- The Henry house after the 1st Battle of Bull Run
July 21 marks the anniversary of the 1st Battle of Bull Run, also know as the 1st Battle of Manassas. The battle claimed the War’s first civilian casualty, Judith Carter Henry.
“When the battle began on the opposite hill, artillery shots were coming threateningly near (to the Henry house). The family first considered trying to move Mrs. Henry, 85 years old and bedridden, to Portici, the home of Robert Lewis, one mile southeast of the Henry home. But in the growing confusion, that was out of the question.
There was a spring house to the southwest in a depression that seemed less exposed. They carried Mrs. Henry there, only to have her beg to be taken back to her own bed. This was done as soon as they realized that the spring house was no safer than the dwelling.
While the Henrys were gone, Confederate snipers had taken up hiding positions in the home. In an attempt to dislodge the Confederate sharpshooters in the house, Union Artillery Captain James B. Ricketts turned his guns and shelled the house.
A shell hit Judith Henry’s bedroom and the bed on which she lay was shattered. She was thrown to the floor, wounded in the neck and side, and one of her feet was partially blown off. Ellen Henry sought refuge in a big fireplace chimney during the bombardment, and her subsequent deafness was attributed to injury to her eardrums from the violent concussion produced by the shelling.
Judith Carter Henry died later that afternoon, the first civilian casualty of the Civil War, and was buried in the garden she loved” (http://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/2008/06/judith-carter-henry.html).
Here’s a poem for Mrs. Henry. It’s in the voice of one of the Confederate snipers who was positioned inside the Henry home.
We poked our muskets out them windows
looking for boys get’up in blue. I wanted to pop
one with a feather in his hat. Feathers meant
the Johnny wearing it was important. But this
old hag was screaming something awful
in the next room. I’d swear, sharp as it was,
she could skin a coon with that shrieking.
Shut up, lady, I yells. I’m trying to pluck
some feathers. Right then the war barreled
through that house like a horde of spooked
buffalos – artillery, damned artillery.
Whole house shook. Dust settled over me
like sugar on a cake. My ears were humming
and my head was thumping, but I crawled
over to see if that old bitty was ok. Found her
sprawled in a mess of dust and blood.
Artillery must of grabbed her foot when it flew
by cause she was missing one. Just a bone
was left poking out her leg. I told her I was sorry
for yelling at her, but she didn’t seem to care for apologies.