Captain Joseph Ridgway

Captain Joseph Ridgway was born December 1840. He was the middle child and only son of Benjamin Earl Ridgway and Margaret Fenimore Ridgway. Brother of Mary Ridgway Grundy and maternal uncle of Joseph Ridgway Grundy (namesake) and Margaret Ridgway Grundy.

Raised as a Quaker, he felt it was his duty to serve his country. His family followed William Penn’s principle that an individual’s freedom to follow one’s conscience when making choices was paramount.

In November of 1862, he joined the 23rd Regiment of the New Jersey volunteers fighting for the Union. Joseph joined at a critical point in the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln issued a formal request for additional troops, hoping to add 300,000 to the Union cause and to end to the war.;view=fulltext

Shortly after joining Joseph exhibited leadership qualities, which helped him quickly rise to the rank of captain. In a letter written to his father dated November 26th 1862, he proudly noted:

“Here I am alone in my glory, the only officer that Company G can boast of”.

His letters that were sent to his family, were published in The Pennsylvanian written by Ann Hawkes Hutton, published in Philadelphia 1962.

His Company was on the march to Fredericksburg with hopes of beating back General Lee’s forces and take Richmond by Christmas. However, it was not to be. His last letter dated December 6th 1862, was sent to his sister Lizzie (Elizabeth Ridgway), youngest of Benjamin and Margaret’s three children. In it he discussed the worsening weather and its effect on their forward progress. On December 13, 1862 his company along with others, crossed the Rappahannock River close to Fredericksburg. Stonewall Jackson’s forces were well hidden. The assault started and the fighting was intense. The Union Companies took heavy losses, all tolled more than 12,500 soldiers lost their lives that day during the battle of Fredericksburg. Captain Joseph Ridgway was among one of the casualties. His parents received the news of their son’s death on Christmas day from a letter written from Sergeant R. R. Lippincott, a good friend of Joseph’s.

“Therefore let it be known that in his death the Country loses a good citizen and a brave officer, one that was always willing to obey, yes, and one that was willing to lay down his life in defense of his Country’s flag, and whose battle-cry was ‘the Union, the Constitution, and the enforcement of law.”

Joseph Ridgway Grundy was born a month after the death of his uncle. His loss was duly felt by his nephew, who in 1899 commissioned his painting. In a letter written April of 1899 to his mother, who was abroad with his sister at the time, states “While I am writing thee Mr. Thomas is here varnishing the portrait of Uncle Joseph (Ridgway) which he is turning over to us today”.

Excerpt from a letter written by Joseph R. Grundy to his mother. This letter was published in The Pennsylvanian written by Ann Hawkes Hutton, published in Philadelphia 1962.

The conserved portrait of Captain Joseph Ridgway proudly hangs in the Grundy Museum Study.