Abraham Hall Ryan (1837–1903)

Abraham Hall Ryan was a Union army officer serving on the staff of Major General Frederick Steele when he was authorized to raise the Third Arkansas Cavalry (US) in 1864, leading the regiment for the rest of the Civil War.

Abraham Ryan was born in New York City to Charles Ryan and Amy Bosworth Ryan, on February 16, 1837, and moved to Illinois as a child. When the Civil War began in 1861, he helped organize Company A of the Seventeenth Illinois Infantry Regiment, mustering in as first lieutenant in May; he was soon made the regiment’s adjutant. In the chaotic fighting at Shiloh in April 1862, Ryan commanded a brigade for several hours after its colonel was killed in action, leading to his promotion to captain.

In May 1862, Ryan became chief of staff for Brigadier General Leonard F. Ross and served in that capacity into 1863. After the Confederate defenders of Vicksburg, Mississippi, surrendered on July 4, 1863, Ryan was attached to the staff of Major General Frederick Steele during the campaign that led to the Union capture of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in September.

On October 26, 1863, Steele authorized Ryan to begin raising the Third Arkansas Cavalry, an order confirmed by Major General John M. Schofield on November 17. Ryan mustered in as colonel of the Third Arkansas Cavalry on February 10, 1864. While the Third Arkansas saw service during the 1864 Camden Expedition, the majority of its activities involved escorting supply trains, scouting into enemy territory, and hunting and fighting the bands of guerrillas that roamed the mountains of Arkansas. The regiment would engage in more than forty offensive operations before mustering out on June 30, 1865, still under Ryan’s command.

Ryan married Emma Amelia Hitch in 1879; the couple had one child.

Ryan went into business in Little Rock following the war, serving as the general manager of the Little Rock, Mississippi River and Ouachita Railroad for a number of years. While vacationing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in 1873, Ryan received medals for valor from the city of Falmouth and the Humane Society of Massachusetts after rescuing two women who were in a boating accident and recovering the bodies of three others who drowned.

In 1880, Ryan moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where he was active in public and business life. He was president of the Savings Investment and Trust Company and cashier of the People’s Bank, with a newspaper proclaiming that “the universal esteem and honor” in which Ryan was held was responsible for the bank’s success. He also served on the local school board, was on the Town Committee, and did a stint as president of the Orange Art Association.

Ryan was heading home from New York on December 29, 1903, when he died while aboard a train. He is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

For additional information:
Allen, Desmond Walls. Third Arkansas Union Cavalry. Conway: Arkansas Research, 1987.

“Col. Abraham H. Ryan.” Weekly Arkansas Gazette, December 2, 1894, p. 2.

“Col. Abraham Hall Ryan.” Find-A-Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13045813/abraham-hall-ryan (accessed May 13, 2022).

“The Death Roll.” Sioux City Journal, December 30, 1903, p. 1.

“Dies Suddenly on Train.” New York Tribune, December 30, 1903, p. 6.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 05/13/2022