City of Williamsport, MD – Doubleday Hill gets new carriages and barrels refurbished
When War broke out in 1861 Williamsport, MD was a booming Canal town in Western Maryland that bordered the state of Virginia with the mighty Potomac River in between the two. The town’s population was around 2000 citizens and there was commerce coming in and out of the town coming off the many canal boats that traveled parallel to the Potomac between the grain rich fields of central Maryland to the coal fields of Cumberland and Western Maryland. Though not the county seat it was at the time the commercial center of Washington County. Williamsport offered great amenities to any military force by having a working ferry system, two functioning river fords, rich and fertile crops, a working distillery, and the lifeline of supplies with the Chesepeake and Ohio Canal. The town was divided in their loyalties but eventually weighed more to support the Union.
After firing the first shot at Fort Sumter and later surrendering the fort then Captain Abner Doubleday left his position and returned to New York where he was soon promoted to Major in the 17th US Infantry. The 17th along with many other troops were sent out to Williamsport Maryland to guard the many vulnerable crossings against the Confederate Army then led by Stonewall Jackson and J E B Stuart who were amassing just across the river in Virginia. Major Doubleday was placed in charge of the artillery and in Williamsport built a battery at the edge of a piece of property used as the town cemetery and farmland overlooking the Potomac into Virginia. He placed in service 3 siege guns and maintained the position for several months. In time Union troops had entered into Virginia and brought the fight to the Confederates. At the same time Major Doubleday learned that his position did not offer the best guarding of the river since it curved sharply upriver and an invading force could have crossed undetected. Due to this, the position was abandoned. The rest of Doubleday’s career is very documented and as far as we know he never returned to Williamsport.
Williamsport and its crossings were used multiple times throughout the war. General Banks crossed his army here to take on Jackson during the Valley Campaign; When General Lee split his forces during the Maryland Campaign Jackson’s Corp left Lee and he marched his army west and crossed at Williamsport on his marathon to the Harpers Ferry Arsenal. During the Gettysburg Campaign Lee’s army crossed south of Williamsport but on his troublesome retreat after the battle his troops were caught in Williamsport due to a major flood and the destruction of his pontoon bridge at Falling Waters. For 10 days after the battle the Confederate Army fought all around the Williamsport area while at the same time reconstructing their bridge and caring for the sick and dying. When the water receded General Ewells Corp crossed the Potomac as well in Williamsport. Throughout the war Williamsport was fired upon by one side or the other at least 9 different times.
Williamsport provided many soldiers to the war effort most notably the men of the Potomac Home Brigade, 1st MD Cavalry Company I, 3rd Maryland Infantry Co. B., 13th Maryland Infantry, and multiple others. As you will find their gravestones in the Riverview Cemetery multiple colored soldiers as well served their country and lived their final days in Williamsport.
In 1897 Senator McComas along with town officials procured three 3 inch ordinance rifle tubes to be set up in honor of the men who served, fought, and died during the war. These three tubes were mounted on brick mounts and placed atop the original location of Doubleday’s Battery. At the same time the original powder bunker was still there and used for the display as well. The hill, then called Battery Hill was dedicated on July 4 1897 and involved a parade with politicians and local groups celebrating the men from the past. Throughout time the hill and the cannons remained and it was eventually renamed Doubleday Hill in honor of the man who occupied the site during the war.
110 years after the hill was dedicated the tubes and mounts had remained. The bunker had been filled in or covered over but the tubes were still there. They had been a local landmark that every town local had spent time at and the most notable Civil War landmark in Williamsport. At the time the tubes had been vandalized and corrosion was taking place. For fear of theft and further damage Mayor John Slayman had the tubes placed in the garage of town hall and had replica plastic cannons put in their place. Finally after extensive work, the Town of Williamsport received a matching grant from the Maryland Department of Planning and the Maryland Historical Trust to have the original tubes refurbished and mounted on #1 carriages and be placed back on Doubleday Hill where they belong. This along with the inclusion of interpretive markers and the creation of a guided Civil War tour was all a part of this wonderful grant. Our goal is to re-dedicate Doubleday Hill on July 4 2013 marking the 115th anniversary of the hill and the 152nd anniversary of Doubleday being on the hill.
Steen Cannons will be refurbishing the tubes and mounting two of them onto aluminum #1 carriages for outdoor display on Doubleday Hill. The third tube will be mounted onto a wooden #1 carriage and be used for educational programs, interpretive displays, and occasionally brought back to the hill where it will be displayed and fired with the other cannons.
Steen Cannon & Ordnance Works are refurbishing 3 original 3-inch ordnance rifles and will be mounting them on new all aluminum gun carriages to be displayed on Doubleday Hill.