Union and West End Cemetery

The Union and West End Cemetery is located in center city Allentown. The main entrance is on 10th Street at 10th and Chew Streets. The cemetery is mantained by a dedicated group of volunteers. Ten board members (also volunteers) serve the cemetery association and manage the finances, make application for grants, solicit donations and participate in the maintenance of the cemetery.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Pvt. Franklin Sylvester Ritter

Franklin S. Ritter was the son of Jacob and Hannah Ritter. They lived comfortably in the 3rd Ward of the Boro of Allentown. Jacob apparently owned a soap and candle manufacturing company and in 1860 listed his occupation as Master soap & candle manufacturer.

Jacob had a son in the business with him, Lewis, who was 25. Lewis was married to Rachel, 24 and they had a 2 month old child. Also in the household in 1860 was an apprentice named Alfred Dech who was just 12 years of age.

Jacob and Hannah had another son, Franklin, who was listed as 16 and a daughter, Matilda, who was 20. It is believed that Franklin may have been 18 at the time of the 1860 census.

In August, 1862, Franklin Ritter enlisted with Company G of the 128th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The 128th was a nine-month regiment and Franklin may have volunteered to avoid the draft which would have required three years service.

The 128th PVI regiment left Harrisburg for Washington D. C. on August 16. On September 6 the regiment moved to Frederick, Maryland and just thirty-three days after leaving Allentown the men of the 128th found themselves in the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862, the bloodiest day in the Civil War.

David Mattern of Allentown, in a letter to his father described the battle in this manner: "Captain Andrews of our regiment was killed. George Keck and Frank Bloss of Company D were killed. William Sowden, Mahlon Biery, Aaron Frederick, E. Blose, Allen Blank, and I was wounded. ...I received a slight would on the left side of the head while we were behind the fence. But I fired several rounds before I left the field.

In a letter two weeks later he further describes his wounding. "When we came out of the cornfield Captain Andrews told us to form a line behind a fence. Then we received orders to lay down... It pushed off my cap when the bullet struck me. But I loaded and fired again. By this time my hair and face were all full of blood. When someone told me to get out of the ranks I took my cap and gun and a foot behind us was a gutter or ditch... I jumped over this gutter and had a notion to fire off my gun when two of our company came and tied a rag around my head".

And william Reichard's description gives an indication of how confusion is the order of the day when one is in a battle. "Frank Ritter fell in the beginning, he was hit in head right under right eye... We fought in a woods into a cornfield... I can't describe it to you the way the balls and shells whistled around us, but we drove them back. I never knew that such a continual roar of Musketry and Artillery could be fired off. If one has never been in a battle he can never rightly imagine how it is..."

As noted above, Franklin Sylvester Ritter fell on the battlefield at Sharpsburg, Maryland. His family, being well-off could afford to have his body brought home. Many who fell at Antietam were buried on the battlefield were they fell.

Franklin Ritter
20 June 1841 - 17 September 1862
Son of Jacob & Hannah Ritter

There is nothing on Franklin's headstone to acknowledge his service to his country. Nor is there a plaque to commemorate his having given his life to save the Union. A small United States flag flies proudly next to his headstone as is the case with all Civil War Veterans in the Union and West End Cemetery.

Jacob Ritter, Franklin's father, was born 30 January 1804 and he died 19 July 1891. Hannah Ritter was born 2 August 1805 and died 13 August 1883. The three are buried together in a family plot in the Union portion of the Union and West End Cemetery.

Thanks very much for posting this, Mr Carr. I appreciate particularly the detail in the Mattern letter of the soldier's experience.

It is good that you're helping to keep the memory.
Brian, Thank you for your kind comments. My blog pales in comparison to your wonderful efforts to present the battle of Antietam in proper perspective.

But I am appreciative, none the less.
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