Samuel Ringgold (United States Army officer)

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Samuel Ringgold
Samuel Ringgold by John Vanderlyn.jpg
Samuel Ringgold by John Vanderlyn, c. 1825
DiedMay 11, 1846
Port Isabel, Texas
Place of burial
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
USA - Army Field Artillery Insignia.png Field Artillery
Years of service1818–1846
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Major
Unit3 ADA Rgt DUI.jpg 3rd Artillery Regiment
Battles/warsMexican–American War
RelationsSamuel Ringgold (Father)
Cadwallader Ringgold (Brother)

Samuel B. Ringgold (1796 – May 11, 1846) was an artillery officer in the United States Army who was noted for several military innovations which caused him to be called the "Father of Modern Artillery." He was also, according to some records,[citation needed] the first U.S. officer to fall in the Mexican–American War, perishing from wounds received at the Battle of Palo Alto.

Early life and career[edit]

Ringgold was the son of Samuel Ringgold, a U.S. Congressman from Maryland. A younger brother, Cadwallader Ringgold, served in the navy, becoming a rear admiral.

On July 24, 1818, Samuel Ringgold graduated 5th in a class of 23 from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Artillery.[1]

In the early 1820s, Ringgold was on the staff of General Winfield Scott. At about that time, (roughly 1825) John Vanderlyn, then working in New York City, painted Ringgold's portrait.

Ringgold's significant military innovations included the Ringgold military saddle and artillery techniques. Based on his research in Europe, he rewrote the Army's manual for artillery, which included the tactical concept of flying artillery—employing artillery pieces that could be moved quickly from place to place.[1] The Army adapted his manual, "Instructions for Field Artillery" on March 6, 1845, and he was promoted to the rank of Major in acknowledgment[1] of his military innovations.

Mexican–American War[edit]

Ringgold served in General Zachary Taylor's occupation force in Texas as a Major of Artillery. On May 8, 1846, as he and 2,400 troops were en route to Fort Texas, they were engaged at the Battle of Palo Alto by Mexican General Mariano Arista and his force of 3,800 men.

Arista's army was stretched a mile wide, making an American bayonet charge, Taylor's first option, impossible. Taylor, in an unlikely move, advanced his artillery to attack the enemy. The use of Ringgold's flying artillery tactic won the battle for the Americans. The Mexican artillery, heavy and slow, was futile in the thick steel-wool brush at Palo Alto. Arista ordered cavalry charges to flank the artillery gunners, but the American flying artillery was able to mobilize, relocate, and repel the oncoming dragoons.

During the battle, Ringgold was mortally wounded by cannon fire that mangled both his legs just below the crotch.[2] Nevertheless, he refused to leave the field during the battle. He survived three days, during which time he debriefed on the battle, before dying in Port Isabel, Texas.

Robert D'Unger, then journalist at the Baltimore Democrat, claimed that he was the first to use a telegraphic news while reporting Ringgold's death. [3]


Major Ringgold, mortally wounded at the Battle of Palo Alto

His bravery was a boost to morale through the military and the country. Songs, poetry, plays were written about him, including a mention in the fourth verse of Maryland, My Maryland. A song entitled "The Death of Ringgold," commemorating his death, was a popular patriotic song in the US during the war. John H. Hewitt wrote a song, "On to the Charge", and dedicated it to the late Major Ringgold.

Cities and counties were named in his honor, including:


USAMP Major Samuel Ringgold, built 1904 (National Archives and Records Administration)

Family tree[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Samuel Ringgold (1796-1846)". National Portrait Gallery. Archived from the original on 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
  2. ^ Lavender, David S. (2003). Climax at Buena Vista: The Decisive Battle of the Mexican–American War. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1860-4.
  3. ^ The Catoclin Clarion, June 17, 1871.
  4. ^ Krakow, Kenneth K. (1975). Georgia Place-Names: Their History and Origins (PDF). Macon, GA: Winship Press. p. 189. ISBN 0-915430-00-2.
  5. ^ McKnight, William James (1917). Historical. J.H. Beers. p. 491.
  6. ^ "City of Brownsville - Ringgold Civic Pavilion at Dean Porter Park". Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2010.

External links[edit]