In September 1862 Father Ryan joined the Confederate army as a chaplain. A fellow priest later described him during this period as "a person of commanding presence, dark, with the Eagle look of the Indian, his black hair thrown back from a noble brow." While tending the wounded on the battlefield and hearing the confessions of the dying, Father Ryan revealed uncommon physical courage and is even said to have seized a musket on occasion and fought alongside his companions. Throughout the war years Father Ryan showed by his actions that he rarely thought of himself and that he had no fear of death. For example, he gave comfort to the victims of a smallpox epidemic at Gratiot Prison in New Orleans after the chaplain had abandoned his post. While in that city, Father Ryan also demonstrated that his convictions about the justness of the Confederate cause could sometimes override his general humanitarian feelings. When summoned before the notorious Union general Benjamin Butler (1818-1893) to answer a charge that he had refused to bury a dead soldier because he was a Yankee, Father Ryan defended himself by saying: "Why, I was never asked to bury him and never refused. The fact is, General, it would give me great pleasure to bury the whole lot of you."
L. Moody Simms , "Ryan, Abram Joseph," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-01429.html.