John Frederick Hartranft was rare among men. He was both an outstanding military leader and an outstanding political leader.
From the very beginning, Hartranft showed his courage and character as a commander.
In the first big battle of the Civil War, his troops were 90-day enlistees who shocked him by leaving the battlefield. Hartranft stayed, and showed the dedication and determination that marked him as one of the most consistently dependable commanders in the Union Army.
It was this kind of spirit that earned him the prestigious Medal of Honor.
His spirit prevailed as he confronted obstacle after obstacle, in wartime and in peacetime. Throughout the turbulent times that followed Lincoln’s assassination –marred by the Molly Maguires murders and the railroad strikes — Governor Hartranft never ran from a challenge. He faced economic, political and organized labor crises with uncommon courage and persistence.
After he served two terms as Pennsylvania’s Governor, he went on to lead the National Guard and to build it into the powerhouse fighting force that endures to this day.
Although their career paths may differ in time and scope, both Governor Hartranft and today’s Adjutant General, Major General Wesley Craig, share many key traits: their unwavering belief in the National Guard, their steadfastness in protecting freedom, and the care and concern they show toward our veterans.
Today, more than 120 years after Gov. Hartranft’s death, most of us probably walk by “Old Johnny’s” statue on the Capitol Plaza without a second glance or a second thought.
But today, on National Guard Day, I thank all of you for taking the time to salute a man who was a winner, both on and off the battlefield. As we lay a wreath upon his statue, we repeat the solemn ceremony that inspired Decoration Day, or what is now known as Memorial Day.
Governor Hartranft’s life philosophy was: The more I can make of myself, the more I can help others…. And that is the lesson we should take with us every time we walk by Governor Hartranft’s statue.
Thank you for remembering him today, and recognizing his fighting spirit and public service, always.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson