The Civil War Driving Tour
Carroll County offers two driving tours which help the visitor navigate the troop movement throughout Carroll County. To order “Carroll County, Maryland: Roads to Gettysburg,” “Gettysburg: Invasion and Retreat,” and the “Corbit’s Charge” Walking Tour brochure, click here.
The rich farmland of Carroll County skirts the Mason-Dixon Line, denoting North from South. Picturesque and serene, this pivotal county remained relatively unscathed during the two years the Civil War raged here.
Union commanders were aware of the strategic value of this rolling farmland. The recently completed Western Maryland Railroad’s depot in Westminster meant much needed supplies could come in from Washington and Baltimore. The Union Army of the Potomac set up its rail head and supply base in Westminster where it remained during the course of the war. Supply lines were established and guarded; residents became accustomed to Union troops and supply wagons in and around their once peaceful town.
With Confederate troops converging from the north and west, Major General George G. Meade, Commander of the Army of the Potomac, developed a plan to protect Baltimore and Washington. If the Confederate Army moved south, the “Pipe Creek Plan” would create a defensive shield behind Pipe Creek, which flows west across Carroll County. Meade’s army began moving northeast from Frederick to position troops in the hills outside Manchester, as described in the Pipe Creek Plan. Though they didn’t know yet, these soldiers were marching on the roads to Gettysburg.
Carroll County’s involvement in the Civil War can be retraced by car with maps of the county and other areas leading to Gettysburg. There are two driving tours to help navigate the county. The first tour, “Carroll County, Maryland: Roads to Gettysburg,” helps the visitor navigate the movements of over 60,000 troops from the southern end of the county up to Gettysburg.
The second tour, “Gettysburg: Invasion and Retreat” is a much broader look at the June-July 1863 Campaign including surrounding counties. This map guides the visitor along the armies’ paths, stopping at 18 markers with illustrations, photos, and interesting stories about the impact of the War on local citizens and the day-to-day stories of soldiers who marched toward the epic Gettysburg battle. Follow the bugle trailblazer signs to the 18 wayside markers. Both maps can be picked up at the Carroll County Visitor Center or requested at the above link.
In addition to the two driving tours, the visitor may experience the Civil War through a self-guided walking tour, “Corbit’s Charge,” on the Main Street of downtown Westminster. This walking tour, written by Tom LeGore, provides the background of “a small, but extremely important cavalry skirmish which took place in Westminster on June 29, 1863. The clash on the edge of town between General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry and a small unit of the Delaware cavalry was a significant factor in slowing down the General’s march. Instead of proceeding into Pennsylvania to inform General Robert E. Lee about the major Union troop movements, Stuart’s cavalry was delayed long enough to make it advisable to spend the night in the Westminster area. Historians have often wondered whether the results of the Battle of Gettysburg might have been different, if Stuart had arrived before July 2nd.” The “Corbit’s Charge” walking tour brochure can be picked up at the Carroll County Visitor Center or requested at the above link.
As part of our efforts to tell the Civil War story in context, Carroll County has partnered with Frederick and Washington Counties (to our west) to form on Maryland’s Heritage Areas: the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area (HCWHA). These three counties contain stories of families torn apart as sons went off to war to fight for their beliefs. Many of the buildings are still standing today where South met North. With eh HCWHA brochure, visitors can explore the three counties discovering the full impact the Civil War had, not only on this region, but on the entire nation. Copies of the brochure, “Heart of the Civil War” may be picked up at the Carroll County Visitor Center or mailed. You may also visit the Heart of the Civil War website at www.heartofthecivilwar.org