Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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KIRKHAM, Ralph Wilson, soldier, born in Springfield, Massachusetts, 20 February, 1821. His great-grandfather, Henry Kirkham, served in the French and Indian wars of 1755-'63, and his grandfather participated in the American Revolution, and was severely wounded at the battle of Trenton, 26 December, 1776. Ralph was graduated at the United States military academy in 1842. After serving on garrison and frontier duty, he participated in the Mexican war, where he was brevetted 1st lieutenant for gallant and meritorious conduct at Contreras and Clmrubusco, 27 August, 1847, and wounded in the battle of Molino del Rey, 8 September, 1847. He was brevetted captain for gallant and meritorious conduct in the storlning of Chapultepec, 13 September, 1847, assisted in the capture of Mexico, 13-14 September, 1847, and honorably mentioned in General Scott's despatches. While in Mexico he was one of a party of six American officers and an Englishman who ascended to the summit of Popocatapetl, the original number that set out upon the expedition being about one hundred. This mountain had never been ascended since the time of Cortez, A. D. 1519. From 6 November, 1848, till 1 October, 1849, he was acting assistant adjutant-general, with headquarters at St. Louis, Missouri He was quartermaster of the 6th infantry, 1 October, 1849, till 16 November, 1854, when he was ordered to the Pacific coast. He built adobe barracks at Fort Tejon and a military post at Walla Walla, constructed a military road from the latter place to Fort Colville, Washington territory, participated in frontier Indian wars, and was ordered to San Francisco, where he served as quartermaster until his resignation in 1870. During the civil war he served as chief quartermaster of the Department of the Pacific in 1861, and subsequently of the Department of California, and was acting chief of commissariat in 1866. On 13 March, 1865, he was brevetted lieutenant-colonel, colonel, and brigadier-general, United States army, for faithful and meritorious services in the quartermaster's department during the civil war. In 1870-'1 he visited the far east with William It. Seward. He now (1887) resides in Oakland, California, where he has one of the best libraries on the Pacific coast, especially upon military subjects.
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