Family Stories

William LaFayette Crabb’s Letter to President Andrew Johnson – Henry County

I have made the most extraordinary discovery today.  My search has been in Henry County, particularly the Eminence Cemetery, where Stephen Drane Crabb, April 2, 1802 – November 7, 1870, and Nancy B. Poston Crabb, January 27, 1802 – May 9, 1888, are buried.  They were the parents of eight children, the seventh child was William LaFayette Crabb, born August 17, 1844.

When war broke out in 1861 William enlisted in the Fourth Kentucky Cavalry under General John Hunt Morgan.  It was looking through his war records that I came upon the most interesting letter – I’ve seen nothing like it before.

Smithfield, Kentucky February 25, 1866

Hon Andrew Johnson, President of the United States

Dear Sir

I am one of those unfortunate boys who have been in the Rebel Army.  I surrendered about the time that Gen. Lee did, came home on parole, have taken the Amnesty Oath and have since that time been trying to conduct myself as a peaceable, quiet citizen; and thought myself included in your general Amnesty Proclamation until very recently when I was arrested on charge of Treason.  To this charge I plead ‘guilty,’ but the War being over I have ‘grounded the weapons of my rebellion’ and have resolved to submit meekly to the laws of my country.

I now appeal to your Majesty’s clemency and humbly ask

that you will pardon me.

I have nothing to recommend me to your notice, I am a poor boy of humble parentage, dependent on my own exertions for a living, have no money to fee an influential lawyer to appeal to you in my behalf, but I have resolved to appeal to your humanity, for I believe that you are a man that can sympathize with me, in my condition.  Hoping that you will not consider my request impertinent, for I can assure you it is a matter of great importance to me, and should an occasion ever present itself by which I could in the slightest degree repay your kindness, rest assured that it will be thankfully embraced. 

Now, Sir, if the above request meets your approbation, please send me by mail a document over your own signature which will be a guarantee for my safety in the future, from which there can be no appeal – a Pardon.

By giving my petition an affirmative answer and enclosing the same to me at Smithfield, Henry County, Kentucky, you will confer a favor on a poor boy in distress who will ever hold your name in grateful remembrance.

Yours Most Respectfully,

William L. Crabb

This letter was written almost a year after the Confederate Army surrendered.  Why would there be an arrest for treason?  Pardon was recommended and he was officially pardoned, July 6, 1866.  Have you seen anything similar?

William Crabb married Martha Virginia Owens October 31, 1866.  The couple had one son, Linsey Crabb.

William lived a long life, dying in Henry County, July 20, 1921.  His obituary follows:


Lexington Herald, Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky

July 21, 1921

Well-Known Morgan Veteran Succumbs at Eminence Home

EMINENCE, Ky., July 20. – Colonel W. B. Crabb, 77 years old, died at his home here today following an illness of several months.

Colonel Crabb had been a resident of this city during his entire life. At the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the cause of the south, was attached to the fourth cavalry and served under General John Hunt Morgan.

For many years he was president of the Fible and Crabb Distillery Company and in recent years was head of the Crabb and Cain Insurance Company here.

Colonel Crabb is survived by his widow, Mrs Mattie Owen Crabb and five grandchildren; Captain W. L. Crabb, Jr. of the U. S. Marine, now stationed in Santo Domingo; Thorne Crabb, Chicago, Ill.; Todd Crabb, Louisville, Ky. His only son, Linsey Crabb, of Louisville, died two years ago.

Funeral services will be held privately at the home Friday afternoon at 4 o’clock, the Rev W. G. Eldred officiating. Burial will be in the Eminence cemetery.

2 replies »

  1. Interesting!!! He certainly ended up having a successful career.

    What does his pardon document or communication back from the President to him look like?

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