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Southern Maryland, where History Comes Alive.

Article by John Pelley

Southern Maryland lays East and South of Washington, DC. We had heard of an Amish community located in East Charles County. Of course, the first order of business was to find their bulk store. Unless you are part of the community or among the cognoscenti, you will never find it. There are no signs designating such a store. Even when we stopped at the library, less than three miles from the store, we were astounded by the lack of knowledge of the librarians. They, however, asked a young Amish gentleman standing at the copy machine and he gave the directions. The store is on Glock Road, off of Rte 6. We went by it by a couple of miles and had to backtrack. Glock Road is paved for twenty feet and then turns into a single lane dirt lane, which leads to a farm. Unless there is a razor wire topped fence or concrete barriers, or sentries with ferocious guard dogs, I go in where angels fear to tread. In the yard were a man and woman, obviously not Amish, in conversation. I asked if this was Pineview Grocery. They pointed to a low building with a wheelchair accessible ramp. On the door was a small sign, which read open.

We walked into the store no lights of course) and were greeted by a young lady in Amish attire. We had hit the mother lode. Not only were there the usual assortment of groceries, there was also the Raspberry trail mix, of which we had grown so fond. (.90 per pound in bulk) There were also wheels of baby Swiss cheese (.85 per pound). Both Mags and I were in pig-out heaven. Having our treasures in hand we left Amish territory for historical Southern Maryland.

Our goal was Point Lookout, some forty miles to the South East. Jutting out into the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, The location made it the perfect place to observe ship movements during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the area was a POW camp for more than 52,000 Confederate prisoners. More than 3500 died from disease and other conditions. (Bet you didn’t know that. I had never heard about it). They were also forced to build Fort Lincoln, an earthwork fortress erected to keep an eye on the prisoners and to monitor ship movements up the Potomac River to Washington DC. Today it is a State Park perfect for relaxing at the shore, while the waves wash against the rocks. This is quite a contrast to the moans of the wounded and diseased of one hundred and fifty years ago. A monument to the dead commemorates the events, which occurred.

We started our return trip back to home. We were beginning to get hungry (the trail mix helped, but did not satisfy). We had to pass through historic St. Mary’s City, the first capital of Maryland, founded in 1634 by Leonard Calvert and company. Today it is the home of St Mary’s College, a coed institution, and a reconstruction of some buildings of the old capital. Ironically, we found no restaurants or fast food outlets (a surprise for a college town). There were, however, plenty of bait stores. People must catch their own lunch.

We finally found some food at a grocery store/bar and grill. The bartender went into the store at the Deli counter and made us sandwiches. Having been fed, we took a side trip to Piney Point Lighthouse. After W.W.I, the river from here to Point Lookout was a testing ground for torpedoes built in nearby Alexandria, VA.

Our next stop was Fort Tobacco, a major port for the export of tobacco in the nineteenth century. Today the town is landlocked: the river having been closed because of silt. The courthouse on what was once was the main square is one of the few buildings still standing from the town’s heyday. The significance of the town is that it was mapped out by John Smith from Jamestown, VA, and was a thriving community for over 150 years.

A short distance from Port Tobacco stands Thomas Stone’s house, Haberdeventure. Thomas Stone was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He was a moderate and mediated much of the deliberations between the Northern and Southern Colonies. To say the least, he was a political rising star and might have followed John Adams as the third president of the United States. Circumstances dictated a different course to his life. His wife became chronically ill, most probably due to mercury poisoning from medications she took while sick. He chose to be at her side and so stayed out of national politics. He remains a forgotten patriot. We were the only visitors to the house that day. The National Park Service Rangers gave us an in depth history of the property and of Thomas Stone’s life.

We went ten odd miles to Dr. Mudd’s house. Dr. Mudd, to refresh your minds, was the man who set John Wilkes Booth’s leg the night of President Lincoln’s assassination. Some think that he was a coconspirator to the killing. But the evidence seems to negate this. We spent over two hours talking with the docent, who took most of her information from the book, “The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd” written by Dr Mudd’s daughter, Netti Mudd, with the help of his wife, Sarah. The book contradicts some of the testimony from his military trial, albeit being a civilian. After his conviction the was transferred to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas Islands off the coast of Florida, instead of being shipped to a Federal Prison in upstate New York. This put him out of jurisdiction for an appeal. After saving hundreds of prisoners and jailers from a yellow fever epidemic, which swept through the prison, the soldier guards petitioned President Johnson to grant a pardon. The president never received the petition. So they sent it to Mrs. Mudd, who then received an audience with the President. Undergoing impeachment proceedings, President Johnson had more pressing issues on his mind. Before he left office he did pardon Dr. Mudd.

Members of the Mudd family, itself, have continuously occupied the house, even to this day. Many of the furnishings are original or from that period. The house and the events, which occurred there are a historic insight into the vengeful mindset of the public and the Union’s military after Lincoln’s assassination.

About the Author

John Pelley is a Geriatric Gypsy. He is retired from the rat race of working. He is a full-time RVer, who ran away from home. He began our travels on the East Coast and, like the migrating birds, seek the warmth of the seasons He has discovered volunteering with the National Park System. He has a CD he has recorded of Native American flute music., A Day with Kokopelli. For pictures, links, and more information visit http://www.jmpelley.org.

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