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John F. Hartranft

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Title: John F. Hartranft  
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Subject: United States presidential election, 1876, John W. Geary, 28th Infantry Division (United States), List of Pennsylvania gubernatorial elections, 1876 Republican National Convention
Collection: 1830 Births, 1889 Deaths, American Civil War Recipients of the Medal of Honor, American People of German Descent, American Postmasters, Burials in Pennsylvania, Governors of Pennsylvania, Grand Army of the Republic, Grand Army of the Republic Commanders-in-Chief, Marshall University Alumni, Pennsylvania Auditors General, Pennsylvania Lawyers, Pennsylvania Republicans, People from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, People of Pennsylvania in the American Civil War, Republican Party State Governors of the United States, Union Army Generals, Union College (New York) Alumni, United States Army Medal of Honor Recipients
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John F. Hartranft

John F. Hartranft
17th Governor of Pennsylvania
In office
January 21, 1873 – January 21, 1879
Lieutenant John Latta
Preceded by John W. Geary
Succeeded by Henry M. Hoyt
Personal details
Born John Frederick Hartranft
(1830-12-16)December 16, 1830
New Hanover Township, Pennsylvania
Died October 17, 1889(1889-10-17) (aged 58)
Norristown, Pennsylvania
Resting place Montgomery Cemetery (West Norriton Township, Pennsylvania)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sallie Douglas Sebring
Profession Lawyer
Awards Medal of Honor
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861 - 1865
Rank Brevet Major General
Battles/wars American Civil War
*First Battle of Bull Run
*Battle of Fort Stedman

John Frederick Hartranft (December 16, 1830 – October 17, 1889) was the 17th Governor of Pennsylvania from 1873 to 1879 and a Union Major General who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the American Civil War.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Civil War 2
  • Postbellum activities 3
  • In memoriam 4
  • Medal of Honor citation 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life and career

Hartranft was born in Fagleysville, a village in New Hanover Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, near Pottstown, the son of Mary Lydia (Bucher) and Samuel Engle Hartranft.[1] He was descended from Abraham Hartranft (1723 - 1776), who was born in Silesia and settled in the Province of Pennsylvania.[2] He attended Marshall College in Mercersburg—a forerunner of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster—and received his degree in civil engineering in 1853 from Union College in Schenectady, New York. He briefly worked for two railroads in eastern Pennsylvania before returning home to Norristown to assist his father in the real estate and stage line businesses. In 1854, he was appointed deputy sheriff of Montgomery County. That same year, he married Sallie Douglas Sebring. They had six children, but three died in infancy.

Hartranft was active in the Norristown fire company and the local Freemason lodge. Hartranft was admitted to the bar in 1860, and rose to the rank of colonel in the Pennsylvania Militia.

Civil War

In April 1861, Hartranft raised a Montgomery County regiment of ninety-day volunteers in Norristown, serving as colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Their term of enlistment up, the regiment returned to Pennsylvania on the eve of the First Battle of Bull Run, just as the firing began. Hartranft was humiliated by his men's decision to go home. He stayed to fight with the Army on July 21, 1861. This act earned him the Medal of Honor on August 21, 1886, for volunteering his services to fellow Pennsylvanian Col. William B. Franklin. His citation reads: "Voluntarily served as an aide and participated in the battle after expiration of his term of service, distinguishing himself in rallying several regiments which had been thrown into confusion."[1]

Hartranft raised a three-year regiment, the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry, and became its colonel. They first served on the North Carolina coast in the Burnside Expedition, Hartranft led them in battle at Roanoke Island and New Bern. In July 1862, Hartranft's men proceeded to Newport News, Virginia, to become part of Burnside's IX Corps, with whom they fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run and at South Mountain. They also fought at the Battle of Antietam, where Hartranft led its famous charge across Burnside's Bridge, suffering 120 casualties. They also participated in the Battle of Fredericksburg. The 51st Pennsylvania was transferred to the Western Theater, where Hartranft saw action at the battles of Vicksburg, Campbell's Station, and Knoxville; in the latter two actions, he served as commander of the 2nd Division of the IX Corps while still a colonel.[3]

He commanded the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, of the IX Corps in the 1864 brevetted major general by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant for defeating Confederate General Robert E. Lee's last offensive at the Battle of Fort Stedman, bringing his untested division from its reserve position and counterattacking to recover the captured fort.[3]

Postbellum activities

At the war's end, Hartranft commanded the Fort Lesley McNair. He read them their last rites, and they were hanged.

