Signs now mark Stonewall’s campaign here in preparation for Civil War 150th anniversary
by Geoff Fox
With the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War approaching, hard work is paying off for the Bath-Romney Campaign Historical & Preservation Association.
The group placed six signs about Civil War activities in Morgan County at various locations on Tuesday, March 29. They commemorate Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s Bath-Romney Campaign of January, 1862.
Three signs were put in town – one by the Country Inn and two at the War Memorial on Fairfax Street. Others were placed at Unger’s Store, Sir Johns Run and the Panorama Overlook.
West Virginia is adding 150 Civil War Trail signs this year. In addition to the six signs in Morgan County, 27 others will be placed throughout the Eastern Panhandle.
Robert Ambrose, the local man who wrote some of the text for the signs, said, “This was a big deal to get as many as we could in the ground.”
History behind the signs
The local signs describe the events of “Stonewall” Jackson during January 1862. Jackson headed north from Winchester, Va. on January 1 to remove Union forces from Bath.
He made his first camp in Morgan County at Unger’s Store, which soldiers called “Camp Mud” because snow and rain turned the fields into a quagmire.
The “Winter Refuge” sign at The Country Inn marks where the Berkeley Springs Hotel sat in 1862. Here, Jackson’s “Stonewall Brigade” commandeered the hotel for relief from the winter weather.
The signs at the war memorial commemorate “The Battle of Bath” and “Campaign in the Snow.” The memorial lists Civil War veterans from Morgan County.
Not many people realize there was actually a battle in town on January 4, 1862 when the 4th US Artillery and 39th Illinois engaged Jackson’s men.
“Campaign in the Snow” tells about Jackson’s movements, hardships and plans during the campaign.
The Sir Johns Run sign tells of the “Skirmish at Sir John’s Run.” Here, the federal garrison retreated after Jackson captured Berkeley Springs. Twelve Union troops opened fire on Confederate soldiers tearing up railroad tracks.
The sign at Panorama tells how Confederates destroyed the railroad from Great Cacapon to Hancock and forced the Union troops back to Maryland.
“It may not have been a Gettysburg, Antietam or Shiloh, but some of these guys go to the western theater later and they write about it, they talk about it repeatedly about what happened here,” Ambrose said. “It was kind of their first taste of combat and this campaign meant a lot to them.”
The state gave the money to have the signs manufactured and placed by Civil War Trails of Richmond, Va. Sponsors cover the maintenance costs.
Additional signs here would cost $2,600 per sign plus the $200 maintenance fee.
Easements were required from property owners for sign placement. These included permission from Town of Bath for the sign at the war memorial, from Morgan County for the sign in Sir Johns Run, from The Country Inn and Panorama at the Peak, and from the Richard Merica Family for the “Camp Mud” sign at Unger’s Store.
Sponsors will pay for upkeep and maintenance of the signs over the years. These now include Panorama at the Peak, The Country Inn, the Strader Family, Luke Christie the Forum for the Arts Science & Technology. Living History of New Jersey, the Bailey Family and the Bath-Romney Campaign Association itself.
“It was like we were fighting a campaign, especially in this economy.” Tricia Strader said. “We need that continuing sponsorship and we need that fund raising because it’s not a one time shot for these signs. We will have to have that $200 per year per sign or else they fall off the rolls.”
The signs are part of the Civil War Trails and promoted on brochures and at websites. West Virginia’s map guides will be unveiled in April.
“We think, certainly for the next couple of years, it will be the hottest item tourism-wise for the state of West Virginia,” said Mitch Bowman, executive director of Civil War Trails.