Family Stories john RicHard brant: union Army Volunteer

The Farmer

We have a considerable amount of information about John Richard Brant, especially given the fact that he died over 150 years ago. (Although much remains to be discovered.)

We know that he was born 18 July 1825 at Butler, Pennsylvania. And that he was the third of seven sons of Charles Slade Fullwood Brant and Ruth Book. All of the boys were over six feet tall and weighed more than 200 pounds.

He married Margaret M. Steen in Butler in 1849. She was born in 1830. They had four children, Isabella (1849), Charles, (1854), Horace 1860) and Anna (1861). We also know from census records that John for a while was a bricklayer and later was engaged in farming.

Farm home of John & Margaret Brant

The War

When the Civil War began, the regular Union Army consisted of fewer than 16,000 men, and there was "consternation at the seat of government" because Confederate troops were advancing on Washington.

On 22 July 1861 Congress authorized formation of a 500,000 man volunteer army. And by the end of the war - which lasted much longer and was more extensive than anyone in the North or South expected - 2.5 million men, almost all volunteers, had served in the Union Army.

The Volunteer Soldier

In July 1862 the governor of Pennsylvania called for troops to serve nine months in the army, and John was one who responded. He mustered in 14 August 1862 as a Second Lieutenant in Company B, 134th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In December he was promoted to Captain.

Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry troops in training.

The 134th was dispatched to Washington, then Arlington Heights for training. After that they marched to the Bull Run battleground, but did not arrive in time to participate in fighting.

Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry troops in camp.

They went on to Antietam, but fighting there had already subsided. Next they went to Fredericksburg where they did engage briefly in battle. All of this troop movement occurred during "inclement weather" and terrible, muddy conditions. Typhoid often was a problem.

Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Field Officers and Troops.

The Battle of Chancellorsville

The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the Civil War and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. The final result, although costly to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, was a victory over Major General Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac. The fiercest fighting of the battle - and the second bloodiest day of the Civil War - occurred 3 May 1863 as Lee launched multiple attacks against the Union position at Chancellorsville.

Headquarters, Army of the Potomac.

Samuel P. Bates, in History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, includes a report on the battle by General E. B. Tyler: "The One Hundred and Thirty-fourth under Colonel Edward O'Brien was second in line, and no set of men could have behaved better. The officers, one and all following the example of their Colonel, who was constantly on the alert, were very active, and not a man shirked his duty."

Bridge on the Rappahannock River, and a Union Army Artillery Brigade.

Bates also writes that "The loss in the engagement was forty-eight men killed, wounded and missing. Captain John Brant was among the killed. After the battle, the regiment returned to its former camp, and a few days thereafter, its term of service having expired, was ordered back to Harrisburg, where, on the 26th of May, it was mustered out of service." In other words, John was just two weeks from returning home.

Adding to the tragedy, John's wife Margaret and daughter Anna died less than a year later, leaving Isabella, Charles and Horace without parents.

The graves of John, Margaret and Anna, along with John's mother Ruth, are located in the Zion Baptist Church Cemetery, Worth Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

Brant Family monument for John (buried elsewhere), Margaret, Anna and Ruth.

John also has an individual cenotaph in the cemetery that was provided by the United States War Department. (He was buried in Virginia with other casualties of Chancellorsville.)

Cenotaph for Captain John Brant.

On a closing note, the Brant's three surviving children were taken into the care of relatives and seem to have lived fairly normal lives after that.


  • Cover: Western Pennsylvania in the Fall.
  • Historical information and quotes from "History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865," by Samuel P. Bates.
  • Historical photographs from the Mathew Brady collection.
  • Thanks to Bob and Jan Wanke for additional research and photography.
Created By
William Koss

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