Confederate Ohioan Roswell Ripley, the Ever-Irascible

One section of my new book, Civil War Ohioans, features Ohioans who fought for and/or defended the Confederacy. Among the better known of the latter was Ohio politician Clement Vallandigham.

Among the better known Ohioans in the Confederate army was General Roswell Ripley. When reading about him, you might get the impression that he was a matter of “addition by subtraction” for the Union effort.

One biographer wrote of him, ““General Roswell Ripley could not get along with anyone.  Not even Robert E. Lee.  For nearly four years, Roswell Sabine Ripley wore the wreath and three stars of a Confederate general officer, despite being an unmistakable Yankee by any definition. He hardly fit the image of the gallant Southern officer nobly defending the “Lost Cause,” even expressing distaste for Robert E. Lee…Roswell Ripley ran afoul of troubles with women, booze, and scornful colleagues in daunting numbers, and left behind a record that might be characterized as ‘Mixed at Best,’ but ‘Colorful Always.”

Born near Columbus, Ohio, Ripley graduated from West Point in 1843. After duty helping prepare the Confederate coastal defenses, during which he excoriated Lee’s abilities, Ripley joined the Army of Northern Virginia in the summer of 1862. One of his colleagues at the time called him “a big fat whiskey drinking loving man.”  At Antietam, where Ripley’s men helped defend the center, the general was accused of cowardice by General D.H. Hill.  One Colonel noted that “Ripley had been wounded, unfortunately for his reputation, not fatally.” 

He was then sent back to Charleston, where he again commanded its defenses until early 1865.  During his tenure there he underwent a trial on charges of drunkenness on duty, but apparently was adjudged not guilty.  In March 1865 he and his division were sent to join Joe Johnston, just in time to be defeated at the Battle of Bentonville. 

            After the war Ripley spent most of the rest of his life in England, where he engaged in a variety of schemes.  He returned to the U.S. in the late 1880’s, and he died in New York City.  Neither his estranged wife nor any of his family attended the funeral. 

Below is a copy of the cover of the book and a photo of Ripley.

Author: geneofva

Author of "Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era," and of seven more Civil War books -- with more to come!!

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