"SOUTH MOUNTAIN, PRELUDE TO ANTIETAM" Burkittsville by mtncorg

Burkittsville Travel Guide: 9 reviews and 30 photos

Burkittsville is a small town located along the eastern base of South Mountain, one of the northern extensions of the Blue Ridge of Virginia. The village had a recent bout of fame when the popular movie 'The Blair Witch Project' was filmed around here. I use this VT geographical location to bring a few tips for several spots located on South Mountain, in general. Gathland State Park and the War Correspondents' Arch is very close by - just up the hill from the town in Crampton's Gap. Tips for Fox's Gap, Turner's Gap, Maryland Heights and the Washington Monument are a little further a field. I came here to see the old battlefields of South Mountain, a battle which preceded and lead directly to the much larger affair at Antietam, a few miles to the west. It is somehow appropriate that would-be horror film projects today take place in forests where the ghosts of the past still wander.

The battle of South Mountain resulted after Union commander George McClellan came upon a set of orders from Confederate Gen. Robert Lee setting out marching orders for the rebel army as they separated into different directions in an attempt to capture the Federal garrison at nearby Harpers Ferry and to prepare for possible future moves towards Pennsylvania. McClellan was a very cautious commander who normally moved his army - the Army of the Potomac - at an extremely deliberate pace, something which Lee hoped to take advantage of. When the 'lost orders' were found, McClellan pushed forward - still managing to waste a crucial day - in an attempt to crush isolated units of Lee's army. Lee used South Mountain to screen his movements from Federal forces, placing units in the various passes - known locally as 'gaps'. Union forces pushed through three separate passes - Crampton's, Fox's and Turner's - surprising Lee with the uncommon speed and determination that McClellan showed. The Rebel forces were pushed out of all three passes, but time was gained for Lee to concentrate most of his forces nearby at Sharpsburg where the battle of Antietam was soon to take place.

There are several memorials to the battle at the separate battlefields along with a few other unique features. The Appalachian Trail links all the monuments together for those who prefer to travel at a 19th century speed of travel. Must See Tips are presented in geographical order - south to north. For those interested in the battlefields, I recommend the "US War College Guides to the Civil War; Guide to the Battle of Antietam" from Jay Luvass and Harold Nelson". This book enables you to look at the different fields through the eyes of the participants. Excellent driving directions are contained throughout. Approximately the first third of the book is devoted to happenings on South Mountain. by following the routes given in the book for both the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, you can enjoy the civilian equivalent of the Army's Staff Ride, a custom still followed today on the fields of Antietam and Gettysburg. You can also use the new map from Trailhead Graphics, 'Civil War Campaign Across the Potomac' which includes Turner's, Fox' and Crampton's Gap along with Monocacy Battlefield and Harpers Ferry.

  • Intro Updated Jul 11, 2007
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