Monterey Pass Battlefield News

This year, for 2015, I wanted to do something different. As my readers recall, during the 150th cycle, I have written much about the Civil War and the campaigns that occurred in the area. I also did a piece on the War of 1812 with the 200th Anniversary of the Burning of Washington and the Battle of Baltimore. I finished the 2014 year with the 100th Anniversary of the Christmas Truce, which occurred during World War One. Now, I am changing things up.

october 052As many of you may or may not know, I am the Washington Township Historian, appointed by the Washington Township Board of Supervisors in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. I am also the Museum Director of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum, both positions are volunteer positions. I have also served as the historian for South Mountain State Battlefield, as well as a historical adviser for many organizations in the Tri-State region, and have been featured in several documentaries over the course of my fifteen year career.

Over the last year and a half the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc., has been working on building a museum and preserving the Civil War battlefield of Monterey Pass. With the October 18 grand opening behind us, and with preservation plans moving forward and taking shape, I wanted to share with you what its like to be part of a new Civil War battlefield.

october 042Over the course of the last three years, many have heard about the Maria Furnace Road, which runs though our battlefield and is a vital part of our preservation efforts. Three years ago, 116 acres of battlefield land came up for sale. After taking inventory of the land, and writing up a summary of events that occurred on the land, we decided that it needed to be preserved. After talking with a few preservation organizations, we decided to go after the land on our own. With the help of Washington Township, we applied for two grants.  We were just awarded 100,000.00 for the first grant and the second grant was just submitted in December. If all goes well, we’ll close on the purchase this coming March. We are also looking into purchasing another four acres of land for access to the battlefield property.

So what happens to the land after it transfers to the battlefield? Six years ago, I went before the Washington Township Board of Supervisors with Management, Interpretation and Conceptual Plans with regard to the battlefield, and what needs to be done step by step. The supervisors approved the plans, and since then those plans have been applied to the battlefield, and the end result is that it has been growing, and more importantly, being preserved.

So, what about the road and why is it important?  The Maria Furnace Road is a unique piece of land. The road bed itself dates back to 1747, as part of the Great Wagon Road that led to the south via modern day Williamsport, and allowed for the settlements of what would become Appalachia. During the French and Indian War, travel along this road was decreased due to the threat of Indian attacks. After the Revolutionary War, farms were being built in the area. By 1820, the Emmitsburg and Waynesboro Turnpike was completed, connecting to the Maria Furnace Road. Over the course of the early 1800’s, Monterey Pass became an important transportation hub, where five roads connected to the toll house and several side roads ran parallel to the main turnpike.

The property itself shows signs of newly forested trees due to the industry of the area from charcoal that was being used to fuel to copper smelters and furnaces. Many of the trees are less than one hundred years old. The land does border private property, as well as Pennsylvania State property. Given that, the Maria Furnace Road property does appear to look much as it did during the Civil War battle.

When I conducted a study of the land, it was determined that Monterey Peak was included in the property. It has been said that during the Resort era (1870-1940), many visitors would venture to the overlook, and on a clear day one could see all the way to Baltimore. Although, one would not see Baltimore due to Parr’s Ridge in the east, it does provide a beautiful overlook. Many overlooks on South Mountain near Monterey Pass do overlook the Gettysburg Battlefield, as well as the Cumberland Valley. This is why I created a new program that I launched this year called the Retreat from Gettysburg Overlooks Tour.

After the purchase of the road is complete, my plans call for several things. The first is marking out the boundary. The second will be repairing the roadway itself. Erosion has taken a toll on the road. After years of heavy rains, many areas have washed out the road creating ruts, and in other areas, large trees have fallen over the road. But other than that, the road is accessible by one who is physically fit. Stone dust or mulch will cover the mile long roadway for public safety. In those areas where erosion is a concern, we will use the same methods as Antietam used for the beach gravel roadway by the Antietam Creek near the Burnside Bridge. This will help to keep the road from being washed out during major storms.

The third item on my list is the establishment of interpretive waysides, and at least two kiosks blocking visitors from entering onto private property along the actual road. The main theme is going to be the Battle of Monterey Pass and the Confederate Retreat. However, some sub themes will be written for a few of the waysides to reflect the Great Wagon Road and the industry of the area prior to the American Civil War. And finally will be the creation of walking trails to Monterey Peak.

