Monterey Pass Battlefield Park and Museum, Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. montereypassbattlefield.org
For all that we read and hear about Gettysburg, one part of that pivotal campaign is lesser known Museum, located less than 20 miles from Gettysburg, is hoping to fill some of —the armies’ retreat. The new Monterey Pass Battlefield the gaps in visitors’ experience.
On July 4, 1863, after suffering crushing losses at Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee divided his men and supplies and moved out of town, sending one section to the northwest toward Chambersburg, Pa., and the other southwest toward Monterey Pass, South Mountain and Maryland. During a raging thunderstorm in the middle of the night, one wagon train came under fire from Union cavalry under the command of Brig. Gen. H. Judson Kilpatrick. A small detachment of Maryland Confederate cavalry held off the attack for a time, but by morning more than 1,000 Confederates had been captured, and most of the wagons were destroyed. It was the second-largest Civil War battle to occur in Pennsylvania and the only one fought on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The new stone-covered Monterey Pass Battlefield Museum is located in a hamlet called Blue Ridge Summit, one of several small towns that dot the south-central Pennsylvania countryside. In addition to discussing the battle in a series of clear and well-illustrated wall panels and maps, the museum addresses how the war affected civilian life, the role of African-American soldiers, vehicles, weaponry and other topics. Artifacts on display include a Union frock coat worn by West Virginia cavalryman William Wilken, who fought at Monterey Pass, and an 1860s day dress in a striking pattern, as well as medicine tins, a bugle and a rifled musket with bayonet affixed.
There is plenty to engage children here too, including dress-up uniforms and a flip book that invites kids to consider which Civil War–era profession they would have chosen and another that illustrates the types of vehicles present during the battle. (A relatable tidbit tells us that the average wagon with a team of six horses or mules was about the same length as a modern yellow school bus.) The case containing large glass bowls full of Minié balls is also affecting, for adults and children alike, giving visitors a sense of the immensity of the destruction.
The museum is primarily the brainchild of historian John A. Miller, http://historynet.wpengine.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpthe director, and his wife Alicia, chair of the Friends of the Monterey Pass Battlefield, which has raised funds and volunteers to support the museum. As the battle occurred at night, the museum is planning several candlelight events, designed to attract Civil War visitors who may have spent the day in Gettysburg, and other exhibits. Whether they come during the day or night, this little museum is worth the trip.
Originally published in the April 2015 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.