Meet Carlton C. of Palmyra, VA

An interview with a Color Bearer member

Our Color Bearers are like a big family. We all come from different backgrounds and yet each of us support a common cause – preserving American heritage and battlefields where Americans fought and died to preserve our country.

Carlton Crenshaw, Color Bearer



Color Bearer Carlton Crenshaw

American Battlefield Trust: What moved you to first give to our organization?

Carlton: Six generations of my family have been involved in military service during our wars back to the French and Indian War. We have fought in 3 wars here in the United States – the French and Indian War, The War for our Independence from Great Britain and the Civil War. My great, great grandfather, Joseph Crenshaw was killed at Fort Duquesne in 1758. James Crenshaw from Virginia and William Bloom from Pennsylvania on my mother’s side of the family fought during the Revolutionary War. Another James, my great grandfather, fought with the First Missouri Confederate Infantry in the Civil War while Samuel Hayes, a great grandfather on my mother’s side fought with the 18th Pennsylvania Regiment and was severely wounded by a Confederate miniball at the First Battle of Wincher in 1862. During the 20th century my father, Clarence Albert Crenshaw, was a Navy Corpsman attached to the First Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment and fought in World War I at Belleau Wood and Soissons. This unit lost over 200% of their manpower in a period of just over 3 months. My half-brother, Bill, fought with Patton in Europe during World War II. My nephew, Mark Crenshaw, and I fought in Vietnam and were wounded the same week of February, 1968 during the Tet Offensive. I was fortunate. Mark was shot by an AK 47 and lost his hearing for 6 months from an RPG round that hit his armored vehicle. I fought at 2 of the largest battles the Marines would fight in, Con Thien and during the 77-day Siege at Khe Sanh when 6,000 Marines engaged 30,00 NVA troops. I was wounded in both battles.

When I retired, I wanted to both give back to the institutions that had been important to me (my undergraduate and graduate school colleges and the USMC). Closely related to that I wanted to help protect the American Heritage of our military. In 2003 I became a Founder of the new National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia. At that time I wasn’t aware of the Civil War Trust but they found me with the monthly letters and maps as they were pursuing land acquisitions of Civil War Battlefields. I met Jim Lighthizer in Charlottesville in 2006 and introduced myself. A year later I became a Board member of the Civil War Trust. During the 12 years when I was on the Board we acquired over 45,000 acres of Civil War, War of 1812 and Revolutionary War battlefields. For me that was an incredible experience. Since then I have joined the American Battlefield Alumni Board and plan to continue to support the cause for the rest of my life.

What do you enjoy most about being a Color Bearer?

My wife, Linda, and I have been at dozens of meetings of the Trust over the years. We have met hundreds of members and enjoy being with them. Our color bearers are like a big family. We all come from different backgrounds and yet each of us support a common cause – preserving American heritage and battlefields where Americans fought and died to preserve our country.

What is your favorite battlefield you’ve visited?

My favorite battlefield, like many other people, is Gettysburg. My wife and I have visited this battlefield over a dozen times. I have read many books about this battle. We have walked literally most of it during the various trips there. There are several portions of it where my skin literally “crawls”. Somehow the ghosts of soldiers who fought there have reached out to many people.

A second favorite battlefield is the Battle of Westport (Missouri). This was the largest Civil War battle in the state of Missouri, which I believe ranks 4th among states that had battles during the war. I grew up literally on the battlefield. A huge park just south of the Kansas City Plaza was once a portion of the battlefield’s climactic battle. Jacob Loose gave it to Kansas City in the 1930’s. The city has managed Loose Park well. I played ball there. My classes had picnics there. I even skated on the pond when it was frozen during winter months.

What would you like to pass on to future generations?

It is my goal to have the American Battlefield Trust eventually acquire or set aside 100,000 acres of American battlefields. Those battlefields would represent 95% of the battles fought during the Civil War. Being able to walk around that many battlefields that closely approximate what they looked like in the 1860’s would be a magnificent gift to America.

If you could meet any historical figure, who would you choose and why?

One of the Civil War officers who I have read a lot about is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. He was an incredible fighter and leader at the battle of Little Round Top at Gettysburg. He played an important role in the siege of Peterson in 1864-65. He was wounded a number of times but returned to duty afterwards. At General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, General Grant had General Chamberlain present for the ceremonies among a limited number of senior Union leadership.