Sunday, September 27, 2015

Off the beaten path: Site of makeshift Confederate hospital

St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Brownsville, Md., near the South Mountain battlefield.
The inside of the church, which was burned by the Union army and re-built in 1869.

Skeletal remains were found near the church
 duringroad construction and re-buried
 in the church cemetery.
On my way from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to Boonsboro, Md., last Sunday, I stopped at this beautiful, little church. It was a perfect day: deep blue skies, temperature in the low 70s, low humidity.

Like most old buildings in the area, this one has a rich history. St. Luke's Episcopal Church in tiny Brownsville, Md., was used as a makeshift hospital by the Rebels after they retreated from fighting nearby at Crampton's Gap and elsewhere in mid-September 1862. Even more brutal fighting in Sharpsburg, Md., just 10 miles from here, was still days away.

Unshaven for several days and wearing a ragged pair of shorts, I wasn't exactly dressed for church when I walked up the steep steps to the entrance shortly before the service began. But a parishioner kindly answered my questions. He told me about a man from Georgia who visited once with his ancestor's Civil War diary, which noted that amputated arms and limbs of Rebel wounded were piled high outside the church.The Union army burned the church in September 1862 and it remained a shell until it was rebuilt in 1869. A burned beam from the original building is in the  church hall. 

In the 1970s, skeletal remains were found during road construction near the church, perhaps the remains of slaves or Civil War soldiers. They were re-buried in the church cemetery and marked with a stone. Take the back roads the next time you are in the area. You never know what you might discover.
A deep blue sky provided a nice backdrop for this image of St. Luke's and the church cemetery.

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