Ellicott City is set to celebrate the installation of markers that teach visitors about Civil War history.

Retracing the steps of soldiers

July 08, 2005|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Muskets will fire, fifes and drums will play and a Union solider will face a mock court-martial this weekend as eight Ellicott City sites celebrate the area's Civil War heritage.

"We are just looking to engage visitors ... and to introduce them to our history, which is fascinating," said Adele Air, historic sites coordinator for the county's Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Historic Ellicott City Consortium, which is a program of the county parks department, is organizing the event. It celebrates the completion of a two-year effort to install several informational signs in Howard County that are part of the statewide Civil War Trails program.

The signs join dozens in Baltimore and surrounding counties, erected by the Maryland Office of Tourism, that invite visitors to explore the area's Civil War history.

"It is basically an old-fashioned road trip where you retrace the footsteps of the blue and the gray," said Rachelina Bonacci, executive director of Howard County Tourism.

Her office worked with other local groups to research the history, boil it down to 250 words and find photographs for the signs.

The Howard County portion of the trail "has almost been two years in the making," she said. "This weekend really is a celebration."

One sign at the Howard County Visitor Center on Main Street in Ellicott City offers an introduction to the trail.

A sign at Patapsco Female Institute discusses the school's importance in educating young women from the North and South. That sign will be dedicated at 10 a.m. Saturday with a ceremony featuring a division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The institute will also be the site of a mid-Victorian costume ball fund-raiser Saturday night with period music, dancing and refreshments.

According to the Civil War Trails guide, the B&O Railroad Station, through which troops and supplies traveled, was guarded by Union soliders. The Thomas Isaac Log Cabin, built in 1780, stood amid the tensions between the North and South. The Ellicott City Colored School was built by African-American veterans after the war.

All three have trail signs detailing their role in Civil War history and will offer programs this weekend.

In Howard County, signs have also been erected at Elkridge Furnace Inn, Savage Mill, the Thomas Viaduct on the Patapsco River, and at Routes 97 and 144 commemorating the Battle of Cooksville. The final sign, at Oakland Manor in Columbia, was installed last week.

The Howard County Historical Society Museum does not have a trail marker, but it will play host to a living-history demonstration of a Union court-martial at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and a lecture by author Daniel Carroll Toomey at 2 p.m. Sunday. Toomey will also appear at the B&O museum Saturday.

The historical society, perched on Court Avenue on a hill above the town, has a collection of records, including troop rolls and black history resources that are used by individuals researching genealogy, said Michael Walczak, executive director.

"It's not used every day, but there is quite a bit of interest," he said. This weekend, "We are hoping to get some people who wouldn't normally make the trek up from Main Street."

The Heritage Orientation Center, behind the Isaac cabin, has a display of history of early Ellicott Mills -the town's original name. Mount Ida, which serves as the visitor center for Patapsco Female Institute, will feature a display of mid-Victorian fashions by its living-history group, Almira's Polite Society, and a demonstration of mid-Victorian parlor games Sunday.

Jacquelyn Galke, executive director of Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, said she has enjoyed working with the other sites in town. "I think it will be a fantastic opportunity for all of the historic sites to be open and to work together in preserving history and educating the community," she said.

Events are scheduled at eight locations in Ellicott City from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Schedules and information are available at the Thomas Issac Log Cabin, 8398 Main St., 410-313-1413, or the Howard County Visitor Center, 8267 Main St. (side entrance), 800-288-8747.

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