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James Monroe Ingalls

James Monroe Ingalls (January 25, 1837–May 1, 1927) was an American soldier and an authority on ballistics. His ballistic tables were the authoritative source for over 100 years.


Ingalls was born January 25, 1837 in Sutton Township, Caledonia County, Vermont. He was the youngest of 9 children of James Ingalls (circa 1792-1866) and Mary Cass (circa 1797-1883). His parents are buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin. He had a sister, Jane Margaret Ingalls (1821–1920), who married Estes Wilson. Jane Ingalls Wilson was one of the first female physicians in Wisconsin.

Ingalls spent his childhood in Clinton, Massachusetts. He worked as an errand boy at Lancaster Mills and graduated from Clinton High School in 1856.

James Monroe Ingalls moved to Madison, Wisconsin with his parents about 1856. He became a professor of mathematics in the Evansville Seminary, Wisconsin, 1860-1863. He enlisted in the regular army, January 2, 1864 during the Civil War, and was assigned to the 16th Infantry; was promoted corporal and served as commissary and quartermaster-sergeant until May 21, 1865. He was promoted 2d and 1st lieutenant May 3, 1865, accepting the promotions May 21, 1865. On April 17, 1869, he was transferred to the 2d Infantry; on January 1, 1871, to the 1st artillery; was Commandant of Cadets and Professor of Military Science and Tactics and Mathematics at West Virginia University 1877-78. He was a very popular professor. He was promoted captain of artillery July 1, 1880; major June 1, 1897, and lieutenant-colonel October 5, 1900. He served in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, and other points in the south 1864-71, and was then sent to the artillery school, Fort Monroe, graduating in the class of 1872. He was next stationed successively at Plattsburgh barracks, and Forts Jefferson and Barrancas, and in July 1880, was assigned to the command of Battery A, Governor's Island, New York Harbor, and thence transferred to San Francisco Harbor, where he served until ordered to Battery G at Fort Munroe 1882. He suggested and organized the department of ballistics at the artillery school, Fort Monroe, and was made the first instructor December 19, 1882, which position he held until the school suspended operations in the spring of 1898 on account of the war with Spain. He was also senior instructor in practical artillery exercises, class of 1884; in engineering, class of 1888; in electricity and defensive torpedoes, classes of 1884, 1886, 1888, and 1890; and in signaling, 1884-88. Lieutenant Colonel Ingalls retired from the Army in 1901; in 1904, he was made colonel retired. James Monroe Ingalls died May 1, 1927 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Ingalls married Elizabeth Niles, daughter of John S. Niles and Elizabeth Lilly, in July 1860, in Dane County, Wisconsin. She was born in 1841 in Leon, Cattaraugus County, New York and died July 28, 1875 of typhoid fever at Fort Barrancas, Escambia County, Florida, and is buried in the national cemetery there. James and Elizabeth had two children: Arthur Niles Ingalls (1861–1875) who also died of typhoid fever and is buried with his mother, and Hilda Eliza Ingalls b. September 1868, McPhersonburg, Virginia, married 1889 to Joel Randall Burrow, who later became the Secretary of State of the State of Kansas. Hilda died November 4, 1908 and is buried at Fairview Cemetery, Smith Center, Kansas.

James Monroe Ingalls married a second time on July 17, 1877, New London, Connecticut, to Harriet Elizabeth Thurston, daughter of Benjamin Babcock Thurston, who had been Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island. They had one child, Fanny Thurston Ingalls, who never married.

Ingalls died May 1, 1927 in Providence, Rhode Island, and is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, New London, Connecticut.

He was the author of:

  • Exterior Ballistics (1883, 1885, 1886)
  • Ballistic Machines (1885)
  • Handbook of Problems in Exterior Ballistics (1890; 1901)
  • Ballistic Tables (1891; 1900)
  • Interior Ballistics (1894; third edition, 1912)
  • Ballistics for the Instruction of Artillery Gunners (1893)


  • New York Times, May 2, 1927, "COLONEL JAMES M. INGALLS, Veteran of Two Wars and Expert on Ballistics Dies at 90."
  • The Genealogy and History of the Ingalls Family in America, by Charles Burleigh, 1903.
  • Historical Register & Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789–1903, by Francis B Heitman, published 1903.
  • The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation: Biographical by the American Historical Society, Inc., 1920.
  • "An Extraordinary Town, How one of America's smallest towns shaped the world", Author A. J. Bastarache summarizes James Ingalls's accomplishments and history as the "Father of Ballistics."

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