Ralph Hanley was born on May 18, 1842, in Rochester, Monroe County, New York, probably the son of Dewitt (b. 1815) and stepson of Catharine (b. 1830).
Dewitt left New York and probably settled in Michigan sometime in the late 1850s. In any case, by 1860 Dewitt was working as a grocer in Hastings, Barry County, Michigan and living with Catharine (presumably his wife); also living with them was an 18-year-old schoolteacher named Ellen Hawley (b. in New York) and 30-year-old Ada Hawley (b. in New York) and her 1-year-old child Charles (b. in Michigan). That same year Ralph was employed as a servant to one Waterman Parker, a grocer living in Hastings, Barry County. Dewitt was working as a grocer in Hastings in 1863.
Ralph stood 5’7” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion and was 19 years old and living in Barry County when he enlisted in the Hastings Rifle Company in April of 1861. The company was disbanded shortly after it arrived in Grand Rapids and its members distributed to other companies of the Third Michigan infantry then forming at Cantonment Anderson just south of the city.
Ralph eventually enlisted with his parents’ consent in Company E on May 13, 1861. He was on detached service in December of 1862, and serving with the Brigade wagon train from January of 1863 through February and probably through March as well. In April he was with the ambulance train, probably a teamster, and in July was in the ambulance corps.
Ralph reenlisted on December 23 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Paris, Kent County, was presumably absent on veteran’s furlough, probably in Michigan, in January of 1864 and probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February. He may have been absent sick possibly in February but certainly from March 10, 1864, and he remained absent in a general hospital from April through May. He was reported as a wagoner and still absent sick when he was transferred to Company E, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and he remained absent sick through December of 1864. He was listed as AWOL in June of 1865 (probably having been on sick furlough), and was mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana. (He also claimed in later years to have served in Company K, Second U.S. infantry.)
After the war Ralph may have returned to Michigan. (His father and stepmother were living in Hastings in 1870.)
In any case, he was possibly living in Evansville, Indiana where he married Catharine Stacen (d. 1891), on September 17, 1878, and they had at least seven children: Nellie G. (b. 1879), John C. (b. 1880), Edith M. (b. 1881, Mrs. Fraser), David H. (b. 1885), Thomas C. (b. 1886), Gertrude L. (b. 1889), Clara M. (b. 1891)
He may have been living in Olive, Clinton County by 1894. By June of 1906 when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association he was living in Evansville, Indiana.
He was an inmate of the National Military Home in Marion, Indiana until he was transferred on October 21, 1907, to the Pacific Branch in Santa Monica, California. He was an inmate of the National Military Home in Santa Monica, California, until he was transferred back on May 10, 1909, to the National Military Home in Marion, Indiana. He was an inmate of the National Military Home in Marion, Indiana until he was transferred on October 21, 1910, to the Pacific Branch in Santa Monica, California. He was discharged from the Pacific branch in April of 1919, and apparently returned to the Marion branch and was listed as being discharged from there on October 2, 1919.
In 1890 he applied for and received a pension (no. 782284).
Ralph still living in the National Home in Santa Monica, California when he died of myocarditis on June 25, 1925, and was buried in Los Angeles National Cemetery: plot 26 2/R.
When Ralph died his daughter Edith was listed as next of kin and living in Armona, California, in 1925.