Wednesday, March 2, 2011

John Grant, Jr., The Iron Brigade and the Battle of South Mountain

My great, great, great grandfather John Grant, Jr. was born March 3, 1841 and died on June 10, 1912. He was a member of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry, a unit in the legendary “Iron Brigade.” He was wounded in the leg at the battle of South Mountain on September 14th 1862. The wound resulted in his leg being amputated. He was discharged on April 2nd 1863.

His brother Charles was a member of the 50th Wisconsin Infantry. His brother Robert was a member of the 13th Wisconsin Infantry.

These sparse facts have been pieced together by several family members who at various times had tracked and documented their genealogy. As John Grant, Jr. was my grandmother Mary’s grandfather I recall her talking about him many times. The family legend has it that Abraham Lincoln visited Grant in the military hospital and presented him with a daguerreotype as a gift. I saw this daguerreotype many years ago at a family reunion and its present whereabouts are unknown. Although a daguerreotype of President Lincoln was clearly passed on from generation to generation, I have not been able to verify that Lincoln visited the wounded from the 7th Wisconsin Infantry after the Maryland Campaign. After Lincoln’s death daguerreotype’s were widely distributed and cherished as mementos of the Great Emancipator and it’s possible it came into Grant’s possession years after the war. History is elusive, and legends grow in the telling. Anything is possible.

Grant’s leg (or possibly his foot) was wounded at Turner’s Gap near South Mountain. The wound was so severe that his leg was amputated. Amputations were common for severe wounds but quite often the surgery resulted in death from blood loss. Grant was indeed fortunate to have survived both Turner’s Gap and his leg wound.

The photograph shown here depicts a peg-legged Grant with his wife Mary Ward some years later. The second photograph is Grant’s obituary from a 1912 Wonewoc, Wisconsin newspaper.

Grant’s unit, The Iron Brigade, was also known as “The Black Hat Brigade.” Members of the Iron Brigade distinguished themselves at Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg,, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. The battle at South Mountain where Grant lost his leg was a bloody precursor to the battles that followed.

Anyone with additional information regarding the 7th Wisconsin Infantry’s activities at Turner’s Gap, or clarification on the Abraham Lincoln military hospital visit are encouraged to contact me via the “contact” page on my website HERE.

Incidentally, John Grant, Jr. was not directly related to Ulysses S. Grant.


  1. Fascinating, Tom! There was supposed to be an officer named DeWitt who crossed the Delaware with Washington - and another General DeWitt served in WWII but we don't talk about him much because he apparently signed the order to intern the Japanese!

  2. Thanks David! family histories are fascinating indeed! I'm not surprised that you had a relative that crossed the Delaware with Washington. Those DeWitts are great!


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