Tuesday, January 19, 2016

History and facts about the Ben Lomond Historic Site in Manassas

The Ben Lomond Historic Site is located in Manassas, Virginia, about 25 miles of Washington, D.C. A lot of history has taken place in this town, but it is perhaps best noted for the two major Civil War battles that took place within its borders. In July 1861 the First Battle of Bull Run took place and not too long afterward, the Second Battle of Bull Run occurred in August 1862.

Located just a few miles away, the Ben Lomond Historic Site played a pivotal role during the war.

History of the Ben Lomond home

Dating back to 1830, the land was originally owned by Robert “Councillor” Carter III, a man who inherited extensive land grants throughout Virginia from Robert “King” Carter, a major land baron. Originally the property was named “Cancer Plantation" (12 of Carter’s 18 properties were named for zodiac signs)

Benjamin Tasker Chinn (a grandson) inherited the land. Within two years Chinn built a grand two-story Federal style home, along with a dairy, kitchen, smokehouse and slave quarters. After Chinn married Edmonia Randolph Carter, his new wife renamed their plantation “Ben Lomond”. Eventually the Chinns moved to another home and rented out Ben Lomond to a family named the Pringles. 

Horrors of war

The Pringles experienced firsthand the horrors of war as the Civil War arrived to Manassas. The Confederate Army took Ben Lomand and turned it into a hospital. During this occupation, the Pringles were confined to living in one upstairs bedroom. 
View from the bedroom the Pringles were confined to (minus the car and road)

The home served as a field hospital for more than a month after the First Battle of Bull Run and then would go on to serve as a military hospital for many more months, according to the Prince William County website.

In 1862 the Confederate Army evacuated Ben Lomond and the Federal Army subsequently took over the house.

Visiting Ben Lomond Historic Site

It is hard to imagine what the interior of the home looked like in its original grandness because during the Federal Army’s occupation, the home’s furniture and contents were destroyed. Although, during a 2014 tour, I asked and was told the doors, windows and mantles are original to the home. They are really stunning.

Today the house is interpreted as it would have been during military occupation.

The rooms are preserved and set up as Civil War era hospital rooms. The tour is informative and you learn a lot of interesting information, along with really getting a feel for how it was for both the soldiers and the Pringles. 

Both armies left graffiti on the walls, and these etchings left by soldiers remain on the walls of Ben Lomond today. Most of the graffiti is covered with special paper to protect it, but the museum does keep some examples visible for visitors to see.

The original main house, slave quarters, dairy and smokehouse still stand today. The kitchen no longer exists. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds. During the warmer months, there is also a rose garden to enjoy (the garden is not original to the house).

If you are in town visiting the Manassas National Battlefield, I recommend stopping by, it’s not too far from the Battlefield, being located just off Sudley Road at 10321 Sudley Manor Dr. Manassas, VA 20109. The museum is opened seasonally, from May to October (Thursday through Monday) or by appointment (703-367-7872). Additionally, there are a few special events offered throughout the cooler months too. 

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