Greenbrier River Battlefield in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

Visit the remnants of a Civil War camp with a picturesque view of the Allegheny Mountains

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The Battle of Greenbrier River (Camp Bartow) was fought on October 3, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Henry R. Jackson in Pocahontas County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was inconclusive and despite 95 total casualties, both sides returned to their camps to fight another day.

After Gen. Robert E. Lee and Brig. Gen. William W. Loring’s ineffectual and ultimately aborted attack on the Union army camped on Cheat Mountain in mid-September, Union Brig. Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds planned a counter-attack on Confederate forces at Camp Bartow on the Greenbrier River. A victory there would end Confederate resistance along the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, which linked Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River.

On October 3rd, Reynolds led his approximately 5,000-man brigade against Brig. Gen. Henry R. Jackson’s 1,800 (Jackson’s ranks had been thinned by sickness). Early that morning, Confederate skirmishers detected Reynolds’ advance and spoiled his surprise. Despite four hours of artillery bombardment and assaults on both flanks, Jackson held firm. His men were dug-in on a hill with a commanding view of Union forces below.

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Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia

Laurel Hill Cemetery, 3822 Ridge Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is the second oldest rural cemetery in the nation. It was established in 1836 on 74 acres of land overlooking the Schuylkill River. Its lovely neoclassical gatehouse was designed in a Roman Doric style by architect John Notman (1810-1865). Laurel Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1998.

Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer (1726-1777)

Brig. Gen. Hugh Mercer (1726-1777) was a Scottish-American physician who settled in Fredericksburg, Virginia and was a personal friend of George Washington. He fought in the French and Indian War and in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, where he was killed at the Battle of Princeton.

Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade (1815-1872)

Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade (1815-1872), nicknamed the “Old Snapping Turtle,” is most famous for commanding the Union Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Gettysburg. He commanded the V Corps during the Battle of Fredericksburg and replaced Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker as commander of the army. His star faded after Gettysburg, however, as General Ulysses S. Grant personally directed operations in the Eastern Theater. He made Philadelphia his home and died of pneumonia brought on by his old war wounds.

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The Battle of Fort Slongo, Oct. 1780

George Washington personally awarded a Badge of Military Merit to a soldier wounded in the attack on Fort Slongo, making him the first recipient of what became known as the Purple Heart.

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The Battle of Fort Slongo (aka Salonga) was fought on October 3, 1781 between American patriot forces commanded by Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge and British forces defending Fort Salonga on Long Island, New York during the American Revolutionary War. The Americans were successful in capturing the fort and all its supplies.

In the fall of 1781, the Continental Army was eager to strike a blow against British-occupied Long Island. Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge chose 50 men from Cpt. Richards’ company and 50 dismounted dragoons commanded by Cpt. Edgar to make an attack on the lightly garrisoned Fort Slongo. Maj. Trescott volunteered to lead the attack. The fort’s commander, Maj. Vanalstine, had gone to New York City and was not present at the battle.

Each force had a different mission. Edgar’s men would assault the garrison, while Richards’ men would surround it and make sure no one escaped. A picked group of ten dragoons led the attack, followed by Maj. Trescott and Cpt. Edgar and the remaining dragoons. The assault began at 3am and was over quickly. The Patriots captured 21 men and one brass cannon, while only sustaining one casualty.

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Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: West Virginia's Dark Tourist Destination

A menagerie of tortured souls is said to lurk in these corridors.

Designed by Baltimore architect Richard Snowden Andrews in Gothic and Tudor Revival styles, construction on the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum began in 1858. Its main building was laid out according to the Kirkbride plan, brainchild of Superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane Thomas Story Kirkbride. Kirkbride theorized that exposure to natural light and fresh air would aid in curing the mentally ill, so he designed a long, narrow hospital with staggered wings extending outward from the center. The furthest wings were reserved for the most violent or disturbed patients.

In 1861, the Civil War’s outbreak interrupted construction on Virginia’s new asylum as Union troops seized its construction funds from a local bank (totaling nearly $30,000.00 in gold) and used them to help fund a pro-Union Virginia government in Wheeling. When West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1863 and was admitted to the Union, the new state government renamed it the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane. Construction on the sprawling grounds, with everything the hospital needed to be a self-sustaining community, wasn’t completed until 1881.

Originally designed to accommodate 250 patients in relatively comfortable surroundings with plenty of natural light and fresh air, conditions at the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane slowly deteriorated into a horror show. During the 1950s, its population peaked at a staggering 2,600 patients, with state and medical officials resorting to lobotomy to reduce overcrowding. Lobotomy was a procedure designed to make patients docile by severing connections in the frontal lobe of the brain. Though I couldn’t find any concrete numbers, it’s believed over a thousand lobotomies were performed there.

