The First Completed Monument to George Washington

Some may not be aware that South Mountain is home to the first completed monument built and dedicated to the memory of our first President, George Washington. Although many people refer to it as jug or a tower, the oddly shaped monument was designed to resemble the end of a cannon barrel. The monument is situated on Monument Knoll, a mountain peak that was renamed once the monument was built and is near the Civil War battlefields of South Mountain and Antietam. Today, many park visitors come to Washington Monument State Park to enjoy not just the monument itself, but the view from the vista of the Cumberland Valley. Anyone who learns about George Washington, in my opinion should perhaps visit the Washington Monument that overlooks the town of Boonsboro.

On July 4th, 1827, picking up where they left off the previous year, several hundred citizens of Boonsboro decided to build a monument dedicated to General George Washington. Close to five hundred citizens gathered at the town square to begin their two-mile march up to South Mountain. With stars and stripes waving, they began to build the Washington Monument.

The site on South Mountain was chosen because of the natural rock crop of granite or blue rock, as the locals called it. Construction of the monument began around noon after a dedication service was held. By 4 o’clock of the first day the citizens completed 15 feet of the 30-foot tower, carefully cutting the blue rock into size with a circumference of 54 feet. There was no water source on the mountain, so when the stones were laid, they were laid dry.

The day ended with a reading of the Declaration of Independence and a three round salute was fired by three remaining Revolutionary War veterans. The citizens would return after the harvest to complete the tower. A marble tablet was placed on the side nearest to Boonsboro that read: “Erected in Memory of Washington, July 4, 1827 by the citizens of Boonsboro.” The Washington Monument became a popular meeting place until the dry stacked stones began to loosen due to exposure of the weather and vandalism. These elements took a toll on the monument and prior to the American Civil War it lay in ruin.

The structure itself has a very interesting Civil War history. On September 14th, 1862, during the battle of South Mountain Lt. Colonel Edward Porter Alexander was riding with General Lee through Boonsboro when he observed a party of people on a tower like structure. Thinking it was a detachment of Union signal corpsmen, Lt. Colonel Alexander made his way up the mountain until he came in view of the party. What he had thought was Union signal corpsmen turned out to be citizens of the area.

During the battle of Antietam on September 17th, 1862, a Union signal corps detachment under the command of Lieutenant Halsted did use Washington Monument as a base to communicate with the signal station on Elk Mountain, the Pry House and also with Hagerstown.

A month later during General J.E.B. Stuart’s Raid in Pennsylvania on October 9th-12th, Union signal corpsmen under the command of Captain Benjamin F. Fisher were ordered to reopen Washington Monument for observation by Major Albert Myers on October 11th. Captain Fisher communicated with Lieutenant Spencer who was stationed at Hagerstown.

A year later, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, learning from the mistakes of the Maryland Campaign of 1862, launched his Invasion of Pennsylvania. On June 15th, 1863, the first portions of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia crossed the Potomac River near Hagerstown, Maryland and by July 1st, the Battle of Gettysburg erupted along the Pennsylvania countryside.

On July 4th, 1863, after the Battle of Gettysburg, General Lee began to withdraw his Confederate forces south along South Mountain. Lee used Monterey Pass to cross the mountain and in turn access the Potomac River. The next day General George G. Meade began to withdraw his Union army from Gettysburg.

On July 8th, Captain Ernst A. Denicke and Lieutenant C.F.M. Denicke of the Union signal corps reopened the station at the Washington Monument. Shortly thereafter Confederate forces were observed marching toward Williamsport, MD. During the mid morning hours, the Washington Monument played an important role in the Battle of Boonsboro, keeping Union General John Buford informed of every move that was made by Stuart’s cavalry.

On July 10th, Captain Denicke opened communications with the Bakersville, MD signal station. During the next several days, bad weather conditions interfered with signal operations throughout the Middletown and Cumberland Valleys. The Washington Monument signal station ceased operation on July 14th. It was at this time that Lee’s army began to cross the Potomac River. With the threat gone, the Washington Monument was no longer needed.

In 1880, the Odd Fellows Lodge rebuilt the monument and added a canopy to the top. A road was cleared leading to the monument, however the structure was laid as a dry stack. In the years following the monument once again fell into disrepair. In 1920, the Washington County Historical Society purchased the remains of the Washington Monument. In 1934, the monument was deeded to the Maryland State Forestry system and was rebuilt to its current appearance during 1934-1936, by the CCC or the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today Washington Monument serves as a Maryland State Park where many come to enjoy the beautiful view that it has to offer.


