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Signs share county's history

September 28, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

For more information, visit www.civilwartraveler.com.




HAGERSTOWN - On July 12, 1863, Union cavalry under the command of Gen. George Armstrong Custer rode into Hagerstown and dove out dozens of Confederate soldiers who were occupying the city.

The Confederates entered Hagerstown on July 6, during their retreat from the Battle of Gettysburg a few days earlier, and held the city until Custer's decisive charge. Before the Confederates relinquished their grip, however, battles raged in the city's streets, houses and graveyards.

This story and others recounting the Battle of Hagerstown are inscribed on two signs that hang on the parking garage off North Potomac Street.

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A third sign, on the side of the Elizabeth Hager Center, describes Civil War troop movements in Washington County.

Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the signs were put up last spring as part of a local and state program known as Civil War Trails.

The signs in Hagerstown are just three of 19 Civil War Trails signs or waysides that have been placed at significant sites throughout Washington County, he said.

"All the signs are carefully researched and vetted before being created," Riford said.

Besides giving residents a taste of Hagerstown's Civil War history, Riford said the signs attract tourists to the city.

"It's very beneficial to downtown Hagerstown," he said. "(Tourists) have to eat. They have to shop."

He said the visitors bureau sets aside $200 a year for each sign.

The money is used to maintain the signs and to buy replacements every five years, Riford said.

Shortly after the Battle of Hagerstown, Custer held a parade through the city's streets, said S. Roger Keller, the convention and visitors bureau's historian.

In 1864, Confederates returned to Hagerstown and threatened to torch the city unless a $20,000 ransom was paid, he said.

Three banks gathered the money to satisfy the ransom, which Confederate soldiers called a "contribution," Keller said.

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