Funding is going to be needed to help with this project. For the interpretive panels and metal dry-coated frames we are looking at a cost of over $10,000.00. To keep the cost down, I will once again, write and design the panels, like those you see along the driving tour route. This helps simply because there is no third party involved.

The interpretive panels will be tan on blue with the main theme at the top. The sub theme will be listed under the main theme. For example, a main them could be “The Battle of Monterey Pass” with a sub theme of “The North Carolina Sharpshooters Deploy.” Followed by text to help the viewer understand the historical event in the area they are viewing.

P1040658Before I close, the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum is looking for a few good interns or volunteers to help run the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park’s museum during the 2015 tourism season. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please email me at Docent and Interpreter positions are unpaid. Duties will include working with the public, preparation of interpretive programs, and provide assistance to visitors at the park information table. If you like to talk about history and you are looking to make a difference, we are looking for you!

100th Anniversary of the Christmas Truce during World War One

By the summer of 1914, Europe was thrown into World War One. As the war progressed, and battle lines stalled, trench warfare, supported by barbed wire became a way of life. In some places the trenches between the Allies and the Axis were thirty to forty yards apart. By December 1, it looked as if the war would not be over by Christmas. On December 7, Pope Benedict XV had asked the warring governments for a truce, but neither would have it. There would be no official truce on Christmas.

The wet weather leading up to Christmas had made the trenches a muddy and soggy mess. Water was everywhere, and conditions in the trenches were harsh. As battles were fought near Christmas, the bodies of the deceased still laid upon the ground. But as Christmas approached, there were a few informal truces that took place, which included the fraternization of soldiers. As Christmas Eve night approached, temperatures began to dive and a heavy layer of frost formed on the ground. What happened next was a truly remarkable historic event.

It seems that the first area of the Christmas Truce began at Ypres, Belgium. German soldiers began decorating their line of trenches with candles and singing Christmas carols. The British soldiers on the other side responded by singing carols of their own. Some of the songs were sung in German and English. Then shouting matches of season’s greetings and general greeting took place.

One British soldier recalled, “On Christmas Eve at about 4 p.m. we were in a line of advance trenches waiting to be relieved when we heard singing and shouting coming from the other trenches at right angles to us which line a hedge of the same field. Then the news filtered down. German and English officers had exchanged compliments and agreed on a truce and then started giving one another a concert. We all sang every song we could think of, a bonfire was lit and everyone walked about as though it were a picnic.”

One British soldier recalled that during the night, “It was a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere; and about seven or eight in the evening there was a lot of commotion in the German trenches and there were these lights – I don’t know what they were. And they sang ‘Silent Night’ – ‘Stille Nacht’. I shall never forget it; it was one of the highlights of my life. I thought, what a beautiful tune.”

Alfred Kornitzke, who was a German cook, was preparing a festive confection for his company, who were facing the Algerians. As the Algerians kept up the gunfire, Kornitzke, still wearing his baker’s hat, got fed up with all of the shooting at the Germans, as Christmas Eve was not celebrated by those of the Islam faith. Soon, he jumped out of the trench with a Christmas tree and began moving toward the Algerians line in No Man’s Land. “He did not stop until he was halfway between the lines. There he sat the tree down carefully, calmly took some matches…he had intended to use for his petroleum stove, and in the frosty star-filled night, lit the candles, one by one…Now, you blockheads, now you know what’s going on! Merry Christmas!” His Christmas greeting must have worked because with that, the Algerians ceased firing.

As Christmas morning came, many of the men began yelling out “Merry Christmas.” It wasn’t long before white flags were seen coming from the trenches and soldiers gathered in the middle of No Man’s Land. Captain Josef Sewald, of the 17th Bavarian remembered when he yelled over to his enemy from his trench:“We didn’t wish to shoot and that we make a Christmas truce. First there was silence, then I shouted once more, invited them, and the British shouted ‘No shooting!’ Then a man came out of the trenches and I on my side did the same and so we came together and we shook hands.”

Christmas Truce 1914, as seen by the Illustrated London News.British Captain Robert Miles recalled “We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. A regular soldiers’ peace!” As the soldiers came out of their trenches and began to mingle, they exchanged small gifts of food, tobacco and alcohol. Uniform buttons were also traded. One English soldier recalled, “In my mouth is a pipe presented by the Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say. But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh dear, no! From a German soldier. Yes a live German soldier from his own trench.”

