Civil War: The Battles of South MountainFox's GapTurner's GapCrampton's GapFrostown Gap
Park Info: George TownsendGathlandWashington MonumentAT NorthAT South
Park Tours: South Mountain State Battlefield Driving TourFox's Gap Walking Trail

 

South Mountain State Battlefield Driving Tour

Begin at Washington Monument State Park in the upper parking lot. There is a small fee to enter the park. Total distance for the tour is approximately 22.6 miles. Most of the roads traveled are narrow historic roads. Please drive carefully, and plan on at least 90 minutes.

One of the two museums on the route is located in the small building in the upper parking area. On display are several artifacts related to the Battle of South Mountain and the Washington Monument. Hours of operation are 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Thursday through Monday from May 1st through October 31st.

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Stop 1: Washington Monument is located at the top of the hill. The trail is east of the museum. It is a moderate climb of about 1/4 mile. The site offers a good view of Boonsboro. The monument was constructed on July 4th, 1827 by citizens of Boonsboro. At the time of the battle it had fallen into disrepair, and was only about 1/2 its present height. Prior to the battle of South Mountain, Lee’s Chief of artillery, E.P. Alexander, saw people moving around on what he termed, “a pile of rubble.” Thinking these people might be Union observers, he instructed several sharpshooters to accompany him up the mountain to remove these observers from their vantage point. Once he got closer, he realized they were some local civilians trying to see the battle. Confederate troops used this site to signal information to Confederate troops located in Boonsboro. During the Battle of Antietam two days later, Federal troops would also use this location to relay information from the battlefield to Frederick, Maryland, where it would be telegraphed to Washington, DC.

Follow the park road to the park entrance. The building on the right is the park headquarters. There is a nice display of artillery artifacts on display inside the office and you may also pick up more detailed park information and maps at the office.

0.0 miles: Turn left onto Monument Road.

0.3 miles: Turn right onto Michael Road.

0.4 miles: Turn right onto Frostown Road.

1.2 miles, Stop 2: Confederate left flank. This is the position of the 6th Alabama. Rhodes' Alabama brigade was deployed to the south, stretching across the valley for about 1/2 mile. At the time of the battle most of this valley was clear of vegetation. A few hundred feet to the east is a small hump in the road. This was the position of the Federal line. Most of the fighting at Turner's Gap occurred along and to the rear (west) of this Confederate line, and around the distant hill to the south (best seen during winter).

To your left are the ruins of the widow Main house. Most of South Mountain Battlefield remains private property. Please do not trespass.

2.2 miles, Stop 3: This was the center of the Federal line prior to its assault up the valley. Mead’s Pennsylvania troops were deployed along the road just traveled. Hatch’s New Yorkers to your front. At the time of the battle, most of the ground to your right was clear of vegetation. The J. Gabber farm is to your left, and both the house and barn received damage from artillery during the battle.

Turn left (The road to your right will take you to Turner's Gap; however, it is a steep, dirt road that may not be passable during bad weather.)

2.7 miles: Turn right onto Mt. Tabor Road.

2.8 miles, Stop 4: Turn left onto Station Road.

The site of Mt. Tabor Church is on your left. This was the site of General Hooker's headquarters. The church was destroyed by fire after the war but the graveyard still remains.

Return to Mt. Tabor Road and turn left.

3.8 miles: This is the town of Bolivar. Both houses on each side of the road existed at the time of the battle. Turn Right.

4.7 miles, Stop 5: The stone house to your left was occupied by the D. Beachley family. At 5:30PM the Iron Brigade advanced up the valley with the 19th Indiana and 2nd Wisconsin on the south side of the road, and the 7th and 6th Wisconsin on the north side of the road. About 1/4 mile to the west was Colquitt's Confederate Brigade. Fighting continued in the fields just to your west for several hours. This fight was one of the few Confederate successes during the battle.

