Friday, May 24, 2013

Ira Whitaker Grant, 1842 - 1864

For Memorial Day, this post is honoring one of my ancestors who died in battle during the Civil War.Although I have many ancestors who fought in all of this country's wars, I only know of two who died while in service. I wrote about Clifford E. Stalls, who died during World War II here. Clifford was known as "Buddy" and he was my mother's cousin or my first cousin, once removed. In this post, I honor the memory of another first cousin, three times (3 generations) removed, Ira Whitaker Grant, who died during the Civil War.

Ira was the son of Sylvester Grant, Jr and his wife Susan L Boomer. He was born 28 January 1844 possibly in Fall River, Massachusetts. His family moved soon after to Valley Falls, Rhode Island, where his father was a shoe-maker. Ira had nine known brothers and sisters - he was the fifth child as well as fifth son, and had six brothers and three sisters who lived to adulthood. In the 1860 census for Valley Falls, Ira's occupation is that of jeweler, and he is living with his parents, his next older brother George, and five younger siblings.

Ira enlisted for service in Company E, 7th Infantry Regiment of the Rhode Island Volunteers on 11 August 1862 when he was 18 years old. He mustered into service on 6 September, on the same day his older brothers, Samuel and George mustered into service in the same company. Ira died during the battle at Cold Harbor, Virginia on 3 June 1864 - his two brothers had been previously discharged on surgeon's certificates - George in December 1862 and Samuel in March 1863. George died a month after he was discharged, of consumption, and is buried in the Grant family plot at Moshassuck Cemetery in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Samuel died in 1915 at age 82 of pneumonia and also is buried in Moshassuck Cemetery in a different plot with no headstone.

From "The Seventh Regiment of RI Volunteers in the Civil War, 1862-1865" by William P. Hopkins, Snow & Farmham Printers, Providence, RI, 1903: p 386-387, copy found in Google Books:

 Ira Whitaker Grant, fifth child of Sylvester and Susan Boomer Grant, was born at Valley Falls, Cumberland, April 12, 1842. [ I think this might be the birth-date of brother George, not Ira, and birth location of his younger siblings]. There were three daughters and ten sons in the family of whom only three sons are now living (November, 1902). Ira received a common school education and was employed as a clerk at the time of his enlistment. Two brothers, George S. and Samuel, accompanied him to the field. He was mortally wounded at Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864. Joseph Taylor was ordered to assist him to the rear and see him well started toward a field hospital. Now Grant was a small man so his comrade could readily handle him. They had reached the border of the swamp to the rear of the line of battle when he became exhausted from loss of blood. Taylor laid him down and he fainted. Just then a rebel shell knocked a large limb from an overhanging tree which fell and covered them both. Taylor finally succeeded in throwing off the limb, but Grant still remained in his faint. The former had never seen a person in that condition and had not the slightest idea what should be done. None were near to call. Shells and bullets filled the atmosphere above them. He feared his comrade was dead and that he would be obliged to leave him. Just then he noticed Grant's head was settling in the swampy water to his face and lips, and began to move. He then seized him by the shoulders and dragged him through the swamp where in places both sank knee deep in the soft mud. Beyond they found some men with stretchers, on one of which the wounded soldier was placed and hastily borne to the field hospital. A surgeon examined him and found that while one bullet had gone through his left thigh, another had entered his breast just below his heart. The former was supposed to be his only injury until the search revealed the other. He lived but half an hour longer.

According to family papers, Ira had a headstone on the family plot at Moshassuck Cemetery but it is no longer there. In the same family papers, he is listed as "left on battlefield". I called Richmond National Battlefield Park headquarters around 10 years ago and was told by the Park historian that many bodies were lost in temporary graves before they were repatriated back to home cemeteries. There is no record for Ira's body - presumably his is one of those that was never found, or if found was never identified.

The battle at Cold Harbor was a major defeat and disaster for the Union Army. Under the direction of General Grant (no relationship) the Union Army tried a frontal assault on the Confederate Army in the hopes of breaking thru the rebel lines and taking the Confederate capitol at Richmond. Instead, the Union Army lost around 7000 men in less than an hour to the well-entrenched rebel soldiers. It is not clear exactly how the Union Command miscalculated the battle so badly, except that it appears there was conflict between Generals Grant and Meade. And it was the common soldiers, including Ira Grant, who paid the price.
"Grant at City Point  [i.e. Cold Harbor], Va., June 1864
Library of Congress image 

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