Berkeley County's top 10 Civil War sites are 'marked'

April 21, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Historian Don C. Wood is hesitant to compile a "Top 10" list of American Civil War sites in Berkeley County.

Yet, a state Division of Tourism-led initiative to highlight the most prominent reminders of the "War Between the States" with interpretative markers in each of the West Virginia's 55 counties forced his hand.

"Each county is being allowed three (markers) by the state," Wood said Friday.

There's easily more than 10 marker-worthy sites in the northern Shenandoah Valley community and Wood hopes the county can snag a couple more of the Civil War Trails program markers not claimed by other counties.

At the top of a list compiled by Wood and Civil War historian James R. Droegemeyer were the B&O Roundhouse and Shops and the Belle Boyd house in downtown Martinsburg.


A "rolling stock" of 300 train cars and 42 locomotives and the original railroad complex was destroyed in 1861 and 1862 by Confederate troops led by Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

Boyd, meanwhile, assisted Jackson's efforts as a spy, a famous espionage career jump-started when the Martinsburg native shot and killed a Union soldier on July 4, 1861. A brick house along East Race Street, a childhood home for Boyd, now is home to the Berkeley County Historical Society's museum.

Both sites already were added to the Civil War Trails marker program a few years ago, but Wood said he was initially unaware that the state's program was a continuation of that effort.

"A lot of people go over there," Wood said of the signs for the Roundhouse and Shops installed in a minipark across from Berkeley County Historical Society's archive and research center off East Race Street.

Wood and Droegemeyer also recommended a Trails' marker be installed at Berkeley County's historic courthouse at King and Queen streets.

"It's one of the top (sites) that so little has been said about," Wood said. County Clerk John W. Small's office in the building constructed in the 1850s was used as sleeping quarters for occupying Union soldiers, Wood said.

Also on the historians' list is the restored home of physician Allen Hammond, which was used as a Civil War hospital by Union troops, and the encampment site near Allensville in northern Berkeley County of the 106th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which was assigned to guard the B&O Railroad and was later an active part in the Shenandoah Valley campaign of the war, according to historical accounts.

"You can see (the campsites) are still there," Wood said of the Allensville property, which is part of about four acres being donated to the Berkeley County Historic Landmarks Commission.

The site of the Battle at Falling Waters, W.Va., recently noted as one of the most endangered Civil War battlefield sites, rounded out Wood's top candidates for the Trails signage.

The recommendations will be submitted by the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau to the state Division of Tourism.

Andrea Ball, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, expects the markers eventually approved by the state will be in place by the end of the year, if not earlier. Ball expects the program to continue annually, which could accommodate several other sites that Wood said were deserving of markers.

Those include Boydville, the circa-1812 mansion spared from fiery destruction by direct order of Abraham Lincoln; the site of noted Confederate Gen. James Johnston Pettigrew's death near Bunker Hill, W.Va., after the Battle of Gettysburg; and Norbourn Hall, a school, military encampment site and the Martinsburg home of David Hunter Strother, a famed 19th-century magazine illustrator who wrote about his experiences in the Civil War as a Union topographer in Harper's Monthly.

"Civil War-based tourism could see exponential growth in Berkeley County," Ball said. "I personally think we could work on promoting it a lot more."

Currently, the county's Civil War sites are generally recognized by the "hard-core" tourists who have a greater knowledge of the engagements, Ball said.

"Belle Boyd aside, we had a lot of other things happen here," Ball said.

As for promotion, Ball touted the success of the Civil War Trails program, which has been fully embraced by Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina, where nearly 800 (often photograph- or graphically enhanced) markers have been installed.

"We think this program is a great way to start," Ball said.

Civil spots

Some of the top Civil War spots in Berkeley County, W.Va., as chosen by local historians:

  • B&O Roundhouse

  • Belle Boyd house

  • Berkeley County courthouse

  • Home of physician Allen Hammond

  • Union campsite near Allensville

  • Site of Battle at Falling Waters
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