Now we have a marker: Edwards Ferry marker project reaches fruition

Years back when I first hiked down to the Virginia side of Edwards Ferry, I lamented we lacked any interpretation for the site on this side of the Potomac.  Sure there are some markers on the Maryland side.  But those offered but a few passages on the June 1863 crossing.  And besides, those were in Maryland!  Half (or more) of the story surrounding that crossing occurred on the Virginia side.  So we needed some interpretation.

So in August 2011, I started looking for a way to plant a marker at Kephart’s Bridge Landing.  That seemed like the most logical place to tell the story.  With help from fellow members of the Loudoun County Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, sponsorship from Civil War Times (thanks, Dana!), and support of the Loudoun County Parks and Recreation Department, we now have a marker at that location.

Edwards Ferry Marker 081

I know… muddy and all.  But after a day of hard rains, we were lucky to have solid ground for the marker.

Edwards Ferry Marker 079

I’ve already posted the marker to HMDB, if you wish to read the details.  So now I’ve been involved with a marker from start to finish.

Concurrently, we placed a marker at the Loudoun County Courthouse.

Loudoun CH Marker 070

This marker is the 223rd Civil War Trails marker placed at a county courthouse.  My suggestion to those looking for ways to work Civil War history into their local programs:  inventory the Civil War related activity at the courthouse (pre- and post-war for good measure).

As I spent the morning with the Civil War Trails installation team – Mitch Bowman, Jason Shaffer, and Eric Drake – let me share some photos showing how they do their work.

A lot of coordination must take place prior to the crew’s arrival.  I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say identifying THE site you want THE marker to be place is important.  Oh, and as with anytime someone goes digging, it is best to check with the utilities.

Once on site, the crew first measures out the location for clearance.  A few careful measures and they dig the post holes.

Edwards Ferry Marker 072

The team then assembles the marker.  The Civil War Trails markers use the typical wayside form factor – two legs and a rectangular panel tilted at a good reading angle.

Edwards Ferry Marker 073

The crew then “plants” the marker and starts pouring concrete into the holes.

Loudoun CH Marker 068

The first “pin” one side by topping the hole with dirt.  Then using a level, they ensure the marker is oriented properly.

Loudoun CH Marker 069

After pouring concrete into the other hole and topping that off, they clean up the disturbed ground around the marker.  The last step is to clean the marker exterior.

Edwards Ferry Marker 077

I was impressed the team wiped down the legs, clearing all dirt, mud, and dust.  When they left the site, the marker was spotless.

After the installation of the marker I took the crew on a short tour of the site.  Before they left, the crew paused for a quick photo showing off their handy-work.

Edwards Ferry Marker 078

Again, let me champion the Civil War Trails system.  The folks who run the five-state system have held true to the program’s objectives.  While the product is designed as a vehicle for tourism promotions, there is no commercialism bleed over.  There are advantages with the presentation, which allows for maps, illustrations, and photographs.  More importantly for those of us using these markers as guideposts in our tours, these markers fit in close proximity to the sites they describe. The text often includes references such as “in front of you…” or “to your right….”  These queues prompt the visitor to step out and “touch” the history, further improving the overall experience.  So if you are looking for a way to improve the interpretation of a local Civil War site, and you are in one of those five states, consider a Civil War Trails marker.

In closing, let me single out one of the Civil War Trails crew for mention.  Jason Shaffer has done most of the Civil War Trails marker installations.  In fact, he probably has installed more Civil War related markers than anyone else.  Period.  If you have visited a site and used a Civil War Tails marker for orientation, chances are you have seen the products of Jason’s hard work.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

9 thoughts on “Now we have a marker: Edwards Ferry marker project reaches fruition

  1. Craig, congratulations to you for spearheading the Edwards Ferry marker initiative. It is axiomatic that any worthy endeavor requires singular leadership in order to ring the bell in triumph and your champion-like focus on this issue has certainly carried the day. So, your secret is out, General Swain: You’re a heck of a fine field commander!

    And kudos to those entities who supported your efforts. Any of us, after all, can germinate a leadership vision, but to get the job done we require the support of others and it is a credit to all that you worked together to pull this off. And I can’t wait to visit your marker and this wonderfully historic site!

    Having worked often with the Civil War Trails folks in the Piedmont, I completely concur with your observations as to their high professionalism. Mitch Bowman and Jason Schaffer are in fact “marker visionaries,” and as far as i can discern the only rival to their efficiency is their remarkable can-do amiability.

    Now speaking of “Civil War Trails,” I have to tell a little story that you can take for what it is worth. But, believe this: It happened, and that’s all I will say about it..

    Several years ago (I have never forgotten the incident), Jason Schaffer and I were spotting out the configuration for a Trails marker on the Trappe Road, west of Upperville. The marker was to be erected in the absolute center of a savage cavalry/horse artillery fight occurring June 21, 1863, as Stuart’s command fell back to Ashby’s Gap hotly pursued by the Federals.

    Terrific fighting and heavy casualties occurred right at this lonely, remote spot, and this pristine, untouched field of action retains today the appearance and palpable “feel” of the 150-year-old battlefield that it is. (Your readers should go to this seldom-visited locale and they’ll concur this is indeed a “special place.”)

    Jason began to dig the post holes and I went on down the road to look at another marker site, and after a bit I returned to the Trappe Road, and Jason. Jason had about finished erecting the wonderful marker and he commented in hushed tone to the effect, “I heard voices.” Well, I thought to myself, “my, my..” Jason then observed he had been “doing this for a long time and I’ve never before heard voices.”

    It was a pretty day in June of that year and the sun was high and the wind was light. It was very still and we both stopped talking and listened.

    Then, unmistakably, there were voices on the wind. Quiet voices, not at all hurried or panicky. Very soft and monotone voices playing on the wind. (Sounded almost like a Gregorian chant.)

    Jason wrapped up his business and we both departed at the same time.

  2. Congratulations, Craig! Great job!

    Bud, thanks for sharing that story. Sends chills, yet makes me smile.

  3. Craig, when you post details of your upcoming Edwards Ferry tours, will it be in a new post on this blog? Is there another site that would list the details too?

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