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Crisfield, William B.

Place of Birth: Kent

Date of enlistment: 1 February 1875

Age given at enlistment: 39

Rank: Private

Company: L

Location on 25 June 1876: Custer's column

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Comments:

Crisfield’s date of birth has yet to be established.

A Man of Kent

The River Medway which flows through the heart of the County of Kent. Born east of the river (Crisfield) you are a 'Man of Kent' while to the west (the author) a 'Kentish Man'.

  • This biography has temporarily been reduced in length as the full story of William Crisfield, Mary Blanchstone and Martin Personeus is being considered for publication in the CBHMA’s Greasy Grass (2018). 
  • William Crisfield was baptised on 1 March 1840 by the Rev. Walter A Vaughan, in the 14th century parish church of St. Michael, Chart Sutton, a picturesque village of around 800 inhabitants, situated five miles southeast of Maidstone, in the county of Kent. It was common practice in England during this period for a child to be baptised as soon after birth as possible and therefore it is most likely that the future cavalryman was born in January or February 1840, a supposition which is supported by the information in the census taken in June of the following year and his age on arrival in America.

William B. Crisfield. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Collection

  • William Crisfield married on 5 April 1865, in St. Louis, Missouri. His bride was Mary Pauline Blanchstone, [originally Poline Blanchard or Blanchton], born in Paris, France c.1845, allegedly one of Custer’s cooks in the Civil War [this is highly unlikely]. The couple ultimately had four children: Edward, (born 1868) ; Charlotte, (born 1870); Albert (born 1872); Paul (born 1875).
  • Mary Personeus (formerly Crisfield) was granted a widow’s and a minor’s pension in respect of her first husband.  Men With Custer: Biographies of the 7th Cavalry, edited by Ron Nichols with Dan Bird (2010), p.82, says that “His [Crisfield] second wife Mary, received a pension of $12 per month until her marriage to Martin Personeus (Michael Martin).”  I have found no evidence to support that Crisfield had had a previous marriage.

Mrs Mary Personeus (formerly Crisfield) in later life. Photograph courtesy of Richard Austin Jr.

  • Mary married 32 year-old Private Martin Personeus,* (alias Michael Conlan), from Rondout, Ulster County, New York, also in Company L, on 23 November 1876. A Civil War veteran who, on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg (1 July 1863),  was affected by sunstroke causing brain trouble and transferred to the Invalid Corps.
  • Mary Personeus died 17 February 1931, at Gillespie, Macoupin County, Illinois at a stated age of 86 and was buried three days later in Mayfield Memorial Park Cemetery, Carlinville, where a most intriguing gravestone marks the spot. The words “Survivor Gen. Custer’s Massacre,” is ‘poetic licence’ for saying she was the wife of a participant killed in the battle even though she was hundreds of miles away at Fort Totten at the time

Grave marker of Mary Personeus, Mayfield Memorial Park Cemetery, Carlinville, Illinois. (A Dr. John Lapp photograph.)

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