Manassas, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The Curious Descend on Manassas for Curios
In the days following the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1961, Union soldiers circulated rumors accusing Confederate soldiers of battlefield atrocities. The charges were were extensive and included bayoneting and executing wounded and defenseless Federals, firing on field hospitals, and mutilating the dead. Later in the war, Southerners accused Union soldiers of similar outrages.
“We heard to-day, from a citizen, that after the battle of ‘Bull Run,’ some Northern skulls were sold here [Winchester] at $10 apiece; also that many officers had spurs made of our men’s bones. I don’t know whether to believe these things or not.”—Letter, Col. Robert G. Shaw, 2nd Massachusetts
“The barbarities practiced by the rebels at the Battle of Bull’s Run are unparalleled. These fiends in human shape have taken bayonets and knives of our wounded and dying soldiers and thrust them into their hearts and left them sticking there, and that some have severed the heads of our dead and amused themselves by kicking them abut as footballs. Such babarities are unworthy of a Christian era. – They are a sample of the boasted chivalry of those worse than fiends.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 29, 1961.
Objective witnesses affirmed that relic hunting occured.“Strangers poured into Manassas daily to see the ‘sights’ and carry off ‘relics.’ Uniforms, arms, buttons, caps, and even skulls were seized with avidity. These relic mongers might be seen hovering over the fields like carrion crows, carrying off all kinds of trifles.”—“ An English Combatant,” Battlefields of the South from Bull Run to Fredericksburg, 1864.
Northern papers printed these tales and fed a growing public outcry for revenge. The Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, formed in December 1861 after the Ball’s Bluff debacle, investigated. Despite the fact that much of the testimony was hearsay or fictitious, in May 1862 the committee
“The recent report of the congressional committee established beyond a doubt, on the testimony of unimpeachable witnesses that the rebels have committed outrages. ... This conduct of the rebels should spur us in the work of crushing out the rebellion. And let us remember that slavery is the source and fountain of all this evel. No nation except a nation of slaveholders could be guilty of such barbarism.”—The Springfield Republican, May 3, 1862.
Illustrated newspapers capitalized on the committee’s false findings by printing fanciful cartoon depictions of macabre bone ornaments and ghoulish household furnishings fashioned from the bones of Union corpses. The vividly depicted atrocities helped rally Northern abolitionists.
Erected by Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails, and the Virginia, Wartime Manassas Walking Tour marker series.
Location. 38° 45.03′ N, 77° 28.31′ W. Marker is in Manassas, Virginia. Marker is on the sidewalk paralleling the tracks between Main near Battle Streets, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. It is on the north side of the tracks next to the public parking
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Wartime Manassas (a few steps from this marker); Defenses of Manassas (within shouting distance of this marker); Site of Manassas Junction (within shouting distance of this marker); Opera House (within shouting distance of this marker); Manassas 1906 (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Wartime Manassas (about 300 feet away); Manassas 1905 - The Great Fire (about 300 feet away); a different marker also named Wartime Manassas (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Manassas.
More about this marker. One in the series of Wartime Manassas Virginia Civil War Trails Marker.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Also see . . .
1. Joint Committee On The Conduct Of The War. Essay on Dick Weeks' website Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War (Submitted on August 19, 2006.)
2. Atrocities, Then and Now. Article by William B. Hesseltine in the Journal of Historical Review. (Submitted on August 19, 2006.)
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 19, 2006, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,049 times since then and 35 times this year. Last updated on September 12, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 19, 2006, by Tom Fuchs of Greenbelt, Maryland. 3. submitted on August 19, 2006, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 4. submitted on September 2, 2007, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.