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Taking a field trip to Fort Frederick State Park

August 06, 2000

Taking a field trip to Fort Frederick State Park



By KERRI SACCHET / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

Editor's Note: We asked our student interns this summer to take a look at Washington County attractions with a tourist's eyes. Through their reports, we hope you might rediscover attractions in our own back yard. This is the fifth in a series.

Ft. Frederick State ParkBIG POOL - Rich, green pine trees dot the sides of the road that lead to a quaint fort with four, 120-foot-long walls.

That's what draws my attention each time I go there, those huge walls made of limestone that each form an arrow point at the ends.

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As I walked through the grass and ducked through a cut-out in the 40-foot-tall wooden fort doors, and read words such as Royal Regulars and militiamen, I felt as if I was on the set of "The Patriot".

Mel Gibson may not be around, but tour guides dressed in 18th century clothing remind you how much history Fort Frederick State Park holds.

I am one to enjoy taking my own tour rather than being part of a group, so this trip to Fort Frederick was just right.

You will be handed a pamphlet by an attendant outside, indicating what area to go to first once inside the fort.

If you prefer, a tour guide is on hand to answer any questions you may have or to help you with your look around.

Two renovated white buildings make up the east and west barracks in the fort - the east one is the museum. Walking up to the second floor of the previous soldiers' quarters, I am greeted by various large signs depicting the chronology of the park.

The fort was ordered to be built by Governor Horatio Sharpe in 1754 to protect the western front in the French and Indian War.

In 1763, Native American chief Pontiac held a rebellion and the fort provided shelter for civilians and other militia.

One feature that I appreciated about the museum were the original pieces of weapons, pottery, and a canteen. All were contained in glass cases on the wall.

The fort was completely renovated in the 1920s so the buildings aren't the originals. Seeing the encased memorabilia gave the museum a more authentic atmosphere.

As you move through the rooms, you learn more facts such as the fort was a prisoner of war camp in the Revolutionary War, had skirmishes fought in it during the Civil War and was a farm owned by freed slaves in the late 1800s.

Walking to the west barracks, you pass a large patch of grass which was where the Governor's House previously stood.

Inside the left barracks, you can see how plainly a soldier in the 1700s was forced to live. There was a series of bunk beds in which two soldiers had to sleep in each level of the bunks.

A table made out of a barrel with a board on top serves as the eating area, with a small fireplace nearby. Written on the wall above a bed is 'God save us from the pox' which gave the room a more realistic appeal.

Perhaps a more recent benefit the fort provided to Americans was that it served as a restoration project for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression.

A museum, dedicated to those in the CCC who rebuilt the structure, is down a path near the fort. Pictures of a large group of smiling men in government uniforms with shovels line the walls of the museum.

It makes you realize Fort Frederick not only protected the country in wartime, but also gave purpose to some people's lives during one of the worst times in America's history.

With the C & O Canal in its backyard, the park also offers fishing, campgrounds, hiking trails and boating.

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