Henry Paul Ritzius
Co. A, 5th New York State Militia
Field & Staff, 52nd New York
7th US Veteran Volunteers
25th US Infantry
Lieutenant Colonel, US Army
Henry Paul Ritzius was born in the Electorate of Hesse, better known as Hesse-Kassel, around 1838. He was described as dark haired, with a fair complexion and dark brown eyes who stood 5 feet 10 inches. By the start of the Civil War, he was living in New York. On May 16, 1861 he enlisted as a Private in Co. A, 5th NY State Militia and mustered in the same day. He mustered out on August 7, 1861.
He then enlisted on September 17, 1861 at New York City and mustered in as the First Sergeant of Co. G, 52nd NY on November 1, 1861. He was mustered in as the Second Lieutenant of Co. F on June 30, 1862 and then the First Lieutenant of Co. C on August 23, 1862. He served as the Provost Marshall of the 1st Division from September 1862 to March 1863. He mustered in as the Captain of Co. A on September 16, 1863, and was absent on recruiting duty during the winter of 1864. At the end of the fighting at Spotsylvania in May 1864, Henry was left in command of the regiment. He was mustered in as Major on December 8, 1864, though his commission dated from July. He mustered out as second in command of the 52nd on July 1, 1865. He was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel in May 1865, but since the regiment was not at a full strength of ten companies, he was never mustered in as such.
While 1865 meant the end of many soldiers military service, Henry was just starting his. He was appointed a First Lieutenant in the 7th US Veteran Volunteers on August 22, 1865. The 7th was one of ten regiments formed in 1864 and 1865 comprised of able-bodied men who had seen at least two years of service. He spent a year in the area of Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Fort Delaware before being mustered out on April 30, 1866. He was then mustered in as a Second Lieutenant in the 39th US on October 23, 1867. The 39th was one of the six colored regiments in the US Army formed after the Civil War. Comprised of African American enlisted men under white officers, they were the successors to the United States Colored Troops of the Civil War. The 39th served in Louisiana and Mississippi before the consolidation of the US Army in 1869 combined the 39th and 40th regiments into the 25th US. The 25th and the 24th, along with the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments, remained the only colored regiments in the US Army well into the 1900’s.
Henry would serve with the 25th for 30 years as it was stationed in Louisiana in 1869, Texas during the 1870s, the Dakotas in the 1880s, and Montana in the 1890s. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on March 3, 1875, and was the Regimental Quartermaster from January 1, 1878 to January 1, 1882. He was promoted to Captain on August 1, 1887. He was stationed at Forts Duncan and Stockton in Texas, Forts Meade, Buford and Sisseton in the Dakotas and Forts Assiniboine and Missoula in Montana. Though at times he was in command of his company or of various details of men escorting new recruits, chasing horse thieves or escorting wagon trains, he spent a lot of time on more mundane responsibilities. He spent a fair amount of time serving in various capacities as the adjutant, treasurer, assistant quartermaster, signal officer or officer in charge of sustenance of the posts he was stationed at. He was also on leave for a year in Germany in 1874, and spent time on recruiting duty in New York City, Rochester, NY and Columbus, OH. When the 25th was sent to Cuba in 1898 during the Spanish American War, Henry was detached for recruiting duty, then sent to San Carlos, AZ to be the acting Indian Agent there. Henry retired on March 2, 1899, with the rank of Major. In 1910, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on the retired list.
While stationed at Fort Assiniboine, MT in the 1890’s, Henry probably became acquainted with a younger officer in the 10th Cavalry. This officer, John Pershing, would later command the American Expeditionary Force during World War 1.
Henry was involved with the Grand Army of the Republic and MOLLUS. His military service seems to have taken a toll on his personal life. It appears he was married four times, outliving three of his wives. He had several daughters of his own, as well as at least two stepdaughters. He married his last wife, Julie, in Tennessee in 1906. She filed for a pension after his death in 1923. He was buried in Colorado.
Note: There is probably much more to Henrys postwar career, but reading through 30 years of monthly regimental and post returns is very time consuming. More information may be included in the future.
This photo was taken by Julius Brill of 202 Chatham Square, New York City. There is also a 2 cent US Internal Revenue stamp on the back, dated from April 1865. Written on the back is “H. Ritzius Major 52 Regt NYV 1865,” while almost the same thing is written on the front. Henry is wearing the rank insignia of a Major with the double row of single buttons on his coat that denotes a field officer.
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