Gathland State Park

Maryland's Rich History

Burkittsville, MD

August 29th,  2005

As most of my followers know, I am an avid Civil War buff who loves to follow the historic events that set this nation on the path to where we have arrived.  Sometimes I come across an event that could have "changed the course of history!". It didn't, of course but what if? Consider the swing state of Maryland. One only has to listen to the lyrics of the state song "Maryland, my Maryland" to know where the locals loyalties lay.  It had the heart of a slave state, and plenty of slaves to back it up. For those who are interested, check out what happened to Maryland slaves, when the "Emancipation Proclamation" was issued.  In the meantime, WHAT IF! Maryland had succeeded? Would it have changed the "course of history"? Well, one look at a national map would tell you that the residents of Washington,  Senators and Representatives and all others would have been surrounded by the Confederacy. The most powerful military, south of Washington, "the Army of Northern Kemp HallVirginia" under the command of Robert E. Lee was nearing the doorsteps of the Capital.  Had Maryland succeeded, Washington might very well had to surrender. Given Northern Commanding General McClellan's inability to act swiftly, the Northern Capital would have most likely been re-located to Philadelphia, not done since the British sacked Washington. Sooooo, why did Maryland not succeed? Well, you can find the answer at the rather mundane corner of North Market and Church streets in Frederick Maryland, where a three story building houses on the first floor, a candy company.  Laura's father would, on rare occasions, buy her chocolate covered pineapples.  I will always remember this store for having them, and allowing me to buy just a few to put a loving smile on her face. But in 1861 President Lincoln, realizing the vital role the State would play in the coming war, asked the Maryland legislature to hold its vote on secession in Frederick.  Governor Holiday Hicks called an exceptional session of the legislature on April 27, 1861.  Senators went to the second floor, Delegates went to the third floor.  This secret location was selected to prevent interference in  deciding secession or not.  So the story goes, there were more than enough votes to secede, but the pro-secession southern delegates, both senators and delegates were arrested on George Townsend known as GATH federal warrants as they arrived at the delegation.  Without the southern vote, there were insufficient numbers to make a quorum and the legislature disbanded without a vote of succession from the union.  Maryland would remain in the Union.  Wow, to stand right in front of that building and look into its windows.  But for just a few acts and a couple of Federal troops, the whole outcome could have been different.  In September of the following year, Robert E. Lee lead his army of 40,000 men, north into Maryland.  At Fredrick Md. he boldly split his force. Three columns were sent south to capture the armory at Harper's Ferry,  after which they were to quickly re-join Lee near Boonsboro, hopefully before the Union forces became aware of what had happened. McClellan rushed out of Washington looking for Lee.  In Correspondents  Memorial ArchFrederick, an unsuspecting Union soldier came across the famed "Order 191" written by Lee describing his intent to split up his Army. With the Union forces pouring over South Mountain, Lee was compelled to order his troops back into the passes to prevent the Union from overrunning him before his forces could return from Harper's ferry.  The Battle of South Mountain was bloody.  Neither side gave quarter.  Superior Union numbers finally broke through and the defenders retreated to Boonsboro but not before Rebel forces re-joined Lee at Antietam. Crampton's Gap was one of those battles.  These events within themselves would be more than sufficient to cause the creation of a State Park, but there is yet another point of history to be discovered. George Alfred Townsend, known by his pen name of "GATH", born in 1841, grew up to be a moderately famous newspaper reporter and celebrated author.  While working for the New York Herald during the Civil War, his war correspondence became as well known as anybody's. After the war, he brought his new bride, Elizabeth Evans Rhodes to Crampton's Gap and began building.  He spent the next 10 years building a house and support buildings.  Most of the foundations and a few of the buildings are still standing. The most impressive work was the Correspondents' Memorial Arch which he completed in 1896.  It is a monument to the newspaper correspondents, artists and photographers of the Civil War.  Standing 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide.  The names of 157 men from the North and South who documented the Civil War are inscribed on tablets embedded in the east facade.  This was a nice outing and perhaps a few points of history overlooked by many.

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