William Y. W. Ripley

William Young Warren Ripley (December 31, 1832 December 16, 1905) was a Union Army officer from Vermont in the American Civil War. He received the Medal of Honor for heroism at the Battle of Malvern Hill.

William Young Warren Ripley
Born(1832-12-31)December 31, 1832
Middlebury, Vermont
DiedDecember 16, 1905(1905-12-16) (aged 72)
Rutland, Vermont
Place of burial
Evergreen Cemetery
Rutland, Vermont
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Vermont Militia
Years of service1858 – 1861 (Militia)
1861 – 1862 (Army)
1864 – 1866 (Militia)
Rank Lieutenant Colonel (Army)
Major General (Militia)
Unit 1st Vermont Infantry
1st United States Sharpshooters
Commands held
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
AwardsMedal of Honor
Other workBusinessperson

Early life

William Y. W. Ripley was born in Middlebury, Vermont, on December 31, 1832.[1] He was educated at the Troy Conference Academy in Poultney (now Green Mountain College) and the Lima Institute, in Lima, New York.[2] He then began a career in Rutland at the Ripley family's marble business and the Ripley family-owned Rutland County National Bank.[3]

Military service

Beginning in 1858, Ripley was a lieutenant in the Rutland Light Guards, a volunteer militia unit commanded by Horace Henry Baxter.[4]

Baxter subsequently became adjutant general of the Vermont Militia. In May, 1861 Ripley entered the Union Army for the Civil War as captain and commander of the Rutland Light Guards, which was mustered in as Company K, 1st Vermont Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He served with the regiment in Washington, D.C. and Virginia during the entire three months of its service, including taking part in the Battle of Big Bethel.[5][6]

In the Fall of 1861 Ripley joined the 1st United States Sharpshooters as lieutenant colonel and second in command.[7] He took part in several battles, including the Battle of Malvern Hill in July, 1862, at which he was seriously wounded. Ripley's wounds proved serious enough to prevent him from returning to the field.[8]

In August, 1862 he was appointed commander of the 10th Vermont Infantry with the rank of colonel, but declined because of the physical disability caused by his wounds.[9]

In 1864 he was appointed to command the 1st Division of the Vermont Militia with the rank of major general. The militia had an active role providing patrols and security within the state and along the border with Canada, particularly following the October, 1864 St. Albans Raid. He served until a post-Civil War reorganization of the militia eliminated the division headquarters.[10]

Medal of Honor

At the Battle of Malvern Hill Ripley was commended for returning to the rear at a critical juncture in the fight to bring up two regiments that had been in reserve, which he then led into battle himself. He continued to fight until a bullet struck his leg and he had to be carried from the field.[11]

In 1893 Ripley was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism at the Battle of Malvern Hill. The citation reads:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant Colonel William Young Warren Ripley, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 1 July 1862, while serving with 1st U.S. Sharpshooters, in action at Malvern Hill, Virginia. At a critical moment Lieutenant Colonel Ripley brought up two regiments, which he led against the enemy himself, being severely wounded.

General Orders:

Date of Issue: March 11, 1893 Action Date: July 1, 1862

Service: Army Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Division: 1st U.S. Sharpshooters[12]

Later life

After the Civil War Ripley returned to his family's business interests, operating the marble company with his brother Edward as Ripley Sons, and serving on the board of directors and as president of the Rutland County National Bank.[13][14]

In 1867 Ripley was elected president of the Reunion Society of Vermont Officers, succeeding George J. Stannard, who had been the organization's first president.[15] He was also active in the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States,[16] the Grand Army of the Republic,[17] and the Medal of Honor Legion.[18]

In 1889 the Ripleys sold the marble business to the Vermont Marble Company, headed by fellow Civil War veteran Redfield Proctor.[19]

A Republican, Ripley was a delegate to the 1868 Republican National Convention.[20] In 1880 he was a presidential elector, and cast his ballot for the Garfield and Arthur ticket.[21]

The city of Rutland was organized separately from the town in the late 1800s, and Ripley served as the city's mayor from 1899 to 1900, succeeding Percival W. Clement.[22]

Ripley authored a history of his Civil War experiences, 1883's Vermont Riflemen in the War for the Union.[23]

Death and burial

Ripley died in Rutland on December 16, 1905.[24] He was buried in Rutland's Evergreen Cemetery.[25]