Hartranft switched party allegiances following the war and became a National Guard. He supported suffrage for African Americans, fought the corrupt Simon Cameron political machine, and championed the rights of the workingman.

John F. Hartranft after the American Civil War

During his administration, the revision of the Commonwealth's constitution was completed and ratified as the Constitution of 1873, which prohibited special and local legislation and changed the terms for members of the state legislature to two years instead of one, and state senators from three years to four.

He was the 5th commander-in-chief of the Union veterans' organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, serving from 1875 to 1877. He was also a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

The United States celebrated its centennial as a nation in 1876, and Hartranft saw that Pennsylvania led the way in the celebration that was centered in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.

At the Republican National Convention in June 1876, he was a contender for the presidential nomination that eventually went to Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, who had served with Hartranft during the Civil War in the same army corps.

During his second term, economic depression and unemployment, following the industrial boom of the early 1870s, caused several serious civil disturbances, including the railroad strikes of 1877 and the incidents with the Molly Maguires in the anthracite coal regions. Hartranft called out the state militia and then Regular Army troops to maintain order. In Philadelphia, Reading, and Pittsburgh, fires burned and eleven people died along the Schuylkill River before Federal troops restored the peace. Hartranft later proposed recognition of labor unions and arbitration of claims.

Concerned with the governor's precedent in calling out the militia to battle civilians in Pittsburgh, the District Attorney of Allegheny County tried to force Hartranft to appear before a grand jury to explain his rationale. The courts backed Hartranft when he refused to appear. Their ruling became known as the "Hartranft Decision."

Hartranft returned to his home in Montgomery County in 1879, where he accepted the position of Postmaster. He was subsequently appointed Port Collector for Philadelphia. He was also reappointed to command the Pennsylvania National Guard, which he had helped develop.

On August 26, 1886 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor during the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861.

John Hartranft died in Norristown and was buried in Montgomery Cemetery in West Norriton Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, near Norristown. The Pennsylvania National Guard later provided an obelisk for his grave.

He was succeeded as commander of the

Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Devens
Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic
Succeeded by
John C. Robinson
Political offices
Preceded by
John White Geary
Governor of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Henry Martin Hoyt
  • "John F. Hartranft". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients.  
  • "Hartranft's account of his time as warden of the jailed Lincoln Assassination conspirators". Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  •  "Hartranft, John Frederick".  

External links

  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Sauers, Richard A., "John Frederick Hartranft", Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., eds., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
  • Sommers, Richard J., Richmond Redeemed : the Siege at Petersburg, Garden City, N.Y. : Doubleday, 1981.
  • Steers Jr., Edward, and Holzer, Harold, eds., The Lincoln Assassination Conspirators: Their Confinement and Execution, as Recorded in the Letterbook of John Frederick Hartranft, Louisiana State University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-8071-3396-5
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.


  1. ^ a b Eicher, p. 284.
  2. ^ "Abraham Hartranft". Geni. Retrieved September 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Sauers, pp. 941-42.
  4. ^ Samuel T. Wiley, Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, 1894, page 233


See also

Voluntarily served as an aide and participated in the battle after expiration of his term of service, distinguishing himself in rallying several regiments which had been thrown into confusion.


Rank and organization: Colonel, 4th Pennsylvania Militia. Place and date: At Bull Run, Va., July 21, 1861. Entered service at: Norristown, Pa. Born: December 16, 1830, New Hanover Township, Montgomery County, Pa. Date of issue: August 26, 1886.

Medal of Honor citation

The Hartranft section of North Philadelphia, and a street in the Packer Park section of South Philadelphia near the sports complex, both in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, are also in his honor. A residence hall at the University Park campus of Pennsylvania State University is named after him. Three avenues in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania are named in his honor: the first is in Norristown, Pennsylvania and is the avenue leading to the cemetery in which he is buried. The other avenues are located in nearby East Norriton Township and in Fort Washington, Upper Dublin Township. A street in the Brookline section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is also named after him.

An impressive equestrian statue next to the Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg honors Hartranft.[2] Camp No. 15 of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War is named in his honor. Marble monuments at Petersburg and Vicksburg honor his Civil War service. An elementary school in Norristown is named for the governor as well as another elementary school in Philadelphia.

Hartranft's statue on the Pennsylvania State Capitol grounds

In memoriam


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