Charles Town in Jefferson County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
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Jefferson County in the Civil War
Jefferson County’s association with significant events in Civil War history began in October 1859, when abolitionist John Brown raided the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Quickly captured, Brown and his followers were brought here to Charles Town and then tried, convicted, and executed. On December 2, 1859, Brown rode by here in a light freight wagon on the way to his execution. George W. Sadler, local undertaker and cabinet-maker who also made Brown’s coffin, owned the wagon.
During the war, the county’s position at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley – the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy” – and the proximity of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad made it strategically important to both sides. Confederate troops trained in Harpers Ferry in 1861 under Col. Thomas J. Jackson, who returned in September 1862 to capture the Federal garrison just before the Battle of Antietam. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army retreated through the county after the battle, and his wounded filled buildings in Shepherdstown. In July 1864, part of Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early’s army passed through on his Washington Raid. In
Two notable Charles Town natives served in the war. R. Preston Chew, barely eighteen in 1861, raised an artillery battery and then led horse artillery under Gens. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. Martin R. Delany (1812-1885), a free black, became a writer, physician, black nationalist, and one of a few black officers in the U.S. Army in 1865; commissioned a major, he held the highest rank.
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The Jefferson County Museum was founded in 1965 to preserve the local history for future generations. The collection has gradually expanded; today, fully one-third is devoted to the Civil War. Among the historic artifacts displayed are the wagon in which John Brown rode to his execution on December 2, 1859; the flag carried by Stuart’s Horse Artillery under Charles Town native Col. R. Preston Chew; and uniforms and other memorabilia of county residents who served in the war.
Erected by West Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the West Virginia Civil War Trails series list.
Location. 39° 17.408′ N, 77° Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 200 E Washington Street, Charles Town WV 25414, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. John Yates Beall (within shouting distance of this marker); The Flagg House (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The First School for "Colored" in Jefferson County (about 500 feet away); Zion Episcopal Churchyard (about 500 feet away); The James H. Webb House (about 600 feet away); John Frederick Blessing (about 600 feet away); Sergeant Littleton Tazewell Cordell (about 600 feet away); George Washington Turner (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Charles Town.
More about this marker. The lower left of the marker contains a picture of Charles Town from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, Nov. 19, 1859 – Courtesy of Richard A. Wolfe. Near this is a portrait of Maj. Martin R. Delany, courtesy National Portrait Gallery. The right side of the marker contains a map which highlights significant Civil War Sites in Jefferson County, WV, many of which are interpreted by Civil War Trail signage.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on April 13, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,005 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 13, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.