High Rock: The Most Beautiful Mountain Scenery

Along the Appalachian Trail, situated on the western side of South Mountain just below its highest peak called Mt. Quirauk is High Rock. High Rock is located in Washington County, Maryland and was at one time part of Pen Mar during the climax of the Resort Era that took place from 1870 to the 1930’s. It was started by a Civil War veteran named John Mifflin Hood. John Hood served as 2nd Lieutenant in the 2nd Maryland Infantry as an engineer. After the Civil War, on March 24, 1874, he became president of the Western Maryland Railroad. With the resort era starting to peak in the Monterey and Cascade area, his hopes were that people would take a train ride to the area. It was with this idea that Hood opened Pen Mar Park on August 31, 1877. High Rock would feature an overlook tower climbing a total height of two stories.

Today, this little known area of South Mountain also has some Civil War importance. Because High Rock is a mountain cliff, on a clear day one can see north to south, the Cumberland Valley from Chambersburg to the Potomac River and to the west as far as North Mountain. Because of the observation advantage, Union cavalry soldiers made High Rock part of their reconnaissance.

In 1905, the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry Association published its regimental history “History of the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, Sixteenth Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers in the American Civil War 1861-1865.” On page 324, Chapter 20, the members of the association wrote about their experiences during the pursuit of the Confederate Army as it retreated from Gettysburg. “Waynesboro is delightfully situated on the side of the Blue Ridge, and surrounded by the most beautiful mountain scenery. The view from, the Overlook [High] Rock, Penn Mar, and the Blue Mountain House in the pass of Monterey, is regarded as one of the most notable east of the Rocky Mountains. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery as we passed over the mountain, and recalled the fact that Colonel Averell had, during the proceeding year, taken us over this road while we were encamped at St. James’ College after the Battle of Antietam.”

Just days before the Battle of Gettysburg, General Buford and his cavalry division traveled from Boonsoboro, entered Waynesboro, and crossed South Mountain via Monterey Pass. On June 29th, General Buford, using what is believed to be High Rock, observed the dust being kicked up by Confederate soldiers in Greencastle and suggested that a battle would erupt somewhere in south central Pennsylvania. From there General Buford rode on to Fairfield and then to Emmitsburg.

During the Confederate Raid of Chambersburg which resulted in the burning of Chambersburg on July 30th, High Rock was also used. Lieutenant Ellis reported from High Rock that Chambersburg had been burned on August 1st, 1684, after he observed smoke on the horizon to the northwest.

Today, High Rock is a treasured piece of local history. It is home to many recreational uses from A.T. hikers taking a break to enjoy the view, to hang gliders using the rock to soar through the air, but how many come to High Rock just for the Civil War history that it has experienced. As long as I give tours of South Mountain, High Rock will always be on the list of Civil War sites to share.

Hiking Through South Mountain History: The Civil War Sites Along the Appalachian Trail

Most of the public is unaware of what lies upon South Mountain when it comes to the rich Civil War history that took place along what we call the Appalachian Trail. This article will briefly describe all of the Civil War battlefields and related sites in Maryland as well as Pennsylvania in an effort to cultivate interest in the reader to explore these sites further. All of the areas discussed were either battle grounds or used by Union or Confederate troops from 1861-1864 for observation posts. Many Civil War historians and scholars are very surprised to learn that many of these sites along the A.T. are listed by name in the War of the Rebellion, a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

The Appalachian Trail, or the A.T. as many call it, is a trail system that is approximately 2,178 miles long starting at Springer Mountain, Georgia and ending at Mount Katahdin, Maine. It was first established on paper in 1921 by Benton MacKaye. Every year, thousands of people walk this famous trail. Some for a day, many for a weekend but there are several who attempt to walk the entire trail from beginning to end. Those who walk the whole trail usually begin in February due to the fact that it takes roughly six months to walk the entire trail. The reason most through hikers, as they are known, start in February is so that they can keep up with the climate. Starting in February gives them the opportunity to walk during comfortable weather temperatures and ensures that they will be in Maine before winter weather conditions set in. As trail hikers travel northward from Georgia it takes about three months before they come to South Mountain, entering Maryland roughly around mid-May to mid-June.

