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.
I know… muddy and all. But after a day of hard rains, we were lucky to have solid ground for the marker.
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.
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.
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.
The crew then “plants” the marker and starts pouring concrete into the holes.
The first “pin” one side by topping the hole with dirt. Then using a level, they ensure the marker is oriented properly.
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.
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.
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.