First Lieutenant 29th Mass. Vols. (Infantry), July 24, 1861; died July 28, 1863, near Helena, Ark., of disease contracted in the service.
Lieutenant Ezra Ripley was born August 10 1826, being the son of the late Rev. Samuel Ripley of Waltham, and the grandson of the venerable Dr. Ezra Ripley of Concord, Massachusetts. His mother, Sarah (Bradford) Ripley, still lives at Concord,—a lady beloved and honored as are few persons in any community. Through her he was descended directly from the Pilgrim Governor Bradford. His grandfather, Gamaliel Bradford, was a lieutenant, and his great-grandfather, of the same name, was a colonel, in the war of the Revolution. His paternal grandmother was also the grandmother of Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson of Concord. He graduated at Harvard College in 1846, and was married, in May, 1853, to Miss Harriet M. Hayden of East Cambridge, who survives him. He had no children. In 1861 he had been for ten years a lawyer at East Cambridge, had been there twice appointed to honorable public offices, and was engaged in a large and increasing practice. But when the war broke out he gave up his business, and took part at once in the formation of a military company; the blood that was in him would not suffer him to doubt or linger. And yet he was a slender, delicate, sensitive, and peculiarly unwarlike person,— often the subject of his own laughter for a timidity which he humorously exaggerated into something more than feminine. His health, too, was anything but robust. For these reasons most of his friends opposed his going to the war; but he would heed no opposition, and with steadfast enthusiasm set his face to do what seemed to him to be his duty. And from beginning to end, his patriotism had the support—constant, gentle, self-sacrificing, and inexpressibly comforting—of the person who was dearest to him.  After serving for a time as ‘Third Lieutenant’ in the East Cambridge company in camp at home, he was nominated by General Butler, in the summer of 1861, to be First Lieutenant in what was afterwards Company B of the Twenty-ninth Massachusetts Regiment,—--then a company of the old ‘Massachusetts Battalion,’ at Fortress Monroe. This company and Company I, of the same regiment, were the oldest volunteer troops in the three years service,—having been mustered in on May 14, 1861. In the same modest but honorable place Lieutenant Ripley remained—a First Lieutenant—until the time of his death. Some reasons interfered with his promotion, which were in a high degree honorable to him, but they cannot properly be mentioned here. Yet he was not without marked honor from his superior officers. While stationed at Fortress Monroe and at Newport News he was quite constantly employed as Judge-Advocate. Early in the year 1862 General Mansfield placed him upon his staff. This position he resigned in June of that year, when his regiment was ordered up the Peninsula, and it was made certain that his general was still to remain behind at Newport News. In Kentucky, he served on the staff of Colonel Pierce, Acting Brigadier-General; and at the time of his death he was Acting Assistant Adjutant-General to Colonel Christ, then acting as Brigadier-General near Vicksburg. The abilities and character of Lieutenant Ripley justified the confidence of these officers, and might well have assured him a higher nominal rank. But there never was a person more modest, more eager to prefer others before himself, or more indifferent to his own prospects of advancement, when there was occasion to assert some neglected piece of justice. Had he lived a little longer, there is reason to believe that he would presently have received the nomination of colonel to one of the new colored regiments. He was not aware of this; but it is known that he would have rejoiced to belong to those troops in any capacity. For such a position he had distinguished qualifications,— skill, humanity, and a great and inherited interest in the welfare of the African race. He had a  remarkably alert and penetrating intellect, a tenacious memory, strong native good sense, and a keen and cheerful wit. With a heart, also, which was full to overflowing with sympathy for everything that breathes, he knew well that secret which no school can teach, of compelling the obedience of men through sentiments of love, gratitude, and personal regard. Lieutenant Ripley was in the hottest of the terrible seven days fighting before Richmond. At Harrison's Landing his strength gave out, and he came home on sick-leave. In September he joined his regiment again, just before the battle of Antietam,—leaving home at a time when his physician did not think him well enough to be out in the damp of the evening, resisting the assurances of friends at Washington that he was not well enough to go on, and, when he could no longer for any money hire a conveyance in Maryland, taking his bag in his hand, sleeping at night under a haystack, and hurrying forward on foot to find his regiment,—just drawn up in line at the beginning of the Antietam fight. Bluff General Richardson told him on the spot that he was not well enough to be there; but he persisted that he was, and went bravely through the whole of the fighting. Just after the battles were over, he wrote from Sharpsburg and again from Harper's Ferry as follows. His ardent and generous lament for Colonel Barlow will be read with interest; although that brave officer, as all his countrymen now know, recovered from the severe wounds received in battle at Antietam, to fight with the same distinguished gallantry down to the end of the war.