The A.T. in Maryland covers 41 miles along the ridge of South Mountain which was heavily fought over in September of 1862 and enters Pennsylvania near Pen Mar Park. From Pen Mar Park the first 24 miles of the A.T. in Pennsylvania covers two key areas where Union and Confederate troops clashed before and after the battle of Gettysburg.

In the state of Maryland, South Mountain covers three major Civil War campaigns. The first was known as the Maryland Campaign which took place during September of 1862 and was Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first northern invasion. The second was the Invasion of Pennsylvania, better known as the Pennsylvania Campaign that took place from June 15 to July 14, 1863. The third and final campaign was known as Confederate General Jubal Early’s Maryland Campaign or commonly referred to as Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington that took place in July of 1864.

The first major Civil War site is located below Weverton Cliffs. The area where modern day route 340 runs through was occupied by Confederate troops during the Maryland Campaign of September 1862. Weverton Cliffs has a wonderful view of the water gap of Harper’s Ferry. From Weverton Cliffs, the next several miles of the A. T. walking northward became a battleground that was fought over during the Maryland Campaign.

Brownsville Pass, Maryland was the site of a Civil War battle on September 14th, 1862. It is where Confederate General Lafayette McLaws’ Infantry Division crossed South Mountain in preparations of the siege of Harper’s Ferry. Leaving General Paul Semmes behind and sending a small force to Crampton’s Gap, General Semmes, felt that a Union attack would most likely occur at Brownsville Pass. As the Union 6th Army Corps pressed on toward Crampton’s Gap, General Semmes positioned artillery on Brownsville Pass in order to bombard the Federal’s positions. By the time General Semmes realized that Crampton’s Gap was the target for the Federal 6th Corps, it was too late.

Gathland State Park, Maryland, was named after George Townsend, a Civil War correspondent, and was the scene of a major Civil War battle known as the Battle of Crampton’s Gap. Federal soldiers from the Union 6th Corps attacked a small band of Confederate soldiers at Crampton’s Gap during the evening of September 14th, 1862 and by night fall, Union troops occupied Crampton’s Gap. During the Pennsylvania Campaign and General Early’s Raid on Washington, it was used by Union troops for communications as well as an encampment. Today, Gathland State Park is known for its monument, the War Correspondents Arch that was drawn and financed by George Townsend and his closest partners. After the Civil War, George Alfred Townsend bought about a hundred acres of land to create his summer estate here.

Fox’s Gap, Maryland, is the site where the battle of South Mountain took place when Union and Confederate troops engaged early in the morning hours of September 14th, 1862. By days’ end the Confederate troops held Fox’s Gap but at a costly rate. Among the casualties of the Confederate troops was the loss of General Samuel Garland, killed during the morning of the battle. During the afternoon phase of the battle Drayton’s Confederate brigade of infantry lost about 60% of their force in a mere one hour of heavy fighting. Among the Union dead was General Jesse Reno, commander of the 9th Corps, killed toward the evening phase of the battle. Union wounded included future president Rutherford B. Hayes, who was wounded during the morning action of Fox’s Gap. During the Pennsylvania Campaign of 1863, Union troops occupied Fox’s Gap before and after the battle of Gettysburg. During General Early’s Raid on Washington the Confederate Department of South Western Virginia under the command of General John C. Breckenridge marched his troops over Fox’s Gap on July 8th, 1864 just before the battle of Monocacy that took place a day later.

Turner’s Gap, Maryland, is connected to Fox’s Gap by the old Wood Road which is also part of the Appalachian Trail at Turner’s Gap. Although most of the fighting took place toward the southern end of the gap, the South Mountain Inn served as the headquarters for Confederate Major General Daniel H. Hill during the Battle of South Mountain. A section of Confederate artillery under the command of Captain John Lane was stationed near Dalhgren Chapel. In 1863, the South Mountain Inn was used by Union General George Meade after the battle of Gettysburg. In 1864 during his march on Washington, General Early marched his corps over Turner’s Gap. On July 6th the First Maryland Cavalry skirmished with Union troops pushing them back to Middletown and on July 8th secured the site for General Early’s Army as they marched toward Frederick.

Washington Monument State Park, Maryland, was used by Union troops during both the Maryland Campaign and the Pennsylvania Campaign for communication purposes. The Washington Monument was built on July 4th, 1827, and was the first monument dedicated to the late George Washington. During the Civil War Union troops used Washington Monument as a signal station, especially during the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. A month later, Union troops occupied Washington Monument during Confederate General JEB Stuart’s Chambersburg Raid. It was used once more by Union troops during the pursuit of General Robert E. Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg in July of 1863 and during the Battle of Boonsboro that was fought on July 8th, 1863. Today Washington Monument overlooks the town of Boonsboro and offers a spectacular view of the Cumberland Valley.

