The drums beat assembly at 2 a.m. on Sunday, July 21, and [Sullivan Ballou] formed up the troops in moonlight. Even before sunrise the heat was becoming oppressive and the movement of the troops was slow and ponderous. Choking dust hung in the hot air. Soon the road became little more than a cart path, and the 2nd Rhode Island had to use axes and shovels to clear trees and underbrush so that the rest of the division could pass. The night march with inexperienced troops, already fatigued from the earlier marches, became a confused mass of men and equipment. A wrong turn added three unnecessary miles. Ballou and his fellow officers struggled to keep the troops moving as men dropped out of the formation to rest or to pick berries.
Confederate Capt. Delaware Kemper and his artillery came to a rise overlooking the confused mass of Union troops crossing the bridge at Cub Run and opened fire. Capt. [S. James Smith], the officer who, with Ballou, had planned to bring his wife to Washington, was in the retreating army. Cpl. Samuel English of the 2nd Rhode Island described the scene: "As we neared the bridge the rebels opened a very destructive fire upon us, mowing down our men like grass. . . . Our artillery and baggage wagons became fouled with each other, completely blocking the bridge, while the bomb shells bursting on the bridge made it rather unhealthy to be around. As I crossed on my hands and knees, Capt. Smith, who was crossing by my side at the same time, was struck by a round shot . . . and completely cut in two."
[William Sprague] described the events: "We commenced digging for the bodies," he said. "Some Negro women said that 'Colonel Slogun' had been dug up by the rebels, his head cut off, and his body taken to a ravine thirty or forty yards below, and there burned. We went to the spot designated, where we found coals and ashes and bones mingled together. . . . We returned and dug down at the spot indicated as the grave of Major Ballou, but found no body there; but at the place pointed out as the grave where Colonel [John Slocum] was buried we found a box, which . . . was found to contain the body of Colonel Slocum. The soldiers who had buried the two bodies were satisfied that the body which had been taken out, beheaded and burned, was that of Ballou." The grief-stricken governor then recounted: "We gathered up the ashes containing the portion of his remains that were left, and put them in a coffin."
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