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J.R. Rankin

J.R. Rankin

Federal (USV)


John Robert Rankin

(1843 - 1910)

Home State: Indiana

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 27th Indiana Infantry

Before Antietam

An 18 year old printer in Greencastle, Putnam County, he mustered as Private, Company A, 27th Indiana Infantry on 12 September 1861.

On the Campaign

He was with his company in Maryland and later wrote an extensive memoir about what he saw and felt on 17 September 1862. By way of highlights:

What I saw at Antietam is of small moment; it was similar to what the thousands of other participants saw ... the command is given to form the regiment into columns by company ... an old white haired general rides up. He is a stranger, but we soon learn that it is General Mansfield, the new commander of the Twelfth Corps. He inquires, "What regiment?", is answered, and tells the Colonel to let the men sit down and rest, as they are not needed yet. Then he smilingly turns to the men and says: "Boys, we're going to lick 'em today." We believe him.

... Riderless horses dash over the field, dead and dying men cover the ground, and dismounted artillery is piled up in heaps. The remains of a Pennsylvania Reserve regiment is standing out in the meadow with about thirty men on each side of the colors ... They are not expecting reinforcements until they look back and see our column coming to their aid. What a reception they give us! They swing their caps in the air, yell, and act as though they want to embrace every one of us. But this is not all they do. They get out of our way, and when our regiment deploys columns they form on our left and go forward and stay with us until the rebels are driven from the cornfield.

... The 3rd Wisconsin, on our right, has also deployed ... In the left company of the 3rd I see the old gambler who, after each pay day, would come over to the 27th and relieve our boys of their extra change by his scientific draw poker. My meditation takes a pious trend. Old man, you are likely, in a little while, to be in the presence of your Maker. How bad you must feel with all those ill gotten gains in your pockets? Thank heaven my pockets are undefiled. My luck since last pay day has been awful.

...The 27th Indiana and 3rd Wisconsin are ordered to stop and wait for ammunition, while the regiments which had suffered less pursue the retreating enemy. While waiting, a major general on a white horse rides up. He exclaims in an angry tone: "What are these men doing here?" "We are waiting for ammunition, General." "Where-in-the-hell's-your-bayonets? Forward!" The last words of the general came with a sort of a roar. Hooker was his name ... If he could have remained, Antietam would have told a different story.

The rest of the War

He was promoted to First Sergeant, date not given. He was wounded by a gunshot to his left thigh in action at Gettysburg, PA on 3 July 1863, returned to duty in October 1863, and reenlisted in January 1864. He was commissioned First Lieutenant on 19 April 1864 and mustered out on 4 November 1864 at Atlanta, GA.

After the War

He returned to Greencastle and bought the Putnam Republican Banner but sold it in 1865. From 1866 to 1874 he lived in Indianapolis, Chicago, and Kansas. He was 15 years in Indianapolis, to 1899, then went to Washington, DC and was a proofreader at the Government Printing Office.

References & notes

His service from the State of Indiana1 and Brown,2 source also of his photograph. Personal details from family genealogists. His gravesite is on Findagrave. Thanks to Jim Smith [on twitter] for the pointer to Rankin.

He married Margaret Louise Boyd (1863-1944) in October 1893 and they had 3 children.

More on the Web

The quotes above from his narrative What I Thought at Antietam which is among the Oliver S. Rankin papers in the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis. The text of that and other details about Rankin are from a piece in the Civil War Times of September 2006 by James J. and Patience P. Barnes.


01/20/1843; Greencastle, IN


10/15/1910; Washington, DC; burial in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA


1   State of Indiana, Adjutant General's Office, and William H.H. Terrell, Adjutant General, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, 8 volumes, Indianapolis: (various) State Printers, 1865-1869  [AotW citation 25981]

2   Brown, Edmund Randolph, The Twenty-Seventh Indiana Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, Monticello, IN: E.R. Brown, 1899, pp. 73 (photo), 566  [AotW citation 25982]