The Jenaer Volksblatt, a German paper, had a very witty piece written about the Christmas Truce. “Yesterday about four o’clock in the afternoon there was a fierce and terrible onslaught of Christmas packages onto our trenches. No man was spared. However, not a single package fell into the hands of the French. In the confusion, one soldier suffered the paling of a salami two inches in diameter straight into his stomach…Another had two large raisins from an exploding pastry fly directly into his eyes…A third man had a great misfortune of having a full bottle of cognac fly into his mouth.”

Details were sent out into No Man’s Land to recover the corpses of fallen soldiers for a proper burial. Church services were also held. It was reported that soccer and football were played. It seemed as if those once considered enemies had become the bests of friends. The men talked about their homes and their families, girlfriends and wives.

However, military strictness was observed with regard to positions and trench layout. According to Lance Corporal George Ashurst, 2 Lancashire Fusiliers, one German soldier came out of his trench bearing a flag of truce. He was met by another British soldier and escorted to the British trench, but since he was not blind folded “he had to be made a prisoner of war.” The German soldier protested and was upset. Other soldiers took the opportunity to view the enemy’s machine gun emplacements on the trenches.

There were at least five documented Americans serving in the French Foreign Legion that participated in the Christmas Truce, Eugene Jacobs of Pawtucket, R. I., Victor Chapman, a Harvard man from New York, Phil Rader, George Unard, and African American cook from Galveston Texas, and John Street from St. Louis. John Street was killed the day after Christmas by a German bullet. Phil wrote a letter about the Christmas Truce that was published in several American newspapers. He recalled, “For 20 days we had faced that strip of land, 45 feet wide between our trench and that of the Germans—that terrible no-man’s land, dotted with dead bodies, crisscrossed by tangled mazes of barbed wire. That little strip of land was as wide and as deep and as full of death as the Atlantic Ocean, as uncrossable as the spaces between the stars, as terrible as human hate. Christmas morning fell on it as brightly as if it were a lover’s lane or the aisle in some grand cathedral.”

By dusk, this remarkable event was, for the most part, over. Never again in history would there by a truce such as the one observed by the men in 1914. Soldiers quickly wrote letters home about what had happened. Phil Rader recalled, “Shouts filled the air. What miracle had happened? Men laughed and cheered. There was a Christmas light in our eyes and I know there were Christmas tears in mine. There were smiles, smiles, smiles, where for days there had been only rifle barrels. The terror of no-man’s land fell away. The sounds of happy voices filled the air. We were all unhumanly happy for that one glorious instant, in which we all—English, Portugese, Americans and even Nadem, the Turk, and that savages, as we had been, cave men as we were, the awfulness of war had not filled the corners of our hearts, where love and Christmas live.” Indeed it was a miracle, a Christmas miracle.

As army censorships read mail from the participating soldiers that was being sent back home, it was revealed that an unofficial truce had taken place. The events that unfolded during Christmas were treasonous in the eyes of the high command in all of the armies. Their leaders were furious. However, there were several sectors of the battlefield where Christmas did not stop the war and fighting continued. Then again, there were certain areas of the battlefield where the Christmas Truce lasted until after the New Year of 1915. But in those areas, where the truce was observed, would leave a lasting memory on those who participated in the Christmas Truce. Phil Rader recalled the day after Christmas, “The sun was shining down again on a world gone mad.”

Monterey Pass Battlefield Park & Museum To Soon Open

The Monterey Pass Battlefield Park located in Blue Ridge Summit is finally ready for visitation. Over the course of the last year and a half, the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. (FMPB) have been working hard building a museum that will tell the story of the 1863 Pennsylvania Campaign, and how Monterey Pass played a role during the Confederate invasion, in addition to the American Civil War as it relates to Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Through these exhibits, the museum shall encourage audiences to examine the past and its relationship to our shared future.

The museum is fully interpreted with five galleries and artifacts that tell the story of this important and forgotten Civil War battle. The museum’s collection of artifacts, many of which were donated, are related to the battlefield. One such relic is a rifled musket carried by the Union army, which was found years later in between the walls of a house. The rifle is in great shape and still has its bayonet attached, one hundred and fifty-one years later.

