Yesterday I had a tetanus shot, and that put me in mind of Col. John Crane of the Continental Artillery. [Yes, this will eventually make sense.]
John Crane (1744-1805) was a house carpenter in Boston. In the early 1770s, he became a sergeant in the town's militia artillery company. Like several other men in that company, he participated in the Boston Tea Party, reportedly being knocked cold by accident and hidden in a pile of wood chips. Probably fearing arrest and seeking better business prospects, Crane and his friend Ebenezer Stevens left Boston for Providence a few weeks later.
Crane returned to the Boston area in 1775 as a captain in the Rhode Island Artillery, stationed in Roxbury and then at a forward position on Boston Neck. He showed such skill in commanding his battery and aiming his guns that by the end of the year he was commissioned a major in the Continental Army's artillery regiment, much to Thomas Crafts's mortification.
In the 1820s, William Eustis cited Crane as an example of an excellent officer who came from the ranks of craftsmen, not gentry. Eustis wrote:
After the evacuation of Boston, he marched to New York. Whenever a British ship of war appeared in the East, or North river, or any firing was heard, Crane was on horseback, and galloped to the scene of action. Being reproached on an occasion when he exposed himself alone, riding through Greenwich street, under the constant broadsides of a passing ship, he replied, “The shot is not cast which is to kill me.”There's the tetanus connection! Crane's immune system was strong enough to fight off lockjaw. He returned to service under Gen. Henry Knox and ended the war as a colonel.
Not long after, a frigate run up the East river, and anchored on the Long Island side, near Carlaer’s hook. Four field pieces were ordered to annoy her. They were only six pounders. Crane, as usual, was present and pointed the pieces. His sight was remarkably true, his aim was sure.
He had from habit and the acuteness of his vision, the faculty of seeing a cannon ball on its passage through the air. A falling shot from the ship he kenned in a direction to strike, as he thought, the lower part of his body, not having time to change his position in any other way, he whirled himself round on one foot, the ball struck the other foot while raised in the air, carrying away the great toe and ball of the foot. Thus ended his usefulness for the campaign.
He was afterwards removed to New Jersey, and surviving the perils of a partial jaw lock, so far recovered as to go home on furlough.
At that time, Crane was among the Continental Army officers who were upset at Congress's slow pay—an effort that led them to create the Society of the Cincinnati. Crane also indignantly refused a disability pension at that time, declaring, "No, sir; they never shall say that I eat their bread when I have done serving them." He followed Knox and other artillery colleagues in becoming a landowner in the part of Massachusetts that became Maine. Crane's businesses didn't flourish, however, and his wounded foot became disabling. He tearfully accepted a federal pension a few months before he died.
(Now that I look again at what Eustis wrote, reprinted in Dr. James Thacher's Military Journal During the American Revolutionary War, I suspect that Crane's "friend and brother-officer, who well knew the nature of his wound," and later arranged for that pension, was Eustis himself. Eustis was a doctor trained by Dr. Joseph Warren. He served as surgeon for the artillery regiment in 1775, then as a hospital surgeon. In the early republic he was a Democratic-Republican politician, rising to be Secretary of War and Massachusetts governor.)
[CORRECTION: I originally typed 1807 as the year of Crane’s death instead of 1805. ADDENDUM: Narrowing down the date when Crane was wounded.]