Celebrating the Civil War’s 150th Anniversary in Maryland




Maryland’s Civil War stories may best be experienced by using the state’s four Civil War Trails driving map guides as a springboard for planning trips.

 by Mary McCarthy

As I walked around the visitor’s center at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland last month, I saw a name that looked familiar in an exhibit. I text messaged my sister, our unofficial but only (thus appreciated) family geneaologist, to ask her about it, and she replied.

“Patrick McCormick, dad’s great grandfather who immigrated from Ireland was in the Shenandoah PA Irish Brigade- records show he enlisted in 1863 and survived.”

While I read the text, I was walking up to the Irish Brigade memorial.

And so in this technological world, I discovered while on my iPhone that I had an ancestor in the Civil War. It was truly harrowing to stand on this battlefield, this place where the largest number of American lives were lost in a single day. That battle happened the year before my great great grandfather joined (the year before Gettysburg), but what occurred to me is that I bet a significant number of American citizens can trace their family history to someone who fought in the Civil War.
Maryland is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with commemorations large and small.  As part of a press tour of Civil War sites around the state, I attended the Lincoln reenactment  at Camden Station in Baltimore, on his way to DC, and his funeral procession will be re-enacted at the B&O Railroad Station as part of a years-long state celebration.

Maryland State Tourism has stepped up to the challenge of acknowledging both the multi-year Civil War anniversary as well as the 200th of the War of 1812 coming up next year.

“Baltimore will kick-off Maryland’s Civil War 150th commemoration April 15-17, 2011 with a full slate of exhibits, reenactments and living history presentations,” says Margot Amelia, executive director of the Maryland Office of Tourism.
Throughout the next few years other Maryland destinations will tell the epic and heartfelt stories of civilians and soldiers who experienced triumph and tragedy during the war.”

Amelia adds that Maryland’s Civil War stories may best be experienced by using the state’s four Civil War Trails driving map guides as a springboard for planning trips that also include hiking, biking, paddling and even horseback riding on land and rivers where Civil War soldiers camped, marched and fought.

Maryland is lucky to have such pristine battlefields intact for visitors to learn about the history of the Civil War. Also, they’re always looking to improve. While Antietam battlefield in Sharpsburg is already one of the most original landscapes, it’s considering relocating the visitor center and some memorials to enrich the visitor’s experience of the hallowed ground.

There are so many amazing exhibits state wide that families have the opportunity to experience this year. Check out our extensive event summary in the sidebar and sample some events around our state to learn more about our nation’s early history.

For me? Through learning about Maryland’s Civil War commemoration, I’ve been inspired to learn more about my Union soldier Irish Brigade ancestor.

Mary McCarthy is Editor of Chesapeake Family.

The Civil War in Maryland

By Hannah Anderson

Situated just south of the Mason-Dixon line, Maryland was a divided state in a divided country. The state became a battleground during the Civil War, and beginning this month, towns throughout Maryland have special events planned commemorating the sesquicentennial of this turbulent period in history, and Maryland’s role in it.


Baltimore witnessed the first bloodshed of the Civil War at the Pratt Street Riot in 1861. During the weekend of April 15-17, 2011, the city is remembering the 150th anniversary of the conflict and the important role Baltimore and Maryland played in the Civil War. Events include the rededication of President Street Station as a Baltimore City landmark on Saturday, April 16, followed by a Grand Procession commemorating the Pratt Street Riot complete with Union re-enactor groups, contemporary military units and color guards. April 16-17, Fort McHenry National Monument allows families to step back through time with fife and drum concerts, canon-firing demonstrations, and evening candlelight tours. Museums throughout Baltimore including the B&O Railroad Museum and Maryland Historical Society also have special exhibitions planned beginning the weekend of April 15. More information on Civil War events in Baltimore can be found at civilwarbaltimore.com.

In addition to the special events during April 16-17, you can tour Baltimore’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine year round and learn more about the fort’s role as a prison during the Civil War. More information can be found at nps.gov/fomc/index.htm.


The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick is holding Bell & History Day on April 2, to celebrate the opening of the 2011 museum season, followed by the Bell & History Handbell Festival at the National Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton on Sunday, April 3.  On Saturday April 30, downtown Frederick is hosting “The Burning Question of Secession” event, which is a series of staged historic vignettes including debates a City Hall. Visitors to Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick can learn more about the 1864 Battle of Monocacy at the visitors’ center, then take a self-guided auto tour of the battlefield. There are also several walking trails throughout the park.  Visit nps.gov/mono/index.htm for trail maps and more information.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick has five galleries and over 1,200 artifacts relating to medical innovation during the Civil War. Visit civilwarmed.org for more information.


Washington County is home to Maryland’s only state battlefield, South Mountain State Battlefield, as well as Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest single-day battle, with 23,110 casualties. While the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam is not until September 2012, visiting the battlefields are still a great way to learn about Maryland’s Civil War history. Also, the Washington County Historical Society’s new Civil War exhibit opens Saturday, April 9th at the Miller House in Hagerstown. For information about Antietam National Battlefield, visit nps.gov/ancm/index.htm and for information about South Mountain State Battlefield, visit dnr.state.md.us.

Gettysburg, PA

Just a short trip outside of Maryland, the nearby borough of Gettysburg, Pa., is kicking off its commemoration of the Civil War with events each weekend in April. During April 29 and 30, there will be reenactments including troops marching into Gettysburg, encampments at historic sites, skirmishes, and 150 rounds of cannon fire. The town is also remembering the war with the opening of a new museum in Gettysburg Theological Seminary’s Schmucker Hall on Seminary Ridge. For more information visit gettysburgcivilwar150.com.

Specific Event Information


“Land of the free?” Symposium
Maryland Historical Society
Opens April 15, 12 – 4 p.m.

“The War Came by Train Exhibit”
B&O Railroad Museum
Opens April 15, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

“Riots, Railroads and the coming of Mr. Lincoln”
Sports Legends Museum at
Camden Yards
Opens April 15, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

“Civil War Encampment – Bastion of Liberty or Symbol of Despotism?”
Fort McHenry National Monument
April 16, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Rededication of President Street Station as a Baltimore City landmark
April 16, 10:30 a.m.

Civil War 150: Grand Procession from President Street Station to Camden Yards
April 16, 11 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.

“Baltimore: A City Divided”
Inner Harbor Amphitheater
April 16, Noon – 4 p.m.

Candlelight tours at Fort McHenry
April 16, 6 – 9 p.m.

Civil War Encampment
Fort McHenry National Monument
April 17, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

“Divided Voices: Maryland in the Civil War”
Maryland Historical Society
April 16, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Frederick County

Bell & History Day
National Museum of Civil War Medicine
April 2, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Bell and History Handbell Festival
National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
April 3, 5 p.m.

“Children of the Civil War” Lecture
National Museum of Civil War Medicine
April 9, 11 a.m. – Noon

Family Event: Nursing a Nation Divided
April 16, 1 – 2:30 p.m.

“The Burning Question of Secession”
Downtown Frederick
April 30, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Monocacy National Battlefield and Visitors’ Center
Open 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Washington County

Premier of Washington County Historical Society’s Civil War Exhibit
April 9, 1 – 3 p.m.

Pry House Field Hospital Museum, Keedysville
Hours: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

South Mountain State Battlefield, Middletown
Museum open on weekends throughout April

Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg
Open Daily 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

For more information about times and locations of these events, and other Civil War related activities visit the Maryland Tourism Civil War site:  civilwarbaltimore.com

Photo courtesy of Howard County Tourism.