Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News
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Author:  Bill Skillman [ Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News

Fellow Sharpshooters

I have copied an article written by Naomi Smoot that was listed on the Authentic Campaigner Preservation News forum. The core battlefield was purchased by a developer who plans on building 144 houses on the property. They have rebuffed offers by local preservationists to buy the property for preservation. The WVA supreme court heard arguements and settled in favor of the developer.

For those unaware, Shepherdstown was a USSS battlefield, known on the battle honors as Blackford's Ford. Cassius Peck (Co. F-VT) was bestowed the Medal of Honor for his capturing a CSA cannon on the first day of the reconnisance. The USSS occupied the C&O canal as riflepits, and some men forded the river under fire to try to bring off wounded of the Pennsylvania 'Corn Exchange' regiment who were in their first engagement. The majority panicked and stayed on the CSA side where they were 'gobbled up'.

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess

Preservation efforts continue

Measure to preserve possible Civil War battlefield awaits House approval

By Naomi Smoot

The Journal [Martinsburg, W.Va.]
January 27, 2009

SHEPHERDSTOWN - A local preservation group could be one step closer to saving a property that they say was part of a Civil War battlefield.

Members of the U.S. Senate approved a measure known as the Omnibus Public Lands Bill earlier this month, and the legislation is now awaiting approval from the House of Representatives. The bill, among other things, authorizes a resource study for a property that is believed to be the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown.

The study aims to determine the national significance of the site, as well as the suitability and feasibility of including it in either Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or Antietam National Battlefield.

"It's the first step that the federal government takes," said Edward Dunleavy, president of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association.

In recent years, Dunleavy's group has been fighting to preserve the property, which is currently slated to become home to a 152-unit housing development known as Far Away Farms.

As a part of the effort, group members met with U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., nearly three years ago to tell him about their efforts to preserve the site.

"He took an interest in it," Dunleavy said of Byrd.

The Senator later introduced a bill in an attempt to help save the historic property, and noted in an April 2008 news release that he was excited have a chance to aid in the group's efforts.

"West Virginia is home to many great landmarks that are a significant part of our nation's history," Byrd said. "I am pleased to be working with the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association to help initiate this National Park Study."

Dunleavy said that once the study is complete, the National Park Service could consider expanding the boundaries of either Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or Antietam National Battlefield to include the property. After that, he said the land would have to be purchased, but only if there is a willing seller.

"It has nothing to do with eminent domain," Dunleavy said. "The National Park Service does not use eminent domain."

But attorneys representing Far Away Farms' developer say the property's owners maintain their right to use the land as they see fit.

"In West Virginia people still have the right to own their property and do with it what they want," said Nathan Cochran, an attorney from the law office of Richard Gay. "We don't believe it should be taken from them without their consent."

Cochran said the office also disputes the property's historic significance, and noted that a ruling issued in Jefferson County Circuit Court maintained that the property did not meet the definition of historic as outlined in the county's ordinances.

"We do not believe that this property is within the core area of that battlefield," Cochran said.

But Dunleavy and other members of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association disagree, and recently announced their intentions to team up with West Virginia University to conduct a historic resource study of the property.


Author:  BrianTWhite [ Mon Feb 02, 2009 8:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News

This is alarming. Dan Wambaugh and I were just there this past November immediately after Remembrance Day. It was a lot of fun to be able to see the terrain under the new bridge, canal, original homes relatively untouched by development. Bill knows what I mean when I say that it personally took a lot of inner strength to keep myself from attempting fording the river.

I posted the account from Stevens' regimental history on the Authentic Campaigner. I hope others will also share other accounts of the same battle.

Could a living history at this site be viable? Has it been done before? Perhaps we can gain local interest enough to have a contingent of CS living historians on the opposite bank?

Author:  David Rider [ Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News

BrianTWhite wrote:
Could a living history at this site be viable? Has it been done before? Perhaps we can gain local interest enough to have a contingent of CS living historians on the opposite bank?


I offered them a Living History program, the CS Battery that I am the Captain of, was on the other side against the Sharpshooters.

I do not believe they have anywhere to do the programs at this time.

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Tue Feb 03, 2009 9:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News

Fellow Sharpshooters.

I wanted to include Brian's post from the AC regarding the Sherpherdstown/Blackford Ford fight. The account is from Berdan's U.S. Sharpshooters in the Army of the Potomac by Capt. Chas. A. Stevens. Because the book is expensive and may be out of print, I thought folks who do not own the regimental history may find the information worthwhile. This is the first in two contested river crossings the USSS participated in; the second was at Kelly's Ford on November, 1863 during the opening of the Mine Run campaign.

