Rhode Islandís Civil War Heroes

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.

Find out about Major Ballou in a permanent exhibit located at the Adams Memorial Library Lysander Flagg Museum, part of the Central Falls Free Public Library, 205 Central Street, Central Falls, RI.

The library building, formerly G.A.R. Post No. 3, was named in Sullivan Ballou's honor and members of the Post met in the Central Falls Free Public Library.

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 website at www.cflibrary.org