The museum proudly displays a Union officer’s frock coat which was worn by Captain William Wilken, a member of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, who fought at the battle of Monterey Pass. Another artifact is an artillery mounted services jacket, which shows how crudely made some of the Union uniforms were. A nice mixture of infantry and cavalry accoutrements will show the public what soldiers were issued during the Civil War.

A Civil War era dress is also on display, complete with a bonnet. “One of the stories that we wanted to tell was the civilian aspect and how they coped with war being in their community” said Alicia Miller, who chairs the non-profit FMPB organization. One of the galleries, “A Summer of Crisis,” tells the story of the refugees and how they were faced with leaving their homes as the Confederate army was entering into Pennsylvania.

“Another story that I thought was important to tell was the role of the New York Sate National Guard in Washington Township” said John A. Miller, Washington Township Historian and Museum Director. “The New York State National Guard protected Harrisburg and Baltimore during the campaign. Many of these non-veteran soldiers from New York’s upper-class marched over two hundred and seventy-five miles” Miller said. Many of these New York regiments were wearing their gray fatigue uniforms, which from a distance, could be mistaken for that of a Confederate soldier.

Another feature of the new museum are the maps that show exactly how the battle of Monterey Pass was fought on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. Britt Isenberg, a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg, donated his time to create the maps which are on display. Many of the maps on the internet are not historically correct with regards to troop movements, landmarks, and many of those maps fail to show the battle west of modern day Route 16, headed westward toward Ringgold, which is how the battle entered into Maryland.

The new museum will also be an interactive experience for the visitors. There are different stations set up where the visitor can see original copies of occupational CDV’s from the Victorian era, get a look at the types of wagons that moved through Monterey Pass, as well as quotes from the soldiers themselves on the conditions they had to fight in. The museum also has clothing that even the littlest visitors can try on to see what it was like to be a soldier in the Civil War. “We want this to be a fun and educational experience for everyone who visits the museum, from the Civil War buff, to our local school children” said Alicia Miller.

The museum will be staffed by volunteers and will be open during the weekends in 2015. Programs and special events for next year are already in the planning stages. “Since the battle of Monterey Pass was fought during the night, we would like to capitalize on this by having programs conducted during the evening” said Miller. “Especially, since several visitors to the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center are looking for things to do in the evening after the Gettysburg facility is closed.”

Although, the grand opening is taking place in October, the museum exhibits will continue to grow during the winter and spring of 2015. One of the exhibits the FMPB would like to install is a timeline of the Civil War, showing the visitor the much larger picture with regards to the Civil War and the 1863 Confederate invasion. Artifact cases are still needed for the floor area to help protect the larger artifacts that are currently in the building. A flat panel TV with DVD player will also be installed to run various documentaries and slides pertaining to Monterey Pass, and the Pennsylvania Campaign. Funding is still needed for these projects.

There is a possibility that the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park will gain an additional one hundred and sixteen acres of battlefield land. In June, Washington Township officials applied and were awarded a $100,000.00 grant from Franklin County. In October, the township applied for another $100,000.00 grant from the county to complete the purchase for this important battlefield ground. If awarded the second grant, the battlefield park will consist of about 117 acres of land.

The land the FMPB and Washington Township are currently trying to buy is the old Maria Furnace Road. The property also features Monterey Peak, which on a clear day has a spectacular view to the east. “This property will feature trails and interpretation that will explain the Confederate retreat and the experiences of those Confederate soldiers marching through Monterey Pass” said Miller. “And then we have the Union aspect with General Thomas Neill’s Brigade of infantry who followed the rear of the Confederate army.”

The battle of Monterey Pass is Pennsylvania’s second largest Civil War battle and was the only battle to be fought on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. It began at dusk on July 4, 1863, as Union cavalry under the command of General Judson Kilpatrick collided with Confederate forces under the command of General William Jones. The battle was hard fought during a serve storm and continued till dawn on July 5.

As the Union cavalry withdrew from Monterey Pass, this allowed the Confederate army, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, to safely march his army from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to the Cumberland Valley, and eventually to Williamsport, Maryland. Following on the heels of Lee’s army was a brigade of Union cavalry and infantry. They skirmished with the rear of Lee’s army without engaging in a full battle.

To donate, volunteer, or become a member of the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc., please log on to and download the membership/donation form.