Afterwards, while the Army of the Potomac was at Falmouth, Ripley was called home on recruiting service for the Second Massachusetts Cavalry. His intention of remaining with that regiment was not carried out, and in February, 1863, he returned to his regiment, which was then, or soon afterwards, placed in the Ninth Army Corps under General Burnside. In March this corps went into Kentucky. As they were moving westward, he wrote home a letter which was full of the pure inspirations that stirred him. He had been speaking of the beautiful mountain scenery along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which had filled him with enthusiasm, and then he added:—
I could not help thinking we had indeed a country worth fighting for. To think that we were in danger of losing the great and good government whose paternal care is extended so widely, and whose benign influence is felt in the remotest corner of these wild regions,—which offers freedom and equal rights to all,—whose very greatness is shown in this her, struggle for existence,—made me almost frantic. If anything were needed to make me feel the necessity of working in the good cause to the last, to give the last drop to my country, this journey has convinced me. God forgive me if I hesitate or falter now. . . . . May you, too, feel this freshness of heart and soul, this renewed vigor, with which this mountain air and scenery have inspired me.And so he went over into Kentucky, and, in June, to Vicksburg. The manner of his death was characteristic. When the troops in July went on to the capital of Mississippi, Lieutenant Ripley, on account of an injury to his leg, was left behind, —‘in the wilderness,’ as he said,—with one man to take care of him. After a few days he had nearly recovered, when word came back that Colonel Christ was sick. No orders came for Lieutenant Ripley, who was then his staff officer, but he said that he felt sure he must be needed, and, over-estimating his own strength, on the 16th of July he hastened forward, riding  about seventy miles in an open wagon, under the blazing sun, and reaching Jackson just as the troops were turning about and coming again to their camp on the Yazoo River near Vicksburg. He came back with them, but now travelled in an ambulance. When they arrived at the camp he was quite ill; and it was now thought best, in accordance with his own wishes, that he should try to reach home. On the 28th of July, at four o'clock in the afternoon, this poor, exhausted, faithful soldier left the sultry heats of Vicksburg for the North and his native New England. As the boat was passing the city he spoke of the many comrades who had fallen there, and sadly asked that he might be lifted up to look once more upon that fatal spot. The boat moved on up the swift river, but his life was flowing fast away, and at eleven o'clock that same evening he died. A cool night breeze had succeeded the intense heat of the day, and was blowing through the open doors of his room; he was attended, moreover, by a faithful man from his regiment, whom he himself had chosen. An hour before his death, he found strength to send a message of mingled love and exultation to his wife; nor did he forget to caution the messenger not to tell her of his death directly, but to see one of his brothers-inlaw first. His body was left at Helena in Arkansas. It was presently removed and buried among his kindred, in the beautiful cemetery at Concord, where a simple and graceful stone, erected through the care of several of his townsmen and friends, fitly marks his resting-place. Upon this stone was placed the following inscription, written by one whose regard for him was in itself an honor.
Ezra Ripley was the friend of all poor and helpless persons, and risked everything to protect them. His lavish expenditure of his own time and means for others would never have suffered him to grow rich; but he has laid up treasure, which neither moth nor rust can corrupt, in the heart of many a prisoner in the jail at East Cambridge, and of many another poor man and woman to whom words of sympathy were unfamiliar; and his name is held dear by the soldiers who were under him.
 Captain), June, 1861; (rank of Major), July, 1861; Captain and Commissary of Subsistence U. S. Vols., December, 1861; Captain 1st Mass. Cavalry, November 25, 1862; discharged, on resignation, May 6, 1864; died of disease contracted in the service, November 7, 1864.
