Trail Day at Monocacy

Yesterday was a great hiking day. Moderate temperatures. Fair winds. And just enough cloud cover to keep the sun off one’s back. All told, my estimate is roughly eight miles total hiking distance with the three NPS Ranger led walks and a couple of my own personal side trips.

One highlight of the morning hikes was a walk down near Monocacy Junction. In previous trips, I was reluctant to venture too far down around the railroad, concerned about the actual park boundary. With a “uniformed guide” this time the tour skirted the edge of the park boundary and around the actual site of the junction and the location where Special Orders No. 191 was found.

In this view, the railroad spur line to Frederick runs from the junction location at the right, off to the left. The actual “station” stood on the other side of the trees to the right, in the “Y.” Based on the accounts presented in Giants in the Cornfield: The 27th Infantry, by Wilbur D. Jones, the location where the “lost order” was recovered was in this general area:

Somewhere between the tree line shadows in the field, and the higher ground, on the morning of 13 September 1862, soldiers from the 27th Indiana found the orders wrapped around some cigars. The story is well enough known, so I’ll just reference the nearby marker. Still I wonder what happened to the cigars.

Note on the far left side is the roof of the new Visitors Center. Dovetailing into my next observation, for its square footage, the new VC at Monocacy offers more interpretation and exhibits than most other facilities. I often travel with my “staff” who is working his way past “three years old.” The number of “hands on” exhibits give him something to remember. Twice now, while driving up to the VC my “staff” has exclaimed, “That’s MY visitors center!” I applaud the NPS for a good balance in exhibits to appeal to all age brackets. But the “institutional” green roof is another story….

Great hikes in the mid day and afternoon over the other half of the battlefield, covering Worthington and Thomas Farms. I collected this photo from Brooks Hill, gathering in much of this section of the battlefield:

Just to orient the reader, looking to the north, the red barn just right of center is the Thomas place. Gordon’s afternoon attacks landed Evan’s Brigade in that area. York’s and Terry’s Brigades hit the Federal lines in echelon further to the left of this view. It is hard to see the slash of I-270 in this view, which runs about half way between Brooks Hill and the Thomas Farm.

This was the fifth visit to the battlefield in the last year for me. I recall in the 1980s visiting the area during a family vacation. We stopped at the overlook rest stop on I-270, on the hill to the southeast of the battlefield. That’s pretty much all there was! Now Monocacy is a great example of what preservation efforts matched to good planning on the government side can achieve. Granted, the site is under threat from expansion of the highway, and a proposed recycling/power plant. But I think “lodgment” has been accomplished. Glenn Worthington would be proud of the battlefield today.

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