Covered Bridges: Spanning the Past and Still Standing Tall

Bridges were a vital piece of transportation during the Civil War, just as they are today. During the time of the Civil War, many bridges were vital to the supply lines and troop movements. In Frederick County during the Civil War, there were about fourteen covered bridges built, in addition to smaller plank bridges, and a few stone arch bridges. Out of that number only two originals stand today. There would have been a third original however it was destroyed by fire during the 1990’s and was rebuilt.

In Washington County, the stone arch style bridge like the one at Antietam National Battlefield, seemed to be popular than covered bridges. There were six covered bridges, four of them located along the Potomac River at the areas of Shepherdstown and Point of Rocks. One was built near Hagerstown and one near Hancock. The total number of stone bridges that stand today in Washington County is twenty-eight. Seventeen of them span the Antietam Creek, two span Beaver Creek, two smaller bridges span Marsh Run and five span over the Conocoheague Creek. The last stone arch bridge spans a tributary of Antietam Creek.

The popularity of the stone bridge in Washington County was due to the problems that plank bridges present when heavy traffic traveled through. They found that with this traffic, the plank bridges were in need of being repaired every couple of years. I found a quote on the Washington County Tourism web site, that sums this up nicely. “Why build temporary wooden bridges when we have so much limestone, rugged granite, sandstone, slate, and even beautiful marble in our own quarries?” The result was the popular stone arch bridge.

I have always enjoyed covered bridges and they are romanticized by many. To me, they stand tall to remind us of our past. They are a great resource that unfortunately, once they are gone, they’re gone. I grew up near three covered bridges in Frederick County, Maryland that are located a short drive from the Catoctin Mountain Scenic By-way or what is commonly called Route 15.

Covered bridges once dotted many streams and rivers in Maryland. Many became victim to the elements of time, vandalism, deterioration, and a lack of maintenance. Covered bridges were built with a roof and sides to preserve the infrastructure of the trusses and floor. One thing that amazes me is the fact that a covered bridge can outlast any modern concrete bridge.

Many of these covered bridges have a good bit of Civil War history behind them. Imagine hearing the sound of the metal plates from thousands of brogans marching across the wooden planks of these bridges. Or the sound of horseshoes clunking along, followed by the sound of the cast iron wheels of cannons moving along those very same planks. It must have been a frightful and amazing sound. I am going to cover the covered bridges that are located near the eastern foot of the Catoctin Mountain first, and then I will cover the covered bridges that once spanned the creeks leading to South Mountain.

The original Utica Mills Covered Bridge was built around 1850, spanning the Monocacy River, and originally located on Devilbliss Bridge Road near Walkersville. After a severe flood in 1889, that washed the covered bridge away, many of the local citizens rebuilt the 101-foot long Burr arch truss bridge known as Utica Covered Bridge over Fishing Creek. I am not certain if the Utica Covered Bridge has any Civil War history, but it is possible that troops marched through it on patrol, as this covered bridge was a link to major roadways during the Civil War. The Old Frederick Road to the west was used by portions of the Union army in 1863 before and after the Battle of Gettysburg. Toward the east of Utica Covered Bridge was the Frederick Turnpike. In the middle, near the bridge was another small road that took you from the backside of Walkersville to Woodsboro and Troutville.

To the north, off of Route 550 near Creagerstown, you have Loy’s Station Covered Bridge, located on Old Frederick Road and spanning Owens Creek. Loy’s Station Covered Bridge is 90 feet in length, 12.2 feet high, and was built around 1848. The design of the bridge features a Howe truss and utilizes the king post trusses covered by beveled clapboard. On June 29th, 1863, during the Pennsylvania Campaign Loy’s Station Covered Bridge was used by Union troops of the 11th Corps under the command of General Oliver O. Howard as they marched toward Emmitsburg.

On July 5th, after the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General JEB Stuart’s cavalry trotted down Old Frederick Road after leaving Emmitsburg. Arriving at the intersection of Old Frederick Road and Rocky Ridge Road, Stuart divided his command. He sent a portion directly to Graceham, while Stuart and the other portion of his cavalry traveled to Creagerstown, crossing Loy’s Station Covered Bridge. On July 7th, Union General George Meade left Emmitsburg and marched a portion of his army down Old Frederick Road, through Loy’s Station Covered Bridge. From there General Meade made his headquarters for the night near Creagerstown. In 1991 Loy’s Station Covered Bridge was nearly destroyed by fire.

