Thank you sir!I love stories like this! Your passion shines through your writing. Far more contemporary; I ran across the story of a WW2 air pilot who was shot down, imprisoned, and built a violin in his POW camp. It's a famous story; his name was Clair Cline. I tracked him down (both of us on the west coast) and spent a lovely afternoon with he and his wife some years ago, both in their 90's. And got to play that fiddle!
Now if someone would just let me play Solomon Conn's CW war fiddle that he documented all his battles on. Literally, etched on the back.
Thanks again... what a rich history you found for your Mr Conrad!
Only saw this after it was bumped, what a fantastic story and kudos for making sure his final resting place was again marked. Stories like these are why this hobby is so wonderful!In June 1993, using a metal detector in Raymond, MS, I dug up a Bowie knife scabbard finial. Scratched into the brass facing of the relic were these words:
Ripley H. Conrad
4 La Vols!
The research into the life and legacy of this soldier who personalized his knife, has forever bonded me to this figure from the civil war as well as his incredible family story.
I began to do research on this soldier. The more I dug into his past, the more I discovered what an incredible legacy this family had with the state of Louisiana, the South, and the United States from its early colonial past. My life has been enriched by what I have discovered. Our lives forever entertwined, this is my story...and his:
On September 26, 1862, Ripley Holmes Conrad, a young Adjutant in the 9th Louisiana Battalion of Partisan Rangers, drew his last breath in Amite Springs, Louisiana, only 20 miles from his home town of Baton Rouge and one year to the month that his older brother had also died at Amite Springs.
Ripley was born December 27, 1841, the second oldest son of Frederick and Fannie Conrad. Though his life and military career were cut short way too early, the simple act of marking his property with an inscription had become the greatest act he could have performed. It became a catalyst for my research on the family and laid out a wonderful story of incredible family figures that have had a profound effect on our American history and allowed me to share his family story.
- In 1753, Ripley's great-grandfather arrived in colonial Virginia from Baumholden Germany. He established hop yard, tan yards and vineyards in the Shenandoah Valley and became wealthy. He operated one of the only tan yards in the western colonies during the Revolutionary War and supplied the Continental Army with leather goods. He also established Winchester Academy in Winchester, VA. The most famous student was David Holmes, who grew up to become the first governor of Mississippi. Ripley was named after him.
Ripley's maternal great-grandfather was Col. Charles Mynn Thruston, one of Virginia's Revolutionary War "fighting parsons". He fought in the battle of Trenton and the battle of Punk Hill. After the war, he became of member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He died at his plantation in Chalmette, LA in 1812. On the same ground of his plantation, in 1814, general Andrew Jackson would defeat Thruston's old foe, the British, in the Battle of New Orleans.
- Ripley's grandfather sought his fortune as a planter and moved to southern Louisiana and grew sugar cane. Before arriving in Louisiana, he lived 2 years in Natchez and became a well-known socialite and horse racer.
- Ripley's father was a well-known New Orleans attorney, successful cotton and sugar cane planter, state politician, and horse racer. His wife's father had been an adjutant to general Andrew Jackson at the battle of New Orleans and was a Judge who was involved in the trial of Aaron Burr. He gave the couple, as a wedding gift, a lavish 22 room mansion called "The Cottage" . By 1860, Ripley's father, Frederick, owned 300 slaves and had a net worth of $3 million.
It was at The Cottage plantation home that Ripley was born and raised.
- Ripley's uncle, Charles Magill Conrad, married Mary Angela Lewis, who was the only grand-niece of George and Martha Washington. Historic artifacts and family papers of the Washington's stayed with the Conrad's until 1894 when they were donated to the Mount Vernon Collection. Charles Magill also served as a U.S. Senator from Louisiana as well as the Secretary of War during Millard Fillmore's administration. He also represented the state of Louisiana in the Confederate Congress during the war.
- Ripley Conrad received an appointment letter from Col. Daniel Weisiger Adams on January 23, 1860 for a field command as a second lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of Louisiana Infantry. Col. Adams, who had moved to New Orleans in 1852, knew Ripley's father well and arranged the commission. Later during the civil war, now General Adams led a very colorful career including heroic acts at Shiloh and Vicksburg. He has a stature bust near the site of the Louisiana Redoubt in the Vicksburg National Military Park.
Ripley briefly joined the Delta Rifle Company of the 4th Louisiana after the battle of Shiloh but was transferred to become Adjutant of the newly formed 9th Louisiana Battalion of Partisan Rangers. This was a move made by another family friend, Col. Wingfield.
Ripley died a month after participating in the Battle of Baton Rouge in August of 1862.
But how did his knife end up in Raymond, MS? Ripley was never in Raymond during the war, yet his inscription clearly marked the knife as his personal property.
The most logical answer came after research led me to activities after the fall of Vicksburg. The 9th Louisiana Partisan Rangers were camped in Raymond in 1864 and made raids on the Union troops in the area. Since Ripley had died in 1862, someone from Ripley's Ranger unit must have taken possession of his Bowie knife after his death and the scabbard finial became lost while they were encamped in the Raymond area. 130 years later, this seemingly insignificant finial brought to light the legacy of Ripley Conrad and his family.
I wanted to pay homage to "my soldier" and visit his grave site. But his grave marker at the St. Joseph Catholic Church cemetery had been lost to the elements. I was fortunate enough to procure a government issued grave stone for his Confederate service and in January 1997, placed a shiny new headstone at his burial site. The local TV station and newspaper were there to cover the event. What a joyous day this was. My research had come full circle it seemed. But not quite. There was one more event that occurred that took me totally by surprise.
My phone rang in May of 2005. The voice on the other end of the line said, "Am I talking to the guy that found a scabbard with the name Ripley Conrad on it?"
I was shocked. "Yes...Who is this?", I replied.
"I have been literally searching the country for you, he chuckled. My name is Larry Conrad. Ripley was my great uncle and we have much to discuss."
I nearly dropped the phone! My soldier, Ripley Conrad, now had a voice. And that voice was Larry. He was from the San Francisco, CA area and was in his 90's. My interest in his family had re-kindled memories of things his father had told him of the family. Over the serval years I knew him, Larry and I became good friends and he was able to share documents, letters and other family member contacts that are still invaluable to me.
Six years ago, I received a phone call at work from Larry's nephew that Larry had passed away from a heart attack.
I only prayed that as Larry entered the gates of heaven, he would find Ripley among the departed souls, and tell him of this great adventure that we had been on because of his inscription on his scabbard tip. And let him know that he and his memory are not forgotten. We will never forget.
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