November Edition Emmitsburg News Journal
By John A. Miller
The Monterey Pass Battlefield Park located in Blue Ridge Summit is finally ready for visitation. Over the course of the last year and a half, the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc. (FMPB) have been working hard building a museum that will tell the story of the 1863 Pennsylvania Campaign, and how Monterey Pass played a role during the Confederate invasion, in addition to the American Civil War as it relates to Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Through these exhibits, the museum shall encourage audiences to examine the past and its relationship to our shared future.
The museum is fully interpreted with five galleries and artifacts that tell the story of this important and forgotten Civil War battle. The museum’s collection of artifacts, many of which were donated, are related to the battlefield. One such relic is a rifled musket carried by the Union army, which was found years later in between the walls of a house. The rifle is in great shape and still has its bayonet attached, one hundred and fifty-one years later.
The museum proudly displays a Union officer’s frock coat which was worn by Captain William Wilken, a member of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, who fought at the battle of Monterey Pass. Another artifact is an artillery mounted services jacket, which shows how crudely made some of the Union uniforms were. A nice mixture of infantry and cavalry accoutrements will show the public what soldiers were issued during the Civil War.
A Civil War era dress is also on display, complete with a bonnet. “One of the stories that we wanted to tell was the civilian aspect and how they coped with war being in their community” said Alicia Miller, who chairs the non-profit FMPB organization. One of the galleries, “A Summer of Crisis,” tells the story of the refugees and how they were faced with leaving their homes as the Confederate army was entering into Pennsylvania.
“Another story that I thought was important to tell was the role of the New York Sate National Guard in Washington Township” said John A. Miller, Washington Township Historian and Museum Director. “The New York State National Guard protected Harrisburg and Baltimore during the campaign. Many of these non-veteran soldiers from New York’s upper-class marched over two hundred and seventy-five miles” Miller said. Many of these New York regiments were wearing their gray fatigue uniforms, which from a distance, could be mistaken for that of a Confederate soldier. This was the topic of his latest book “The New York State National Guard during the Pennsylvania Campaign.”
Another feature of the new museum are the maps that show exactly how the battle of Monterey Pass was fought on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. Britt Isenberg, a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg, donated his time to create the maps which are on display. Many of the maps on the internet are not historically correct with regards to troop movements, landmarks, and many of those maps fail to show the battle west of modern day Route 16, headed westward toward Ringgold, which is how the battle entered into Maryland.
The new museum will also be an interactive experience for the visitors. There are different stations set up where the visitor can see original copies of occupational CDV’s from the Victorian era, get a look at the types of wagons that moved through Monterey Pass, as well as quotes from the soldiers themselves on the conditions they had to fight in. The museum also has clothing that even the littlest visitors can try on to see what it was like to be a soldier in the Civil War. “We want this to be a fun and educational experience for everyone who visits the museum, from the Civil War buff, to our local school children” said Alicia Miller.
The museum will be staffed by volunteers and will be open during the weekends in 2015. Programs and special events for next year are already in the planning stages. “Since the battle of Monterey Pass was fought during the night, we would like to capitalize on this by having programs conducted during the evening” said Miller. “Especially, since several visitors to the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center are looking for things to do in the evening after the Gettysburg facility is closed.”
Although, the grand opening is taking place in October, the museum exhibits will continue to grow during the winter and spring of 2015. One of the exhibits the FMPB would like to install is a timeline of the Civil War, showing the visitor the much larger picture with regards to the Civil War and the 1863 Confederate invasion. Artifact cases are still needed for the floor area to help protect the larger artifacts that are currently in the building. A flat panel TV with DVD player will also be installed to run various documentaries and slides pertaining to Monterey Pass, and the Pennsylvania Campaign. Funding is still needed for these projects.
There is a possibility that the Monterey Pass Battlefield Park will gain an additional one hundred and sixteen acres of battlefield land. In June, Washington Township officials applied and were awarded a $100,000.00 grant from Franklin County. In October, the township applied for another $100,000.00 grant from the county to complete the purchase for this important battlefield ground. If awarded the second grant, the battlefield park will consist of about 117 acres of land.
The land the FMPB and Washington Township are currently trying to buy is the old Maria Furnace Road. The property also features Monterey Peak, which on a clear day has a spectacular view to the east. “This property will feature trails and interpretation that will explain the Confederate retreat and the experiences of those Confederate soldiers marching through Monterey Pass” said Miller. “And then we have the Union aspect with General Thomas Neill’s Brigade of infantry who followed the rear of the Confederate army.”
The battle of Monterey Pass is Pennsylvania’s second largest Civil War battle and was the only battle to be fought on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. It began at dusk on July 4, 1863, as Union cavalry under the command of General Judson Kilpatrick collided with Confederate forces under the command of General William Jones. The battle was hard fought during a serve storm and continued till dawn on July 5.
As the Union cavalry withdrew from Monterey Pass, this allowed the Confederate army, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, to safely march his army from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to the Cumberland Valley, and eventually to Williamsport, Maryland. Following on the heels of Lee’s army was a brigade of Union cavalry and infantry. They skirmished with the rear of Lee’s army without engaging in a full battle.
To donate, volunteer, or become a member of the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, Inc., please log on to http://www.montereypassbattlefield.org and download the membership/donation form.