Dakota Datebook

William Groninger

Friday, November 26, 2010


William Groninger was born on a farm in Pennsylvania. He had a long and interesting life, serving as county surveyor, county commissioner and as commissioner’s clerk there in Juniata County, as well as working once as a teacher and principal. He was also recruited into the 126th Regiment of Pennsylvania, Company I, during the Civil War.

Groninger and his fellow soldiers were mustered into the United States service in mid August of 1862. Fresh into service from civilian life, Groninger and his brothers in arms set off to fight, crossing into Maryland. In the early dawn of September 17, just a month into their service, they marched into the Battle of Antietam. Imagine: the heat of battle, the scent of sweat and blood – men, including two commanding officers, dropping all around. By the end of the day, an estimated 4,000 soldiers died with 18,000 wounded, and the battle earned designation as the bloodiest single day in American History. By the end of the Maryland Campaign, 34 men of the 126th infantry were killed and 85 were wounded.

Groninger survived this and other battles, though, and in the early 1900s moved his wife and children to homestead in North Dakota near Des Lacs. His wife became ill the following year, and he took her back to their former home, where she died and was buried. He returned and lived in North Dakota for many years.

North Dakota, as a territory and later as a state, attracted many civil war veterans. There was an Abraham Lincoln G-A-R post in Minot, but Groninger chose to remain a member of the post in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, where his old comrades were members.

On this date in 1934, at 1:00 in the morning, Groninger passed away. He was 92 years old, and his death was reported across the state—as he was purportedly the last civil war veteran in Ward County. He was one of the last of a generation, of a time we now can study only through the lives of those who fought.

As penned by one poet:

“By the flow of the inland river,

Whence the fleets of iron have fled,

Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,

Asleep are the ranks of the dead:

Under the sod and the dew,

Waiting the judgment-day;

Under the one, the Blue,

Under the other, the Gray.”

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker



William’s descendant Jerald passes along the following:
“If you’re interested a short, interesting memoir of William’s Civil War experiences can be found here.
The 126th PA arrived at Sharpsburg the day after the conflict, and participated in the famous battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.”


Minot, Ward Co. Centennial, “People Places and Events: 100 Years of Magic 1886-1986.”

The Ward County Independent, Thursday, November 29, 1934

“The Blue and the Gray,” by Francis Miles Finch: http://www.civilwarpoetry.org/union/postwar/blue-gray-u.html

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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