John Frederick Hartranft

John Frederick Hartranft was born December 16, 1830, near Pottstown, Pennsylvania. After attendng Marshall College for a time, he was graduated from Union College in 1853 as a civil engineer. He transferred his interest to the field of law and in 1860 was admitted to the Montgomery County bar. At the beginning of the Civil War he was colonel of a militia regiment mustered into the service of the United States on April 20, 1861, as the 4th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month regiment enlisted to suppress the rebellion. Ninety days later, on the eve of the battle of First Manassas, the entire regiment marched to the rear, turning their backs to the enemy and claiming expiration of service, despite personal pleas by Hartranft and by General Irvin McDowell, commander of the army. Hartranft volunteered for service with General W. B. Franklin during the ensuing battle, a decision which caused Congress to award him a Medal of Honor in 1886. He soon undertook the organization of the 51st Pennsylvania Regiment, was commissioned its colonel on November 16, 1861, and with it participated in Ambrose E. Burnside's occupation of the North Carolina coast in the spring of 1862. The defection of his regiment at Bull Run probably retarded his promotion; he was not appointed a brigadier general until May 12, 1864, for services at the battle of Spotsylvania Court House. He was advanced to the command of a division at Petersburg and as of March 28, 1865, was brevetted major general for gallantry in successfully opposing the attack of the Confederate Second Corps on Fort Stedman, the last organized offensive by Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Soon after Hartranft found himself in a less congenial post—that of special provost marshal for the trial of those accused of the assassination of President Lincoln. General Hartranft showed unexpected consideration to the alleged conspirators, particularly Mrs. Surratt, who was hurried to the gallows on little evidence. Mustered out in 1866, he quickly became a power in Pennsylvania politics. From 1865 until 1885 he served as auditor general, governor for two terms, postmaster of Philadelphia, and collector of the port of Philadelphia from 1881 until 1885. He died in Norristown, Pennsylvania, on October 17, 1889, and was buried in Montgomery Cemetery.

Medal of Honor citation:
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.
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.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.