Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Park To Open In Virginia

Va. Side of White's Ford Slated For Park

We have good news from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority on the preservation front. Park officials have announced plans to purchase a 275-acre farm on the Potomac River that includes the ford where the Army of Northern Virginia crossed into Maryland on Sept. 5-6, 1862, bringing the war to the North. Twelve days later came Antietam.

The property, near Leesburg, Va., includes the home and farm of Elijah Viers White, commander of the 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry. The ford, named for him, is a wide, shallow crossing on the river where the water is usually only a few feet deep.

On the Maryland side, the shoreline is already protected as part of the C & O Canal National Park. Re-enactors often stage a crossing on the September anniversary but have only been able to enter from the Maryland side, cross over to Virginia, then turn around and march back.

This is the place where historians often note how the Confederates entered the North, with flags held high and regimental bands playing "Maryland, My Maryland," a song written after the 1861 riots in Baltimore when Union troops were attacked as they passed through that city. The song, a powerful indictment of the federal occupation of the state, is now Maryland's state song.

Confederates were expecting hundreds to thousands of Maryland men to immediately join their cause as they marched through the state, but few did so.

White and the 35th Battalion fought in Jackson' s Valley Campaign and were among the first units to arrive at Gettysburg.

After the war, White returned to his farm, ran successfully for sheriff and took over operation of Conrad's Ferry, now known as White's Ferry. The ferry, a few miles down the river from the ford, was once one of about 100 ferries that crossed the Potomac River but is the last one still in operation today.

According to a press release, the Authority plans for White's Ford Regional Park to be used for camping, fishing and hiking and will preserve White's house.