Leaving Hancock, MD in the morning we trekked through into West Virginia again.
First stop was down into Martinsburg, quick, as I wanted to see the Belle Boyd house.
Maria Isabella Boyd was her real name but her parents called her 'Belle'. She was the eldest of 8 children, a head strong, inquisitive girl who's final education was at the Mt. Washington Female College in Baltimore County, MD. “……I had just left school when war was declared and I entered heart and soul into the cause of the South.”
On July 4, 1861, Belle was sent to jail after she killed a Union soldier for disrespecting her mother. She was 19 at the time and so began the start of her espionage days. Oh by the way, she was exonerated in favour of defending her mother.
From 1861 to 1864, she undertakes spy activities for the Confederate Intelligence Service, gaining information from Union soldiers and relaying same back to General “Stonewall” Jackson and General Toutant-Beauregard. She is known as 'La Belle Rebelle'.
Gen. Jackson later awards Belle the Southern Cross of Honor. She was also made an Honorary Aide-de-camp on his staff and Captain in the Army of Confederacy.
She wasn't without fault and at one point gave information to a Union spy chief. By this time she has now been arrested six times, imprisoned twice and 'reported' nearly 30 times in Federal military dispatches.
In May of '64 she gets on a blockade runner in the attempt to get to England with a message asking for their help in securing the war for the Confederacy. However, it was taken over and she was jailed once again. This time she charmed her captor, Ensign Sam Hardinge, who was so smitten with her he proposed to her, helped her escape, only for her to do a runner!
Although she does after being banished to Canada for a short stay, go back to England and did marry him, poor man! She had one child, Grace, a couple of years later she divorced him.
1865-66 she writes her biography, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison (think I might have to find that and read it) and she made her stage debut at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, England.
Once back in America she starts touring and performing.
1869 she marries Lt. Col. John Swainston Hammond, they have four kids and she divorces him in 1884.
Belle doesn't muck around, marrying an Ohio born actor Nathaniel Rue High in 1885 and begins touring the nation, giving dramatic lectures of her life as a Civil War spy.
In June of 1900 Belle died of a heart attack while touring in Wisconsin.
(Information with my twist from the Belle Boyd House brochure)
We grabbed a couple of quick shots of the Roundhouse Centre at the B & O (Baltimore and Ohio) Railroad yard, circa. 1843, and headed towards Sharpsburg.
Now back in Maryland in Sharpsburg, we went to the Antietam National Battlefield.
The battle of Antietam was Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North occurring in September 17 of 1862. It is said to be the most bloodiest and most decisive of the 5 Confederate offensives in that year.
Union forces were assembling near the Potomac River at Harper's Ferry, posing a threat to supply lines for Lee if something wasn't done.
“Stonewall” Jackson was sent to Harpers Ferry with approx. 25,000 men. Gen. D. H. Hill was sent to Boonsboro and Gen. James Longstreet was to take the rest to Hagerstown, getting ready to move into Pennsylvania.
All this changed when Lee's plan fell into Union hands and they were quickly forced into a holding pattern gathered near Sharpsburg, northeast of town on the ridge. Two days later the armies met in the bloodiest one-day battle in U.S. history.
I was interested to see the many photos from the Civil War, albeit bloody and horrific scenes of vast devastation, it fascinated me that these 'memories' as such, were captured.
In the brochure it says that photography was quite advanced by this time and they would follow armies and take pictures. They couldn't take moving pictures however, the need for longer exposure for a scene to be captured on glass plates was around 5-15seconds.
Alexander Gardner took the world's first photographs of war dead on September 18,1862 in the aftermath of Antietum.
Capt. James Hope, from the 2nd Vermont Infantry sketched most of what he saw and later painted 4 panoramic paintings (1892) of the day's battles. Three of these large paintings are hanging in the museum with the 3rd of the series of 4 was so badly destroyed by birds, rodents and floods that it as unable to be restored.
The detail in these paintings is exquisite, there isn't enough time to look and take it all in.
The Museum has a beautiful collection of military equipment from firearms, swords, uniforms, packs, cannons, bullets, belts etc. just incredible that all the civil war museums we go to have so much gear! BUT when you look at the numbers in these wars and the number of men left on the fields, and see where they trekked you can totally understand how so many pieces could be found and of course others donated by many who saved them.
Despite the other hillsides, valleys, cornfields and rivers where this battle took place the most significant would be the Sunken Road or Bloody Lane. A place where residents and others returned to see significant loss of men in rows as they were formed when marching forward, lay on the ground in heaps.
So began the many burials of these soldiers, often in single or shallow trench graves.
Now the lines of battle are preserved, grounds are being restored to what they would have been like – corn fields, natural grass and wild flowers, unmown, to truly give you a sense of what these hundreds of thousands of men experienced during that time.
After the museum exhibits we did the battlefield tour and took in all the monuments, observation points and information boards of this incredible battle between North and South.
A sobering experience to say the least.