People, Place, and Time

Telling my family's stories

The Ritenours and the Civil War

The Ritenours, as a group, were not terribly ‘affiliated’ in the civil war. Thomas Benton deserted and joined the Union. William Henry took off for Maryland after a short enlistment, their sister Elizabeth married a Union officer (Emmanuel Binkley), and Isaac deserted the same infantry regiment (17th) that Thomas Benton started in, was captured by Union troops, escaped, deserted, and so on, until he was wounded in action and then disappeared (killed?). The surviving Ritenours ended up in Illinois, mostly claiming they came from Pennsylvania or Maryland. To this day, many Ritenours claim they are “Pennsylvania Dutch.”

Likely, this attitude towards the Civil War and its factions has to do with where they came from and how they lived. They were exceptionally poor; Adam (& Emily) Ritenour’s family of 12 made $70/year as woodchoppers in a district where their neighbours regularly made $2,000 (see the 1860 census), and some made $6,000 or more. But that $70 was good money, comparatively – Emily’s sisters sometimes lived as widow/unmarried paupers on about $5/year to support 5 children. The Ritenours were routinely brought into court for failing to properly feed, clothe, and educate their children. As far as I can tell, most of the Ritenours were illiterate into the 20th century.

That being the case, the Ritenours in Warren County were likely much more focused on self-preservation than ideals. They obviously felt no sense of loyalty to the South or to any government or military body, and, when the vicious Valley Campaign prosecuted by the Union destroyed most of their home area and took what little they had, they picked up and moved to where they thought they could find better. Beggars can’t be choosers.

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About Hattifattener

Age: 37 Lives: All over the place. Education: PhD, linguistics, UBC.

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2010 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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