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Sign marks Battle of Monterey Pass

June 26, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. -- It does not take much imagination to sense how a Confederate Civil War soldier felt the night of July 4, 1863, as he marched through Monterey Pass.

Under his feet, the rocky road pooled with water as it stretched around the mountain, making way for a 17-mile wagon train.

Above his head, the rumble of thunder and the crack of lightning lighted the midnight sky.

In his stomach grew a growl of intense hunger while in his feet, the ache of retreat blistered each step from the blood-stained fields of Gettysburg, Pa.

To his left, the boom of cannon fire and the retort of muskets released balls of lead into anything that moved. To his right, the screams of wounded and the bellows of commanding officers filled the space between each drop of rain.

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The Battle of Monterey Pass lasted only a few short hours, but Friday, the only battle to bridge the Mason-Dixon Line was recognized as a Pennsylvania Civil War Trail.

A full color sign now marks the site where the battle raged.

The Monterey Pass Battlefield Association, together with the One Mountain Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, paid tribute to the 1,500 Confederate and 20 Union soldiers who either were killed or wounded in the battle on Friday with a dedication and a walking tour of the pass.

"Its amazing that all of us are standing on this road where history was made," said John Miller, founder and battlefield historian of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Association.

The dedication and tour came as a precursor to Mountaintop Heritage Days, scheduled to start today in Blue Ridge Summit, said Gary Muller, chairman of the One Mountain Foundation.

The history on the mountain is central to the annual celebration, Muller said.

Both the Pennsylvania and Maryland sites of the battle are clearly marked for Heritage Days this weekend and for future tourism.

Yet, the wayside exhibit provided by Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development's Civil War Trails program is more than just a marker, said Lenwood Sloan, director of cultural and heritage tourism for the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

"Our program is about experiences and total immersions in the communities that worked shoulder to shoulder in defense of the commonwealth," Sloan said. "We refer to them (the signs) as 'story stops' because we want people to pull over, park their car, read the marker, then walk the roads, stand on the hallowed ground and talk to the community whose generations, for 150 years, have been preserving the story of this important place in time."

Nearly 100 people -- some in business suits, some in khakis and others in period dress -- attended the dedication. Many stayed for Miller's tour afterwards. A few even took pieces of the road home as a souvenir of history.

Muller said the celebration this weekend will feature additional informal lectures on the mountain's history.

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