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» John's Civil War Experiences

John's Civil War Experiences

Caroline RipkaJohn RosencrantzOn April 17, Virginia voted to secede from the Union; two days later, John wrote to Elijah from Alexandria:

The temperature of the Southern people is fiendish just now. All the young men are military. . . . The Southern people are as brave as any in the world and they believe they can beat the world in arms. . . . I am so full of these troubles in addition to our other hardships that sometimes I feel I must seem demented.

John believed that the only way to avoid all-out war was a “full, natural separation” of the Northern and Southern states. He feared that Alexandria might find itself in the midst of a battle between “contending armies” and noted that the female mill workers and the wives of the male workers were packing to return to Philadelphia. The men stayed on, and for a time the mill continued to operate. Not long afterward, however, John closed his cotton mill in Alexandria. Cut off from its Southern cotton source and markets, the Ripka firm went into bankruptcy. John obtained limited employment with the U.S. Commissary Department and opened a medical practice. By 1864 he had been put in charge of a hospital.

When the Civil War ended, John returned from Washington to Manayunk. There, General Robert Patterson acquired and reopened the mills formerly owned by the Ripka family. John gained employment at a salary that enabled him to accumulate a degree of financial equity. When Captain John Quincy Adams’s wife, Amelia (Caroline Ripka’s sister), died of tuberculosis, John and Caroline, who had no children of their own, took charge of the couple’s three children, Allan, Florence, and Harry, while their father was away on extended duty with the U.S. Navy.

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