Born in Rutherford County, Tennessee, to George and Lavinia Crosthwait, brothers Shelton, Frank, and Bromfield Ridley relocated with the family to Iowa during the 1850s. When Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861, Shelton made his way home. On the day of his arrival at Old Jefferson in Rutherford County, he made an impassioned speech to the crowd as young men gathered to enlist. After the speech, Shelton enlisted in what became Company E of the Twentieth Tennessee Infantry Regiment. At the Battle of Fishing Creek (also called the Battle of Logan’s Crossroads) outside of Nancy, Kentucky, on January 19, 1862, a round struck Shelton, wounding but not disabling him. Declaring “Boys, they have shot me, but I can still shoot,” Shelton remained on the field until another round ended his life. Frank followed his older brother into Company E, where he served for a time as a color bearer. At the Battle of Shiloh, Frank escaped death during an artillery bombardment. Resting his chin on a tree branch, Frank spotted a cannonball bouncing straight for him. He hit the ground just before the ball struck exactly where he had been resting. Back on his feet, Frank could only stare at the impact point and laugh. By age 20, Frank had received the commission of Third Lieutenant. As only fate could arrange, Frank was mortally wounded in his home county during the Battle of Stones River on December 31, 1862, when a round severed an artery. His body was removed to the Rutherford County Courthouse, where it lay on a counter in the days following the battle. The youngest Crosthwaite boy, Bromfield Ridley, joined the Second Missouri Infantry when he was not quite 16. In charging Federal earthworks during the Battle for Corinth on October 4, 1862, a musket ball mortally wounded young Bromfield as he neared the Federal artillery. He died that night in the hospital and was buried near the battlefield. Notification of Bromfield’s death took six months to reach his parents who, by the dawn of 1863, had lost all three of their sons.
- Three brothers died in Confederate service
- Shelton and Frank served in 20th Tennessee Infantry, while Bromfield enlisted in 2nd Missouri