In Memory of 
Harry Sproehnle
Age 58 - Died 14 December 2004

I will remember Harry for his wonderful smile. His whole face smiled and his eyes twinkled. He had a great love for History and re-enacting. He so graciously agreed to do the column about one of his alter egos, John Frederick Hartranft for this website. Harry also "guested" in one of our Golden Gates American Civil War History chats, on AOL, in April 2002 and presented "The Exploits of General John Frederick Hartranft" 

I also got to see Harry as Mark Twain, and listen to him read some of the stories Mr. Twain wrote. As you can see above, I had taken a picture of Harry as the 19th Century author and then was able to find a picture of Mark Twain in almost the very same pose. The resemblance is remarkable, don't you think?

Born in Long Beach, California, Harry was a long time resident of Levittown, PA before moving to Newark, DE five years ago. He was a member of the 28th Pennsylvania Historical Association, Sons of the Union Veterans and the Grand Army of the Republic. 

He is survived by 2 daughters, 5 siblings and many nieces & nephews

Harry requested that his ashes be spread in Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA near General Hartranft. There will be a plaque dedicated to his memory in the rose garden of the cemetery. 

May you rest in peace Harry.  You will be missed.

John Fredrick Hartranft
by Harry Sproehnle

John Fredrick Hartranft was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania on December 16th 1830. He was the only child of Samuel Hartranft and Lydia Blucher Hartranft. When John was 13 years old, the Family moved to Norristown, Pa. His Schooling consisted of: Tremont Academy, Marshall College, and Union College. He was graduated as a civil engineer in 1853. On January 26th 1854, he married Sallie Douglas Sebring of Easton, Pa. They had seven children, only 4 lived to adulthood.

John worked on several local railroad projects, but soon returned to Norristown to help his father with his businesses. John also became involved with the local militia, the Norris Rifles, in 1857. He was elected Lt., later, Capt., and then Lt.Col. He passed the Pa. Bar at this time, and was also Deputy Sheriff of Montgomery County. At Lincoln's Call for Volunteers in 1861, John offered the 1st Regiment, 2nd brigade, 2nd Division Pa. Militia to Governor Curtin to defend Pa. His regiment was accepted as the 4th Penna. Volunteer Infantry, a three-month regiment. The regiment was officially accepted and Hartranft was Commissioned Col. on April 21st 1861. So began the Military career of John Hartranft.

The photo to the left is that of Harry Sproehnle standing in front of a portrait of John Fredrick Hartranft.  Remarkable resemblance if you ask me.

Three months later, on July 21st, the enlistment of the 4th was up, and the men voted to take their discharges. The Regiment, with few exceptions, marched back to Washington. The notable exception was John Hartranft. He served as a staff officer for his Brigade commander, and did great service in that capacity, at the Battle of Bull Run. In 1886 he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service at Bull Run.

After the battle, he returned home to form a three-year regiment. He was able to recruit 5 companies from his native Montgomery County. The five companies became the nucleus of the 51st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, a regiment with a hard won record of achievement. John's history with the 51st was one of success, mutual respect and affection. His record of engagements and movements during the war is of heroic proportion.

This is a list of engagements in which John Hartranft fought: 1st Bull Run, Burnside's North Carolina campaign, (Roanoke Island, and Newbern). He went home to Norristown at this time, because two of his children were gravely ill with scarlet fever. When he reached home, Little Willy and Ada had been buried for several days.

 In July, to reinforce McClellan, Burnside moved his Troops to Newport News Va., as the Ninth Army Corps. Hartranft was, from that point on, with the Ninth Army Corps. August 29th 1862, Second Bull Run was fought, Hartranft and the 51st were in support of a Battery, Hartranft himself helped work the guns. On the 30th the 51st again supported Durell's Battery. As the Union Army retreated, Reno's division, including the 51st and Hartranft, covered the rear of the army. At Chantilly, Hartranft was doing good service to the rebels in Lead and Shot. As dark came, two union general's lost their lives, Phil Kearney and General Stevens, This seemed to end the fighting.

