The Battle Monument

9 02 2007


I took this photo of the First Bull Run monument in April 2005.  This monument sits hard by the reconstructed Henry house.  Here’s how close – click on the thumbnail to view the full size image:


According to Harper’s Weekly for July 1, 1865:

The battle of Bull Run was the first great battle of the war.  It was proper that upon the field where it was fought should be erected the first monuments.  The movement to erect such monuments on the field was quite impromptu.  The idea was conceived by Lieutenant Callum, of the Sixteenth Massachusetts Light Battery, and under his superintendence the structures were erected in four days, being completed June 10.  The next day, the 11th, was chosen for the observance of appropriate dedicatory ceremonies.  The party engaging in the performance of these services set out from Washington on an early train.  In the President’s car were several distinguished officers, among whom were Generals Heintzelman, Meigs, Wilcox [sic], and Benham.  One who accompanied the expedition gives the following account of the proceedings of the day:

“Arrived at Fairfax Station, about fifty ambulances and a large number of army wagons, tastefully shaded by evergreens, were found to have been placed in readiness by General Gamble, in command of that post, to convey the party to the battle-field.  The morning was lowery, the air rather chilly, and the prospect of a pleasant trip rather unfavorable; but at ten o’clock the sun had dispelled the sombre clouds, and gave to nature a bright and cheerful aspect.

“The ride from the station to Fairfax Courthouse, and thence to the battle-field, was delightful; and as the long procession moved over the hills and through the valleys of this once fertile now desolate region, all appeared to be deeply impressed with the interesting scene and the solemn occasion.

“Passing Centreville at about ten o’clock, we arrived at Bull Run bridge but a few minutes before eleven.  About three-fourths of a mile beyond the bridge, on the hill, is the site of the first monument.  Arrived at the spot we found Colonel Gallup, with his regiment of the Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, dismounted, a squadron of the Eight Illinois Cavalry, and Captain Scott’s battery of the Sixteenth Massachusetts Light Artillery drawn up in line near the monument, with a fine brass band at their head.  Soon afterward the band struck up a solemn dirge, and the troops, with reversed arms, marched up to the monument.  A most impressive prayer and the solemn burial-service of the Episcopal Church was then read by Rev. Dr. McMurdy, specially invited to officiate on the occasion.  A hymn, written for the occasion by the poet Pierpont, was sung, a salvo fired by the artillery, and addresses by Judge Olin, Generals Wilcox [sic], Farnsworth, and Heintzelman, closed the exercises.”

Below is the engraving that accompanied the story, and also two LOC photos from the event.  (Click on the thumbnails to view the full size pictures.)  You can see how both photos were used as a basis for the engraving.  In the center of the middle photo, the short officer in the kepi is Samuel Heintzelman; on his left is Orlando Willcox.  The gentleman in the top hat in center of the last photo is District of Columbia Supreme Court Judge Abraham Olin. 



The article goes on to mention that much of the party then proceeded to Groveton, where another, similar monument was dedicated to the memory of the soldiers who fell in the Second Battle of Bull Run.  Interestingly, the author notes that the monument on Henry Hill is about twenty feet in height, and is a pointed column, built of red sandstone ornamented with 100-pound elongated shells.  This shaft will not, we are inclined to believe, last many years.  It bears on its surface the inscription, “Erected to the memory of the patriots who fell at Bull Run, July 21, 1861.” 

Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the American Civil War, in Vol. II of which yet another photo of the dedication is plate #100, states that both monuments are of chocolate colored sandstone, twenty-seven feet high, and were erected by the officers and men of General Gamble’s separate cavalry brigade, camped at Fairfax Court-House. The Monument on the first Bull Runfield is situated on the hill in front of the memorable stone house, on the spot where the 14th Brooklyn, 1st Michigan, and 1st and 2d Maine were most hotly engaged, and where Ricketts and Griffin lost their batteries. The shaft is twenty-seven feet high, and bears upon its top a hundred pound shell. On the pedestal at each corner is a shell of similar size. On one side of the shaft is inscribed, “To the memory of the patriots who fell at Bull Run, July 21st, 1861,” and on the reverse, “Erected June 10th, 1865”.



6 responses

25 11 2007
Ron Kelley

Great work on the monument at Manassas…where is this place you refer to as Bull Run? haha, Confederate joke. I am a local historian in Arkansas and reenact with the 1st Arkansas Infantry. I was just at this monument last summer and it is truely a hollowed piece of ground!

I have a Civil War diary entry from a soldier in the 1st Arkansas Infantry from South Arkansas. It has previously been thought that the 1st Arkansas was only being held in reserve, but with the following diary entry, one can deduce that if there were shells bursting over the heads of the Arkansas boys in the rear, I would surely consider them in the battle!
Below is a page from the Reap Letters (Donated and made available by Doyle Taylor)

August 4th, 1861
Camp Magreger (MacGregor)#

Dear Mother
I now take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present, hoping theas (these) few lines may find you all well. I hav[e] bin (been) out of camp all trying to find som boddys (somebody’s) watermillian (watermelon) patch and I found one. We march forty miles to (two) weeks ago to Manassas Gap to a battle but it was about over whin (when) we got thair (there). The yankeys (Yankees) threw four bums (bombs) over our heads. One fell about forty yards from our regiment. I saw too (two) of them burst. Tha (they) busted like a cannon firing. We received forty dollars last week a peas (apiece). We hav[e] to pay teenty (twenty) of it for uniforms. I hav[e] not any thing to [w]rite. I will come to a close.

You must not [w]rite a short letter because I do. [W]rite a;; the news you hav[e] [w]rite as soon as this comes to hand. Tell Bill to [w]rite me. I hav[e] not got the time that he has to [w]rite.

S.H. Reap to his dear mother


27 11 2007
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks, Ron. I also have letters from a member of the 9th GA, which by all accounts arrived too late for the battle, that are a little ambiguous.

Do you have citation info on this letter? Where is it deposited?


17 03 2010
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[…] took us down to the basement of the VC and showed us one of the original 200 lb Parrott shells from the Battle Monument.  It turns out that these shells were live, and not discovered to be so until the monument’s […]


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[…] For more on the monument, see here. […]


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[…] For more on he monument dedication, see here. […]


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