Curator’s Corner: The “Mosby” Saddle

Artifact Spotlight: The “Mosby” Saddle


The Mosby Saddle as it stands today, with prominent bullet hole front and center

On June 22, 1863, a bullet pierced the saddle and leg of Private John N. Ballard, a man most notable for losing his right leg twice in battle during the Civil War.

Hello! I’m Rachel Scott, Curator and Archivist here at the John Gott Library.  This month’s artifact spotlight is the Mosby Saddle.  The colloquial name for this artifact around the library, “The Mosby Saddle,” is actually a misnomer.  The saddle belonged to John M. Ballard, a Private in the 43rd Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry under Mosby’s command.  I suppose the “Ballard Saddle” wouldn’t draw quite the attention in Old Salem as does the name Mosby, although maybe it should.  I’ll let you be the judge.

John Ballard was a young man of 22 years in April of 1861 when he enrolled as a Private in the 2nd South Carolina Infantry.  Two years and one month later, in May of 1863, he would join Company A of what would become one of the most famous battalions of the Civil War, Mosby’s Partisan Rangers, or the 43rd Virginia Cavalry.

Following the Rangers’ raid on Seneca Mills, Maryland, Mosby and Ballard made their way to the Bull Run Mountains on the east, near Ewell’s Chapel, to resume patrol.  Unbeknownst to them, a concealed US Infantry under the command of Union General George Meade lie in waiting for Mosby’s Rangers, and the confederate soldiers were attacked on their approach to the Chapel that June morning.  It is there that Ballard took a musket ball to the right leg, with any structural integrity spared by the bullet being lost on the rough ride back to the Bull Run Mountains.  Ballard was transported to the home of Robert Whiteacre near the top of the mountain for amputation, and then to Bennevue, the home of Mr. William Ayre in Fauquier County, to convalesce.  He was then admitted to the Richmond General Hospital #1.  On a disability discharge from the hospital dated October 17, 1863, Ballard retired to his home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Retirement did not seem to suit Mr. Ballard, as he was back in service with Mosby by winter on a prosthetic leg.  His first prosthesis was crushed in battle near Halltown, Virginia in a charge led by Captain Adolpheus Edward Richards, marking the second time John Ballard would lose his right leg in combat.  Afterwards, the artificial leg of US Cavalry Colonel Ulric Dahlgren was recycled and fitted to Ballard, and it is on this leg that he saw the completion of the Civil War on active duty as a 1st Lieutenant to the 56th Virginia Infantry Regiment.

After the War was over, Ballard made his home in Fairfax county.  Employed as the Commissioner of Revenue for the county for the next 32 years, he would live out the rest of his life in Fairfax married to Miss Lillie Thrift (m. 1874) with whom he had four children.

John Ballard attended several reunions of the 43rd VA Cavalry including the 1895 50year reunion held here in Marshall, where this photo was taken in which Ballard is seen resting his crutch on his wooden leg.

group photo ballard reunion in marshall va

Group Photo taken at the 2nd Reunion of the 43rd Cavalry

ballard civil war pic

John N. Ballard as seen in the photo above, front row, left of center

He also attended the 1897 reunion in Baltimore, the 1905 reunion in Fredericksburg, and the anniversary of Gettysburg in 1913.

After his death in 1922, so Library lore tells us, his bullet-pierced saddle went to his son who was a contemporary of Mr. John Gott.  For years, Mr. Gott offered to purchase the saddle from Ballard’s son with no success.  Years passed, and when Ballard Jr. passed on the John N. Ballard collection became part of his estate.  Mr. Gott approached the executor of the estate regarding the saddle, and unlike the late Ballard Jr, the executor of the estate considered the old, dusty saddle junk and was more than happy to gift it to Mr. Gott free of charge.  John Gott would retain the saddle, held in safe keeping, until the founding of the Fauquier Heritage and Preservation Foundation and the Library in 1993, at which time Mr. Gott gifted the saddle to the Library.


Saddle at the time of accession.

Media source: Fairfax County Photo Archive, Group 168, Fairfax County Library, Virginia Room

Special Thanks to Mr. Robert Sinclair, FHPF President and resident Keeper of Institutional Knowledge, for the background information on the provenance of the object. 

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Curator’s Corner: Receipts from the Sinclair-Moffet Collection


My name is Rachel Scott, and I am currently curating the artifact collections of the John Kenneth Gott Library, along with their accompanying historical documents.

In the archives today, I came across two receipts… comparable in color, size, and date (both from the 1920s, presumably the late 1920s).

1920s Receipts Sinclair-Moffet Collection

While normally not terribly fascinated by household appliance receipts, the monetary totals stopped me in my tracks.  In June of 1929, the Sinclairs (Elijah and Ruby) purchased what may have been their first washing machine for $175.00, to be paid in monthly installments of $11.00 until paid in full (according to the hand written note at the top, if paid early, would be discounted $15.00!)  What is today considered a necessity in many American homes today, was likely a high luxury in 1929, serving to usher Mrs. Sinclair into the modern era.

To emphasize the luxury in this purchase, I have placed beside the Maytag receipt another financial document… a receipt of payment from the South Baltimore General Hospital dated April 29th, 192X (the last number missing as the document came to us with edge wear).  The breakdown is as follows:

7 days and four hours (expressed 7 4/24 days) Board and Room no. 25 at $4.00 per day =$28.00

Service of a “Special Nurse” for Lab work coming to $4.00

X Ray fee of $10.00

and use of the Operating Room for $12.00

Bringing the total of what was most likely a hospital stay (that logically went something like this: Xray, Surgery, and 7 days total stay in the Hospital) came to a whopping $54.00.

Now, I ask you to put yourself in Mrs. Sinclair’s rounded toe strappy heels of the 1920s and imagine buying a Washing machine, promised to alleviate your laundering woes, for $175.00 in a world where surgery and a week in a major hospital cost a little over one quarter of that amount.

A modern purchase making for a happy Domestic Manager of her day, I have no doubt.