Battlefield Land Preserved at Blue Ridge Summit, PA

oldroadLocated seven miles west of Emmitsburg, MD, in the small South Mountain community of Blue Ridge Summit is Pennsylvania’s second largest Civil War battle. This was also the only battle that took place on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line during the four years of the Civil War. The Battle of Monterey Pass was fought during the night of July 4-5, 1863, as the advance of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia withdrew from Gettysburg, and engaged Union cavalry that was ordered to locate, harass, and block the important mountain gap. The Battle of Monterey Pass was one of several battles to be fought during the Confederate retreat as they moved to Williamsport, MD, and eventually crossed the Potomac River into West Virginia.

Several key players of the battle included young Union Brigadier General George A. Custer who led the Michigan Brigade. During the battle, Union Major Charles Capehart of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry led his regiment and assisted in the destruction of several miles worth of Confederate wagons. In 1898, he received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Monterey Pass.

For the Confederate army, Captain George Emack led his company of the 1st Maryland Cavalry against a superior force and held his ground, allowing reinforcements to come to his aide. Confederate Brigadier General William Jones commanded all Confederate forces that fought at Monterey Pass, and his decision making process allowed the Confederates to keep hold of Monterey Pass, securing the route that General Robert E. Lee would use during the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg.

During the battle, more than 1,300 Confederates were taken prisoner, leaving several dozen wounded and killed. The Union cavalry led by Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick lost more than 75 men who were captured, wounded, or killed.

As of April 22, 2015, the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. are proud to announce that the battlefield at Monterey Pass has grown with the preservation of 116 acres of core land. The land was paid for by two Franklin County, Pennsylvania grants that allowed Washington Township to purchase the 116 acre piece of ground that has historical significance not only with the Battle of Monterey Pass, but as a roadway (the Great Wagon Road) that was established in 1747, that was one of two roads leading from Philadelphia to Appalachia. In addition, 1.5 acres of land was purchased from the Blue Ridge Summit Lions Club Park to have safe access to the township property.

For the past five years, the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. have been hard at work preserving this very important, but forgotten, Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania. Their efforts, along with Washington Township, have really shown through since the purchase of the first acre of land in 2011. Since then, a driving tour with interpretive waysides tells the story of battle. Now, a museum that features maps, interpretive panels and artifacts help explain the battle and other important Civil War history related to the site. The museum first opened in 2014 and is open weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., April through November.

The newly acquired property is a great addition to the park. Visitors will now see the original Maria Furnace Road, known as the Fairfield Road. The origins of this road span over 260 years of history. But it was during the Confederate Retreat from Gettysburg, that this road became famous, and was extensively written about by those Confederate and also Union soldiers who marched upon it.

The road was also a key Confederate battle position. As additional Confederate troops arrived from Fairfield Gap, they were able to fend off any attempts to block the road. Skirmishers deployed on both sides of the road and began their advance toward the main pass. Several of the features such as rocky terrain are visible and will help visitors understand the conditions in which this battle was fought.

The overall management plan calls for several interpretive trails, complete with waysides that will allow visitors to follow the events during the night of July 4-5, 1863. Also, interpretive themes will include the Confederate Retreat and the Union Pursuit through Monterey Pass that took place on July 5-6, 1863. Once these trails are interpreted and mapped out, the plan is to begin opening the land to the public. For the first time in decades, people will be able to access portions of the battlefield and get a first-hand look as to why this battle was so confusing and harsh.

The overall education and interpretive programs plan is to be able to conduct living history and education programs in two designated areas. These programs will have a strict guideline, and tell the story of the Civil War soldier just after the battle of Gettysburg. Living history groups that meet our standards of interpretation, historic weapons safety, and uniform authenticity policies will then be able to come onto the township park and perform many programs. These programs will help visitors to understand and visually see how things may have been conducted 152 years ago. We want to tell the story of the average Civil War soldier and tie in his experiences to the site.

Last week, inventory of the property was conducted and trails marked out. As interpretive waysides are produced and mounted, these trails could open as early as within a few months for the private and personal benefit of the public, depending on financial support. Maps with distances, in depth information, and trail information will help educate and navigate visitors on the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park.

Monterey Pass Battlefield News Briefs

On April 11, the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum opened for the 2015 tourism season. The hours of operations are every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., through November 21, 2015. The opening was met with a couple of programs for the Friend’s membership base. Members from as far away as Kansas came to participate in the museum’s opening and programs.
openingday 016This year the museum features a few new exhibits. The first is a display of mess equipment that soldiers during the Civil War would have used. The prime center piece for this exhibit is the English mess tin that was imported from Britain and issued mostly to Confederate soldiers. Soldiers may have chosen to use them, but often those bulky, unnecessary items were tossed or placed in storage. This exhibit also features a tin plate, cup, collapsible cup, flatware and an original piece of hardtack.

