top of page

The Haunted Major

Henry Reed Rathbone was born in Albany, NY,  on July 1, 1837,  the son of Jared Lewis Rathbone and Pauline Noyes Penney Rathbone.  His father was a successful merchant who was the last mayor of Albany chosen by the Albany Common Council, as well as the first mayor of Albany elected by popular vote in 1839.  Jared died in 1845 when Henry was just eight years old.  At the time of his father’s death Henry inherited the considerable sum of two hundred thousand dollars from his family’s estate.  In 1848, his widowed mother remarried Ira Harris, a widower and prominent judge in Albany, thus uniting two of the most illustrious families of Albany at that time.  Judge Harris’ family included a son William, and three daughters, Clara, Amanda, and Louise. The former Pauline Rathone had two sons, Henry and Jared.  The children virtually grew up together.  Henry and Clara became best friends and although in their youth, Henry had been essentially Clara’s little brother, as they grew up, they became attracted to one another, fell in love, and eventually planned to be married.

Henry studied law at Union College in Schenectady, NY where he joined the Sigma Phi Society and his step-father, a Union alumnus, served on the Board of Trustees.  After Henry’s graduation in 1857, he briefly worked in a law partnership with his step-uncle William H. Seward who had become Lincoln’s Secretary of State.

v old union college bldg cor union and college stgs (2)-800

Old Union College Building Corner of Union & College Streets

At the start of the American Civil War, Henry was commissioned as Captain and was responsible for raising the 12th infantry regiment from New York which he later joined during the Peninsular Campaign in 1862.  His regiment fought battles at Antietam under General Ambrose E. Burside, Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the Siege of Petersburg.  Records don’t indicate that Henry was ever in the thick of combat, but they do show the toil the war took on him.  His physical health, never robust, suffered from fever and repeated attacks of some sort of wasting and debilitating disease.  For the rest of the war, Henry served in Washington in the Disbursing branch under the Provost Marshal.  By the war’s end in 1865, having gained respect as a brilliant and brave young officer, he had attained the rank of Major.

R - henry and clara

Henry & Clara