George W. Ballatine was born in New Jersey around 1836 and had at least one brother, William. He was a plumber in New York City before enlisting as a private in the 1st New York Mounted Rifles in April 1861. He was captured by Confederate troops and sent to Libby Prison, from which he escaped. He was arrested for upon returning to his regiment (for reasons currently unknown) on February 20, 1864, and was confined until January 1865. Ballantine had an inconclusive "partial trial" at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and was jailed a second time, at Fredericksburg, until June 1865. In November 1865, he mustered out with a clear record.