Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 8: Civil War history in Frederick, Maryland and environs.


It’s an old album filled with even older songs, and it came back to me while we were in Frederick: Civil War songs: “I’m a Good Old Rebel,” but assuredly not like this.

I was born in 1960, so the American Civil War Centennial passed without my direct participation. However, it may have given me an area buzz, if inadvertently. By the age of 10 or so, I was hooked on the topic. No library book was safe, even those with big adult words.

How do you think I learned those big adult words, anyway?

Consequently, the ancestral stirrings began as we drove south/southwest straight through from Massachusetts to Frederick, Maryland, an historic route that took us past Gettysburg. Unfortunately, there’d be time for only one battlefield, Antietam. It lies twenty or so miles west of Frederick.

When I was a wee lad, the town of Frederick was known to Civil War buffs as the home of Barbara Fritchie, an elderly woman born before the American Revolution. According to legend, she proudly defended her American flag to passing rebel troops: “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag.”

The flag incident as described in the poem likely never occurred at the Barbara Fritchie house, although Barbara Fritchie was a Unionist and did have a Union flag. Friends of Barbara Fritchie stated that she shook a Union flag at and insulted Confederate troops, but other neighbors said Barbara Fritchie, over 90 years old, was ill at the time.

How very unsurprising. Think of Fritchie as a pre-urban legend. Other Frederick legends of more recent vintage are Vikings running back Chuck Foreman, who was born in Frederick, and singer Patsy Cline, who lived there in the 1950s.

Much later in life, I became aware of Frederick as the site of a big brewery plant constructed during the first period of expansion for “microbrewing” during the 1990s, a site now occupied by Flying Dog of Colorado, in an early East Coast brewing expansion that anticipated more famous cross-country shifts like Sierra Nevada and New Belgium’s production breweries in North Carolina.

There’s more about Frederick beer here:

Brewer’s Alley and Monocacy Brewing in Frederick MD.

New Albany readers will note that downtown Frederick is enjoying a rebirth much like our own, with a problem that will be familiar to you: The one-way street grid there makes navigation maddening for a visitor.

The city itself is only an hour away from Washington D.C. and Baltimore, and appears to be big, prosperous and sprawling. Once we were able to find the bed and breakfast after wide loops traversing hostile one-way terrain, the car was parked and we took to our feet.

Our first evening in town began at Summitra Thai Cuisine. The web site doesn’t dispense the usual superlatives. It doesn’t have to, because the food speaks for itself. Simply yummy.

We learned that a central feature of downtown Frederick is Carroll Creek Park. If you’ve ever wondered what the reclamation model for New Albany’s Falling Run Creek looks like, this is a good place to start — that is, as soon as Padgett leaves town.

Carroll Creek Park began as a flood control project in late 1970s – an effort to remove downtown Frederick from the 100-year floodplain and restore economic vitality to the historic commercial district. Today, more than $150 million in private investing is underway or planned in new construction, infill development or historic renovation along the Park.

The first evening ended with beers at Brewer’s Alley (link above). Since I took very few photos, I’ll crib some from the tourist folks, who won’t mind a bit.

As an addendum, words of truth from Frederick’s Döner Bistro — and the sign does not lie.

On Wednesday: The pilgrimage to Antietam National Battlefield.