October 12th, 2011

Civil War Legends & Lore

Most of us know the “greater story” of the Civil War—the battles, the politics, the leaders. We’ve heard of Grant and Lee, Gettysburg and Antietam, Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis. But it’s the “little stories”—the quirky ones about

people and events—that make this time period so fascinating even today. Some of these tales of Civil War legend and lore are funny, some sad, but they all bring a very human side to the war 150 years later.

These stories will be the focus of “Civil War Legends and Lore” at  7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Perryville Branch Library. We’ll classify these stories as “legends and lore” because local tradition and folklore have filled in the blanks between the known facts.

Our region has no shortage of Civil War legends and lore, much of it spiced up by the fact that Cecil County residents had divided loyalties. Maryland itself was a border state, even though it is located south of the Mason-Dixon Line. In Cecil County and the rest of Maryland some were fiercely pro-Union; others were pro-Confederate to the point that they fled South to take up arms against the United States. Once war was declared, Cecil Countians for the most part supported the Union and its new president, even if they hadn’t necessarily voted for him.

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- How “mule skinners” took over the mansion and grounds at Perry Point, where the owners were pro-southern. The owners complained that Yankee officers banged up the elegant staircase with their swords.
- The C&D Canal played a huge role in the early days of the war, enabling Lincoln to bring loyal troops from “up north” to occupy Maryland after Federal troops traveling by train were attacked in Baltimore. The nervous canal superintendent in Chesapeake City constantly feared attacks by Confederate raiders.
- George Alfred Townsend spent his summers as a boy in Cecil County. The war made him famous as an Anderson Cooper-type newsman of his day who went on to be friends with Mark Twain. We’ll take a look at a story he wrote with a touch of dark humor about the topic of undertakers making their fortune after the battle of Antietam.
- A newspaper editor whose pro-Southern editorial got him marched out of town at bayonet point by Union troops and locked up in Fort McHenry.
- A Civil War romance that started when a Chesapeake City girl met a captured Confederate officer on his way to the prisoner of war camp at Fort Delaware.

As divided and cantankerous as the two sides could be here in Cecil County, one of the impressions that stands out is how people seemed to have put aside their differences after the war. It’s a lesson that shouldn’t be lost on us today as we struggle through difficult, sometimes divisive times of our own.

Interested in more Civil War programs? Make sure to check out the complete list of upcoming programs.

Have you heard Civil War legends about Cecil County? Share them with us by commenting below and we hope to see you at the program.


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September 20th, 2011

George Washington DID Sleep Here!

george-washingtonIf you’ve ever driven through Charlestown, Maryland, perhaps you slowed down a bit to catch this magical microcosm of American history.  Your eye may have been caught by the picket fence fronting the double-galleried porch of the “Indian Queen Tavern.”  Or perhaps your curiosity was piqued by the more modest  Red Lyon Tavern, located right next door.  As you drove through this little waterfront town, maybe you admired the lovely historical homes along the coastline and wondered what life was like way back when…

Imagine then, the horses and stage coaches of the past clip-clopping along this Old Post Road, halfway on their journey between  Baltimore  and Philadelphia. Visitors would disembark into the taverns for a warm bed and a satisfying drink of ale by the fire.  One of those travelers was certainly George Washington, for he recorded such visits in his own diaries. Charlestown was a thriving colonial town, a major port and the county seat.

The history behind these buildings and others in colonial Charlestown will be revealed in a talk given by local historian Audrey Edwards at the North East Branch Library on Tues. Sept. 27th at 6:30pm.  Please call 410-996-6269 to register.  Ms. Edwards will discuss ghosts and secrets of the past, found in remnants of an era long gone:  old leather shoes, chalkboards from a schoolhouse, tankards from a tavern, and many other artifacts she has unearthed.  Step back in time to this fascinating little town, Charlestown, and relive a bit of American history!

Which Cecil County town is your favorite for its history?


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