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Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park in Summersville, West Virginia

This Civil War battle was crucial to ending Confederate influence in western Virginia and securing its independence as a new state.

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The Battle of Carnifex Ferry was fought on September 10, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William Rosecrans and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd in Nicholas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory and resulted in approximately 188 total casualties.

After defeating an isolated Union regiment at the Battle of Kessler’s Cross Lanes on August 26, 1861, Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd and his 2,000-man brigade withdrew a few miles south and fortified their camp at Carnifex Ferry. Meanwhile, Union Brig. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, camped at Clarksburg, Virginia (today, West Virginia) sought to end this Confederate threat in the Kanawha Valley.

Nearly two weeks after the defeat at Kessler’s Cross Lanes, Rosecrans marched three brigades, totaling approximately 5,000 men, to Carnifex Ferry. Despite being at a numerical disadvantage, Floyd, a former Governor of Virginia and former U.S. Secretary of War, repulsed numerous attempts to storm the defensive works for over four hours. At around 7pm, Rosecrans called off the assault, but his cannon still menaced the defenders. Floyd decided he couldn’t hold the ferry without reinforcements, so he withdrew the next morning.

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Fort Drum Specters Preserve the Past

Locals say ghosts refuse to allow the past to remain buried at this military base in Upstate New York.

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I was stationed at Fort Drum for over three years. When I wasn’t freezing my rear-end off during field exercises in the training area, I was researching the area’s history and lore. Like Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona, Fort Drum has its share of ghost stories, but because it’s a military base, its haunted sites aren’t readily available to the public. This seclusion lends an air of mystery to these already strange tales.

Fort Drum and its training area sprawls over 14 square miles of Jefferson County, New York, which shares a waterway with Canada. Relations with our neighbor to the north have not always been so friendly, and nearby Sackets Harbor served as a naval shipyard as far back as 1809. The US Army established Fort Pike and the Madison Barracks during the War of 1812 to defend the harbor. Nearly a century later, the Army opened Pine Camp several miles south along the Black River near Watertown, New York.

In 1940 and ’41, Pine Camp rapidly expanded as the Second World War threatened to drag the United States into another international conflict. The expansion displaced 525 families, swallowed five villages, and left over 3,000 buildings abandoned. The estate of James Le Ray, son of Revolutionary War hero Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont, was appropriated by the military base. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

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Camp Allegheny Battlefield in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

Visit a Civil War site in the Monongahela National Forest with breathtaking views of Allegheny Mountain vistas.

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The Battle of Camp Allegheny (Allegheny Mountain) was fought on December 13, 1861 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy and Confederate forces commanded by Col. Edward Johnson in Pocahontas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a Confederate victory, although the Confederates abandoned their position a few months later. It resulted in 283 total casualties.

As 1861 came to a close after a string of defeats, the Confederate position in western Virginia was precarious. Since mid-July, Union and Confederate forces had stared at each other from camps at opposite mountaintops: the Federals at Cheat Mountain and Confederates at Allegheny Mountain.

Both sides sought to control the strategic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike (an early toll road) and Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which linked Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley with the Ohio River. They had fought two skirmishes at Greenbrier Ford earlier that fall, and by December, Brig. Gen. Robert H. Milroy was determined to push his foe off Allegheny Mountain and secure the turnpike for the Union once and for all.

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Does a ‘Female Stranger’ Still Linger at Gadsby’s Tavern Museum?

After more than 200 years, the mystery of the ‘Female Stranger’ continues to fascinate visitors to this Alexandria, Virginia landmark. Some say her ghost never left.

Alexandria, Virginia is an old town filled with historic buildings, populated by ghosts and legends. No less than 49 sites in Alexandria are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Perhaps the most legendary is Gadsby’s Tavern at the corner of Cameron and Royal streets. Its mysterious tale of the “Female Stranger” has confounded local historians and folklorists for over 200 years.

In the late 1700s, Alexandria was the social center of northern Virginia. Charles and Anne Mason first recognized the potential for a tavern and opened a business at the corner of Royal and Cameron streets. With the end of the Revolutionary War, an entrepreneur named John Wise built a new tavern in 1785 and a hotel in 1792, red brick buildings which still exist to this day. John Gadsby leased and operated the establishments from 1796 to 1808, when Alexandria became part of the new Federal District of Washington, DC.

In those early years, Gadsby’s Tavern hosted travelers from all over the colonies, including prominent men like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and the Marquis de Lafayette. It was considered a premier establishment, hosting parties and balls in its large hall. It was during this heyday when the legend of the mysterious “Female Stranger” took root.

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