William Y. W. Ripley was the brother of Edward H. Ripley. E. H. Ripley served in the Civil War as commander of the 9th Vermont Infantry Regiment. As a brevet brigadier general, he commanded brigades in the XVIII and XXIV Corps. He led some of the first troops to enter Richmond following the Lee's retreat, and warned Lincoln of a plot to assassinate him when he visited Virginia during the waning days of the war.[26][27]

Julia Caroline Dorr, the wife of Seneca M. Dorr, was the half-sister of William and Edward Ripley.[28]

William Y. W. Ripley was married to Cornelia Ann Thomas Ripley. Their children included: Hastings Warren Ripley (January 30, 1871 – April 24, 1871); Mary Elizabeth Ripley Pease (1857–1936); William Thomas Ripley (1860–1893); Janet Warren Ripley Dorr (1863–1954); Thomas Emerson Ripley (1865–1956); and Charles Edward Ripley (1867–1893).[29]

Thomas E. Ripley was the father of author and screenwriter Clements Ripley.[30]

William Y. W. Ripley's sister Helen was the mother of John Ripley Myers.[31][32]

The son of Clements Ripley, William Y. W. Ripley (1921–2013), called Warren, was a notable South Carolina newspaper editor and historian.[33]


  1. Erik S. Hinckley and Tom Ledoux, They Went to War: A Biographical Register of the Green Mountain State in the Civil War, 2010, pages 15-16
  2. Rutland Historical Society Quarterly, Rutland’s Mayors, Volume XII, Number 2 (1982), page 20
  3. Rutland Historical Society Quarterly, The Last of the Rutland Ripleys, Volume XIX, Number 4 (1989), page 47
  4. Rutland County Historical Society, Proceedings of the Rutland County Historical Society, Volume 1, 1882, pages 26-27
  5. Otis Frederick Reed Waite, Vermont in the Great Rebellion, 1869, page 60
  6. Roy Martin Marcot, Civil War Chief of Sharpshooters Hiram Berdan: Military Commander and Firearms Inventor, 1989, page 108
  7. Henry Perry Smith, William S. Rann, History of Rutland County, Vermont, 1993, page 80
  8. Charles Augustus Stevens, Berdan's United States Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865, 1892, pages 528-529
  9. Rutland Historical Quarterly, Rutland in the Civil War (Part 1), Volume 41, Number 2 (2011), page 5
  10. Vermont Adjutant General, Annual Report, 1865, page 8
  11. Robert G. Steele, With pen or sword: lives and times of the remarkable Rutland Ripleys, 1979, page 146
  12. Military Times, Hall of Valor, Medal of Honor Citation: William Young Warren Ripley, retrieved February 3, 2014
  13. American Bankers Association, Proceedings of the Convention of the American Bankers' Association, 1897, page 333
  14. Stone, an Illustrated Magazine, Vermont Monuments at Gettysburg, Volume 1, November 1888, pages 170-171
  15. Reunion Society of Vermont Officers, Annual Meeting Proceedings, 1885, page 473
  16. Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Annual Meeting Proceedings, 1902, page 105
  17. Don Wickman, Rutland Herald, Service Not Forgotten, November 10, 2006
  18. Medal of Honor Legion, Roster of the Medal of Honor Legion, 1898, page 15
  19. Stone, an Illustrated Magazine, The Vermont Marble Company and the Village of Proctor, Volume XIX, Number 6 (November, 1899), page 521
  20. Republican National Convention, Official Proceedings, 1903, page 42
  21. Charles S. Forbes, The Vermonter magazine, History of the Republican Party, Volumes 9-10, (September 1904), page 70
  22. City of Rutland, Annual Report of the City of Rutland, Volumes 15-20, 1908, page 17
  23. William Y. W. Ripley, Vermont Riflemen in the War for the Union, 1861-1865, 1883, title page
  24. Malone (N.Y.) Farmer, Death Notice, Wm Y. W. Ripley, December 20, 1905
  25. William Y. W. Ripley at Find a Grave, retrieved February 3, 2014
  26. Gerald Linderman, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War, 2008, pages 310-311
  27. David Herbert Donald, Lincoln, 2011, page 577
  28. The Vermonter magazine, The Vermonter, 1913, page 4
  29. Rutland Historical Quarterly, The Last of the Rutland Ripleys, page 49
  30. Vermont Historical Society, Description, Papers of Charlotte Clement Ripley (1864-1923), 2007, page 1
  31. The Hamilton Review, Alumni Notes, March 1900, page 155
  32. Rutland Historical Quarterly, The Last of the Rutland Ripleys, page 47
  33. Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier, Retired newspaper editor Ripley dies at 92, September 7, 2013
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