Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lost Roads of the Maryland Campaign--Part 1

The maps and photographs in this post are the first installment in a series of occasional posts on "lost roads" of the Maryland Campaign. Anyone driving the byways and highways that criss-cross Montgomery, Frederick, and Washington Counties in that state will find remnants and evidence of routes traversed in 1862 but now abandoned. Over the past century-and-a-half, as state and county highway departments straightened roads and leveled grades, the 1862 routes have been either widened, paved over, and otherwise obliterated.

Route 355. Maryland Route 355 (Rockville Pike) bisecting Montgomery County is an example. The ancient trace that the Army of the Potomac, including Sumner's II Corps, followed out of its camps in Tenally Town, District of Columbia now hosts a six lane highway providing consumers access to wall-to-wall malls. But as you continue along Rte. 355 northward to Frederick, once past the Rockville and Gaithersburg suburbs the route narrows to a two lane highway through the still small towns of Hyattstown and Urbana. While the two-laner now evokes the original road, the highway engineer's quest to smooth and straighten the horse track for the automobile is evident and even memorialized. Just south of the point where the route skirts the Monocacy Battlefield, is a stone monument that celebrates the successful straightening of the ancient road. 

The road taken. In the 1920s a segment of the original Frederick road was abandoned by the straightening of Maryland
Route 355. In this north facing view, a stone boulder and roadside marker shown here now marks this feat.
The original Frederick road continues on the left while Maryland Route 355 runs on the right.
Despite the endeavors of the engineers,  every so often you can still make out a trace of an original road left abandoned by straightening and grading. This is the case on Route 355 and it is the case on many of the routes that lead to Sharpsburg. Sometimes these abandoned sections are easy to spot; other times you can just make out the old road now filled with brambles and trees.

The Upper Bridge Approach. The first post in the "lost road" series is about the original route from Keedysville to the Upper Bridge. This route at some point was truncated and the approach to the bridge abandoned. Today the only way to go is by way of Pry Mill--a route also available in 1862--and the original direct route is now impassable.

Map of the Battlefield of Antietam No. 1. Antietam Board, 1893. In 1862, the most direct route from Keedysville
to the Upper Bridge a direct westerly route out of town. At some point in the past 151 years, this direct route
was truncated and the approach to the bridge abandoned. The present day Coffman Farm Road traces the
original route from Keedysville, across Rte. 34, and then to its truncated spur now abandoned. Numerical
references (in red) refer to photos below.

Google Earth map of present day Coffman Farm Road. Red route
parallels the current road. Blue route traces the now-abandoned bridge approach.

View of the lost Keedysville Road looking east from vantage point 1 (see map above).
View  looking east from vantage point 2.

View at vantage point 3  looking west toward the Upper Bridge just beyond the vehicle. 
Since these photos were taken in 2011, wind storms have brought down a significant 
number of trees on the abandoned road bed. The route, however, can still be 
traversed albeit with more difficulty than in 2011.


Anonymous said...

Jim, I am really excited about this series! Can't wait to see your other entries.

Jim Buchanan said...

Thanks! for your comment. Will be putting up some more this week.