Battle of Falling Waters Site Open to All

  • ‘Battle of Falling Waters 1863 Foundation’ improved accessibility to the battlefield.
  • The Battle of Williamsport was part of the American Civil War (1861-1865).
  • The battle ended in a stalemate between the Union and the Confederate Armies.
  • Reaching the obscure battlefield has been unsafe for the public.
  • The foundation received grants of over $40,000 for the work.
  • The organization built a parking area and created historical interpretive signs.

On 4th March, 1861 Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the U.S. Amongst other decisions the popular and forward thinking president opposed the expansion of slavery into the west.

The anti-slavery stance, however, did not sit well with all and seven southern slave states challenged this. Under the presidency of Jefferson Davis, the Confederates took control of over 11 of the then 34 U.S. states. The American Civil War had just begun.

Battle of Falling Waters

The war lasted from April, 1861 to May, 1865 with heavy casualties on both sides. In the four-year-long conflict, the Union and the Confederate governments disputed, and fought over, the legality and expansion of slavery.

In total an estimated 620,000 to more than one million people died. The casualties included soldiers, free civilians, prisoners of war, and slaves. The war eventually ended with the Union bleeding the Confederacy dry in a crushing defeat. As a result, slavery was eventually abolished in the U.S.

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During the conflict countless places became battlefields in the war. Some of them even secured a place in the history books either because of heroic deeds that took place there or because of casualty numbers.

One of those places is Williamsport, Maryland. Today, the obscure site acts as an important portal to the past and thus, a non-profit organization endeavored to make it both safe and accessible for the public.

Improved Access to Williamsport Battlefield

“When you see the battlefield you can see the terrain and the ground that the men on both sides fought on. It really brings history to life. It’s one thing to look at a map or to read it in a book but to actually stand there and see it, really gives you a feel for it” – George Franks, President of Battle of Falling Waters 1863 Foundation.

The battlefield at Falling Waters has been something of a challenge to access to say the least. Often tour buses managed to reach the spot, but it remained unsafe to do so largely due to the terrain and its proximity to the Potomac River.

Eventually a non-profit organization, the Battle of Falling Waters 1863 Foundation, took the initiative to improve the battlefield’s accessibility. The organization constantly works to preserve the battlefield and to educate the visiting public.

The foundation has so far received two grants to help fix the accessibility problems. It used the first grant of $2,500 to design parking spaces and to install historic interpretive signs.  Later, a $45,000 grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority was again used to improve accessibility with footpaths and further parking. 

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The site was formally inaugurated on 27th October, 2022, at 14906 Falling Waters Road with the ribbon-cutting officially opened the car parking and footpaths to the public. George Franks, president of the foundation, informed the press that the parking area has room for one tour bus, two vehicles, and a dedicated parking spot for disabled people.

Given the improvements, people now have a better opportunity to make it to the Williamsport battlefield and witness the historic site first hand.

The battle took place on approximately 500 acres of land, however, the current preserved field occupies an area of only 3.5 acres. This was originally purchased to keep the historic portal safe and according to the president of the foundation his organisation has no plans to “gobble up” the surrounding area.

Battle of Williamsport

The Battle of Williamsport, also known as the Battle of Hagerstown or Falling Waters, took place from the 6th to the 16th July, 1863. After defeat in the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee decided to leave for Virginia with some of his troops.

Leading an army of 3000, Lee reached the Potomac River in Williamsport whereby the army had to cross the river. However, once there they found the bridge had been demolished by Union troops. Left with no choice, the general commanded his soldiers to rebuild the bridge and construct fortresses around the area whilst doing so.

Eventually, the Northern army converged on Lee’s troops and around 9,000 Union troops came head-to-head with the 3,000 Confederate soldiers.

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Consequently, the battle started at several places including Funkstown, Williamsport, Boonsboro, and Hagerstown. At the Williamsport battlefield, over 100 Northern cavalrymen assaulted the Southern soldiers as they marched along the Falling Waters Road back towards the bridge.

Amazingly, despite the conflict going on around them, Lee’s men successfully finished rebuilding the destroyed bridge. The army, although battered, was eventually able to withdraw in order and reach Virginia as Lee had originally planned.

Thus, the battle ended in a stalemate, however, according to Franks, it’s an interesting part of history none the less and therefore one well worth commemorating.