On this day in 1865, Edmund Ruffin ended his life at his Hanover County plantation. Once an outspoken “fire eater” who took credit for the first shot at Fort Sumter, Ruffin now had grown old, the war had gone terribly wrong, and the year before he had written in his diary that if Lee were forced to surrender, “then I prefer I may not live another day.”
With an emphasis on “prefer.” It actually took two months for him to get his affairs in order.
His first priority was reassuring himself that he was not irrevocably betraying God and his family as, perhaps, he had felt betrayed when his own guardian, Thomas Cocke,* had done the same thing. Satisfied, he “repaired to his upstairs room at Redmoor,” in the words of William Kauffman Scarborough. “There he completed the last entry in his diary, prepared a brief memorandum of new burial instructions, paused to denounce the hated foe one more time, seated himself in a straight-backed chair, and then proceeded to fire the last shot in his private war against the Yankees. Thus, in his final moment on earth, Edmund Ruffin accomplished that which forever eluded his cherished Confederacy. He took command of his own destiny.”
* More on the Cockes of Virginia.
IMAGE: Edmund Ruffin (Library of Congress)