Rhode Islandís Civil
Another time period in American
history that challenged the destiny of our nation was the Civil War era
(1861-1865). As northern and southern states battled over the future of a
Federal or Confederate system of governance, many Rhode Islanders gave their
bravery to the cause of an indivisible country.
One military hero who hailed
from the Blackstone River Valley, in present day Central Falls, RI was Major
Sullivan Ballou of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry.
On July 14, 1861, Major Sullivan
Ballou sat alone in a tent at Camp Clarke in Washington, DC. He knew, as did
most of the other soldiers, that the movement south was nearly upon them and
that, in the very near future, he was to do battle with the Confederate Army.
Not knowing if he would ever get another opportunity, Sullivan Ballou composed a
letter to his loving wife Sarah, at home in Rhode Island with their two young
sons. One week later he was killed when a cannon ball shattered his leg and
killed his horse at the First Battle of Bull Run.
Though Ballou was only 34 at the
time of his death, he had many noteworthy achievements to his credit, including
serving as Town Moderator for Central Falls in the 1850's and twice being
unanimously elected Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. It was
this letter to his wife, however, for which he will always be remembered.
In 1990, Sullivan Ballouís
letter gained worldwide recognition when it was showcased in Ken Burns'
critically acclaimed PBS documentary on the Civil War.
Ballouís words professed his
eternal love for Sarah, his unwavering belief in his cause, and his heartfelt
desire for the happiness of his sons. It is a truly moving and beautifully
written piece which, to this day, serves as a glowing testimonial to the
strength of the human spirit.
Contact the Library at
401-727-7440 for more information, hours and Ballou exhibit details, or see the