Imagine a young boy growing up on this plantation which would soon sit at the dividing line between north and south. How would your life change when war came? Will you even survive? What would happen to your familiy? These are some of the stories of the families that lived at Ferry Hill. When John Blackford died in 1839, he divided his holdings amongst his children. Eventually, the Reverend Robert Douglas who had married Blackford’s daughter, Helena, would come to be owner of the home. When Douglas came to Ferry Hill, he and Helena brought three children, including a son from Douglas’ first marriage named Henry Kyd Douglas. Henry would become one of the most famous residents of Ferry Hill, known for his service in the Civil War serving as the youngest staff officer to Stonewall Jackson. Henry’s memoirs would later be found in the attic of this home and published into one of the best accounts of the war called, “I Rode With Stonewall.” Henry had gone off to college in Pennsylvania but when Virginia seceded from the union on April 17, 1861, he returned home to see his family and then went off to Harpers Ferry to join Company B of the 2nd Virginia. Ironically, his first duty was as a sentry on the C&O Canal towpath. Later, his first mission would be to return to Shepherdstown and set fire to the old bridge that once stood below this hill to prevent union troops from crossing. In his memoirs he wrote:
I was with the regiment that marched to Shepherdstown to destroy the bridge over the Potomac at that point. I was with company that set fire to it, and when, in the glare of the burning timbers, I saw the glowing windows in my home on the hill beyond the river and knew my father was a stockholder in the property I was helping to destroy, I realized that war had begun.
Indeed Ferry Hill would be right in the midst of the Civil War. At varying times, the property and the home would be occupied by both Union or Confederate soldiers. As Confederates retreated after the Battle of Antietam they were pursued by Union soldiers, some of which perched upon this very lawn. Because the Douglases had sons in the Confederate Army and were known as southern sympathizers, the Union kept close watch on the family. One night, Henry’s mother was tending to a sick family member upstairs. Just as she walked by the window carrying a candle, the shutter blew open. The following day, the Union soldiers stationed at Ferry Hill arrested Henry’s father, Reverend Douglas, and accused him of signaling across the river to the Confederates. They arrested him and transported him to Fort McHenry. There were no formal charges and Reverend Douglas would be sent back to Ferry and placed on house arrest. When the Civil War was over, Henry became owner of Ferry Hill but never returned to live here. He instead moved to Hagerstown, MD to practice law. He transferred the property to his sister Nannie Cowan Beckenbaugh. Now please walk to the side porch and listen to stop four.