Like many of his contemporaries Bernard Ratzer had started his surveying duties in North America as part of a team of 20 engineers attached to the Royal American (60th) Regiment which drew heavily on German, Polish, French and Dutch engineers. According to Guthorne* Ratzer had been part of the British 1st Battalion in Jamaica as early as 1774. Like all trained engineers he started in America with a rank of Lieutenant.
His first duties in North America were to produce surveys and detailed plans of forts around the Niagra River and Lake Onterio during the French Indian war (1756-1763). There is some evidence that he assisted Samuel Holland in his work in the region at the time and is accredited with a map of Passamaquoddy Bay in Maine in 1756.
After the end of the war in 1763 Ratzer moved to New York and started work on a series of maps of the city and the wider region region at the behest of authorities there. One of his first commissions came at the behest of Sir Henry Moore in 1766, the Governor of New York, to improve on Captain John Montresor's previous 1765/66 survey of the city. Once finished it was mistakenly published as the 'Ratzen Plan' due to an error in the engraving. Ratzer's, subsequent, larger map of the city showing the environs of the city, made directly after the city plan was finished, contains a combination of artistry and detail rarely found in maps of the time. The central section showing Manhatten was based on his own plan of the city. It was engraved by Thomas Kitchin and published by Faden & Jeffreys for publication in 1770.
Ratzer's next major commision came at the start of April 1769 from the Commissioners of New York who 'prevailed upon Captain Ratzer to make some actual Surveys preparatory the meeting of the Commissioners' to assist in the settlement of the disputed Boundary between New York and New Jersey. To this end The Honorable John Penn Esq Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania, under instruction from Sir Henry Moore the Governor of the Provence of New York, issued the following edict:
To all to whome these presents may come, Greeting;
'Whereas, His Excellency Sir Henry Moore, Governor of the Province of New York, hath represented to me the Necessity of making some actual Surveys within this Province , particularly of the River Delaware, in Order for the better ascertatining and settling of the Boundary Line between theProvinces of New York and New Jersey; and hath requested my Countenance and protection to Capt. Bernard Ratzer, who is appointed on the part of New York to make the said Surveys, I do therefore gran unto the said Capt. Ratzer my full Permission to run such Lines, and make such Surveys within this Province, as may be judged necessary for answering the Puroses aforesaid. And I do hereby strictly forbid all persons within my Government to give the said Capt. Ratzer the least Obstruction therein, as they will answer the same at their Peril: And I do also enjoin and require all Magistrates, Sheriffs and other Officers of this Province to afford the said Capt. Ratzer their countenance and Protection in the Execution of his said Business.
Given under my Hand & Seal at Arms, at Philadelphia, the day of May, Anno Domini, 1769. By his Honour's Command.
Ratzer cooperated in this project with Claude Joseph Sauthier and the final survey map was eventually published by William Faden in 1776. A further map detailing the 'Province of New Jersey, Divided into East and West. Commonly called The Jerseys. Drawn from the surveys of Bernard Ratzer, Lieut. 60th Regiment, and Gerard Banker. was published on Decenber 1st 1777 by William Faden.
* Peter J. Guthorn. British Maps of the American Revolution. Philip Freneau Press, Monmouth Beach, N.J. 1972