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Man retraces 'Beeline' march

September 11, 2000

Man retraces 'Beeline' march



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. - This old city may be surrounded with the graves of those who died in the Civil War, but it has Revolutionary War history to remember as well.

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Jeffrey Smith, 52, helped the city remember the Revolutionary War Monday, as he set out to recreate the famous "Beeline to Boston" march that began in the city, then named Fountain Rock, in 1775.

Smith is dressed as Capt. Hugh Stephenson, leader of the 98 volunteer Virginia riflemen who assembled at a spring just off what is now W.Va. 480 near Shepherdstown Elementary School in July 1775. From there, they rushed to the aid of Gen. George Washington, who was trying to break the British stranglehold on Boston.

"They went 600 miles in 26 days," said Smith (Stephenson). He plans to walk and ride his horse, Ranger, all the way to Cambridge, Mass., in the same amount of time, meet other re-enactors on Oct. 6, then walk to Boston.

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He camped Sunday night at Morgan Grove Park, just a short distance from the "Spirit of 1775" roadside marker erected in 1932 to mark the start of the Beeline. With his horse, rifle and costume, he talked to children at the school Monday morning.

Logistical problems forced him to delay the start from the original date of July 16. And parts of the original route are now in private hands.

He is carrying with him "a pretty good mobile museum" of artifacts from the period, including the candles and lanterns that are his only source of light at night.

Some of the items were used in both the Revolutionary War and Civil War, he said.

Smith retains a keen interest in both conflicts. As a re-enactor, he has played the part of Col. John Mosby, the famous "Gray Ghost" of Confederate fame.

This interest in the southern side of the Civil War comes despite the fact that a distant uncle was Gen. John Reynolds, a union general killed on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg.

"My mother gave birth to a natural born rebel," he said.

Smith's Beeline cause also has Civil War roots.

When he moved to Alexandria, Va., two years ago, he learned that the boyhood home of Gen. Robert E. Lee was about to be sold to a private person.

So he began plotting his course for this event in hopes of raising money to help buy the house. Those who want to save it will need more than $4 million, he said.

People can pledge online for each mile of the Beeline, he said.

"I'm doing this for a good cause and also to educate people," said Smith, a Penn State graduate with a bachelor's degree in history. "It seems like a lot of fun. And I can teach people."

"Every 10 minutes, we lose one acre (of a battlefield), one historic site or one historic building," he added.

A carpenter by trade, he also served in Air Force intelligence for four years.

In 1990, he fell off a scaffold and doctors told him he would never walk again. But he overcame that and the prediction by doctors three years later that his head injuries would cause him to die within six months.

He proved them wrong and has gradually increased his activities as a re-enactor.

He has a companion with him driving a truck and pulling a horse wagon . They will keep a daily journal on the Web site. The address is www.LeesHome.com/Beeline/

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