The Stone House, Manassas National Battlefield Park
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Stone House, Manassas National Battlefield
|Part of||Manassas National Battlefield Park (#66000039)|
The Stone House, Manassas National Battlefield Park, is a two-story, stone structure in Prince William County, Virginia. It was built as a stop on the Fauquier and Alexandria Turnpike in 1848, but it achieved its main significance during the American Civil War, when it served as a hospital during the First and Second Battles of Manassas. Today it is owned by the National Park Service as a contributing property to the Manassas National Battlefield Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The land on which the Stone House was built was settled during the latter half of the eighteenth century. Wormeley Carter, of Virginia, received the land that would become the Stone House tract from his father in 1801, but by the time of his death in 1805, he had sold off much of his land, which by that point had been reduced to just over 1,900 acres. The Fauquier and Alexandria Turnpike Company was formed in 1808 with the hope of constructing a road that would stretch 28 miles from Fairfax Court House to Fauquier Court House, both in Virginia. The Company hoped the road would help Alexandria, Virginia, compete with Fredericksburg, Virginia, for trade with Fauquier Court House. Six toll gates were located along the route, each about five miles apart. Once the construction began in 1812, it would take a total of sixteen years for the road to reach all the way to Fauquier Court House, which by then was known as Warrenton. Built in 1848, its early years were spent as the home of farmer Henry P. Matthew and his family, who harvested the peaceful Virginia countryside surrounding the property. All that would change in 1861, though, when fighting broke out so close to the house it was peppered with shot and shell throughout the First Battle of Manassas on July 21. The two-story structure did not go unused however. With its strong stone walls, a well in the yard and close proximity to the road back to Washington, D.C., it was the ideal site for treating the wounded, of which there were many. The ten hours of heavy fighting during the first battle on July 21, 1861 resulted in more than 2,700 injured soldiers. And the second battle, lasting three days in August 1862, left many more thousands from both sides wounded. Mostly under Confederate control for both battles, it was a hub of activity for surgeons and other medical personnel as they tried to save the dying.
It was soon realized that stops along the Warrenton Turnpike would be needed. Wormeley's son Thomas Otway Carter inherited the tract but there is little indication he added anything to it. The first record of the existence of a structure on the property appeared on a tax return for the year 1830, after Thomas Carter had sold 148 acres of land and the house on it to John Lee in 1828. Although no physical descriptions of the Stone House as it appeared at this point exist, it is known that a woman named Mary "Polly" Clark operated a wagon stand at the toll gate there. Travelers who stopped at the Stone House would have been required to pay a toll, and likely also were able to receive food, drink, and possibly lodging.
As the century progressed, the Fauquier and Alexandria Turnpike Company’s fortune began to dwindle. John Lee died in 1848 and land was bequeathed to Thomas O. Clark, son of Polly Clark. Tax records in 1849 show a significant jump in the value of Clark’s property to $500, suggesting the construction of a substantial house. This, coupled with an authoritative statement by Arthur Lee Henry identifying Thomas O. Carter as the builder of the Stone House, indicates the Stone House was built in 1848. In 1850 the Clarke family sold the property to Henry P. Matthew, who intended to farm the land since it was being used less and less as a stop on the turnpike each year due to competition from the railroads. For the next decade Matthews and his family would live in the Stone House and harvest its land.
First Battle of Manassas
During the Battle of First Manassas, which occurred on July 21, 1861, Union commander Irvin McDowell planned to flank the Confederate position along Bull Run, which would bring the fighting extremely close to the vicinity of the Stone House. As the battle progressed, a Confederate force that had taken position on Matthews Hill, north of Stone House, was driven back by advancing Federals. The Union force that captured the Stone House area, though, quickly came under fire from Confederate artillery, and coupled with the fact that they were outnumbered by nearby Confederates, the Union troops had to fall back from the house. As the battle wore, on, however, the Stone House came under Union control once again.
Between 10 AM and 12 noon, ten Union and six Confederate regiments clashed in the vicinity of the Stone House. As a result, 1,054 men were wounded during those two hours of fighting. Although the battle eventually shifted away from the Stone House, the property’s importance did not diminish. Surgeons and Northern soldiers soon began to seek refuge inside the house. Because the building had strong stone walls, a well in the yard, and was close to the main road back to the hospitals of Washington, D.C, it was an ideal site for a hospital. The Stone House began to fill quickly with soldiers seeking a reprise from the fight. One Union officer noted the muddy dirt floor of the cellar was covered with soldiers. Colonel John S. Slocum, wounded mortally as he led the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, was carried to the house and treated by Surgeon James Harris of the 1st Rhode Island Infantry. Dr. Harris remained on duty at the Stone House after the retreat and was found there with 21 wounded Union soldiers. The next day, according to an informant, the scene there remained a grisly one: “In this building were 32 wounded, many of them dreadfully mangled by cannon shot. There was but a single surgeon, and he was young and apparently inefficient. Men lay on the floor with their clotted wounds still undressed. Some had died and not been removed…”
Throughout the rest of the day, the house was constantly under fire as the battle raged on nearby, with some projectiles entering the house and supposedly further wounding a few soldiers. Two flags were placed in the windows of the house to try and identify it as a hospital, but this did not slow down the fire that constantly peppered the structure. The well outside the Stone House served as a continuous comfort to soldiers on both sides as the fight wore on. As the Union line crumbled toward the end of the battle and the Northern Army found itself retreating from the area, the house came under Confederate control once again, and continued to serve as a hospital throughout the rest of the afternoon. After Confederate forces recaptured the house, they found a large number of wounded Union troops, some dead, and 36 men who surrendered as prisoners. Around 100 arms were also found in the house.
