Guide to the Letter from Corporal Francis Ronien of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry to his brother Henry, July 15, 1861
Letter from Corporal Francis Ronien of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry to his brother Henry C0366
Published by George Mason University Libraries
The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas, was the first major battle of the American Civil War. Fought on July 21, 1861 in Virginia, the battle was ultimately won by the Confederates, led by General Pierre G.T. Beauregard. Union forces, led by Brigadier General Irvin McDowell, attempted numerous tactics to overtake the Confederates, but to no avail. Defeated, the Union army left Manassas for Washington, D.C., which led many to conclude that the war they were fighting was far from over.
Corporal Francis "Frank" Ronien (also spelled Ronian, Ronan, Ronain, and Romain) was a soldier and machinist in the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry during the Civil War. Ronien was from Pawtucket, RI, where his family - including a wife named Mary, and two sons named Francis Thomas and James Henry - presumably still lived while he served for the Union. He died during the First Battle of Bull Run: "As the battle raged, Corporal Ronien 'was struck by a shell,' according to another officer in the regiment, 'which took off his leg between the knee (ampersand) hip.' He died a short time later, perhaps at Sudley Church or at Confederate soldier John Thornberry's small house or another Federal hospital nearby. 'He was a promising soldier,' a regimental history noted, 'and fell with his captain bravely fighting'" (Banks).
Letter from Corporal Francis Ronien (other variant spellings) of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry to his brother Henry, written on July 15, 1861, six days before the First Battle of Bull Run. Ronien, who signs his letter as "Frank," was writing from Camp Clarke in Washington, D.C., not far from the site of the upcoming battle in Manassas, VA, in which he would eventually fight and die. In the letter Ronien writes about a number of things, including the presence of President Abraham Lincoln at his regiment's dress parade, and being photographed by a Mathew Brady photographer (see Related Materials note for more information on this photograph). Ronien also writes about sightseeing in Washington, D.C. and military camp life.
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There are no restrictions on personal use. Permission to publish material from Letter from Corporal Francis Ronien of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry to his brother Henry must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
The Special Collections Research Center holds other collections pertaining to the Civil War and Civil War-era Virginia, including the Alexander Haight family collection, the Randolph H. Lytton Historic Virginia collection, and the Northern Virginia Civil War images collection.
The Providence Public Library holds the aforementioned Brady photograph of Cpl. Ronian. Photograph citation: VM013_FIC0267, Rhode Island General Photograph Collection, Special Collections, Providence Public Library. Link to their digital repository here.
The Rhode Island State Archives holds the full records for all RI companies in the Civil War. You can access the finding aid here.
The National Archives and Records Administration holds Ronien's widow's approved pension application. You can access it here.
Brady, Mathew B., approximately 1823-1896
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865
Bull Run, 1st Battle of, Va., 1861
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives.
Virginia, Northern--History, Local.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
A digitized version of this letter can be found here: Letter from Corporal Francis Ronien of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry to his brother Henry.
Letter from Corporal Francis Ronien of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry to his brother Henry, C0366, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.
Reprocessing completed by Amanda Brent in July 2019. EAD markup completed by Amanda Brent July 2019. This collection used to be a part of the Virginia historical documents collection, C0034.
Banks, John. "On The Eve Of First Blood: Rhode Islanders Before First Bull Run." Military Images 35, no. 1 (2017): 18-21 http://www.jstor.org.mutex.gmu.edu/stable/24865790 (accessed July 8, 2019).
"Bull Run First Battle." American Battlefield Trust. https://www.battlefields.org/learn/civil-war/battles/bull-run (accessed July 8, 2019).
"First Battle of Bull Run." Enyclopaedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/First-Battle-of-Bull-Run-1861 (accessed July 8, 2019).
Luebke, Peter. "First Battle of Manassas." Enyclopedia Virginia. https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/manassas_first_battle_of (accessed July 8, 2019).