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Edmund Ruffin, born in 1794, was a planter in Prince George County, Virginia, from 1813 until 1843, when he moved to Hanover County, where he remained until 1861. Not content to be simply an agricultural reformer, he began in 1833 to edit and publish the influential Farmer’s Register. His insertion of his increasingly fiery political views into the pages of the Register gradually lost him his readership and was responsible for the demise of the periodical in 1842. Although Ruffin became an active Southern nationalist and secessionist long before most of his fellows, his metamorphosis was basically that of other Southern radicals. By 1855 his main energies were devoted to converting the timid to his extremist cause. When the order came to shell Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, the stern old Virginian with long white hair was chosen to fire the first shotthe climax of his political career. By 1865, the War was over, Ruffin’s world had dish itcgrated, and, leaving an entry in his diai declaring his "unmitigated hatred to Yankee rule," he shot himself.
J. Carlyle Sitterson is the author of Secession Movement in North Carolina (1939), Sugar Country (1957), and articles on Southern plantations, and editor of Studies in Southern History (1951). He was Professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts’ and Sciences, University of North Carolina.