History Under Siege - 2009 Most Endangered Battlefields
Battle of South Mountain
During his first invasion of the North, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee split his army into several pieces to pursue specific objectives. However, a copy of one of his orders, detailing the vulnerable disposition of his forces, fell into Union hands. His normally timid opponent, Maj. Gen. George McClellan, seized the opportunity and moved toward South Mountain.
Although Lee sent what forces he could to defend the mountain passes, he could not spare enough men. Hopelessly outnumbered Southerners fought savagely at Crampton’s Gap, Fox’s Gap and Turner’s Gap, but they were driven back from all three passes by dusk. The fighting was bloody: 2,600 Rebels and 2,300 Yankees were killed, wounded or missing. The next day, however, McClellan’s typical meekness returned and he missed a golden opportunity to destroy Lee’s army piecemeal, setting the stage for the Battle of Antietam two days later.
Like numerous other battlefields in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, South Mountain stands to be adversely affected by planned electric transmission corridors in the region. A more immediate threat, however, comes from another power industry proposal.
In late December, Dominion Power purchased a 135-acre site near Fox’s Tavern in Middletown, Md., as part of a plan to build a $55 million natural gas compression station. A previous application for a similar project drew more than 200 comments from local citizens, most of them negative, and was withdrawn. Dominion has not publicized a timeframe for the project. When a formal application is filed it will be subject to review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
CWSAC has classified South Mountain as a Priority I, Class B battlefield.