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[423] the sick-list, ‘when so many able-bodied men were shirking their duty.’ He ‘determined to stay with the old red diamond’ (the division badge) ‘till it reached Richmond, or die on the road.’ The last two days of May he suffered severely from want of sleep, coughing violently whenever he lay down. Unwillingly he allowed his tent-mate to hold him in his arms that he might rest. All this time, studiously concealing his condition as far as possible, he performed his official labors. June 2, he wrote to his wife, ‘I shall, perhaps, have to give up duty for a day or two. Nothing but a spasmodic cough.’ It was pneumonia. June 5 he wrote, on board the steamer, ‘Here I am on my way to you,—not wounded. I shall rest a day in Washington, at Duddington.’ (Duddington is the old Carroll mansion, still inhabited by members of the Carroll family, cousins of Major Birney's mother.) He reached Duddington on the 6th of June. Though very sick and travel-worn, he wrote with his own hand the telegraphic messages that summoned his wife and mother to his side. He bore his physical sufferings with cheerfulness and patience, and looked forward with resignation to the end; but he showed a soldier's sensitiveness at dying of disease. The day he died he said to a wounded cousin, ‘I wish I had that bullet through my body.’ Once he asked, musingly, ‘Who will care for mother now?’ An hour after his death came the invitation to attend the exercises of his Class-day at Cambridge. It was the 17th of June, 1864,—the anniversary of the battle of Bunker's Hill.

Fitzhugh Birney was an uncommonly handsome man, tall, athletic, and apparently robust, but unable to endure long-continued hardship and exposure. He was an excellent horseman and a passionate hunter. He never got lost; his knowledge of place was instinctive and unerring, like an Indian's. Courage, truthfulness, and generosity, which distinguished his boyhood, were yet more conspicuous ornaments of his brief manhood. He was always helping others; but others rarely found it possible to help him. The gentleness of his manners veiled from most observers the singular decision of his character.

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