The shots fired in Harpers Ferry during the raid by John Brown in October 1859 are regarded by many as the first of the Civil War. Harpers Ferry, only a stones throw from Brunswick Crossing. Who knew it would become the start of a 4 year campaign? Brunswick Crossing is surrounded by deep history. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Frederick County is in the heart of many important battles and sites that changed our history.
In many ways, Frederick County was at the crossroads of America’s Civil War. Located on the Mason Dixon Line, Frederick County was the site of the Battle of South Mountain (1862) and the Battle of Monocacy (1864). Its towns were alternately occupied by troops from both sides in the days before the nearby battles of Antietam (1862) and Gettysburg (1863). Today you can follow in the soldiers’ footsteps along two Maryland Civil War Trail driving tours. In the days after these battles, Frederick became a major hospital center. Today the story of care and compassion in the wake of battle is told at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine. View the animated Civil War Trail maps. For additional information on the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area visit www.heartofthecivilwar.org.
These are just a few of the significant civil war sites in our area.
Top 10 Sesquicentennial Experiences
Civil War Trails – A sojourn along Maryland’s Civil War Trails retraces the steps of Union and Confederate soldiers en route to battles at Antietam and Gettysburg. The trails take visitors through landscapes, towns and villages that look much as they did when troops, and the caregivers that followed, marched through and encamped here.
Frederick–The city witnessed a steady stream of Northern and Southern soldiers and full-blown military occupations from both armies, from 1862-1864. Several museums and historic sites offer Civil War exhibits, including interpretation of events that led up to war and post-battle care of the wounded and dead. Frederick was home to patriotic heroine Barbara Fritchie who was immortalized by John Greenleaf Whittier in his poem that also coined the term “clustered spires’ that is synonymous with Frederick. The “clustered spires” churches were used as makeshift infirmaries where as many as 8,000 soldiers were treated at one time. Besides numerous ways to explore history, Frederick offers a variety of shopping, dining, entertainment and public art experiences.
Hagerstown is where near riots, a newspaper office burning and other incidents took place as passions erupted before and during the war years. Sites like the Jonathan Hager House and Museum, the Miller House, headquarters of the Washington County Historical Society, and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts offer exhibits featuring artifacts and works of art of related to the Civil War. Downtown Hagerstown boasts historic buildings, thriving retail stores, great restaurants, an exciting calendar of events, and a system of interpretive markers that focus on local Civil War stories as a complement Civil War Trails.
Westminster offers a vibrant visitor experience, infused with Civil War history. The Historical Society of Carroll County is a great first stop where exhibits provide historical context for the events that took place here in the 1860s. Nowhere is the border state experience of divided loyalties in families more striking than at Union Mills Homestead, where as the Battle of Gettysburg loomed, Confederate cavalry units under J.E.B. Stuart, on their way north, stayed with the Southern sympathizing Shrivers, but before the dust had settled after their departure the next morning, Union troops set up camp across the road with the Pro-Union part of the family. Interestingly, it wasn’t the southern sympathizers, but the northern leaning Shrivers that were the slave holders. Annual encampments (July 16-17 in 2011) relive some of these times surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg.
South Mountain State Battlefield is where the first major battle on Northern soil took place. On September 14, 1862, this engagement involved battles fought for possession of the South Mountain passes: Crampton’s, Turner’s and Fox’s gaps. It allowed General Robert E. Lee to hold back General George B. McClellan’s army and regroup his own forces at Sharpsburg, where the Battle of Antietam was fought several days later. Numerous guided hikes, interpretive programs and artillery demonstrations are offered throughout the year at Washington Monument and Gathland state parks, situated at two of the famous gaps.
Antietam National Battlefield is where pastoral, peaceful Sharpsburg became the location of the bloodiest single day battle in American history. Battle anniversary commemorations occur each September, with the 150th commemoration scheduled for September 14-17, 2012. The strategic northern victory at Antietam prompted President Lincoln to issue his edict to emancipate slaves in occupied territories. The annual Memorial Illumination, with 23,110 luminaries, represents the battle’s casualties in a beautiful and poignant tribute. Special guided tours of the Illumination by motor coach are offered by the Hagerstown-Washington County CVB. The Illumination takes place on the first Saturday of each December.
C & O Canal National Historical Park – The C&O Canal runs alongside the Potomac River, a dividing line between the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War. Strategically important to both sides – the Union army used the canal for the movement of war materials and troops, while Confederates tried to damage canal aqueducts and impair boat traffic. Several campaigns were fought on or near the canal. Three beautiful aqueducts –engineering marvels with Civil War survival stories to share – may be visited in the Heart of the Civil War – Monocacy and Catoctin in Frederick County and Conococheague in Washington County.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park – Much of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is located in Washington County, Maryland, in the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. From the spark that ignited the conflict in 1859 – John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry – to the largest surrender of Federal troops during the war, to the education of newly freed slaves after the war, this area was integral to every aspect of the Civil War.
Monocacy National Battlefield – Known as the “Battle that Saved Washington,” this was the final Confederate effort to move the war into the north. The battle anniversary is observed with programs each year; the 150th commemoration is planned for July 9-13, 2014. Before this land saw battle, it played a significant role in 1862, prior to the Battle of Antietam, when a copy of Robert E. Lee’s Special Orders #191 was lost in a farmer’s field and later found – wrapped around a few cigars – by passing Union soldiers. The original “Lost Orders” will find their way back to the area, on loan from the Library of Congress, in a special exhibit at the Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor Center, August-October, 2012.
National Museum of Civil War Medicine – A visit to any of this museum’s locations yields surprises and the discovery that “Civil War Medicine – It’s Not What you Think!” Whether viewing immersion exhibits at the main site in Frederick, which was once an embalming center for victims of the war, or displays at the Pry House Field Hospital near Sharpsburg, also General McClellan’s headquarters for a time, visitors will learn stories of compassion that knew no boundaries, courage, and innovations in medicine and crisis management that changed the face of modern medicine and provided the foundation for practices used today in military and civilian settings.
Begin your exploration at one of these local visitor centers:
The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area Exhibit and Visitor Center at the historic Newcomer House Antietam National Battlefield www.heartofthecivilwar.org (301) 432-6402
Carroll County Visitor Center www.carrollcountytourism.org 800-272-1933
Frederick Visitor Center www.fredericktourism.org 800-999-3613
Washington County Visitor Center www.marylandmemories.org 888-257-2600
“Civil War history lives here”, only minutes from Brunswick Crossing, Frederick’s most beautiful planned community.