I was very surprised and pleased to read about the actions of regimental/chief bugler, Calvin Morse at Blackfords Ford. I had the pleasure of portraying Bugler Morse during last year's Glendale/Malvern Hill living history event with Brian, Dan Wambaugh and Chad Fuller of the Mess (Co. F. 1st USSS).

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS

"On the 19th the Sharpshooters were ordered to the front in advance of Morell's division, and marching through Sharpsburg met the enemy again at this crossing of the Potomac, having been sent ahead to reconnoiter. Proceeding three-fourths of a mile deployed in line, they skirmished in the afternoon with their rear guard when a brisk little action ensued, the 4th Michigan following as a support. On reaching the river bank the enemy who had crossed to the Virginia side, opened heavily at first, but were soon completely silenced by our men who had taken possession of an old canal bed then dry, assisted by our batteries from the beginning, the Confederates being unable to load their cannon or to remove them. At half past five P.M. Capt. Isler commanding, received an order from Gen. Porter for the First Sharpshooters to cross the stream and drive the enemy from the bluff - "to repulse them at any hazard." Only a part of the command heard the order, and these promptly responding, ran forward into the water waist deep under a hot fire from their opponents, to our loss in killed and wounded, forded the river with their guns and cartridge boxes held above them, and climbing the embankment put the foe to flight, capturing a rebel battery of four guns; afterwards run down the bluff to the beach by the 4th Michigan following, which were eventually removed to the Union lined on the Maryland side by a portion of the 5th New York. So that three regiments got the credit for capturing these guns; First, Berdan's Sharpshooters; second, 4th Michigan; third, 5th New York.

After the Sharpshooters had captured the cannon - the first and real capture - two of which were discovered by a small force under Corp. Cassius Peck of Company F, and taken, after driving the enemy off, which one prisoner; our men followed the retreating foe 300 yards, fighting every step. While advancing, Company I came in contact with a line of skirmishers, when a fight occurred at short range, the rebels retreating as the Sharpshooters rushed at them, leaving behind numerous articles of value, among them a case of surgical instruments. Being reinforced, the enemy recharged and succeeded in getting back everything but the surgeon's case taken by Serg. Eli Cook, who, however, lost it during the darkness, having placed it under a bush for safe keeping. During the night the Sharpshooters were ordered to recross the river, although they held the shore from which the enemy had been driven. Before returning, a horse was heard coming at full speed. It was very dark, and the rider a rebel staff officer, rode right up to our lines looking for the brigade left to guard the ford, Lawton's brigade of Jackson's corps, for whom he had verbal orders, thus proving the number of men that had been opposed to our small force. This officer was captured by Corp. Sankey (Company B) in Serg. Cook's picket, and sent to Gen. Porter by Capt. Isler.

On the 20th at an early hour, a portion of the 5th corps under Gen. Sykes, with Barnes' brigade of Morell's division, crossed over and advanced more or less as far as a mile from the river, expecting to be reinforced by more troops and to advance towards Shepherdstown. Being suddenly attacked by a superior force, some 3,000 strong, rising in front from the heavy woods, and the "bushes and cornfields" which had hidden them from view, Gen. Porter at the suggestion of Gen. Sykes, ordered the entire command to fall back across the ford, which was gradually accomplished. A new regiment known as the "Corn Exchange" of Philadelphia (118th Pennsylvania), remaining too long found themselves flanked, and being furiously assaulted on all sides met with severe loss, while hurriedly driven back to the bluff. Our troops on the Maryland side heard the firing, when orders came for the Sharpshooters to fall in, who moving double-quick, were posted in the canal where they had good shelter and a fine place to aim - cruel work, but it was war, and our troops must be protected. Here, the concealed riflemen had a chance to cover the retreat, which was handsomely done, the enemy as they approached the opposite bank being quickly driven away by the shower of bullets whizzing among them. The rebels were making fatal work among the Pennsylvanians, shooting them down fast, until our boys came to their rescue and saved them. Taking cover under the bank mid the rocks and caves, many of them refused for a time to attempt the crossing, fearing to expose themselves while so doing. Our men called to them, trying to encourage them, but without avail. Finally, Calvin Morse, chief bugler of Company F, crossed the stream, protected by the fire of his comrades, to show that it could be safely done. Persuasion and coaxing seemed useless, and many of them were captured. But the Pennsylvanians were not to blame for being driven or for their subsequent actions. They had fought hard at the front before falling back, with an inferior gun, "50 per cent of which could not be discharged," and when men cannot shoot back, they hardly care to be shot at.

"Their arms (spurious Enfield rifles) were so defective that little injury could be inflicted by them upon the enemy. Many of this regiment, new in service, volunteered the previous evening, and formed part of the attacking party which gallantly crossed the river to secure the enemy's artillery. They have earned a good name which the losses of the day did not diminish. (These defective arms had been reported to the General-in-Chief, but all efforts to replace them had failed.)" -Fitz John Porter."

