South Mountain Endangered
Most Endangered Battlefields 2010
South Mountain, MD - September 14, 1862
IN EARLY SEPTEMBER 1862, fresh from a tremendous victory at Second Manassas, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee launched an audacious invasion of the North, dividing his smaller army to pursue specific objectives. But when a copy of his orders, outlining the disposition of his isolated forces was discovered by Union soldiers wrapped around three cigars in a field near Frederick, Md., Federal commanders were able to move quickly against the vulnerable Confederates.
Maj. Gen. George McClellan moved against Lee at South Mountain with superior numbers and uncharacteristic boldness at the mountain passes of Crampton’s Gap, Fox’s Gap and Turner’s Gap. Although they fought savagely, the Confederates were forced to retreat by nightfall, leaving behind 2,600 casualties to the Union’s 2,300. The next day, however, rather than seizing the opportunity to destroy a portion of Lee’s army in piecemeal, McClellan’s typical meekness returned and he failed to press his advantage, setting the stage for the Battle of Antietam.
In December 2008, Dominion Power purchased 135 acres near Fox’s Gap, including the well-preserved Fox’s Tavern, where George Washington purportedly stopped for a drink in 1785. Upon taking ownership of the land, Dominion Power submitted plans for a $55 million natural gas compression station to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for consideration. After significant outcry, the process was suspended but Dominion could re-file at any time.
If pursued, the multi-story compression facility would likely be visible across much of the Middletown Valley. Similar facilities are fully enclosed by barbed wire and utilize 14,000 horse power engines for compression, producing significant noise pollutions, while releasing chemicals and particulate matter into the atmosphere. Currently zoned for agricultural, rather than industrial, uses, the land is part of a Maryland Priority Preservation Area and lies within the Mid-Maryland Rural Legacy Area. In March, Fox’s Tavern was listed by Preservation Maryland as one of the state’s 11 most endangered sites.
CWSAC has classified South Mountain as a Priority I, Class B battlefield.