The Traveling Thornberrys–images at Sudley

From John Hennessy:

Last week we shared what I think is one of the truly iconic, metaphorical images of the war. That same day, photographer George Barnard took several more images. They are generally familiar to people who have spent time with Manassas, but there are a few things that jumped out at me.

Back when I was up to my ears in Manassas stuff, I was startlingly disinterested in historic images, doing little more than glancing at the few wartime images of Manassas then available and blandly accepting conventional wisdom (or traditional captions) about them. But getting ready for various events or tours associated with the 150th thrust me back, and this month for the first time (I blush to say) I took a close look at the newly available hi-res scans of  Barnard’s spring 1862 images. I was immediately struck by the presence of the children in most of the images–clearly kids who had tagged along with the photographer, and whom he had decided to incorporate into his photographs. More interesting is this: they are almost certainly the Thornberry children, who lived just up the hill from Sudley Springs Ford. Samuel was 12 in 1860; his brother Joseph, 7, toddler Annetta,  and Laura, 5. All four appear in the image of the ford at Sudley Springs on Catharpin Run (above), but the boys continued on with Barnard and appear in several other images, both of them very neatly attired in miniature Confederate uniforms.

Here is an image of the Thornberry House (more commonly called “Sudley Post Office,” though it was not used in that function until after the war). For time unending, this had been identified as the obscure Thornton House, which stood a mile or so northeast of Sudley. But some really excellent detective work by long-time (he was there BEFORE I got there in 1981) museum technician Jim Burgess confirmed that it is indeed an image of John and Martha Thornberry’s home (read his analysis of the image here).

And there, standing on the pile of boards in the yard are Samuel and Joseph Thornberry.

A couple of quick things about the Thornberry House. Continue reading

A famous image–and a metaphor for the war

From John Hennessy (writing on Manassas for the first time in this forum):

Over the last fifteen years or so, my forays back into Manassas-related topics have always been unadventurous, relying almost entirely on things I uncovered and learned years ago rather than trying to hunt up (or even keep track of) new material. In the last week, though, I have had occasion to do some work in preparation for the tour I’ll be giving at Manassas this coming Friday as part of the 150th there–a look and walk through of the community of Sudley and its experience during and after First Manassas. This demanded that I not only revisit the material I’d accumulated way back when (it’s hard for me to admit that anything meaningful in my life could have happened nearly thirty years ago, hence the vagary), but also dig into what has become available since then. I’ve learned a good deal, some of it thanks to the seminal work of others.

Above is an image you and I have probably seen a thousand times, but never really took in closely. It shows four children sitting along Catharpin Run at Sudley Springs Ford, with seven Union cavalarymen looming on the far bank. Taken in March 1862, if there is an image that better serves as a metaphor for most white Virginians’ perception of the Civil War in its early months, I haven’t seen it: children facing down looming disaster in the form of Union soldiers.

We’ll write about the children visible in this image (for some of them appear in others taken the same day), but suffice to say that it’s virtually certain that these are the four children of John and Martha Thornberry, who lived just up the hill from the ford. Continue reading

Broadening our reach….

From John Hennessy:

Here is Stonewall Jackson at the Centennial Re-enactment of First Manassas,, 1961, a topic we will explore in future posts.

My apologies for being distracted from blogging lately–some heavy business at the park and vacations have intervened to rob of almost all thinking and writing time. It was indeed my intent to slow the pace of posts on here, but certainly not to the extent you have suffered of late.

As many of you know, I have written a great deal about Manassas over the years. There was a time when I was completely Manassas-ed out, and had little desire to read, speak, or see another word about Manassas.  But, I have recovered from all that, and lately have been doing a lot of reflection on what I did and did not to do as it relates to the Civil War landscape around Manassas. One of the things that strikes me is the degree to which, in two books on the battles, I almost completely ignored the civilian landscape upon which the battles took place–hardly delving deeper than identifying property owners, with a few details added here and there. Lately I have been doing some prep work for a tour I’ll be doing at Manassas as part of the 150th–a walk through the former community of Sudley. And so I have re-engaged a bit on things Manassas, and I have enjoyed it a good deal. Not surprisingly, there are as a result a few things I’d like to write about related to Manassas. Rather than start another blog, I have decided simply to expand the scope of this one a bit to range northward from Fredericksburg occasionally.

I do this without any desire to intrude on the bloggish turf staked out by Harry Smeltzer over at Bull Runnings, a site I enjoy and respect very much (and recommend to you highly). Harry’s work is largely focused on compiling sources related to the battle; mine will be to occasionally look at issues of landscape, some mysteries, and maybe a few conundrums as they relate to Manassas.  We will not be leaving Fredericksburg behind…but will be simply broadening the scope of the blog a bit.  I’ll have a few Manassas-related items in the coming weeks, as well as a look at “Sit-in Corner” in Fredericksburg, and more.

I will concede that the business of blogging is a bit consumptive and exhaustive. For me, this expansion of the scope is a bit of a boost with respect to interest and energy.  I hope Noel, who has considerable expertise in things related to Northern Virginia, will join in on the discussion as well–as he has so often on things Fredericksburg related.  Onward.