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Washington Township Civil War battle takes its place in history

January 16, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. — For 148 years, few people knew about the Battle of Monterey Pass near Rolando Woods Lions Club Park in Washington Township.

But, two years ago, local historian John Miller decided it was time to educate the community about the significance of the battle.

“It’s one of the many pieces of the puzzle that tell the story of the 10 days that happened after the battle of Gettysburg until the Confederates crossed back into Virginia,” Miller said. “It is the second-largest battle to occur in Pennsylvania before and after the battle of Gettysburg.”

On eight-tenths of an acre near the Rolando Woods Lions Club Park on Charmian Road, there are a number of markers about the battle.

On July 4 and 5, 1863, about 10,000 soldiers fought in a midnight battle as Confederate soldiers departed Gettysburg after the historic battle there. At Monterey Pass, Union soldiers took more than 1,500 prisoners and destroyed nine miles of Confederate supply wagons, Miller said.

Until Miller and the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield Inc. rallied for a battlefield site, the battle went unnoticed. Miller said it didn’t even have an official name.

“A lot of people didn’t know about this battle. We didn’t even know the name of the battle itself. Even the town of Waynesboro considered it a battle without a name,” Miller said.

On Dec. 8, Washington Township purchased the Cantwell property, across from the Lions Club Park, to expand the battlefield site.

Washington Township Manager Michael Christopher said the site has become an official township park called the Battle of Monterey Pass Park.

“As far as I know, this is the only Civil War battlefield owned by a township,” he said.

“At 2 a.m. on July 5, Custer confronted the Confederates at that (Cantwell property) very location, to the best of everybody’s knowledge,” Christopher said. “The ultimate goal is to be able to preserve a piece of the battlefield, to interpret the battle with our historian (John Miller) in a visitors’ destination where folks can come and be on hallowed ground and feel the emotions of the battle.”

A mobile home is on the Cantwell property, but Christopher said it will be demolished.

He said the township bought the property with grant money, donations and money from the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield.

“We’re asking anyone with a proposal to bring it to us. If someone wants to tear (the mobile home) down for the materials or to make us an offer, we are taking all offers,” Christopher said.

With community support, more than $100,000 has been raised for the battlefield.

“In light of the bad economy, to be able to raise funding to be able to purchase the site is just totally amazing. It’s with great pride that the township has been able to partner with other organizations, with the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors Bureau,” Christopher said.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that we accomplished something that we started two years ago, and we think it’s going to be great for the future,” he said.

Miller hopes to have an interpretative center open by 2013 for the 150th anniversary of the battle.

“I was quite pleased when Washington Township came aboard. They were looking at it as bringing tourism to the area, and with tourism you bring other people who might not be interested in history, but might be interested in the natural resources side, too,” Miller said.

For now, Miller is thrilled about telling the untold story of the Battle of Monterey Pass. Eventually, he’d like to buy more land to expand the battlefield.

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