104.-the Exhumation at Bull Run.
A correspondent of the Belvidere Press
, who accompanied Gov. Sprague
to the field of Bull Run
, to recover the mortal remains of those gallant Rhode Islanders who there found their graves, gives the following graphic description of some of the sorrowful scenes the party witnessed:
The cavalry pushed on over the Warrenton turnpike
, while the Governor
and staff went down to the memorable bridge where the Second battery were obliged to leave their guns.
The object of this visit was to see if any graves were thereabouts, as it was in the slaughter that occurred at this spot Capt. S. J. Smith
is supposed to have lost his life.
But no sign of a grave could be discovered, no marks of a burial were discovered in the vicinity, and the bridge itself was blown up and destroyed.
The party then crossed the fields to the fording place near Sudley Church, there went
through the stream, and joined the cavalry in the vicinity of the battle-field, near the little house to the left of the church where Slocum
died, and in the garden of which they were interred.
at once recognised the spot, and pointed out the graves of the heroes, and the preparations for exhuming were at once commenced, under the direction of Mr. Coleman
During this time, the Governor
, accompanied by Mr. Clark
and the remainder of his staff, rode in search of the place where poor Tower
lay. And now occurs an incident which I am almost afraid to pen. It causes a shudder to hear or to relate.
But it is true — alas!
The party had but just commenced digging, the troopers had lifted out but one or two shovelsful of earth, when a negro girl came down through the woods from a house near by on the hill, and watched the proceedings.
Suddenly she came up by the side of the grave, and asked if they were not digging for Col. Slocum
On being answered in the affirmative, she said: “You're too late.
The Georgia regiment have dug him up a good many weeks ago to procure his bones for trophies.
[It sickens me to write the revolting account. ] That his body had been burnt for this purpose, and finding the bones consume with the flesh, and the stench intolerable, they had thrown dirt on the fire to extinguish it.”
She pointed out the place where the cannibal rites occurred, and there, in the midst of coal and cinders, the horror-stricken party saw verified the woman's almost incredible narration.
She also guided the party to a spot a little farther down on the banks of the brook, and in the water, stopped by a little clump of bushes, the blanket and shirt stripped from the body were floating in the current.
The calico shirt, from its pattern and figure, was at once pronounced by Mr. Richardson
, who nursed him in his last moments, to be that of Major Ballou
, and not of Col. Slocum
After circumstances also proved that the ghouls had mistaken the object of their vengeance, and that the fate intended for the remains of Col. Slocum
was received by those of the heroic and unfortunate Major Ballou
I write this with a trembling hand and a burning heart.
I would have spared you the pain of such a narration, but a calm, clear version of this fiendish outrage must be given, and sensibility laid aside for the moment.
The ashes and bones were gathered with scrupulous care, and, wrapped in the blanket, were with the clothes laid carefully in the coffin.
The body of Col. Slocum
was discovered to be unmutilated.
It was enveloped in his blanket, and had been contained in a rude box. So well-defined were the distinguishing traits, that none of the party failed to recognise instantly and with certainty the identity of the remains.
With uncovered heads, the body was laid in the burial-case, which in each case was marked with the name and date of disinterment.
For the purpose of gleaning further intelligence about this horrible affair, the Governor
and Col. Arnold
visited the house from whence the colored girl had issued, and there conversed with the occupants, who corroborated every word the girl had said.
also made inquiries at another house in the neighborhood, and held a long conversation with a white woman on the premises, who had nursed our sick and wounded at Sudley Church.
She assured him that she herself had witnessed the whole affair, and had expostulated, begged and entreated that the dead should be held sacred, but the savages mocked at her; and then, finding all endeavors useless, she had saved a lock of his hair, and preserved it for his friends, who she was confident some day would appear, and this lock of hair she gave to Mr. Coleman
The men who performed this hellish deed were members of the Twenty-first Georgia regiment; and it will be remembered that it was the Georgia
regiments that the Second Rhode Island had met and vanquished on the battle-field.
On through the woods again, across brooks the horses waded and floundered, the mire was deep, and night had set in, but on went the little band, until the cavalcade emerged on the battle-ground of Bull Run
The tired horses, shivering and trembling, were picketed to the fences, and by the flaring candles, for no lanterns were to be obtained, the search was commenced for Capt. Tower
at eight o'clock in the evening.
, by looking from a window in the house where he lay wounded on the day of the battle, and now occupied by Mr. Mathews
, pointed out the spot where the Captain
The ground was wet and marshy, and as often as a spadeful of earth was thrown from the grave the water would trickle in.
The work was therefore reluctantly deferred until the morrow, and the party, tired and mournful, clustered in the little white hospital-building in which our wounded men were carried on the twenty-first of July.
All wrapped themselves in their blankets, and, with saddles for pillows, sought repose on the hard floor.
On the morning of Saturday the water stood in pools on the surface of the ground, for it had rained heavily in the night, and a ditch was dug around the graves to facilitate digging, and the bodies were again uncovered.
The dead were all found buried with their faces downward, as a mark of foul indignity, and thus lay in “one red burial blent.”
the tears gushed from the eyes of the troopers as they reverently gazed upon their dead comrades in arms.
The body of Capt. Tower
was identified by Col. Arnold
, who stood by the side of the grave, and who was one of the most earnest among all the saddened group in his endeavors to recognise his remains.
It is a matter of congratulation that, guided by the directions of Messrs. Richardson
, the precise locality of each of the remains recovered was satisfactorily determined, and it is to be regretted that the party who, as I am informed, left Rhode Island
for the purpose of identifying the remains of Lieut. Prescott
for some reason, to join this expedition, and consequently no guide was at hand to aid in finding his remains.