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John Charles Black (January 27, 1839 – August 17, 1915) was a Democratic U.S. Congressman and received the Medal of Honor for his actions as a Union Army lieutenant colonel and regimental commander at the Battle of Prairie Grove during the American Civil War.

John Charles Black
John c black-illinois-1902.png
John C. Black
Born(1839-01-27)January 27, 1839
Lexington, Mississippi
DiedAugust 17, 1915(1915-08-17) (aged 76)
Chicago, Illinois
Place of burial
Spring Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Danville, Illinois
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1861–1865
RankUnion Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brigadier General
Unit11th Indiana Infantry Regiment
Commands held37th Illinois Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
AwardsMedal of Honor
Other workLawyer, Pension Commissioner, U.S. Representative


Early lifeEdit

John Charles Black was born in Lexington, Mississippi on January 27, 1839[1][2] and moved to Danville, Illinois in 1847. His father was a minister of the Presbyterian Church. Black attended Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana, and became a lawyer.[1][2]

American Civil War serviceEdit

On April 14, 1861, Black (along with his brother, William P. Black) entered the Union Army as a private in the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment on April 14, 1861.[1] He became sergeant major on April 25, 1861.[1][2]

After three months of service, the brothers were mustered out of the volunteers and organized Company "K" of the 37th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment.[1] John Black became major of the regiment on September 5, 1861.[1] He was wounded in the right arm at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, on March 7, 1862.[1] In July 12, 1862, John Black was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and became commander of the 37th Illinois Infantry.[1] Black led his regiment against a fortified Confederate position during the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas on December 7, 1862. The unit suffered heavy casualties and was eventually forced to retreat. Black himself was seriously wounded.[1][3] An 1896 review of numerous actions during the war resulted in John Black being awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Prairie Grove.[1][2] Black's brother William also received the medal, making them the first of five pairs of brothers to both receive the Medal of Honor as of 2005.

On December 31, 1862, Black was promoted to colonel of the 37th Illinois Infantry Regiment.[1] He was given temporary command of Brigade 1, Division 2, XIII Corps, Department of the Gulf, between November 11, 1863 and February 11, 1864, of Brigade 3, Division 2, Reserve Corps of the Department of the Gulf between February 3, 1865 and February 18, 1865. and of Brigade 3 Division 2, XIII Corps, Department of the Gulf, between February 18, 1865 and March 5, 1865.[1]

Black resigned his commission in the volunteer service on August 15, 1865. On January 13, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Black for appointment to the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from April 9, 1865, for gallant services in the assault on Fort Blakeley, Alabama on that date, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on March 12, 1866.[1][2][4]

Medal of Honor citationEdit

Black's former house (right) in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Rank and organization: Lieutenant Colonel, 37th Illinois Infantry. Place and date: At Prairie Grove, Ark., December 7, 1862. Entered service at: Danville, Ill. Born: January 27, 1839, Lexington, Holmes County, Miss. Date of issue: October 31, 1893.


Gallantly charged the position of the enemy at the head of his regiment, after 2 other regiments had been repulsed and driven down the hill, and captured a battery; was severely wounded.[5]

Post-war careerEdit

Black was a member of the Illinois Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

Black practiced law and became the United States District Attorney at Chicago. Black was U.S. Commissioner of Pensions between 1885 and 1889.[1][2] Running as a Democrat, he was elected to the Fifty-third United States Congress, and served from 1893 to 1895.[1][2]

In 1903, he was honored with the office of Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans organization for Civil War veterans of the Union Army, for 1903–1904.[1][2] Black served as president of the United States Civil Service Commission from 1904 to 1913.


John C. Black died August 17, 1915 at Chicago, Illinois.[1][2] He is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Danville Illinois.[1][2] His grave can be found in block 12, lot 54.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 132
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hunt, Roger D. and Jack R. Brown, Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue. Gaithersburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, Inc., 1990. ISBN 1-56013-002-4. p. 56.
  3. ^ Beyer, W. F.; O. F. Keydel (2000). Deeds of Valor: How America's Civil War Heroes Won the Congressional Medal of Honor. New York, New York: Smithmark Publishers. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-7651-1769-X.
  4. ^ Eicher, 2001, p. 740.
  5. ^ "Civil War Medal of Honor recipients - (A-L)". United States Army Center of Military History. 2005-04-27. Retrieved 2006-09-22.
  6. ^ "John C. Black". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. Retrieved 2007-11-07.


U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
District elections
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's at-large congressional district

March 4, 1893 – January 12, 1895
Succeeded by
District elections
Preceded by
Eliakim "Ell" Torrance
Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic
1903 – 1904
Succeeded by
Wilmon W. Blackmar