Another new exhibit is an artillery mounted services jacket that would have been worn by a Union artillery soldier. This jacket is a great example of the type of jacket that would have been issued mid-war. The case also showcases some smaller artillery items such as a shovel, and field glasses. Other exhibits are in the works and we hope to have everything in place by July 2015 for our 152nd Commemoration of the Monterey Pass Battle.

openingday_2015 027For the season opener, two main programs were given, that were offered solely to our membership base. For those of you who are not yet members, this is a great way to get the first opportunity to participate in programs that are not yet offered to the general public. The first program was the Maria Furnace Road During the Colonial Era. Most visitors to our park come to learn about the battle that was fought just one day after the close of the Battle of Gettysburg. But what many don’t realize is that this wasn’t the only major historical event that took place at Monterey Pass. The Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia went directly through Monterey Pass, then known as Nichols’ Gap. The lecture part of the tour also talked about the first settlements of the area. Several aspects of the French and Indian War were covered, including local Indian raids, which is an often overlooked piece of history to our area.

openingday_2015 039The second program was the Confederate Retreat from Gettysburg Overlooks Tour. This is a very unique program, in that from one of the overlooks, known as Virginia Rock, you can see the battlefield at Gettysburg. While from the overlook at High Rock, you can see the opposite side of the mountain, through the area that the Confederate Army retreated. Once both of these locations are viewed, it gives the participant a better understanding of the retreat, and how important Monterey Pass was to the Confederate Army and more importantly, the topography of the area.

Coming soon at the museum we will be offering books for sale on Monterey Pass, as well as other books on the Civil War in our area. We will also have paintings for sale that were done exclusively for the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. as a fundraiser. Be sure to pick up your copy while you are there. We will also have more brochures on the battle, as well as the new and improved driving tour.

brubaker 090On April 18, the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. held a special ceremony to re-dedicate the memorial to CPL Joseph Brubaker, who lost his life serving his country in the Vietnam War. His parents, who were locals to the area, constructed the original memorial on the property shortly after his death. Upon purchasing the property, one of the goals of the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. was to give this memorial a permanent home on the front of the museum, for all to see.

Joseph Brubaker, Jr. was born and raised in Blue Ridge Summit. Shortly after graduating from Waynesboro Area Senior High School, Joe joined the United States Marines. He was transferred to Vietnam in December 1966, where he became a Crew Chief with the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 362, 1st Marine Air Wing. He served two tours in Vietnam from December 1966 to February 1969, earning the rank of Corporal. CPL Brubaker received 31 Air Medals and participated in over 620 combat missions. His last assignment was flying in support of Marine forces involved in Operation Lynn River, Da Nang, Quang Nam Province. Corporal Joseph Brubaker, Jr. was killed in action on February 6, 1969.

brubaker 032The ceremony honoring Corporal Brubaker began at 12:00 p.m. with a Posting of Colors by Sgt. Richard Billig, 8th and I Marines, Marine Corps League, Gettysburg Detachment. The Re-Dedication of the memorial and wreath laying was done by Alicia Miller, Chairman of the Friends of Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc., James Funk, Jr., USMCR, Carlton Crenshaw, USMCR, Dennis Brubaker, who was Cpl. Brubaker’s cousin, and Philip H. Collins, Company B, 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. The ceremony concluded with guest speakers Aubrey Yanzito for Senator Pat Toomey, Congressman Bill Schuster of the U.S. House of Representatives, David Keller, Chairman of the Franklin County Commissioners, Dennis Brubaker, James Funk, Jr., and Carlton Crenshaw. A special thanks goes out to Thomas Cantwell and John Gorman for planning this event.

The Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. hopes that you will join them in the 2015 tourism season. New for this year, are the inclusion of campfire programs in the evening. These programs are a great way to learn more about local history, and the kids love these programs, so bring your whole family! They have many events planned that are open to the public, so please check their website often, Also, if you love history, and are interested in volunteering your time for the education of others, please let the Friends of Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. know, they are always looking for volunteers and new ideas.

My New Book

bookMy new book is out and ready for purchase. The book is 44 pages, footnoted with maps and photographs of this under appreciated and forgotten area of Civil War history. If you ever had any questions about the Catoctin Mountain during the Civil War including Hamburg Pass, then this book is for you. The Emmitsburg News Journal published this book. Just like his New York State National Guard During the Pennsylvania Campaign book, John also did the design and layout for this publication. Price is set at $10.00 per copy.

I will be signing copies at the Monterey Pass Battlefield Museum on April 11, from 10-4 in between the membership tours. To order by mail make checks out to John Miller, 144 North Church St. Waynesboro, PA 17268 and add $3.00 for shipping.