Black Rock, Maryland, located near Wolfesville, was used by Union troops during the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg as an observation post. This area overlooks the Hagerstown area. At the time of the Civil War a road existed that led over South Mountain that from Wolfesville to Beaver Creek. Today traces of that road can still be seen near the Appalachian Trail.

Raven Rock, Maryland, located near Smithsburg was the scene of a cavalry battle that took place on July 5th, 1863 between Confederate General JEB Stuart and General Kilpatrick. After attacking Monterey Pass a few hours prior, General Judson Kilpatrick’s Cavalry Division took up positions on the outskirts of Smithsburg. Around 3:30 in the afternoon, General JEB Stuart’s Cavalry attacked Kilpatrick in and around Raven Rock Pass. Kilpatrick soon gave up the fight a fell back toward Boonsboro.

The Devil’s Racecourse, Maryland, is a series of glacier deposits that created a rock bed. During the Confederate retreat from Gettysburg, Confederate cavalrymen foraged the area and heard what appeared to be several rattle snakes. After the noise spooked the horses, a few cavalrymen dismounted and realized that a creek ran underneath the rock formations.

During the burning of Chambersburg in July of 1864 High Rock, located in Maryland, was used by Union troops. This is where they witnessed the smoke on the horizon and realized that Chambersburg had been burned by the Confederate Army. From High Rock, one can see the northern section of the Cumberland Valley as well as the Maryland portion of the Monterey Pass Battlefield. Waynesboro, and Greencastle Pennsylvania can also be seen in the background.

Pen Mar Park was once a resort era park in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s. The Washington County, Maryland Park has a Maryland Civil War Trails wayside exhibit along the Appalachian Trail dedicated to the Retreat from Gettysburg. This wayside explains the Union cavalry movements from Monterey Pass in addition to General Stuart’s movements to Smithsburg.

Upon entering Pennsylvania, Old Waynesboro Road is the site of the Battle of Monterey Pass, Pennsylvania’s second largest Civil War battle and the only Civil War battle fought on both sides of the Mason and Dixon Line. Union cavalry under the command of General Judson Kilpatrick were ordered to destroy and break through this mountain gap in attempt to force General Robert E. Lee to take another route back toward Virginia. After midnight on July 5th, 1863, after several hours of fighting, Union cavalry broke through the Confederate battle line and captured about nine miles worth Confederate wagons as the column marched toward Williamsport after the battle of Gettysburg.

Caledonia Pennsylvania State Park is the site where on June 23rd Confederate cavalry skirmished with Union cavalry. On June 26th General Jubal Early’s troops burned the ironworks at Caledonia. These ironworks belonged to Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, whose radical antislavery views were widely known. After the battle of Gettysburg on July 4-5, 1863, Confederate General John Imboden led a wagon train of wounded through this area as they were headed back home to Virginia. Along with the wagon train of wounded, the wagon trains of Longstreet’s, portions of Hill’s corps along with Stuart’s divisional trains moved from here back toward the Potomac River.  On July 6, thousands of New York State National Guardsmen and Pennsylvania State Militia encamped in this area after emerging from the ridge of South Mountain.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park is where on July 4-5, 1863, thousands of New York State National Guardsmen and Pennsylvania State Militia encamped as they were ordered to Gettysburg. The weather had turned foul due to heavy rains and may creeks in this region overflowed their banks. The mountainous roads leading from Mount Holly Springs to Laurel Forge and Pine Grove Furnace were quickly torn up by thousands of soldiers marching upon them. It was a night to be remembered.

Today, as you hike the A.T. through Maryland as well as in Pennsylvania, imagine for one minute, that you are seeing many of these Civil War related sites that most Civil War buffs overlook as they travel to the much bigger destinations of Harper’s Ferry, Antietam or Gettysburg. The A.T. is such a wonderful recreational resource and it is there for everyone or anyone to experience. If you’re looking for something different to do for a day trip, I would highly recommend you taking a trip to these Civil War sites and if you have to walk a little bit, trust me it’ll worth every step. To the through hiker, good luck on getting to your much bigger destination in Maine.