Home Over the Canal
By Ranger Curt
As I walk the grounds and hallways of Ferry Hill Place, the rich history of this site flows around me. Looking down the hill toward the C&O Canal, I imagine Blackfords Ferry, crossing the Potomac River to Shepherdstown, in the 1830s. The ferry was operated by Jupe and Ned, two of the plantation's slaves. Soon, a canal boat passes by, stopping briefly at the store at Lock 38. Looking across the grounds that were long ago planted with wheat, grain and oats, I visualize the free and enslaved laborers harvesting crops or cutting lumber.
Turning, I glimpse Ferry Hill Place in the fall of 1862, just after the Battle of Antietam. Returning home after the battle, Henry Kyd Douglas, junior officer to General "Stonewall" Jackson wrote of his home, "...a beautiful farm was laid waste, its fences disappeared up to the doors of the mansion house, artillery parks filled the wheat fields; corn and fodder and hay soon became contraband of war. In front of the house,... were rifle pits; and several rifled cannon, with their angry muzzles pointing across the Potomac, decorated the lawn." Yet this scene of destruction is today masked by the pastoral setting that now characterizes the grounds.
Stepping into the office on the first floor, I appreciate the literary element of Ferry Hill Place. Here, John Blackford kept a journal in which he recorded the daily activities on his plantation. Later, Henry Kyd Douglas compiled notes from his diary and wrote his Civil War account entitled, I Rode With Stonewall. Today, these documents provide insight into the lives of those who once lived here at Ferry Hill Place.
Ferry Hill is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Volunteers are needed to help staff the site. If interested, contact the C&O Canal National Historical Park at 301-582-0813.