After the end of fighting, the Stone House continued to be a scene of continued activity. Since it was one of the few buildings on the battlefield located on a major road, it was a busy hospital. A traveler passing by the house commented that the filth inside was so disgusting that he was not capable of staying long. Other visitors to the building noted there were men who had still not been attended to even many days after the battle ended. Eventually, the wounded inside the house were likely taken to Richmond as prisoners of war. Confederate forces continued to occupy the house until March 1862. It is not known whether Henry Matthews and his wife returned to their home before it was caught in a maelstrom once again.
Second Battle of Manassas
In the days leading up to the Second Battle of Manassas, which took place between August 28 and 30, 1862, passing troops would have seen the house as they took their positions on the old and new battlefield. On the 30th of August, Union General Pope, with his army of about 65,000, was massed in the area of the Stone House and the Dogan House. Once the fighting began, the Stone House was quickly converted to a hospital once again. As one unit charged past the Stone House toward Matthews Hill, they found many wounded and dead, as well as thirty-six men who had sought safety behind the massive stone walls. Federal surgeons marked the building with a flag and treated the wounded throughout the first day of the battle.
On the second day of battle the house continued to serve as a hospital. Some Union troops also buried their men in the yard of the Stone House. Two members of the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, Privates Charles E. Brehm, age 21, and Eugene P. Geer, age 17, arrived at the Stone House after being wounded late in the battle, and were taken to an upstairs room. At some point during their stay, both men carved their names into the floorboards of the room they were in. Brehm’s carving appears as “Brehm Aug 30”, and Geer, unable to complete his last name, left the carving “E.P. Ge.” Brehm survived the war and lived until 1909; Geer did not live to see the end of 1862. The carvings can still be seen to this day
Like the previous battle, the Stone House was under Confederate control at the battle's conclusion, but unlike the previous year, the captured Union troops in the house were not taken prisoner, but instead paroled. Many of the other Union prisoners on various parts of the battlefield were also taken to the Stone house to be paroled. Five days after the battle began, on September 2, the last ambulance left the Stone House, and the building had seen its last action of the war.
After the war
It is unsure when the Matthews family returned to their home, but in October 1865, it and the adjacent land were sold to Mary Starbuck. After the Civil War, the tolls from the travelling public provided revenue for its maintenance and the profits of its owners. In 1879 the land was deeded to George Starbuck and his wife Meribah. Two years later the house was sold to Benson Pridemore. The Pridemores partitioned some upper rooms to make room for their children. This was the first major structural change made to the Stone House. Mr. Pridemore also added a front porch, a picket fence, and a barn to the property.
In 1902, following the death of Pridemore, the property was sold to Henry. J. Ayres. In 1904 Ayers added a kitchen and a large back porch to the house. Twentieth century visitors to the battlefield often remember George Ayers as a bright eyed, slender man, usually dressed in riding boots and breeches. Ayers loved horses and dogs, especially colts and bloodhounds. For 45 years he was able to look from the Stone House at the long northwest slope that soldiers had charged on July 21, 1861. Following the death of Ayers, the house passed into the possession of his son, George, in 1912. Photographic evidence indicates that artillery shells were put into the exterior walls sometime after 1912. Presumably, the artillery shells were placed where the masonry had been damaged during the Civil War. It is likely that George Ayers placed the projectiles in the house. In 1949, the Stone House was sold to the United States Government. Two major renovation projects took place since then, including re-roofing the structure and installing new electrical and plumbing systems.
Although the Stone House is unoccupied today, various tours and interpretive programs take place there as a part of Manassas National Battlefield Park.
- Litterst, July 2005[page needed]
- "A Brief History of the Stone House"
- McDonald, 1999, pg. 50
- Cunningham, 1968, pg.15-16
- Litterst, July 1995
- Crouch, 2003, pg. 94
- Hennessey, 1989
- Burgess, 1994, section 3 pg. 3
- Hanson, 1957, pg. 92-93
- Burgess, 1994, pg. 5
- Burgess, Jim. Stone House Interpreter’s Reference Manual. (1994).
- Cunningham, Horace H. Field Medical Services at the Battles of Manassas (Bull Run). (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1968).
- Crouch, Howard R. Civil War Sites and Their Scenes in Northern Virginia: A Vanishing Heritage. (Fairfax, VA: SCS Publications, 2003).
- Hanson, Joseph Mills. Bull Run Remembers.... (Manassas, VA: National Capitol Publishers Inc., 1957).
- Hennessey, John. The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence. (Lynchburg, VA: H.E. Howard Inc., 1989).
- Litterst, Michael D. A Brief History of the Stone House. Prince William County, Virginia (July 1995)
- Litterst, Michael D. The Stone House: Silent Sentinel at the Crossroads of History. (July 2005) OCLC 40274086.
- McDonald, JoAnna M. “We Shall Meet Again”: The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), July 18–21, 1861. (Oxford University Press, 1999).
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