Civil War Trails: St. Mary’s County Maryland

When is the last time you took a journey to South-Eastern Mainland Maryland? Start planning your trip today as you imagine what life could be like outside of quarantine. Amongst all of the rural beauty of Southeastern Maryland, we think that St. Mary’s County should be your first stop.

Our site at Sotterley Plantation.

St. Mary’s County is currently home to six Civil War Trails sites, whose stories range from clandestine affairs to political intrigue. Our team recently enjoyed a tour of the county with our partners at St. Mary’s Museums. We were so inspired by the sites, stories, and newly uncovered research that we’ve begun extensive updates of our signs. We expect (and hope) to install the updated interpretation later this year.

The first site that we recommend visiting once you arrive is Piney Point lighthouse. Though the buildings are currently closed the grounds are open for those wanting to get some fresh air and perhaps enjoy a riverside picnic. While you are there take a moment to read the story of Mrs. Marshall. She was the keeper of the light during the Civil War and helped the U.S. Navy and Quartermaster Corps navigate the lower Potomac. Mrs. Marshall was a dedicated government employee, though she knew the Confederate sympathies of her neighbors, and used her position to report smuggling activities on her part of the river.

Piney Point Lighthouse

In the meantime if you are safely able to visit St. Mary’s we encourage you to check in with our partners at Visit St. Mary’s on social media to see what is open and which restaurants are offering curbside pickup. No matter when you are able to visit, we are sure you will find something to satisfy your hunger.

If you have the time next fall we recommend visiting St. Mary’s, not only for the history, but for the eats. In October of this year St. Mary’s will be hosting the U.S. Oyster Festival, this festival promises to be a delight, with competitors poised to represent the US internationally.

Whether you visit St. Mary’s before or after our signage updates, let us help you travel like a local. Take a look at our maps, and don’t hesitate to ask for our recommendations for good eats, drinks, and lesser known spots along the way. Follow #civilwartrails to create some history of your own, and be safe out there.

2 Responses to Civil War Trails: St. Mary’s County Maryland

  1. Very nice blog! I used to live in Southern Maryland and it teems with history. I hope you will post one on Charles County, which also had a rich Civil War history. This is the place where John Wilkes Booth headed after killing Lincoln, it is the site of an early Union fort along the Potomac River, and like St. Mary’s County, was a hotbed of Southern sympathizers. It is the area where Daniel Sickles, Joseph Hooker and almost 10,000 soldiers to spent the fall and winter of 1861-62 as Lincoln and his advisors were very wary of a Confederate incursion across the river, similar to the War of 1862 when the British landed at Benedict (also in Charles County), and marched north to burn Washington in 1814.

  2. You have to want to go to St Mary’s County, though since the Navy moved more of its Air support to Pax River and Saint Inigoes it isn’t such a backwater any more. It also is significant for colonial Maryland history. My wife was the CO of the Navy communications base just outside of Clinton (formerly Surrattsville but changed names for obvious reasons) so got to spend time exploring the region.

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