Use Your Compass to Encompass this Summer’s Regional Historical Happenings
By Karen Hendricks
Geography played a critical role in the Civil War. The saying, “All roads lead to Gettysburg” describes south-central Pennsylvania’s crossroads that drew Union and Confederate troops to the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.
Tracing those historical paths like spokes radiating out from Gettysburg and Adams County, you will find Civil War and historical happenings surround the area in all directions this summer. These regional events can add color and knowledge to any history lover’s understanding of the Civil War—plus they’re all easy day trip destinations.
Harrisburg: Perspective on the Civil War
Located in the state’s capital city of Harrisburg, the National Civil War Museum offers a balanced view of the causes and effects of the American Civil War from Union and Confederate perspectives. Its collection includes more than 24,000 historical items ranging from 1850-1876.
The National Civil War Museum
One Lincoln Circle at Reservoir Park
Harrisburg, PA 17103
Frederick, Md.: A “Hidden Gem”
“History aside, downtown Frederick is a hidden gem,” says Melissa Muntz of Visit Frederick, the tourism council of Frederick County. “The downtown is totally walkable with 200+ shops and restaurants, all independently-owned, except for one Starbucks, which gives you the historic feel of a main street not taken over by commercialism.”
The organization Heritage Frederick offers historic downtown walking tours, and Muntz says their most popular one is “Drunk & Disorderly: Frederick in the Civil War.”
Numerous historic sites are tied to Francis Scott Key, author of the poem that became our national anthem. In addition to Civil War-era buildings and churches, the city is infused with German heritage and architecture.
Two nearby battlefield sites, Monocacy National Battlefield and South Mountain State Battlefield, pay homage to notable Civil War clashes.
“People don’t always know about Monocacy, but it’s known as the battle that saved Washington,” Muntz says. “If not for this battle, Washington, D.C. could have been destroyed.”
Walking Tours by Heritage Frederick
24 E. Church St.
Frederick, MD 21701
Battle of Monocacy Commemorative Weekend
Monocacy National Battlefield
5201 Urbana Pike
Frederick, MD 21704
South Mountain State Battlefield
6620 Zittlestown Road
Middletown, MD 21769
Union Mills, Md.: Setting the Stage for Gettysburg
Built in 1797, the Union Mills Homestead is a preserved country estate that features a working grist mill. Back in 1863, Union and Confederate forces traveled through Carroll County’s small towns and rested at Union Mills, Md. before the Battle of Gettysburg. This July’s Civil War Encampment and Living History event features reenactments by cavalry and infantry, plus tours of the historic property.
Civil War Encampment and Living History
Union Mills Homestead
3311 Littlestown Pike
Westminster, MD 21158
York County: Adams County’s “Next-Door Neighbor”
York County offers a conglomerate of museums under the umbrella of the York County History Center: The Historical Society Museum, Agricultural and Industrial Museum, Colonial Complex, and more.
Additionally, York’s William C. Goodridge Freedom Center and Underground Railroad Museum tells the story of a biracial entrepreneur who rose from slavery during the Civil War era to secretly transport slaves via hidden compartments constructed in railroad cars operated by one of his many successful businesses.
York County History Center
250 E. Market St.
York, PA 17403
The William C. Goodridge
Freedom Center and Underground Railroad Museum
123 E. Philadelphia St.
York, PA 17401
Chambersburg: Historical Reenactment with ‘Pizazz’
On July 20, Chambersburg celebrates Old Market Day with a multi-faceted street fair throughout the day. But the streets remain closed into the night for “1864: The Burning,” a light show that depicts the town’s colorful Civil War history, burning, and rebirth.
“In 1864, Confederates demanded a ransom of $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Yankee dollars, and if it wasn’t paid, they were ordered to burn the town,” says Janet Pollard of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau.
The free event is open to the public and has attracted as many as 10,000 people. As attendees witness the reenactment, living history participants attempt to collect ransom money from the crowd. As a nod to the town’s 2,000 residents left homeless by the 1864 burning, all proceeds on July 20 are donated to the Franklin County Habitat for Humanity.
“It’s actually a historical reenactment, but with a bit of pizazz,” says Pollard.
Old Market Day and 1864: The Burning
Franklin County Visitors Bureau
Check the website for parking information