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. 

For more on this story and others, become a member of the John Gott Library and get the complete monthly newsletter.


300 yr old Ship Discovered in our Backyard

The discovery of a 300-year-old ship at a construction site has archaeologists ecstatic

A Washington Post article by Patricia Sullivan

A large, heavy ship, scuttled between 1775 and 1798, is being dug out of its damp grave at the site of a new hotel construction project in Old Town Alexandria.

Archaeologists found the partial hull of a ship at 220 S. Union Street, part of the city’s major redevelopment of the Potomac River waterfront. It’s on the same one-block site where workers two months ago discovered a 1755 foundation from a warehouse that is believed to have been the city’s first public building.

“It’s very rare. This almost never happens,” said Dan Baicy, the hard-hatted field director for Thunderbird Archeology, the firm watching for historic evidence during construction. “In 15 years that I’ve done this work, I’ve never run into this kind of preservation in an urban environment where there’s so much disturbance.”

View the whole article here:

Archival Treasures: Find Your Hidden Gem

October is Archives Month in Virginia  

Here at the John Gott Library, our archives overflow with hidden gems of Marshall and Fauquier county heritage.  Across the Commonwealth, find your hidden gems at museums, libraries, and historical sites statewide!

October is Archives Month in Virginia

Virginia Archives Month Events:

Monday, July 06, 2015—Saturday, March 26, 2016
Library of Virginia
Remaking Virginia: Transformation through Emancipation
9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Free admission

Even as the Civil War was still being fought, the status of almost a half-million African Americans in Virginia began to change. No longer were they someone else’s property—they were free. They anticipated the promise of change from their former status as slaves: the promises of education, political participation, and full citizenship. Yet, in their struggle to achieve these goals, freedmen and freedwomen faced the hostility of their former masters and the society that had long benefitted from their labor. Union troops and U.S. government officials reconstructing the Southern states were often indifferent. What challenges did African Americans face in their struggle to achieve what they believed freedom would bring them? What obstacles blocked their efforts to gain citizenship? How successful were African Americans during Reconstruction in claiming their objectives? Did the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution significantly aid them in their struggles? The Library of Virginia’s exhibition Remaking Virginia: Transformation through Emancipation offers a look at the changing world Virginians faced during Reconstruction. Radio One is the exclusive radio sponsor for Remaking Virginia.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Meherrin Regional Library, Lawrenceville, VA
Library to Celebrate 75 Years
4:00 PM-9:00 PM
Free admission

The Meherrin Regional Library System is pleased to announce the 75th anniversary of the Brunswick
County Library. Opening in 1940, the Brunswick County Library has faithfully provided decades of information, literature, services, programs, and more to local residents and visiting researchers. In honor of this momentous occasion the Brunswick County Library
will host a special celebration Wednesday, Oct. 7. The day will include patron appreciation, memory lane displays, and featured art by William Ward Moseley. A special gathering of friends from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. for food and fellowship will highlight the day.

For more information contact the Brunswick County Library at (434) 848-2418 ext. 301 or on Facebook

Thursday, October 8, 2015
Richmond Times-Dispatch
300 E. Franklin St., Richmond, Va. 23219
Stories to Tell: Exploring Richmond’s Archives
11 AM – 2 PM
Free admission

Doing some genealogical research, looking for an obituary, writing a book, a paper or a thesis,
or just interested in local history? Our (Richmond Times Dispatch) 59th Public Square will help you learn how to access a treasure trove of history going back hundreds of years. As we celebrate National Newspaper Week and National Archives Month, we’ll tell
you about the extensive archives of The Times-Dispatch, and you’ll hear from some of the country’s best sources of history: The Valentine, the Virginia Historical Society, the Library of Virginia, VCU Special Collections and the University of Richmond Special

After the formal presentation, from 11 a.m. till noon, we’ll hold a two-hour archive fair in our

So bring your questions. We’ll have plenty of experts who can answer them.

Parking will be available in The Times-Dispatch’s Third Street deck.

Friday, October 9, 2015
VCU Tompkins-McCaw Library

“Edith Cavell: ‘A Nurse Who Did Her Duty'” Exhibit Opening Reception
5:30-7:30 PM
Free admission

In October 1915, Edith Cavell, an English nurse working at a Brussels medical school was executed by the Germans for sheltering British soldiers. Her execution caused an international uproar and media frenzy, and she quickly became an icon of the war effort and the nursing profession. In recognition of the 100th anniversary of Nurse Cavell’s martyrdom, Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences proudly presents an exhibit of postcards pertaining to Nurse Cavell from the collection of Kay Seidenberg, a long-time Friend of VCU Libraries donor, as well as a graduate of the VCU School of Nursing.

The exhibit is free and open to the public during normal library hours. An opening reception will be held on Friday, Oct. 9, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Special Collections and Archives reading room at Tompkins-McCaw Library. Refreshments will be served, and there will be remarks at 6 p.m. Please visit our website for additional information.

Monday, October 19, 2015
Library of Virginia
Archives Month Tour
10 AM–Noon
Free admission, registration required

Come to the Library of Virginia for a special “treasure hunt” tour.Explore some of the Library’s many unique treasures, from newspapers and private papers to local and state records and special collections. Registration required. Go to Tour repeats at 2:00 PM.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Library of Virginia

Restructuring the American Family
Noon–1:00 PM
Free admission

Before 1865, Virginia law refused to recognize the relationships of enslaved couples. Emancipation, however, permitted formerly enslaved people to reconnect, if not reunite, with family members. Local records archivist Greg Crawford will share stories found in the Library of Virginia’s collections of African Americans seeking to rebuild their families following emancipation. He will also discuss resources offered by the Library to access these stories. This talk complements Remaking Virginia: Transformation through Emancipation.

Monday, October 19, 2015
Library of Virginia
Archives Month Tour
10 AM–Noon
Free admission, registration required

Come to the Library of Virginia for a special “treasure hunt” tour.Explore some of the Library’s many unique treasures, from newspapers and private papers to local and state records and special collections. Registration required. Go to Tour repeats at 2:00 PM.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Open House, Norfolk Southern Historical Collection
Norfolk Southern Corporation
Three Commercial Place, Norfolk, Virginia 23510
11:00 AM-3:00 PM
Free admission

See everything from menus and maps to Samuel Spencer’s watch. Also during the
month of October, e-posters will be displayed throughout the corporate headquarters featuring images from the archives collection.
A new exhibit in the Norfolk Southern museum will highlight the contributions of women to railroad history.
If you’re unable to attend, follow us on Facebook because our Throwback Thursdays will continue to highlight the company’s history.

Thursday, October 22, 2015
Poe Museum, Richmond, VA
G.R.A.B. meetup at the October UNhappy Hour
6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
$5 admission

This one is for the archivists and the people that love them! Join G.R.A.B. (Greater Richmond Archives
Bunch) at the Poe Museum for the October UNhappy hour. This is a chance for archivists and archival enthusiasts to meet, relax, and have a little fun in the Museum’s Enchanted Garden. It will feature live music by Connor Wood, a cash bar, food, and performances.
Halloween costumes are encouraged, but not required. Visit the Poe Museum website for more information:

(Events via the Library of Virginia:

Explore more of Virginia’s rich archival collections at The Library of Virginia’s Flickr page:

Check out the Library of Virginia's Flickr Page and Find Your Hidden Gems!

James Q. Jones with donkey

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.