Manassas NBP 11/5/2010: Sudley Springs, Sudley Road, Thornberry House, Ballou

8 11 2010

This past Friday (11/5) I made a quick trip to the Manassas National Battlefield Park to do some research for an upcoming installment of Collateral Damage.  I met up with Ranger Jim Burgess and he helped me with some work in the park archives, then we met up with friend Craig Swain and headed to the northern end of the park boundary. 

Among other sites, we visited the area where (it is likely) Sullivan Ballou’s body was recovered after its mutilation, burning, and reburial by the 21st Georgia (click the thumbs for larger images):


The Thornberry House, used as a hospital after both battles of Bull Run (the large tree to the left of the house in the second picture appears on the Barnard photo from 1862):


A trace of the original Sudley Road:


And Sudley Springs Ford over Catharpin (Little Bull) Run.  This is the same view as in the Barnard photo Jim is holding – you can see the modern remains of the Springs on the opposite bank.  Hunter’s division crossed Bull Run to the east at Sudley Ford, then crossed here to reach the battlefield:


Thanks so much to Jim Burgess for all the valuable assistance he has provided over the years – a good guy.  Also thanks to Craig for his always valuable commentary.  As a last bit of coolness, and much to Craig’s satisfaction, Jim 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 renovations in the 1970’s.  One of the disarmed shells survived (the shells had been de-fused but not disarmed as the black powder and case shot show):

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14 responses

8 11 2010
Craig Swain

If the projectile were made according to regulations the “black powder” in the case shot is not explosive “black powder.” Rather it is a sulfur matrix. The bursting charge for case shot was inserted into a central cavity. From what I could tell, the central cavity had been cleaned out. There’s a very good reason to use sulfur to cement the case shot in place. But that is another blog post….

12 11 2010
Harry Smeltzer


9 11 2010
David Corbett

Dear Sir ,
I am interested in your comment “the mutilation of Sullivan Ballou.” I have not heard fo this before. Do you mean he was mutilated by Confederate troops? Thank you.

9 11 2010
Harry Smeltzer

David, yes. The generally accepted account is that the 21st GA, who were not present at the battle, mutilated and burned Ballou’s body, supposedly because they were of the opinion that the 2nd Rhode Island was responsible for the heavy casualties suffered by their brothers in the 8th GA. Read more about it in “For Love & Liberty” by Robin Young. Curiously the body of the 2nd’s colonel, John Slocum, was not disturbed.

9 11 2010
Chris Evans

I didn’t really know about this incident until I read about it in Jones book. Everybody knows about Ballou because of the famous letter but this Biercian incident after his death is much less known.

I believe that it was a case of mistaken identity as some mention because they mistook Ballou’s body for Slocum’s and wanted retribution for the commander of the regiment that inflicted so many casualties on their sister regiment in the battle, as you mention.


9 11 2010
Chris Evans

Thanks for the excellent post and pictures.

Yes, Ballou’s body was mutilated by members of the 8th Georgia as they mistook his body for someone else. The macabre, horrifying, and interesting story is told in a chapter of ‘Gray Ghosts and Rebel Raiders: The Daring Exploits of the Confederate Guerillas’ by Virgil Carrington Jones.

The story is also told online at:


28 07 2011
Greetings, New Readers « Bull Runnings

[…] interest, this post with the audio of Ballou’s letter from the Ken Burns documentary, and this post that includes the photos in the […]

29 07 2011
The Traveling Thornberrys–images at Sudley « Remembering: Musings on Fredericksburg and Manassas

[…] a nice modern image of the Thornberry house, check out Harry’s image over at Bull Runnings (in fact, you should check out Harry’s site completely–it’s […]

2 08 2011
Robert maresz

I really enjoyed this! I’m assuming that the near stream bank in the modern photo equates to the near side of the little “island” in the Barnard photo. Barnard’s perspective seems to have been raised quite a bit. Any ideas how he got that cumbersome equipment up so high? -Robert

2 08 2011
Harry Smeltzer

Differences in lenses will change the perspective as well, but the road/trail descends a bit as it approaches the run. Barnard was likely behind my position. To orient yourself, the spring house on the left of Barnard’s photo correspondes to the pile of rocks in the same position in the modern photo. They are the remains of the springhouse.

6 02 2012
8-inch Parrott Rifle, Part 2a | To the Sound of the Guns

[…] Smeltzer mentioned this earlier today.  Since I was already discussing the 8-inch Parrott rifles, I will take advantage of the […]

11 02 2014
Henry Hill Battle Monument | Bull Runnings

[…] a photo of one of the “decorative,” disarmed shells, see here, at the bottom of the […]

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[…] a photo of one of the “decorative,” disarmed shells, see here, at the bottom of the […]

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[…] For more on the Thornberry House, see here. […]

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