Straight From the Department of Bad Ideas
On June 10 1865 – Federal veterans dedicated one of the first (if not the first) monument to the Union dead. Located on Henry Hill at the Manassas battlefield, this comparatively modest structure stands to remind visitors of the sacrifices at both battles decided on that field.
So…that actually seems like a good idea. The bad idea comes into play when we look at exactly how the monument was adorned. The builders needed a few decorations – and (according to a story I heard while visiting this very monument) decided to go with some 2o pound shells. No one thought to check if this was live ordnance, which it was.
Strangely – also…according to hearsay – no one figured this out until 1975 during a restoration effort. From what I understand, when the National Park Service took the shells down for disarming, one exploded and killed a worker. Today, the shells are reproductions.
An interesting story to be sure…I am not sure of its veracity, so I am going to check with my friend Harry Smeltzer – he’s the authority on all things Manassas. At least the story, apocryphal or not, provides a good lesson for future monument builders – be wary of live ammunition!