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Civil War general was hero, writer

RUTLAND In popular accounts of the U.S. Civil War, you probably wont come across many if any references to U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Edward Hastings Ripley. The Rutland-born veteran became a general at age 25, and along with Gen. George Armstrong Custer, was among the nations youngest generals appointed during the War Between the States. In 1862, Ripley responded to President Lincolns call for 300,000 fresh volunteers to fight in the bloody civil struggle; he doggedly recruited local soldiers under the banner of the Ninth Vermont Volunteers, and became captain to the men when they trained south. Ripley was born in downtown Rutland in 1839. His father, William Young Ripley, owned a large estate in town known as The Center and was both founder of the Rutland County National Bank and a Rutland County industrial marble pioneer. General Ripleys older brother, William Y.W. Ripley, joined the Army as a captain in the opening months of the war. William was with the first Vermont volunteers to head to war under the banner of the Rutland Lightguard the states first responders. Young Edward, a medical student at Union College in New York in 1861, couldnt wait to join up despite his mothers protests. Eventually, the Ripleys supported Edwards call-to-service even after their elder son William was badly wounded at the Battle of Malvern Hill in Virginia. Between his enlistment in 1862 and his discharge at wars end in 1865, Gen. Ripley narrowly escaped death on several occasions. He endured internal demons while a paroled prisoner at the Unions Camp Douglas in Chicago, Ill., after the unheroic surrender of Harpers Ferry. Oddly, Confederates couldnt handle their Yankee prisoners at Harpers Ferry and were thus paroled to the Union as part of a prisoner exchange with federal troops. Despite the Harpers Ferry debacle, Ripley was quick to gain valor and a brevet-general appointment. He saw fierce combat at the capture of Fort Harrison and at the repulse at Fort Gilmer; he was also among the first Union soldiers to enter the defeated Confederate stronghold of Richmond, Va. Ripley was an accomplished writer and historians are the beneficiaries. His 400 detailed letters about daily life during the war-torn 1860s were sent from the wars southern front to his family safe and snug in Rutland; the letters are rare gems among the annals of the Civil War. Sadly, Ripleys eloquent book of letters, published as Vermont General: The Unusual War Experiences of Edward Hastings Ripley 1862-65, is long out of print. The classic book deserves new life with a new edition published for modern readers. Ripley lived a prosperous, happy life after the war. He served as a Vermont state representative and continued in his fathers banking and marble business in Rutland County. He died at his estate in Mendon in 1915 prior to Americas entry into World War I. Tired of brother-against-brother carnage, many Vermonters at the time believed showy displays of patriotism would offend returning veterans. Not so, said Ripley. Those who argue that henceforth the Fourth of July will be dull and stupid are wrong, he wrote. Salutes to our flag will stir the blood of thousands of men aching for noise and excitement, and it will thrill through them like wine to a thirsty man. No Ripley family member is alive in Rutland today. The Center, the stately old Ripley family homestead, became a clubhouse and later a private residence. Gen. Ripleys remains rest in hallowed ground beneath a stately monument in Rutlands Evergreen Cemetery.

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