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[114] it was a keen trial to one of such integrity, when even the shadow of a doubt fell upon his accounts, and, however swiftly the shadow was lifted, the sense of unmerited questioning must have remained.

A month or two later he felt that he ought to leave the army. ‘It seems to me,’ he wrote, ‘one year more, and unless victory forsakes our flag, the South, as a great force in the field, will be no more. . . . . I begin to think it time to put my worldly affairs in order, and to let younger and single men take their turn.’ He resigned his commission in the spring of 1864. His last sight of battle-fields was in the terrible Wilderness, where he went to recover the body of his father-inlaw, after the death of that lamented general. It was a tragical close to the three years service of the father and the son.

‘I never had any adventures in the army,’ Ritchie was wont to say, when asked about his campaigns. If he had not, there were few who had a soldier's story to tell, and to tell with honorable satisfaction. But his modesty was strong to the last; and he ended his military career, as he began and pursued it, in self-retiring nobleness.

A few months passed, and the disease contracted in the service, and never expelled, returned with fresh violence. Week after week he lay suffering and emaciated, and no care of physician or kindred, no change of air or treatment, no remedy, no devotion, availed to prolong the life which was ripened for its close on earth. As death drew nigh, he was again in the field, his fellow-soldiers around him, the shell piercing the air, the horse pawing the ground. And so his battles ceased; his sufferings were over, and he entered into rest at Geneseo, November 7, 1864, in the thirty-ninth year of his age.

‘I can lay my hand on my heart,’ he said when he left the army, in a confidence which it is no wrong to violate now, ‘and say that I have not done a thing you would be sorry to know.’ One who knew him all his life, and knew him heart to heart, says he was ‘as true a Christian gentleman as ever breathed.’ Be this assurance the wreath we hang most gladly and most tenderly above his grave.

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Sophia Harrison Ritchie (1)
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