Local Town Pages - This article is one of a series written by Franklin Veteran’s Council member Natalee Ann Webb that will be highlighted in this and the next issue of Franklin Local Town Pages. Webb is a disabled Air Force veteran, was the first female USAF Aircraft Mechanic, and was the City of Melrose’s first female Veteran’s Service Officer.
“These articles are written to let the townspeople know of some military heroes right in our own town, hometown heroes that gave their lives in service to our nation. I’ve selected a representative of each American conflict to bring the awareness of their selfless duties and the history of that conflict. These will be on display at the Town Hall,” writes Webb.
In addition to leading up to Memorial Day, Webb’s pieces will lead up to the opening ceremony of the Veterans Memorial Walkway honoring the town’s 45 fallen heroes.
Play Ball! That welcome ballpark cry summoning the boys of summer to the field in hopes of a World Series win, just as Cy Young and the Boston Americans (Red Sox) beat the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three in the first World Series of 1903. Two years later, one of Franklin’s hometown heroes entered the big leagues as a third baseman and shortstop.
As we welcome the start of the 116th season of the American pastime of hot dogs and ball games, let’s take a walk into the life of Edward L. Grant, the son of a Franklin contractor whose Victorian houses he helped build that still stand today. The purpose of the Veterans’ Memorial Walkway is to commemorate Franklin’s forty-five fallen heroes, and “Harvard” Eddie Grant is one such hometown hero.
Major League great Grant was born and educated in Franklin including attendance at Dean Academy (Dean College). He obtained a law degree from the prestigious Harvard University where he played baseball and basketball. After college, he joined the major leagues becoming well-known for his defensive ability to out throw the fastest runners after they had bunted, and as a sacrifice bunt hitter himself. His education fondly earned him the nickname of “Harvard” Eddie. After ten years in the major leagues, Grant hung up his cleats to practice law in Boston.
Ever the patriot, Grant left his successful Boston law practice to attend a military training camp in Plattsburgh, New York and when America entered World War I in April of 1917, he was among the first to voluntarily enlist. His belief in America’s ability to win the war and his love of baseball were unmistakable in a letter to his sister Florence where he wrote, “Why the Germans won’t be able to win a game from us. We would knock old Hindenburg out of the box in the first inning.”
As a college-educated man, Grant was appointed Captain of Company H of the 307th Infantry Regiment, 77th Division of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). The following year, Grant was assigned to the greatest American battle of WWI, the Meuse-Argonne offensive in France.
The “Lost Battalion” was an Army Division of 463 men who had been ensnared by the enemy. The trapped soldiers were low on food and ammunition and risked sniper fire as they scavenged rations and cartridges from their own dead. The only way for them to communicate their dire circumstances was through messages sent by carrier pigeons written in blood on the scraps of their shirttails.
The Lost Battalion was commanded by Grant’s college classmate and longtime friend, Charles Whittlesey. Grant insisted on taking part in the rescue mission. On the trail of the deadly mission, he was spotted by his grievously wounded Commander, who informed him that all superior officers of his unit were either killed or wounded, and that Grant was now in charge of the rescue mission.
As Grant’s unit marched onward, mortar shells exploded around them killing two lieutenants. When Grant yelled to take cover, another shell exploded with shrapnel striking his side killing him as he hit the ground. He bravely took his last sacrifice bunt, becoming the first Major League Baseball player to be killed in action. Two days later, the Lost Battalion was rescued where more than 40 percent of its soldiers lay dead on the fields of France’s Argonne Forest.
For his heroic service to our country, Franklin’s American Legion Post 75 was named in Grant’s honor. He gave his life for freedom and will be justly recognized on one of the granite columns that will soon align the brick walkway on Franklin’s Town Common. For more information about the project, or to order brick pavers for a veteran’s place on the pathway, please contact VFW Post 3402 at (508) 533-2377 or go to the project’s website at: franklinveteransbricks.com.