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A connection to the past

Ceremony honors return of cannons to Doubleday Hill in Williamsport

July 04, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • Williamsport Councilman Scott Bragunier speaks at a dedication of cannons on Doubleday Hill in Willamsport Thursday while Washington County Commissioner William McKinley listens.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — From sledding to baseball, Doubleday Hill in River View Cemetery has long been a hub of activity in Williamsport.

Now, the town is celebrating improvements made to further highlight the site’s role in the Civil War. More than $23,000 in grant money contributed to refurbishment of three cannons and other enhancements for Doubleday Hill.

“These are Williamsport’s, and we’ve worked hard to keep it that way,” Councilman Scott Bragunier said of the cannons.

The project, which was designed to improve public access, added 11 interpretive signs, handicapped parking, stairs, information about self-guided tours and a gravel path. Bragunier described the area as Williamsport’s most recognizable Civil War landmark.

Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II said in a ceremony Thursday he lives across the street from Doubleday Hill.

“There is life on the hill again, people coming up the steps to see what’s going on,” he said.

The Doubleday Hill Monument overlooks the Potomac River toward West Virginia and commemorates the area’s occupation by Maj. Gen. Abner Doubleday.

Doubleday filed the first shot of retaliation at Fort Sumter in April 1861. The hill that bears his name was used when Union soldiers opened fire on a Confederate camp that summer.

“For the next couple years, the armies of the North and South walked our streets,” Bragunier said.

A ceremony on July 4, 1897, dedicated improvements made on the at-the-time-unnamed hill. The site hosted visitors from around the world for years, but stacked cannonballs were removed, the bunker was filled in, the wooden flagpole was struck by lightning, and the cannons began to be neglected and stuffed with foreign objects.

At one time, town officials removed the original tubes and replaced them with fiberglass ones.

Three of the original ones have now been restored by a company in Kentucky. Horses pulled them through town a couple of months ago.

Williamsport native Sue Hoch attended the ceremony because her great-grandfather served in the Civil War and is buried in the cemetery. She said her cousin researched Reuben Bowers’ service.

“My mom and dad never talked about it much,” she said.

State Sen. Christoper B. Shank, R-Washington, said his great-grandfather, too, is buried in the cemetery.

“People want to connect to the past. It gives them meaning, an anchor, a connection,” he said.

Other dignitaries in attendance included Washington County Commissioners William B. McKinley and Jeff Cline, Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau President Tom Riford, and representatives of U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin.

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