You are now standing at the top of Ferry Hill Trail. The trail is about a quarter mile and has a few switchbacks to ease the steepness. The trail is clearly marked and is a short walk, yet with a moderate slope, so please use caution. At the bottom of this trail, continue to the left to reach the C&O Canal towpath near Lock 38. When you arrive on the towpath, look to your left to imagine the town of Bridgeport that used to be a thriving little community near the ferry. You can still find old foundations of buildings that had been there before most were destroyed by multiple floods. From the top of this trail, span the property one more time. You are close to the old Orchard and the old garden. Remember all the people who lived here at Ferry Hill and their stories. Remember Henry Kyd Douglas leaving this Maryland plantation to join the Confederate Army, right across the Potomac River that sits at the bottom of this hill. Imagine what it would be like to leave your family and be so close to them at times, yet unable to reach them because of the division of the states. Several times during the Civil War, Henry would return to Shepherdstown and gaze upon his home. After the retreat from Antietam, Douglas had received permission to take leave to see his family. When he arrived in Shepherdstown, he wrote:
“From there just over the Potomac on equal eminence I saw rifle pits on the lawn and a piece or two of light artillery, and soldiers in blue lying sunning themselves on the stone wall and in possession generally. I saw my father come out of the house and walk down to the burned barn. It was not a cheerful sight…” (Excerpt from I Rode With Stonewall)
What would it be like to see the enemy perched upon a hill at your home and know that your parents were surrounded by your enemy?
At another time, as Douglas and his courier descended from Shepherdstown to the Potomac to allow his horse to drink, he was taunted by Union Soldiers who were telling him to cross the river. His courier became upset and yelled to the Union Soldiers that if they knew who he was, they would understand what it was like to be so close to your home and to not be able to visit. Realizing that the solider was Douglas and that they were at his home, they called for him to cross in safety and that they would bring his mother to the bottom of the hill to visit. Still apprehensive and fearing he would be captured; he rowed his boat only to the center of the river. As the soldiers had promised, they brought his mother down from the top of this hear, perhaps near where you are standing now. Henry wrote:
“Very soon my mother was seen descending the hill, but father, being under parole not to leave the premises, could not come without permission. My mother came to me, pale, trembling, breathless – thinking that I was a prisoner and she the victim of a cruel joke. As she came across the canal and over the towpath, the hilarious cavalrymen were almost hushed and taking my courier with them they passed her with uncovered heads and went and sat on the banks of the canal out of hearing.” (Excerpt from I Rode With Stonewall)
Their embrace and secret meeting were short, for Henry’s mother still did not believe that he would not be captured. She waited to see him go back across the river before she ascended the hill to return home.
Please proceed now to the towpath. If you choose to not take the trail to the bottom, you can also access Lock 38 and the towpath, by driving your car to the exit and continuing straight across Rt. 34 onto Canal Road. After a couple turns, you will arrive at the bottom of the hill and at a parking lot located at Lock 38. From here you can listen to the next stop and also will have access across the Potomac River to Shepherdstown on the bridge, if you choose to walk.