Edmund Ruffin

 

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Edmund Ruffin

Rebel Edmund Ruffin

Edmund Ruffin (1794–1865)

Most people in this world are not remembered for anything after they are gone. A few people manage to affect the world such that they are remembered for one thing.

Edmund Ruffin is a man that is remembered for two things.

Edmund Ruffin was born in Prince George County, Virginia on January 5, 1794. He was a farmer and innovative agriculturist. As a noted farmer, he became editor of the "Farmer’s Register", and investigated methods to improve agricultural crop yields. His research interests also included bogs and swamps. Despite his distinguished research, he is not remembered for his advances in agricultural science.

As secessionist tensions grew in the United States in the 1850’s, Ruffin was an ardent supporter of states’ rights and was a proponent of Secession. He became known as one of the Southern "Fire-Eaters", along with Robert Rhett, Louis Wigfall and William Yancey. The famed Fire-Eaters were able to fan the flames of Southern Independence, which led to the secession of South Carolina in 1860, and the formation of the Confederate States of America. Northern sentiment ran so strong against Mr. Ruffin that on August 1, 1862 two regiments of Union regulars from General Fitz-John Porter’s corps crossed the river by Harrison’s Landing and, under the cover of guns on the steamer Mahaska, set Ruffin’s house on fire. It is reported that cheers rent the air from Union Troops as the great Rebel’s house burned to the ground. Despite all this, Edmund Ruffin is not remembered as the Father of the Confederacy, or the leader of the secession movement.

It is for the events of the evening of April 11, 1861 that Mr. Ruffin will be remembered. Major Robert Anderson and some 85 US Soldiers and Officers (12 of whom were musicians) were hunkered down in Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, surrounded by approximately 7,000 Confederate troops under the command of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. Early in the morning hours of April 12, 1861 the fateful orders came down from Beauregard; and the honor of initiating those orders fell on a 67 year old honorary member of the Palmetto Guards . . . Mr. Edmund Ruffin. At about 4:30 AM on April 12, Edmund Ruffin fired the first cannon shot at Fort Sumter, and the Civil War was officially underway.

Four long years later, with countless losses on both sides, Ruffin received word that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox, and that all was lost. The dream that was the Confederacy was officially over. Upon receiving the news, Ruffin sat at his desk and penned these words:

"I here declare my unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule -- to all political, social and business connection with the Yankees and to the Yankee race. Would that I could impress these sentiments, in their full force, on every living Southerner and bequeath them to every one yet to be born! May such sentiments be held universally in the outraged and down-trodden South, though in silence and stillness, until the now far-distant day shall arrive for just retribution for Yankee usurpation, oppression and atrocious outrages, and for deliverance and vengeance for the now ruined, subjugated and enslaved Southern States!

...And now with my latest writing and utterance, and with what will be near my latest breath, I here repeat and would willingly proclaim my unmitigated hatred to yankee rule--to all political, social and business connections with Yankees, and the perfidious, malignant and vile Yankee race.

With the completion of the letter, Mr. Ruffin put down his pen, picked up his revolver, and shot himself in the head.

As such, Mr. Ruffin is remembered for two things . . . firing the first shot, and the last shot of the Civil War.
 

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