Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

Photos from the Past

Captain John Henry Groce

From The Pickaway Quarterly, a publication of the Pickaway Genealogical Society:

By Charles G. Will

For decades visitors to Forest Cemetery have passed a tall column, a pillar from the "second" Pickaway County court house, supporting a statue of a Union soldier. Legend has it that this is a likeness of Captain John H. Groce placed to honor all Pickaway County men fought in the Civil War. When thirty-four of these men met to organize a post of the Grand Army of the Republic, the name selected was Groce Post.

It is fitting that Captain Groce was chosen to be the symbol of the Pickaway County union veterans, for it has been written that., "...his gallant services during the rebellion will ever stand out in bold relief in the pages of history." He was recognized by his fellow officers as well as by his men as "... an officer of rare and valuable qualities."

John H. Groce was born in Circleville on April 13, 1840, the son of Bentley and Matilda Yergey Groce. Part of his education was under the guidance of Hon. James A. Garfield. He became a teacher and had planned to study law until the war interrupted his career. An outline of Captain Groce's military career is given in his obituary:

The obituary continues with an account of Captain Groce's action in the siege of Vicksburg as follows:

Tom J. Evans wrote a letter from Vicksburg to the Union, which bears the date May 29, 1663. In it he describes the "forlorn hope" as follows:

Captain Groce wrote to his parents shortly after the battle.

After Vicksburg, Captain Groce returned to Pickaway County to recuperate at the home of his parents. At this time a subscription was taken among the citizens of Circleville to purchase a sword, scabbard, belt, and buckle to be given to their hero as a token of civic appreciation. A letter bearing the names of the fifty-five donors accompanied the gift. It reads as follows:

In his reply, dated a week later, Capt. Groce assured the committee for:

Family legend tells of an incident which occurred when Capt. Groce was home on leave with his arm in a cast. At the post office one day, he encountered a small group of rebel sympathizers who wore buckeyes on their jackets as symbols of their opposition to the war. Known as Copperheads, this group was brazen in their sympathy for the Confederacy,

"Without hesitation and with patriotic indignation," the story runs, "... he advanced on the group and tore the buckeyes from their clothing and cast then on the floor, despite the fact one arm was useless."

During this same furlough, Captain Groce received much adulation. This was too tempting for some young Circleville boys. Thinking to frighten the local hero as he passed the cemetery one night, they lay in wait wrapped in sheets. As he approached, they began to groan and make weird noises, but Capt. Groce quickly dispatched them with a hail of rocks.

When his wound was partially healed, sometime in the winter, he joined IV-he (sic) army in Larkinsville, Alabama. The obituary continues an account of his military career:

He participated in the memorable March of SHERMAN'S Army, and was, with others, especially detailed to storm Fort McAllister. The attack of Fort McAllister, which resulted in the death of John Groce, occurred during the Savannah Campaign on December 13th. 1864. The 30th Ohio was involved in the engagement. They began their march at 6:30 a.m. and travelled thirteen miles before reaching Deep Marsh, where they drew heavy fire from the fort. Col. Martin writes of the fight:

The body of Captain Groce was buried near the site of his death. Later when Savannah had fallen, it was disinterred and returned to Circleville for burial in Forest Cemetery.


(Editors note: Several articles about Capt. Groce appear in local county histories. There are also references to him in such Civil liar accounts as The War of the Rebellion. These are available for research at the Pickaway County Library The Historical Society is deeply indebted to Mr. J. Stanley Stevenson, Cdr. U. S. N. R. (Ret.) of Overland Park, Kansas, a nephew of Captain Groce, for allowing access to letters and a scrapbook in his possession from 'Which most of the material for this article was taken. Mr. Stevenson also prizes the sword which was presented to his uncle on the occasion mentioned above.

The personal anecdotes concerning John Groce which were related have come from his sister and brother, the late Harriet Groce Stevenson and George F. Groce. and from other relatives.

Captain John H. Groce is the brother of Private Samuel N. Groce, who also served during the Civil War. Photograph and information submitted by Captain John Groce's Great-Great-Grandniece Gwen Groce

Captain John H. Groce
Memorial Hall in Circleville, Ohio.

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