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John William Grout (July 25, 1843 – October 21, 1861) was an American Civil War soldier from Worcester, Massachusetts, whose death inspired the poem "The Vacant Chair".


Life and deathEdit

The son of Jonathan and Mary Jane Grout, John William Grout was born July 25, 1843, at Worcester, Massachusetts. He was a graduate of Phillips Academy, Andover in 1859.

He served as a 2nd lieutenant of Company D, 15th Massachusetts Infantry and was killed at age eighteen at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Lt. Grout's body was recovered on November 5, 1861, after being washed 35 miles back to Washington, D.C. His remains were identified by the name written on his clothing.


His death inspired a famous poem that was later turned into a Civil War song. The poem ("The Vacant Chair") is an allegory that describes the pain suffered by the family of those killed in war when sitting at the Thanksgiving table. The poem was written by Henry S. Washburn and was turned into song by George F. Root. Root wrote "The Battle Cry of Freedom", "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" and other songs of the Civil War. "The Vacant Chair" was a hit in both the North and the South.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Byron Farwell (1990), Ball's Bluff: A Small Battle and Its Long Shadow, McLean, VA: EPM Publications, ISBN 0-939009-36-6 .
  • Kim Bernard Holien (1995), Battle at Ball's Bluff, Third Edition, Orange, VA: Publisher's Press, ISBN 0-943522-10-2 .
  • James A. Morgan, III (2004), A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21-22, 1861—A History and Tour Guide, Fort Mitchell, KY: Ironclad, ISBN 0-9673770-4-8 .

External linksEdit