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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1830

Vol. I

(Born Pa.)

Joseph Ritner

(Ap'd Pa.)


Joseph Ritner, Jr.​a

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1826, to July 1, 1830, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., 4th Infantry, July 1, 1830.

Second Lieut., 4th Infantry, July 1, 1830.

Served: in garrison at Ft. St. Philip, La., 1830‑31, — Baton Rouge, La., 1831, — and New Orleans, La., 1831; at the Military Academy, as Asst. Instructor of infantry Tactics, Jan. 16, 1832, to Apr. 19, 1833;​b and on leave of absence, 1833‑34.

Civil History. — Appointed Professor of Civil Engineering, Washington College, Pa., 1833.

Died, Feb. 18, 1834, at Washington, Pa.:​c Aged 25.​d

Buried, Alter Burial Ground, Buffalo, PA.

Thayer's Notes:

a Junior: from Roswell Park, History and Topography of West Point, p118. He was the son of Joseph Ritner, who would serve one term as Governor of Pennsylvania from 1835 to 1839.

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b Although the Register seems to put Lieutenant Ritner at West Point in 1832, he is certainly the same Second Lieutenant Joseph Ritner who in the Black Hawk War on July 29, 1832 ordered the nighttime firing on several boatloads of fleeing Sauk Indians, apparently killing about fifteen of them: a prelude to the far worse massacre at Bad Axe a few days later.

On p15 of Lives of David R. Porter and Joseph Ritner, the Two Candidates for the Office of Governor of Pennsylvania Compiled from Authentic Sources and Contrasted (1838), we read:

His third son was a Cadet at West Point, where he graduated with high honor. After commencing a life of the highest usefulness, he died at the early age of 27, of a disease contracted during the Black Hawk war, in which he served as an officer and volunteer. Never did the country bestow the rich boon of a finished education on a more worthy son, and rarely has the death of a single individual left a greater chasm in society.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum: Ritner graduated 27th in his class of 42.

Secondary sources also record Ritner in the Black Hawk War, for example (as transcribed at USGenWeb Archives), History of Cumberland and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania. Containing History of the Counties, Their Townships, Towns, Villages, Schools, Churches, Industries, Etc.; Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men; Biographies; History of Pennsylvania; Statistical and Miscellaneous Matter, Etc., Etc. Illustrated (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Co., 1886), which in an obituary of his father, ch. LX, p586, lists the latter's nine children, including

Joseph, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, but who resigned from the army, married, and took a professor­ship in Washington College; afterward received a commission as first lieutenant in the army, but died at home, in 1833, before assuming his duties; he had served with great distinction in the Black Hawk war.

His presence in Illinois would be accounted for by the sending of many troops from the eastern seaboard for the emergency. Accounts vary as to the victims; Ritner's report of the encounter to his superior officer Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Gustavus Loomis was once online at the Wisconsin Historical Society, but the page has been yanked; see also Bruce E. Mahan, Old Fort Crawford and the Frontier, p173.

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c According to a page at the Sullivan County Pennsylvania Genealogy Website, the Muncy (Pa.) Telegraph, March 4, 1834, lists in its obituaries:

Joseph Ritner, served U. S. Army and late Professor of Civil and Topographical Engineering in Washington College, on Tuesday 18th instant of Pulmonary complaint at the residence of his father Joseph, Esq. in Buffalo Twp.

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d The marker now at the Alton Family Burial Ground (see photo at Find-a‑Grave linked above) replaces four individual tombstones; according to a page at USGenWeb Archives a transcription made in 1974, now preserved in documents of the Genealogical Society of Southwestern Pennsylvania currently (2011) housed in the Citizen's Library in Washington, PA, gave no birthdate but recorded him as having died in 1834 aged 27 years.

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Page updated: 28 Apr 20