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The Sullivan Ballou Film Project

The Confusion

"Nobody changes history more than historians."

It all started when I heard Sullivan Ballou’s letter read on The Civil War by Ken Burns (At the very end of episode 1.) I wanted a copy, so I attempted to transcribe it from the videocassette recorder. I was not happy with my handwriting, so I headed on over to the library. There I found the book that accompanied the series. I looked up the letter and compared my handwritten version to the one in the book. They didn’t match. Turns out Sullivan Ballou's letter was shortened for newspaper publication many years ago and that version stuck. Now our web readers have brought to our attention more versions.

It doesn't stop there, more odd tidbits sprouted up. Among our favorites are:
  • Sullivan Ballou didn't exist.
  • Sullivan Ballou wasn't his real name.
  • Sullivan Ballou was fighting for the South.
  • And many other factoids.
Recently I have found a man I would call the foremost Sullivan Ballou expert. I hope to have him write a detailed outline to clear up the confusion. In the meantime, let me just say Sullivan Ballou was indeed a real Rhode Island soldier who fought for the Union. I am now confident that what we call the Original Version is the letter he wrote.

Finally, Camp Clark was located just outside Washington, D.C.. Please feel to share your thoughts or information.


Rick Moon