Edmund Saunders Ruffin diesBesides being credited with having fired the first shot of the Civil War, (and for being the most rabid slavery advocate in the antebellum South), Edmund Ruffin provides two other footnotes to our history. He pioneered the use of marl, which is in abundance in Tidewater Virginia, as a fertilizer (to be accurate, it served the purpose that lime serves today as a pH balancer) for his farm fields, in an era when farmers didn't know what a fertilizer was; they simply shut down their operations on played-out fields and moved west, where copious amounts of fertile land were available.
A former executive and business owner, he owned Charles City's Evelynton
By Jeremy Slayton, Richmond Times-Dispatch Staff Writer
Edmund Saunders Ruffin's roots were firmly entrenched in Virginia's deep history.
Mr. Ruffin, whose ancestors trod Virginia's soil in the mid-1600s and include a notable Civil War figure, died of complications from cancer Sunday in his Charles City County home, the historic Evelynton Plantation. He was 77.
He grew up in the Georgian Revival manor house, located on land that has belonged to the Ruffin family since 1847.
Mr. Ruffin carried the name of his great-great-grandfather, Edmund Ruffin, born in 1794 and an innovative agriculturist well-known in the years before the Civil War. But his lasting fame is as one of the Southern "Fire Eaters" who fanned the flames of the secessionist movement.
Some accounts of the Civil War credit Ruffin with firing the first shot of the conflict. (link)
And, for the next time you're thinking up trivia questions, there's this: Edmund Ruffin was (at least to my knowledge) the only man in American history to have committed suicide because the South lost the Civil War. Look it up.