6.0 miles, Stop 6: South Mountain Tavern, Turn left into the parking lot. The Tavern was constructed in 1732 and served as General D.H. Hill’s headquarters during the battle. The morning of September 14, 1862 found D.H. Hill standing near this location deciding how to best go about the defense of the mountain gaps. Hill was aware of a gap to both the north and south of Turner’s Gap, where you are now, and rode south along the Wood Road, which was near the yellow pole gate below the parking lot, to check on Fox’s Gap. Once there, he heard men’s voices and equipment that he feared was the Federals already occupying the gap. He rode back to this location where he found Brigadier General Samuel Garland just arriving with his brigade. Hill sent Garland and his brigade down to Fox’s Gap along the same Wood Road to secure that area. Hill occupied the front portion of the South Mountain Inn, (then called the Mountain House) as his headquarters for the battle. Later that morning, General Garland would be carried to the steps of Hill’s headquarters.

The road through this gap was known as the National Pike. This was the primary east-west road through this area. Connecting Turner's Gap with Fox's Gap one mile to the south was a road known as Wood Road. Throughout the day Confederates would move back and forth between the gaps. The Appalachian Trail uses the historic road. If you are looking for a hike, it is an easy, mostly level one mile to Fox's Gap.

The stone church across was constructed in 1882 and did not exist during the war.

Turn left onto Old National Pike.

6.2 miles: Turn left onto Moser Road.

7.3 miles: Turn left onto Reno Monument Road.

7.9 miles, Stop 7: Fox's Gap. The parking area is at the top of the hill. This is a blind intersection. Turn right onto a service road, then right into the dirt parking area. The homestead of Daniel Wise was located at this intersection. Just prior to the battle, a Confederate officer stopped in and warned the Wise family of the impending battle. The family relocated down the west side of the mountain to the church at the intersection of Reno Monument Road and modern day Rt. 67 where they, along with other citizens of the area, hid in the basement until the battle was over. Upon returning to the cabin, Daniel found several dead soldiers inside and also found that his well had been used as a burial site for 58 Confederate bodies. Although Daniel tried to obtain reparations for the damage to his property and his ruined well, no funds were granted to him. Twenty years after the battle, the Confederate bodies were reinterred in the Rose Hill cemetery in Hagerstown. The Federal bodies buried on the battlefield were taken at that time to the National Cemetery at Antietam.

For a detailed account of the fighting in this area follow the Fox's Gap walking tour.

Turn right onto Reno Monument Road.

8.7 miles Stop 8: After his wounding, Federal IX Corps commander Jesse Reno was brought here and placed under an oak tree to your left. The tree fell during a thunderstorm in 1979. To your right is Loop road. The Kanawha Division used this road to move into position on the morning of 14th.

9.1 miles: Turn right onto Bolivar Road.

11.1 miles: Turn right onto Picnic Woods Road.

The last mile of this road offers several good views of Crampton’s Gap, the first Confederate defensive located at the tree line at the base of the mountain below the gap, and the fields that Solcum’s Federal Brigade moved across in their assault against the Confederates.

15.5 miles: Turn right onto Burkittsville Road (Rt. 17).

16.8 miles: Turn left onto E. Main St. which becomes Gapland Road. You are in the town of Burkittsville, where about 80% of the buildings in town were present during the battle. Drive through town and turn right into the parking lot of the Burkittsville Ruritan (Mile 17.4). Exit your vehicle and walk to the far end of the lot looking away from town.

17.4 miles, Stop 9: On the evening of September 13, 1862 Confederate sharpshooters were positioned in and around the buildings in town where they awaited the approach of Union Major General William B. Franklin’s VI Corps from the east along the Burkittsville-Jefferson Road. The Federals did not arrive in Burkittsville until nearly noon. As the Federals neared the east end of town they deployed their skirmishers along the tree line you see across the field in front of you. This marks the location of Distillery Lane. Once the skirmishers stepped out into the open field, they were met by artillery fire from the mountain at both Crampton’s Gap and Brownsville Pass. When this happened, the Federals fell back behind the small knoll to your left, along Burkitt’s Run, and had lunch. It was nearly 4:00 in the afternoon before the Federals finally began their assault on the Confederates in town. The Federals deployed their skirmishers and began their attack in earnest, they were eventually able to drive the Confederates out of town and back to the foot of the mountain.

