Monday, September 16, 2019

History up close: A Maryland man's presidential connection

Donald Shank holds an image of Rutherford Hayes given to his grandfather by Hayes' son.
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Donald Shank lives in a circa-1840 house in Middletown, Md., that has a direct connection to the Civil War. About sunset on Sept. 14, 1862, a disheveled and mud-spattered Union officer — wounded at nearby Fox’s Gap during the Battle of South Mountain — was taken to the brick house astride the main road through town. Carried up a narrow staircase to an upstairs bedroom, the man was later joined by his wife, who helped nurse him back to health. The Ohio lieutenant colonel — Rutherford B. Hayes — became the 19th U.S. president in 1877.

Years later, Hayes’ son visited with Shank’s grandfather at the residence — he lived there, too — and gave him an image of his father in uniform. Shank, who was born in the historic house and has lived in it since 1960 with his wife Lois, posed for me with the framed photo, a family heirloom. The couple was gracious during my short visit two years ago. (Read my Civil War Times column on Hayes.)

Early 20th-century postcard of  Jacob Rudy house, where Rutherford Hayes recovered from battle wounds.


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