Tom McGrath looks over the Shepherdstown battlefield in West Virginia. The Ticonderoga man, who has written a book on the battle, is part of an effort to preserve the historic site.
continued Congressional action takes time. Since 2004 a private group has acquired easements for more than 100 acres of the battlefield while efforts to gain National Park status have continued.
“We’re at the point now where the National Park Service is writing its final report with a recommendation that will be submitted to Congress,” McGrath said. “I expect a decision by Congress next spring. I’m optimistic.”
McGrath, who has bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s degree in Civil War Studies from the American Military University, expects the Shepherdstown battlefield will become part of either the Antietam or Harper’s Ferry national historic sites. Both are nearby.
The Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc. is a non-profit organization working with McGrath to preserve the Shepherdstown battlefield. It can be found online at www.battleofshepherdstown.org
The 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown, the final fight in the Maryland Campaign, may have changed the course of the Civil War. The Confederate campaign’s goal was to win support of the citizens of Maryland and to win a military engagement in the north. It was hoped those accomplishments would convince the governments of England and France to recognize the legitimacy of the Confederacy.
Following the Confederate defeat at Antietam Sept. 17, 1862 — the bloodiest day in American history with 23,000 casualties — the Army of Northern Virginia retreated across the Potomac River, about a mile east of Shepherdstown, which was then still part of Virginia. To cover the retreat, Gen. Robert E. Lee left Maj. Gen. William Pendleton in command of artillery and infantry troops on the south shore of the river.
At the same time Lee sent the cavalry under Gen. JEB Stuart to find another ford of the Potomac. Lee had plans to again attack Union forces and continue the Maryland Campaign.