TRAVERSE CITY — EdItor's note: Part of an occasional series that explores the lives of Grand Traverse area soldiers and their families during wartime. Past articles are available at Record-Eagle.com/history.
David Duane, the only Confederate soldier buried in Traverse City's Oakwood Cemetery -- and possibly the region -- is an elusive fellow.
Most of what is known about his life and death exists in a 165-word-obituary published two days after his death on Jan. 18, 1908.
"David Duane Is Dead: Was One of Few Confederates in North," the front-page headline announced in the city's Evening Record, a forerunner of today's Record-Eagle.
"He enlisted in the Confederate army near the beginning of the struggle and later fought under Morgan, being one of the Raiders," the paper reported.
Morgan's Raiders were part of a crack Confederate cavalry unit of 2,460 hand-picked men led by Col. John Hunt Morgan. Originally from Kentucky, Morgan left his home state when it didn't secede from the Union and went to Tennessee to raise a militia cavalry regiment that eventually became part of the Confederate Army.
The Raiders were best known for a 1,100-mile-long series of raids in July 1863 from Tennessee up through Kentucky, into Indiana and on to Ohio -- the farthest north Confederate forces came during the Civil War. They destroyed bridges, railroads and government stores, and spread terror across southern and central Ohio in an attempt to sap Union strength from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and Vicksburg, Miss.
Duane's obituary provides scant clues about this 19th century man who didn't use his middle initial -- a stumbling stone for anyone trying to track a long-dead soldier through a maze of census, marriage, death and other records.
The Record-Eagle found no Confederate States of America records for him, but that isn't unusual. Many Confederate States of America records were destroyed or lost during and after the devastating four-year war, fought mostly in the South.
The obituary reported that Duane had come to Michigan about 30 years before his death and to Traverse City about 1900. He was a millwright, a term used for a person who designs, builds, or repairs mills or mill machinery. The lumbering industry was declining in northwest Lower Michigan by 1908, but it still remained a major employer. The Oval Wood Dish Co., Traverse City's biggest wood production operation after the turn of the century, wouldn't leave until 1917.
The Evening Record said Duane was born Nov. 14, 1841, and was 66 at the time of his fatal stroke, but he probably was 65.
His headstone at Oakwood Cemetery indicates his birth year as 1842. His death certificate, signed by son David M. Duane, noted he was born on Nov. 14, 1842, to unnamed French-born parents in Burlington, Vt., not far from the border of French-speaking Quebec in Canada.
His survivors included his wife, Sarah, and three sons, David M., Henry B., and Peter, the obituary said.
Census records reveal that the Duane family lived in Alcona County at the time of the 1880 Census and that the former soldier's occupation was "house carpenter." An Alpena business directory in 1891 and 1892 advertised a David Duane as a carpenter. The family lived in Charlevoix at the time of the 1900 national head count. The Duanes must have moved to Traverse City sometime after that.
Three other people rest on the Duane family plot, Oakwood Cemetery sexton Branden Morgan said. Sarah Jane Duane, his wife, died 10 months later and was buried beside David Duane after her Oct. 16, 1908, death. Census records indicate she was born in New York State in 1843, so she was about the same age as her husband. Her name, birth and death dates never were carved into the headstone.
Their oldest son lies under a stone marked David M. Duane II. A great-grandson, David Marshall Duane, 1942-2002, is buried a short distance away from both graves. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam era and was a grandson of David M. Duane II.
Nothing in the obituary unravels the story of how a man born in Vermont became a Confederate soldier.
"My husband always said David Duane served with the Texas Rangers," Geri Duane said. She is the widow of the great-grandson and lives in Kalamazoo.
The Texas Rangers date to the early 1800s, but the state law enforcement agency did not fight in the Civil War. Morgan's Raiders did include a cavalry squadron called Gano's Texas Rangers, also known as Gano's Battalion. Created as a rifleman unit in 1861 in Texas by Capt. Richard Gano, originally from Kentucky, it was reorganized in 1862 and became part of the Morgan cavalry unit.
Tom Jenkins, graves registration officer for the 11-county Robert Finch Camp No. 14 of the Michigan Department of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, learned about the grave from the cemetery sexton in 2009 and after confirming the information, arranged to have a Confederate flag holder placed by the grave.