Montgomery Ritchie was a man of marked character. He was modest, even to the degree of self-distrust; his manners were reserved, his impressions slowly received, but, when once received, ineffaceable. His nature, like that of many others, was liable to be mistaken, partly because it was veiled, partly because it was made up of various and even opposite qualities; but to those who penetrated it, it constantly tended towards transparency and harmony. His self-distrust was a prominent trait. His standard was too high to be easily attained or easily approached, and he was not wont to think himself as near it as he actually was. He constantly scrutinized his own motives and actions, and often held himself back, when others, less self-questioning than he, would have pressed forward. His friends valued him the more for his humility. It was to many of them an example which he was quite unconscious of setting, and which is not the less persuasive now that it is set only by his memory. He was self-distrustful, but he was also self-relying. He did not hesitate to decide when the hour for decision came, or shrink from action when it was time to act. He had some grave difficulties to meet, and he met them steadily; some serious trials to bear, and he bore them firmly. His resolution was often tested, and seldom, if ever, failed to stand the test. He was a man whose principle sustained him when those who were quicker than he to begin were also quicker than he to end their efforts. His modesty never paralyzed, never weakened him. With all his reserve, he was full of ardor. His temper was hot, and it was one of the great successes of his life to bring it  under control. He was warm-hearted, fervent in his affections, enthusiastic in cherishing the friends and pursuing the paths he preferred. He struggled, when he had to struggle, with zeal and fire, until he came off conqueror, either by achieving triumph, or by accepting failure in a spirit that turned failure into triumph. His bravery was as perfect as any human quality can be. It was partly physical, the result of unusual bodily powers, developed in boxing, fencing, rowing, and gymnastic exercises. But it was chiefly moral, the growth of noble characteristics,— determination, earnestness, and magnanimity. The nearest companion of his boyhood says that he never struck a hasty blow, but would treat with scorn the provocations he received from such as he knew to be unable to stand up before him. The high courage of the boy ripened into the yet higher courage of the man. No one was ever readier to confess and to repair a wrong, if he had committed any; no one ever gave a fuller measure of honor to those whom he thought honorable, or of sympathy to those whom he considered as meriting it at his hands. Courage and high-mindedness met and mingled in him. He was also remarkable for his integrity. Not only unwilling, but one may say unable to do a dishonorable action, he turned from anything like corruption or knavery, whether great or small, open or hidden, with sickness of the soul. He could not bear even the conventional irregularities of every-day affairs. Better, he thought, be unsuccessful in business, with a sense of unstained honor, than be successful at the slightest risk of dishonor. ‘There are not,’ he once wrote, ‘many trials of character, good and bad, which in my varied life I have not seen. It has been only from experience, gained, I fancy, very much later in life than is usual, that I have appreciated the fact that men are far less restrained by considerations of conscience than I supposed. . . . . I find, in all money transactions, that the great mass do not even pretend to honesty, or what is real honesty.’ Whether he was right or wrong in this opinion, he was resolved to be honest, and really honest himself, and his resolution was unbroken from first to last.  His integrity sprang from his truthfulness. He loved the truth, and the more he understood it, the better he loved it, the more unreservedly he gave himself to it. He shrank from what was false, not only in circumstances or persons of slight importance to him, but in such as were almost a part of his being. He wanted to get at the truth wherever it lay, in science, or commerce, or life, and it was often touching to see with what strong desire he labored to inform himself, wherever he was in doubt, rather than be ignorant, consciously, of that which was alone true. Such are the mere outlines of his character. If they have been sketched with any distinctness, they show a man who would be among the first to spring to the defence of his country the moment it was assailed. No self-distrust would deter him, while his decision, his fervor, his courage, his integrity, and his truthfulness would all urge him on. Whatever his previous career, whatever his actual position, such a man as this was marked out for instant and for persevering service to the Union. Fort Sumter fired on, he went at once to Washington. He was at that time thirty-five years old, having been born March 20, 1826. His birthplace was Boston; his parents were Andrew and Sophia Harrison Ritchie, his mother being the daughter of Harrison Gray Otis. His education was conducted by various teachers until 1839, when he went abroad with his brother under the charge of Mr. T. G. Bradford, with whom he spent between two and three years in France and Germany, acquiring the languages of those countries and carrying on his preparation for Harvard College, which he entered in 1842. After taking his degree in 1846, he began his commercial career in the counting-house of the late Samuel Austin, Jr., and there remained till 1849, when he sailed for Calcutta. His business there being transacted, he crossed to Bombay, and thence took the overland route, returning home through Europe in 1850. He continued in the East India trade at Boston till 1857, and afterwards engaged in the grain commission business at New York, from which he retired some time before the outbreak of the war.  