Charles Cruft was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on January 12, 1826. After graduation from Wabash College in 1842, he taught school, worked as a bank clerk, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1848. From 1855 until 1858 he served as president of the St. Louis, Alton, and Terre Haute Railroad. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was in Washington and witnessed the battle of First Manassas (Bull Run) as a spectator. On September 20, 1861, he was mustered into the volunteer army as colonel of the 31st Indiana Infantry. With this regiment he took part in the capture of Fort Donelson, where he commanded a brigade in Lew Wallace's division; the battle of Shiloh, where he was severely wounded in the leg and shoulder; and in the siege of Corinth. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers to rank from July 16, 1862. Cruft distinguished himself at the disastrous battle of Richmond, Kentucky; was present, but not engaged, at Perryville; and commanded a brigade of J. M. Palmer's division at Murfreesboro and Chickamauga. Thereafter he was given command of a division in Granger's IV Corps, which he led in the battle of Chattanooga. Cruft and his division were sent to the relief of Knoxville; had a minor role in the Atlanta campaign; accompanied W. T. Sherman to Alabama; and then proceeded into Tennessee to oppose John B. Hood's invasion. At the battle of Nashville, Cruft commanded the "provisional division," Army of the Cumberland—an outfit composed primarily of detachments of Negro troops from the XIV, XV, XVII, and XX Corps "which had been unable to rejoin their proper commands in Georgia." At the end of the war Cruft was stationed at Huntsville, Alabama. He had been brevetted a major general to rank from March 5, 1865, and was honorably mustered out on August 24. Afterward he resumed residence in Terre Haute and revived his law practice. General Craft rose high in the Masonic order, becoming a member of the Supreme Commandery, Knights Templar of the United States. He died in Terre Haute, March 23, 1883, and was buried there in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.