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Edmund Ruffin Fires His Final Shot of the War

Edmund Ruffin

Edmund Ruffin
Library of Congress

The renowned Southern nationalist, Edmund Ruffin, was 67-years-old when he travelled to South Carolina and fired a cannon during the opening attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861. He was also present at the battles of First Manassas and Seven Pines before poor health confined him to home for the remainder of the Civil War. Unrepentant to the end, Ruffin had such “unmitigated hated to Yankee rule” that he committed suicide at the war’s end to keep from living in the “now ruined, subjugated, & enslaved Southern States!”

Born on January 5, 1794 in Prince George County, Virginia, Edmund Ruffin attended the College of William and Mary and served as a private in the Virginia militia during the War of 1812. After inheriting his family’s plantation after the death of his father in 1810, Ruffin became a self-taught agriculturist who developed successful methods to correct soil depletion from tobacco farming. He published his techniques in an 1832 book titled An Essay on Calcareous Manures and launched his own agricultural journal, The Farmer’s Register, in 1833.

The Band Sings About The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Richmond Burnt

Richmond, Virginia in April 1865

On a self-titled album in 1969, the rock group The Band released “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” a song depicting the final days of the Confederacy in 1865. A long-time favorite of many, the song has been covered by numerous artists, including Joan Baez (who altered some key lyrics), Johnny Cash, and Jerry Garcia. As the Civil War Sesquicentennial comes to a close, it seems fitting to examine the song and its historical imagery.

The Changing Face of Lincoln

Lincoln AgeAbraham Lincoln’s physical appearance changed dramatically during his tenure as President of the United States. The magnitude of his apparent aging is often demonstrated by showing a photograph from the start of his first term compared to one taken a few months before his death. But a simple comparison of two extreme photographs does not show the evolution of the change nor the stressful events that likely induced the striking transformation. The following photographic series with accompanying timeline of notable events from 1860-1865 may be more illustrative of the aging process experienced by Lincoln. In particular, note the significant change in the brief interval from November 1863 to February 1864, a part of which may have resulted from his smallpox infection during that period.