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[349]

Stephen George Perkins.

Second Lieutenant 2d Mass. Vols. (Infantry), July 8, 1861; first Lieutenant July 11, 1862; killed at Cedar Mountain, Va., August 9, 1862.


I approach with infinite reluctance one of the most difficult themes for biography to be embraced in these volumes. There hung around Stephen Perkins a peculiar atmosphere, not merely suggestive of admiration, not merely of affection, but of some indescribable commingling of the two, more subtile than either, which renders his most intimate friends unwilling to attempt his portraiture, and thus leaves the task for me. And I, his cousin and his teacher, can hardly overcome this same shrinking, or force myself to break that silence which his proud and fastidious nature would doubtless have preferred. For he made no claims, ran no race, won no prize, achieved no eminence but in dying; and perhaps from peculiarity of temperament, would have achieved none had he lived. Yet his friends were all among the most gifted young men of his day, and it is now observable that not one of these companions seems able to talk of him without a tinge of romance. So peculiar and subtile the impression of superiority which he made, I observe that it can be better measured by a certain lowering and trembling of the voice in those who attempt to describe him, than by any account they can give. One of them said, the other day: ‘I could write nothing about Stephen Perkins, because the simplest things I could say of him would seem like such absurd exaggeration. Suppose I should say that my few years' intercourse with him had done more for me than any other influence of my life,—who would believe it? Yet it would be the most commonplace truth.’

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, September 18, 1835. His father was Stephen Higginson Perkins, a well-known Boston merchant and a man of varied culture, whose life has

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