He married, in 1857, Cornelia, the eldest daughter of the late General Wadsworth, of Geneseo, and was residing with his father-in-law when the cannon at Charleston called them both to the field. Ritchie left a wife and two young sons behind him when he entered the service. It was some weeks before he obtained a position as Volunteer Aid on General Blenker's staff, and was engaged in active duty. Just before the battle of Bull Run, he was transferred to the staff of General Miles, whose warm commendation he received for the part he bore in the trying scenes that followed. He did not yield to the panic which overcame many of his comrades, but remained at his post with the rear-guard, and on the sad morning after the rout joined with General Wadsworth in caring for the wounded and directing the stragglers at Fairfax Court-House, which he and his father-in-law were among the last, if not themselves the last, to leave before the entrance of the enemy. Circumstances for which he was entirely irresponsible deprived him of the military appointment he had held, and he returned to Geneseo. But it was only to labor ‘night and day,’ as he is described to have done, in recruiting for the Wadsworth Guards, the Geneseo or Hundred and Fourth New York Volunteers, of whom he was to have been Lieutenant-Colonel. Before the regiment was organized, however, in December, 1861, he received a summons to join the expedition then on the eve of departure, under the command of General Burnside; and, always eager for active service, he hastened to Fortress Monroe. A grievous disappointment befell him there, for, instead of the position to which he had looked forward, the post of Commissary of Subsistence proved to be awaiting him. Strong as the impulse must have been to decline the appointment and return to the Geneseo regiment, he decided, as generously as became him, that his duty was to go on with the expedition, and he began his work as Commissary, with the rank of Captain, on General Reno's staff. He was soon in battle, commanding a gunboat at Roanoke Island, and braving, at Reno's side, the hottest of the fire at Newbern. A little later, he was in action  at Camden, and wrote with deep feeling of the dead and wounded that were left upon the field at night when our troops were ordered to retire. But his duties were chiefly at Newbern and Beaufort, N. C., where he was stationed as Commissary for several months, occupied, as he jestingly said, in the grocery business of those posts. It was a hard, a very hard service for him, and one that fretted his spirit so much as to demand all the determination of which he was capable, to hold him fast. He persevered until ill health compelled him to go home in the summer of 1862. As soon as he regained his strength, he obtained a commission as Captain in the First Massachusetts Cavalry, to qualify himself for duty on the staff of General Augur in the expedition under General Banks to the Mississippi. Fatigue and exposure, with the added effects of the climate, brought on during that winter another illness, far more serious than the attack of the preceding summer. His physicians attempted to dissuade him from continuing in the service, but his self-devotion was stronger than their counsels, and he resumed his staff duties at New Orleans, then at Baton Rouge. A letter from this place, one of the very few of his letters which are now within reach, speaks of the experiment about to be tried in the opening campaign. ‘For my part,’ he writes, ‘I consider the success or failure of the negro troops the great problem of the day. We have now some thousands of blacks officered by whites. They resist the climate, keep their regiments one thousand strong, while white regiments get reduced to three or four hundred. They do all the drill, etc. Query, Will they fight? If they will, then Master South is beaten with his own weapons. It cannot be long before some ten thousand of these men will be led under fire. What momentous results centre in that event! If, as some predict, they fly like sheep, we are far from conquest, and from holding our conquests. If they stand, then, unless want of military genius is an incurable trait of our government, the South, from that day, is whipped. . . . . It will be poetic justice, should the cause of all our evils, Slavery, be turned to avenge our wrongs.’  Port Hudson was the last scene of his service in the field. He took as prominent a part as one in his position could take, in the siege of that stronghold. Always untiring, always undaunted, always ready to expose and to exhaust himself, he here won largely upon the esteem of his commander and his comrades. One exploit illustrates the judgment as well as the gallantry which rendered him an efficient officer. He had been sent to station a regiment in support of a battery, and returned to report that the Colonel had lost his presence of mind, while the men were falling so fast that the regiment might break at any moment. The general told him to take any troops he could find, and carry them to the threatened position; and off he rode, bringing up two fresh regiments just as the one he had distrusted broke and fled. One day, after carrying a despatch over a peculiarly difficult part of the field, he was in the act of reporting to his commanding officer, when he fell by a sun-stroke, and lay insensible for nearly twenty-four hours. This time the surgeons carried the day against him, and he was sent to Baton Rouge, then to New Orleans, and then by sea to New York, where he arrived in the summer of 1863,—‘almost a skeleton,’ as he was described, in the body, but in the spirit rounded and matured, as those who saw him that summer, and observed the development which he had reached through duty and suffering, can now take sad comfort in remembering. Slowly rising from weakness and disease, but not restored to the health he had lost forever, he rejoined General Augur in the autumn, at Washington. There he remained through the following winter, at one time much harassed by the settlement of his accounts as Commissary, some items of which, for want of the necessary formalities, were questioned by the ‘executioners,’ as he playfully called them, ‘who sit upon our official papers.’ The needed vouchers were soon obtained, chiefly through the ready assistance of Dr. J. B. Upham, of Boston, who had been in charge of the Beaufort Hospital, for which, and for the hospital at Newbern, the Commissary had incurred the expenses considered unaccounted for at Washington. But  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.