The Sharpshooter companies as usual did good service. Our fighting was often severe both with musketry and artillery, our batteries working hard. Our men felt in the best of spirits at the successful issue of the engagement, the enemy hurrying away during the night. Recruits first under fire were awarded great praise for so gallantly vieing with the old members during the battle. An instance is given to show their true spirit: Lieut. Nash, of Company B, having called for volunteers to cross the river and bring in the wounded, Company B went entire with some other companies; among them Albert S. Isham, of Company G, jumped up, quickly followed by William Heath, a recruit, who, plunging into the water up to their armpits despite the heavy firing, succeeded in crossing over, and recovering one of the wounded returned with him in safety, although the unfortunate soldier died shortly after. Rushing waters had no terrors for brave soldiers.

Capt. Marble wrote me: "Your recruits, first under fire near Sharpsburg, are doing splendidly." Col. Berdan also wrote: "Stevens, send as many more of the same sort as you can get." These recruits sandwiched in among the old members, soon became proficient soldiers.

Relative to the affair of the 19th, Gen. Porter reports: "The result of the day's action was the capture of five pieces, two caissons, two caisson bodies, two forges, and some 400 stand of arms; also one battle-flag. Our loss was small in numbers, but some excellent officers and men were killed and wounded."

In Company G, Willard Ishman was struck with a piece of shell on both legs and benumbed, which kept him off duty for some weeks; another instance of the effect produced by a glance shot, or even spent ball, the force of the blow often being more severely felt than if it entered the flesh. Marvin (First Sergt. Marvin P. Raymond, Co. I) and Hamlin (Arthur Hamlin, Co. I) were shot in the river on th e 19th.

The rebel general A.P. Hill, in his report of Shepherdstown or Boteler's Ford, the Blackford Ford battle, told what a daring charge he had made, how he drove us pell-mell into the river, followed by the "greatest slaughter of blue coats of the war;" the broad surface of the Potomac being blue with floating bodies, etc. He must have been looking through a very large magnifying glass at a respectful distance from the river as his story was certainly a very great stretch of imagination; and yet it was founded on a pretty good supposition when the illy armed "Corn Exchange" were driven back."

Brian White
Wambaugh, White, & Co.

Author:  BrianTWhite [ Tue Feb 03, 2009 12:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News

Dan and I were down in the tiny little parking lot under the new bridge; it's definitely not a lot of space for any spectators or visitors but the area was nice. I kind of envisioned a "skirmish line" sort of thing that went back along the trail in the woods, with visitors walking behind the lines and talking to individual soldiers, officers, etc.. Little vignettes like that are really fun if there's enough guys.

Thanks for posting that Bill. It's about 98% of the account since I left a few blurbs out. And speaking of Calvin Morse, I may have something for you if a meeting goes well for me this week!

Author:  BrianTWhite [ Thu Feb 05, 2009 1:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News

Here's a link to a great website describing the battle from the perspective of the 118th Pennsylvania. The contemporary accounts from Berdan's Sharpshooters really don't do justice to the awful nature of the Federal retreat back across the river.

http://behind.aotw.org/2008/10/05/on-th ... -regiment/

There's an excellent little map I haven't seen before which details the locations of the regiments involved in the fight. Looks like it leaves out the 1st USSS, but it's given me a pretty good look at just how long the "front" was.

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News

Brian, superb link! Thanks!

Dave, from yours/Co 'C' involvement in worthy projects over the years, is any chance that we could arrange/co-sponsor a similar tour in conjunction with the Shepherdstown Preservation folks, with USSS living history units providing the 1st Regt perspective of the actions there Sept 19-20? Since any tour would likely start from the northern side, would we need special permits from the NPS for the C&O canal bed to have firearms, set up camp, displays, host tourists, firing displays? You guys have far more experience with negotiating the many NPS/State and local regulations than we Wolverines encounter.

The terrain and foliage on the bluffs/southern shore looks very dense so I can see why there is no space to set up artillery, but it would be accessible to details of USSS to ford the river and ascend in skirmish line.

All monies raised from the tours/living history would go to the Preservation efforts. Is this something you guys might be interested in pursuing or am I 'all wet' ?

Bill Skillman
Randolf Mess-USSS

Author:  David Rider [ Fri Feb 06, 2009 11:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News


All Wet......That's Funny. :lol: Only if we plan to cross the River.

We are scheduled for Living history programs at Antietam Sept 12- 13th for anniversary weekend. The weekend after that we will be in Falmouth for our Living History program.

This is something we can propose, maybe not this year, but I will run it past the Rangers at Antietam, they are also connected with Shepherdstown as well.

