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[310] contest, which lasted till evening, occupied most of the town of Fredericksburg. It was the difficult task of the Twentieth, then under command of Major (now Brevet Major-General) Macy, to march up the main street, exposed to the cross-fire from the houses and from behind walls and fences. Early in the engagement Lieutenant Ropes was left to command his company, his captain having been wounded. How well he discharged his duty may be inferred from a letter of a brother officer:—

We were under a most terrific fire. Poor Ropes was almost alone when I arrived; scarcely three files of his company were left. I formed my fresh company on his left, and opened fire. We stayed there till we were relieved by two other companies. Once, during the fire, we stopped to speak to each other. That instant he was struck by a spent ball. The blow was so violent that he would have fallen if I had not caught him. It nearly took away his breath, and we both supposed he was badly wounded, and I helped him a step or two to the rear; but in less than a minute he was back in his place, saying, “It was only a spent ball, ——! I've got my breath again!”

The same writer, speaking of the fight of the next day, in which again the Twentieth was terribly exposed, says:—

I showed him (Ropes) a hole in my coat made by a bullet, and he showed three or four places where his coat and knapsack had been struck, and, laughing, said, in answer to my question, how it felt, “ Like fishes nibbling.”

On the morning of Thursday, July 2, 1863, the Twentieth, after a series of rapid marches, reached the battle-field of Gettysburg. On the evening of that terrible day, when the firing ceased, nothing remained in our front save the dead and wounded. Throughout that whole night, Lieutenant Ropes, unmindful of previous fatigue, forgetful of his own anxiety, and regardless of his own comfort, was engaged, with a detachment of men, in bringing the sufferers within our lines, cheering them with words of encouragement, and ministering to their wants from his own canteen. ‘It was his last night on earth, and it was all spent in labors of love.’

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Fredericksburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)

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July 2nd, 1863 AD (1)
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