaigns of 1864 and was present at Appomattox Court House when Lee surrendered. At war’s end, the regiment was transferred to the western plains and fought in the Indian Wars in present-day Wyoming and Montana during the summer and fall of 1865 before finally being mustered out at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on November 24, 1865.
In the fall of 1863, the remains of Charles C. Krauss were interred in the Michigan plot, section I, site 9 of the newly created Gettysburg National Cemetery, the only soldier buried in the cemetery identified as a member of the 6th Michigan Cavalry. In 1866, his widowed father successfully applied for a disability pension from the government, stating that his son who was killed at Hunterstown was his only support. It is not known if he was ever able to visit his second son’s final resting place. On his grave marker, his name is incorrectly rendered as “Charles Crouse,” a sorrowful end for a soldier who served and fought and died for his adopted country.
1860 U.S. Census, Lowell, Michigan.
6th Regiment, Michigan Cavalry. National Park Service. https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UMI0006RC.
Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War Veterans. The National Archives. Fold3.com. https://www.fold3.com/image/301296504?terms=krauss,war,us,165789,civil,148838,charles,rel&xid=1945.
Charles C. Krauss (1832-1863). Findagrave.com. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/29061113/charles-c-krauss.
Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers who Served in Organizations from the State of Michigan. The National Archives.
Gettysburg Stone Sentinels, Michigan Cavalry Brigade monument. https://gettysburg.stonesentinels.com/union-monuments/michigan/michigan-cavalry-brigade/.
Hunterstown – Then and Now. http://hunterstown-thenandnow.com/id19.html.
Krauss Family Tree. Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/164013811/family/familyview.
Petruzzi, J. David and Steve Stanley. Hunterstown Part 1. https://www.gettysburgdaily.com/hunterstown-part-1-with-authors-jd-petruzzi-and-steve-stanley/.
Petruzzi, J. David and Steve Stanley. Hunterstown Part 2.https://www.gettysburgdaily.com/hunterstown-part-2-with-authors-jd-petruzzi-and-steve-stanley/.
Roster, 6th Michigan Cavalry, Company A. http://www.migenweb.org/michiganinthewar/cavalry/6cava.htm.
Spencer Rifles at Gettysburg.https://npsgnmp.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/weapons-at-gettysburg-the-spencer-repeating-rifle/.
U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865. Ancestry.com.https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=1555&h=934251&ssrc=pt&tid=164013811&pid=312132443958&usePUB=true.
U.S., Registers of Deaths of Volunteers, Michigan. Ancestry.com. https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2123&h=282496&ssrc=pt&tid=164013811&pid=312132443958&usePUB=true.
Württemberg, Germany Emigration Index, Carl Christian Krauss. Ancestry.com https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=3141&h=30124&ssrc=pt&tid=164013811&pid=312132443958&usePUB=true.