Monday, August 24, 2015
Edmund Ruffin's Losses
Few men wanted Southern secession, or did more to try to make it happen, than Virginian Edmund Ruffin. The long-haired old man's appearance at Harpers Ferry shortly after John Brown's raid and his reappearance at the abolitionist's hanging were not by coincidence. He wanted to witness history in the making. Later, he was at Fort Sumter's bombardment as well. Some claimed he pulled the lanyard to fire the first shot.
During the war, Ruffin lost one of his plantation homes to Yankee arsons and his slaves absconded. But if Edmund Ruffin knew anything (and he knew plenty) he knew loss. Two of his children had died as mere babies, his wife had died, and three grandchildren had died. Three of his adult daughters died, and one of his daughter-in-laws, who he considered a daughter, had died.
However, the death of Ruffin's second son, Julian, was especially hard on the old fire-eater. Julian was born in 1821 in Prince George County. As a young man he had helped his father establish the Southern Magazine and Monthly Review. Julian was obviously proud of his father's influence and contributions to Southern nationalism, for in 1861, Julian named a newborn son, after grandpa and his adventures; Edmund Sumter Ruffin.
Julian was a sergeant in Company B, 12th Battalion of Virginia Light Artillery when the end came. His service records indicate he enlisted the unit in Petersburg on August 10, 1863 for the duration of the war. Apparently Julian had served in a different unit previously. Julian's service did not last for the duration of the war though. He was killed in the fighting at Drewry's Bluff on May 16, 1864. With a broken heart and seemingly in denial Edmund Ruffin penned in his diary on May 23: "My mind cannot take in the momentous fact, nor my perceptions approach to the measure of reality."
Ruffin could not take much more, and when Confederate defeat finally became a reality, he ended his ruined world by his own hand. On June 17, 1865, he took time to write in his diary: "I here declare my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule-to all political, social & business connection with Yankees-& to the Yankee race. Would that I could impress these sentiments, in their full force, on every living southerner, & bequeath them to every one yet to be born! May such sentiments be held universally in the outraged & down-trodden South, though in silence & stillness, until the now far-distant day shall arrive for just retribution for Yankee usurpation, oppression, & atrocious outrages-& for deliverance & vengeance for the now ruined, subjugated, & enslaved Southern States!"
Using a stick to trigger his weapon, Ruffin's gun misfired on first attempt. He recapped the piece and was successful in his second try. The old hot-spur was buried on his former plantation, Marlborough, in Hanover County, suffering no more losses.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.