The Notions of Safety and Security
The Final Chapter in the Life of Judith Carter Henry
In the summer of 1861, Judith Carter Henry was an 84-year-old widow, living on a small farm just south
and east of the intersection of the Warrenton Turnpike and Manassas-Sudley Road near Manassas,
Virginia; Spring Hill, the farm was called.  She had lived there for 35 years and, in fact, was born less
than a mile away.  For most of those years she had lived a quiet farm life, marking the changing seasons
with the cycle of planting and harvesting, and raising four children, watching them grow to adulthood.
But in July of 1861, things took a dramatic and unfortunate turn for the elderly widow.  Union and
Confederate troops had gradually begun moving into the region, and Judith’s daughter Ellen, who lived
with her mother, became gravely concerned.  In May her brother Hugh, living in Alexandria, Virginia,
had written a letter emphasizing his belief that their mother’s “entire helplessness” should keep her safe
from harm from the invading armies.  But Ellen, and another brother, John, who lived nearby, feared the
worst. They determined to try to move their dear mother to safety.  Despite evidence that the fighting
was edging ever closer, Judith, who was frail and bedridden at that point in her life, did not want to leave
the familiar and comforting surroundings of her home.  She protested as, on the morning of July 21, they
attempted to carry her from the house on a mattress, and the group made it only as far as the spring
house: not only was Judith begging to be taken back, but Ellen and John also realized that the troops
were too close and the situation was too dangerous to permit their plan to work.  So they returned to the
house, and Judith was carried to her bed. They could only hope that Hugh’s earlier assurance of her
safety would prove true.
As morning turned to afternoon, Union artillery moved their guns onto the Henry House property, not
far from the house. They soon discovered they were being fired at by Confederate sharpshooters, who
were either hidden inside the house, or just outside of it and using it for cover.  Since nearly all of the
other residents of the immediate area had long since fled to safety, Captain James B. Ricketts had no idea
there were civilians still inside.  His immediate goal was to put an end to the firing of the Confederate
sharpshooters, and he shelled the house.  One of the shells burst in Judith’s bedroom, and she died of her
wounds soon after.
A woman that history has recorded only as “Florence”, attended the memorial service for Judith Henry
held on the grounds of the farm, two days after the battle. In a letter to her sister, she gave this account:
The papers will have told you before this reaches you that old Mrs. Henry was killed during the battle…I do not
think I ever felt more deeply than when I stood among the wreck and ruin of her home and saw the poor mangled
body of the old lady placed in the coffin and borne to her last resting-place by stranger hands…Around the Henry
garden, where a fence had stood on Sunday morning, was a hedge of althea, the only things that had escaped
destruction.  They were loaded with crimson and white blossoms, and you cannot imagine how strangely they
looked in their purity and beauty amidst that scene of desolation and death.  I stopped to gather a few of these
“roses of Sharon” to place on the coffin…
In 1870, a new house was built to replace the one in which Judith’s life ended.  A photograph, taken in
1896, features a very elderly Hugh Henry seated on a chair on the porch of this house, the same house
that stands on the battlefield today.  In the picture, just to the right side of the porch, can be seen a
vigorous Rose of Sharon, quite possibly one of the very ones that were such a part of Judith’s happier
times at Spring Hill.
Narrative Researched and Written by Amy V. Lindenberger, Civil War Artist
Original Artwork
Framed Dimensions:  28 1/2 x 46
Price: $3500.
Giclée Reproductions
Available only in Gettysburg at Civil War Fine
Art Gallery and Studio
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January 22, 2010

Read about the next three pieces in the series at Sarah Emma Edmonds Series Explanation