New Trail Signs Mark Hagerstown's Role in The Gettysburg Campaign
"New Trail Signs Mark Hagerstown's Role in The Gettysburg Campaign"
Hagerstown, MD (September 24, 2007)- Take a step back in time for a moment- it is July 1863. "The cutting and slashing was beyond description; here right before and underneath us the deadly conflict was waged in a hand to hand combat." Gettysburg? No, the observer is relaying an account of the fierce fighting that took place right here in Downtown Hagerstown on Monday July 6, 1863. If you would like to learn about the rest of the story of the First Battle of Hagerstown take a walk down to the first block of North Potomac Street and find out.
As part of the ongoing mission to increase awareness of Hagerstown's historic past, The City of Hagerstown has teamed up with the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and The State of Maryland Office of Tourism Development to place three interpretive signs in downtown Hagerstown as part of the Civil War Trails program. According to John Bryan, The City of Hagerstown's Historic Sites Facilitator, "These three markers, not only tell the story of Hagerstown's involvement in the Gettysburg Campaign, but bring the visitor to the exact location where the events described occurred. The reader may have to do a little imaging to transport themselves back to 1863, but a few of the buildings standing in the square were there during the time of the battles. The really neat thing is if you want proof of the fierceness of the action all you have to do is look up, bullet marks can still be seen on some the upper stories."
Aside from the battle of Antietam, most people are probably unaware of Hagerstown's and Washington County's overall importance and impact on the outcome of the Civil War. Bryan continues, "The public tends to overlook the critical nature of what happened in Downtown Hagerstown and the surrounding areas during Lee's Retreat after Gettysburg. Had General Meade's Federal troops been able to advance quicker, dislodge and crush the Army of Northern Virginia against the rain- swollen Potomac before they had a chance to entrench and ultimately escape across the river at Williamsport, the Confederate Army would have lost a significant portion of their strength and the conflict might have come to a close almost a year and a half sooner. It was a real opportunity lost, and these Civil War Trail markers go along way to highlight this and many other unrecognized facts surrounding the 1863 Campaign."
The three signs, erected earlier this year, are the latest additions to the 18 Civil War Trail markers already situated in Washington County. President and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Tom Riford notes, "The CVB is very excited by the addition of the markers surrounding the intense action in Downtown Hagerstown. We have been involved in this project for several years, and the CVB is pleased to provide on-going financial support. The CVB has agreed to fully sponsor the yearly fees for the three Hagerstown Civil War Trails markers, along with the other markers throughout historic Washington County. "Looking at things from a standpoint of tourism." Riford adds, "We welcome all types of visitors, but according to tourism industry studies, the heritage traveler provides a greater economic impact than any other. These visitors are interested in history, they come with a purpose, and they stay longer and spend more money than other types of travelers."
The Civil War Trails project began approximately seven years ago and has now evolved into a multi-state effort encompassing Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina that includes over 800 Civil War related sites. Said Mitch Bowman, Executive Director of Civil War Trails Inc., "This program is about creating access to the stories of the Civil War and its sites. The three markers in downtown Hagerstown do a good job telling the story of the 1863 Gettysburg Retreat to the visitor," Marci Ross, Assistant Director for Product Development for The Maryland Office of Tourism relays. "The Washington County-Frederick County area has traditionally been an area that resonates with Historical travelers, and the region has been designated as Maryland's Heart of Civil War Heritage Area, because it exhibits turning points in the conflict."
The City of Hagerstown has been fortunate enough to have recently received a grant from the Maryland Heritage Area Authority to aide in the placement of 12 to15 more Civil War related markers. Kathy Maher, Planning Director for the City of Hagerstown indicates, "These new signs will be put up on existing buildings, or placed at other sites throughout the downtown area to help the tourist visualize the square as it was; the scene of some pretty significant Civil War related events." Visitors can also look forward to future markers in the region telling of the 1864 Monocacy Campaign and a variety of Civil War related 150th anniversary celebrations in the coming years.
Visitors can find the three new markers detailing Hagerstown's role in the Gettysburg Campaign located in Downtown Hagerstown in the first block of North Potomac Street, two on the wall of the Central Parking Deck, and one on the wall of the Visitor Center. If you would like further information about the Civil War Trails in Washington County or the location of these markers please stop by the Visitor Center at 16 Public Square to pick up a brochure. For more information about The Civil War Trails program please visit www.civilwartraveler.com or call 1-888-CIVIL WR. Please come out and uncover Hagerstown's Civil War history and plan a visit to our wealth of other historically significant sites!