With its natural beauty and the old fashion like surroundings, Roddy Bridge is one of Thurmont’s biggest tourist attractions. Built in 1856, this King post truss bridge is 40 feet long, 12.8 feet wide, and spans the Owens Creek. It is located off of Route 15 on Roddy Creek Road. During the Civil War Roddy Bridge was used by Union cavalry patrolling the area. During the Pennsylvania Campaign, on June 29th, 1863, while General Oliver O. Howard’’s 11th Corps was marching on Old Frederick Road the Union 1st Corps under the command of General John Reynolds was traveling on the Emmitsburg Road, passing through Roddy Bridge as they marched to Emmitsburg.

During the afternoon of July 5th, Confederate General JEB Stuart passed through Roddy Bridge as he was traveling to Franklin Mills before crossing the Catoctin Mountain. By July 7th, several thousand Union soldiers marched through Roddy Bridge, heading in the direction of Lewistown in pursuit of Lee’s Army, who, was at that time, in the Cumberland Valley.

During the Civil War many covered bridges spanned across the creeks and rivers of the major roads leading to South Mountain. All but one of these bridges were destroyed in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and have been replaced by modern concrete bridges. The bridge that was not destroyed in the 1900’s was destroyed in 1861 by the Confederates. This covered bridge was located in Berlin or what is now called the town of Brunswick. The 1,568-foot Berlin Covered Bridge was built upon a Howe truss during 1856-1857. The nine span covered bridge rested on eight river piers. During the summer of 1861, the Confederate government felt that it was necessary to destroy every bridge from Point of Rocks to Cumberland, Maryland. The Berlin Covered Bridge was set on fire and it completely burned down.

Although there is no date on the Jefferson Covered Bridge that spans the Catoctin Creek, it is possible that it was there during the Civil War. If that is the case, it would have been located on a major route that took you from Harper’s Ferry to Frederick city. It was destroyed in 1930.

The Middletown Covered Bridge was built in 1809, near Middletown, Maryland on the Burkettsville Road. This bridge is considered to be the first covered bridge in Maryland. This 83 foot covered bridge spanned the Catoctin Creek. During all three major Civil War campaigns that occurred in the area, this bridge would have been used by Civil War soldiers. It was destroyed in 1938.

One mile west of Middletown, on the National Road, was the ninety foot Catoctin Creek Covered Bridge. Built in 1864, research suggests that it replaced an existing covered bridge that spanned over the Catoctin Creek. It was built using the existing trusses of a bridge built in 1815. Since this was a major transportation route, the Catoctin Creek Covered Bridge was well known in its day. Depending on what month in 1864 that this bridge was built, it is very possible that General Jubal Early’s Confederate army marched through this bridge as it approached Middletown.

Between Wolfsville and Middlepoint was the Spruce Run Covered Bridge that was built in 1851. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops occupied the Wolfsville area. Research seems to suggest that two covered bridges spanned this area. In 1889, a bridge may have been washed away by heavy rains and may have been rebuilt using what could be salvaged. The Spruce Run Covered Bridge was destroyed in 1934 by local farmers.

I would highly recommend during a trip to Gettysburg, or even a Sunday drive to take a side road and travel to Utica, Loy’s Station and Roddy covered bridges. They stand to remind us of a time gone by, bridging the gap between the modern world and a world gone by.

Photographs courtesy of the LOC

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2 thoughts on “Covered Bridges: Spanning the Past and Still Standing Tall

  1. Anonymous April 19, 2012 / 1:47 am

    I have read with much interest your information about the covered bridges. Much of the information I have gleaned from other historical documents at the Maryland Room, Frederick Library for the treatise I am writing about the bridges in Frederick County. Your article gave me some dates that I did not have, especially for the Middletown Covered Bridge, the one on Bidel Road – 1809 – I had 1815 fron another source. I have some interesting stories about the Middletown bridge over Catoctin Creek on the National Road. If you are interested in what I have written respond to me, Robert Johnson at gambertrader@yahoo.com and I'll send you a copy.Thanks for your work.

  2. By John A. Miller April 19, 2012 / 11:36 am

    HI Robert, This was a fun article to do as this topic is seldom covered or visited by Civil War buffs. I'll contact you about the Middletown bridge once I get caught up on some work. Thank again for the comments and gald you enjoyed the posting.

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