Born in 1830 in Pennsylvania, John Hartranft attended school in Virginia and received his degree from Union College in New York. Before the war he was a trained civil engineer, a lawyer, and had held political office. The 90-day volunteer unit he belonged to turned its back and went home on the eve of First Manassas. Though their enlistment was up, Hartranft was humiliated by the decision and he stayed to fight with the army. This act earned him the Medal of Honor. He spent time in North Carolina, fought at Antietam, and served in the West, before gaining command of the 3rd Division of the IX Corps towards the end of the war.
Hartranft is credited with the Union success at Fort Stedman and for this was made a brevet major general.
At war's end he was appointed a special provost marshal during the trial of those accused in Lincoln's assassination. Afterwards he became a general auditor, a two-term governor of Pennsylvania, the postmaster of Philadelphia, and collector of the city port. He died in 1889.