Author:  David Rider [ Thu Mar 26, 2009 10:30 am ]
Post subject:  Latest Shepherdstown Battlefield News

Latest Email from the SBPA:

Dear SBPA Member:

The SBPA Board would like to pass along recent news that, hopefully, moves us closer to creating a Shepherdstown Civil War Battlefield Park.

First, yesterday, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 146, the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2009 which includes the same authorization that was included in Senate legislation passed in January (S. 22) for a Special Resources Study relating to the Battle of Shepherdstown. Now a Senate/ House Conference Committee will meet to eliminate differences in the two bills before sending it to President Obama for his signature.

Second, the West Virginia (WV) Division of Tourism has invited SBPA to apply for inclusion in the Civil War Trails program. The WV Division of Tourism is providing 150 Civil War Trails historical markers statewide. The Division, with SBPA's help, will develop, design, fabricate and install the historical marker. The WV Department of Transportation will then provide directional "trailblazer" signs directing people to the battlefield site. A brochure will also be published listing the sites and their locations. SBPA has committed to providing an annual fee of $200 for maintenance of the marker.

Third, on Tuesday, March 24, the Jefferson County Planning Commission (PC) unanimously voted to enter into a contract with Robert M. Bastress, Esq. to consider and advise the PC on the constitutional issues and response options raised by the decision of the WV Supreme Court of Appeals (WVSCA) in the Far Away Farm v. Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals case. Mr. Bastress is generally regarded as, perhaps, the preeminent constitutional attorney in WV and is a member of the faculty of WV University School of Law. SBPA's attorney believes that the decision by the WVSCA ignored several basis legal tenets and, if challenged in Federal Court, is likely to be reversed or at least altered significantly.

Fourth, the project undertaken by the graduate students of WV University Department of History continues to progress. The script for the podcast of a tour of the battlefield has been written and the students will return to Shepherdstown next month to map out the suggested six stop tour. SBPA will provide wooden markers for each stop on the 45-minute tour.

If you have not yet renewed your membership for 2009, please go to the website and continue to support SBPA's efforts. While we move closer to succeeding in our effort to create a Shepherdstown Civil War Battlefield, there is more time, effort, and money needed in order to reach our goal.

We thank all members for their continued support.

Author:  David Rider [ Wed Apr 08, 2009 9:35 am ]
Post subject:  Small Victory for the Shepherdstown Battlefield

For Immediate Release – April 8, 2009
Shepherdstown, West Virginia

For more information, contact:
Edward E. Dunleavy
Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc.
(917) 747 - 5748


Legislation introduced by Senator Robert C. Byrd was passed by both the United States Senate and House of Representatives and signed into law by President Obama on March 30, 2009. At a Senate hearing in 2008, representatives of the National Park Service spoke in support of Senator Byrd’s proposed legislation. Included in the “Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009” was a section that could ultimately save and preserve the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown.

Presented below is the section of the law that will begin the process that could lead to the Shepherdstown battlefield site into being included within either the boundary of the National Parks at Antietam or Harper’s Ferry:

(a) Special Resources Study- The Secretary of the Interior (referred to in this section as the `Secretary') shall conduct a special resource study relating to the Battle of Shepherdstown in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to evaluate--
(1) the national significance of the Shepherdstown battlefield and sites relating to the Shepherdstown battlefield; and
(2) the suitability and feasibility of adding the Shepherdstown battlefield and sites relating to the Shepherdstown battlefield as part of--
(A) Harpers Ferry National Historical Park; or
(B) Antietam National Battlefield.
(b) Criteria- In conducting the study authorized under subsection (a), the Secretary shall use the criteria for the study of areas for potential inclusion in the National Park System contained in section 8(c) of Public Law 91-383 (16 U.S.C. 1a-5(c)).
(c) Report- Not later than 3 years after the date on which funds are made available to carry out this section, the Secretary shall submit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives a report containing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the study conducted under subsection (a).
(d) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out this section.

The Battle of Shepherdstown was fought on September 19 – 20, 1862 over approximately one square mile, east of what was then Shepherdstown, Virginia and south of the Potomac River and Boteler’s (aka Packhorse) Ford. The battle was the last of three battles fought during the Army of Northern Virginia’s (ANV) Antietam or Maryland Campaign. Approximately 9000 troops took part in the Shepherdstown battle with 677 casualties about equally divided between the Union Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s troops. The battle’s significance is that it was a contributing factor in Lee’s decision to reverse the order to move north back into Maryland. As a consequence, the ANV retreated up the Shenandoah Valley toward Winchester. That retreat allowed the Union Army to declare a military victory and enabled President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc. (SBPA), organized in 2004, is a non-profit, Section 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to saving and preserving the site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown. SBPA has preserved 84 acres by way of conservation easements granted by members who own property on the site. For more information and to purchase the book entitled: Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign September 19 – 20, 1862 ; please visit www.battleofshepherdstown.org

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