The battle on South Mountain was a victory for the union and a sad day for the Ninth Corps. General Reno, in command of the ninth corps, was mortally wounded. On the 17th of September, the Army of the Potomac met the rebels at the battle of Antietam. The Ninth Corps was assigned the task of crossing the Antietam at the Rohrbach Bridge. After 3 failed attempts, Hartranft and the 51st took the bridge, with the help of the 51st New York. The bridge is now known as Burnside's Bridge. 

After the fight at Fredericksburg, John and the 51st were then, along with the Ninth AC, transferred to the western theater. At Vicksburg the Ninth AC was under the command of William T. Sherman, whose job was to protect Grant's siege lines from Joe Johnson's Confederate army. With the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4th 1863, Sherman was ordered to attack Johnson at Jackson Miss. Hartranft was in temporary command of the Second Brigade, Second Division, 9th AC. Hartranft and his Brigade were the first to enter Jackson.

In August of 1863, the Ninth Corps was reassigned to Burnsides Command. At Campbell's Station, Hartranft had one of his finest moments. Longstreet was ordered, by Bragg, to take Knoxville. He rushed McLaw's division towards Knoxville in an effort to beat the Union army into the city. Hartranft, in temporary command of the 2nd division, was also racing toward Knoxville. At Campbell's Station, a vital crossroads, John formed his division into line of battle 15 minutes before McLaw's division showed up. He was able to hold the enemy in check long enough for the rest of the army to reach Knoxville. Being a trained engineer, his defense of his mile and a half portion of the line was novel, to say the least. He dammed up a millstream and flooded his front for several miles to a depth of 12 feet; the rebels did not test his part of the line.

The 9th AC was, on the eve of the New Year, again moved to the east and under Burnside's command. In May of 1864, the Army with U.S. Grant directing all the armies of the U.S., moved into the part of central Virginia known as the 'Wilderness.' Hartranft was now in command of the 1st Brigade, 3rd division, 9th AC. On the morning of May 6th, the brigade was sent to the front, their fight lasted till 7PM. May 12th brought Hartranft and his brigade to Spotsylvania and a hard fought battle that cost the brigade 687 casualties.

June 3rd found Hartranft, and indeed the whole Federal army, at Cold Harbor Va. While in his tent writing reports, a stray ball from a rebel picket entered his tent and lifted one of his new stars from his shoulder, he commented to his wife, 'I thought it a novel way to reduce me in rank.' On the 17th of June, the Ninth Corps assisted the 2nd Corps in the assault on Petersburg, Hartranft and the 1st brigade led, and were repulsed, with heavy loss. On 30 July 1864, Genl. Burnside launched the 'Battle of the Crater;' it was the last of Burnside. Hartranft was one of the few officers not cashiered or transferred after the debacle. John given command of the 3rd Division after the fight at Globe Tavern. 1865 was the year Hartranft got his last promotion. March 25th 1865, Lee ordered an attack on Fort Steadman with 1/3rd of his army. Hartranft was equal to the task and repulsed the attack with great loss to Lee.

Two days later, John received his second star in recognition of his decisive action at Fort Stedman. Thirteen days later, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia; the war was over. Within 5 days, on April 14th, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. General Hartranft was appointed Provost Marshall General of the Washington Military District. His duties included; care and delivery of those arrested in the conspiracy to murder the president, to and from the courtroom. He was also charged He with executing the orders of the court. On July 7th, the four conspirators, condemned to death, were hung by his order.

John Hartranft's service to his country, in time of war, was finally done and he returned to Norristown and Sallie. He also began a new type of service, but this time to his home state, Pennsylvania. He was elected Auditor General of Pennsylvania, and served two terms. John then ran for, and won the Governorship; he served two terms in that office. He then reorganized the Pennsylvania National Guard into its present form, and served as its commander until his death on October 17, 1889, at the age of 59. Hartranft is buried in Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA.

To see the tombstone of John Fredrick Hartranft visit the Montgomery Cemetery at

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