Walk to the east end of the parking lot, you can look towards South Mountain. Crampton’s Gap is above and behind the town while Brownsville Pass is a mile to the south (left) where you can see the road going up the side of the mountain a short distance. Due to the geography of the terrain, the Confederates felt this was the more important gap to defend. The stone wall where Munford’s men were positioned can be seen straight across the fields in front of you. Many of the houses on the west end of town suffered from Confederate artillery fire from Brownsville Pass as they fired at the Federal soldiers moving towards the mountain.

18.1 miles, Stop 10: The house on the north-east corner, owned by Martin Shafer, was used by General Franklin as his headquarters during the fighting for Crampton’s Gap.

Return back to Burkittsville.

19.4 miles, Stop 11: Turn right into the church parking lot.

Both churches were used as hospitals after the battle along with other buildings located nearby for the treatment of the wounded. The church to the east is St. Paul’s Lutheran Church built in 1859, and to the west is the German Reform Church built in 1829.

From the cemetery you will get a good view of the fields Slocum’s Federal Brigade passed through on their advance towards the gap. At 4:00PM the Federals began their assault. Turn right back onto E. Main St. and continue west through town.

19.9 miles, Stop 12: Turn right onto Mountain Church Road. South of Gapland Road, Brook’s Vermont Brigade advanced through the fields on your left. The 2nd Virginia cavalry was deployed as skirmishers behind the stone wall opposite Mountain Church Road, in an effort to slow the advance of the Vermonters. As you continue north along Mountain Church road you will be following the defensive line of Munford’s Cavalry Brigade with Parham’s Infantry brigade in the center, awaiting the assault from the Brigade’s of Bartlett, Newton and Torbert, of Solcum’s Federal Brigade to your right.

20.7 miles: This is the left of the Confederate line. To your left is the widow Tritt house.

20.9 miles: Turn left onto Arnoldstown Road.

21.5 miles, Stop 13: Turn right into the Crampton's Gap parking area. Walk across the Arnoldstown Road to the map on the other side of the War Correspondents Arch. You are now standing at the top of Whipp’s Ravine. As the Confederate line along Mountain Church Road was breaking, Confederate Brigadier General Howell Cobb arrived with his brigade having marched from the foot of Maryland Heights near Harpers Ferry that afternoon. Cobb asked Munford to position his troops, since Munford was familiar with the situation. The 15th North Carolina and the 24th Georgia were sent down the left and right roads respectively. Meanwhile, the 16th Georgia and Cobb’s Georgia Legion dove into the ravine to try a stem the Federal advance. Unfortunately for them, The New Jersey Brigade came around behind them and began firing into their back. The two regiments in the ravine were cut to pieces and soon joined the retreat through the gap. While this was happening, a section of the Troup Light Artillery occupied positions in the intersection behind you, one gun pointing down each road. As the Federals came into range, these guns opened up with canister at near point-blank range. The Federals paused for only a moment before they once again surged forward. The two guns only got off a few rounds each before they had to limber up and withdrew as well. One of the guns, the “Jenny”, broke its carriage and had to be left behind in the road.

None of the buildings here were present during the battle. After the war, George Alfred Townsend, one of the youngest correspondents of the Civil War, purchased 100 acres in the Gap and built his mountain estate, and in 1896 he erected a monument to honor Civil War correspondents, artists, and photographers.

A museum is located inside the kitchen of the red colored building.

Turn Right onto Gapland Road

22.6 miles, Stop 14: Franklin's final position of September 14th. On the 15th, a Confederate battle line was thrown across Pleasant Valley in a desperate attempt to confront Franklin’s victorious forces. Franklin, however did not attack after learning that Harpers Ferry had surrendered that morning.

Rohrersville Road (Rt. 67). To return to Washington Monument or travail to Antietam Battlefield turn right. This will take you back to Old National Pike, and Boonsboro. To travail to Harpers Ferry or Fredrick, MD turn left. This will take you to Rt. 340.