Back to the battlefield: Annual weekend raises awareness of historic event | News, Sports, Jobs

On Saturday afternoon, SBPA President Mike Nickerson points out various details about Shepherdstown’s large cement kiln, which was directly in the Battle of Shepherdstown’s path, with the crossing of nearby Pack Horse Ford in 1862. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — For the 21st year-in-a-row, the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association (SBPA) has held a volunteer weekend, in conjunction with the American Battlefield Trust’s annual Park Day cleanup effort.

The Shepherdstown Battlefield Spring Fling Weekend kicked off in the Shepherdstown Opera House (SOH) on Friday night, with an author talk by Thomas McGrath on his book, “Bay State Blood and Valor: Massachusetts at the Battle of Shepherdstown.” A crowd of around 50 turned out for the event, according to SOH owner Steve Pearson.

“It’s about promoting the town and its history,” Pearson said of donating the space for the event. “We were happy to have a nice venue to bring the event together.”

The author talk, according to SBPA President Mike Nickerson, was a new aspect to the annual event.

“Last year was a phenomenal clean up and tour,” Nickerson said, before expressing appreciation to the SOH, Historic Shepherdstown Museum and Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission for cosponsoring the events. “This year, we added a battlefield history talk by author Tom McGrath at the opera house in Shepherdstown.”

Thomas McGrath, author of the book, “Bay State Blood and Valor: Massachusetts at the Battle of Shepherdstown,” share insight from personal accounts of the crossing of Potomac River by the defeated Union troops at the Battle of Shepherdstown on Saturday. Tabitha Johnston

The Shepherdstown Battlefield Spring Fling Weekend continued on Saturday morning, with the Battle of Shepherdstown Clean-up Day. About 30 participants met up to pick up trash at Riverside Park, and then continued along the road surrounding the battle’s area, before making their way up to enjoy some snacks and water at Osbourn Farm.

“We filled up a dumpster. We took down three hunting blinds. We pulled some old farm gates out of the woods. And, along Osbourn Farm and Trough Road, we cleaned up the tree line,” Nickerson said.

After a half-hour break, the final event of the weekend kicked off. McGrath led a group of 32 community members and tourists on a path through the woods where the Battle of Shepherdstown took place on Sept. 19-20, 1862.

“This is the fourth Battle of Shepherdstown Tour I’ve given. I was also here last year,” McGrath said. “I want to raise awareness of the battlefield and what happened here. The more attention you can bring to it, the better the preservation efforts will go. I would love to see the whole battlefield preserved, so that people can come and visit and learn about what happened here, maybe with some interpretive signs.”

McGrath said he also considered donating his time to give the tour a worthy cause, as it allowed him to humanize the battle for attendees. Throughout the tour, he shared first-person accounts of the battle, which he had collected during the research he had done for his book, which was published in 2008.

Community members and tourists alike climb down a steep path through the woods, during the Battle of Shepherdstown Tour on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

To learn more about the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, visit its Facebook page or contact it at 304-995-6975 or

Trash sits on the corner of River Road and Trough Road, ready to be picked up for disposal after the Battle of Shepherdstown Clean-up Day on Saturday. Tabitha Johnston

Tour attendees walk across a field at Osbourn Farm on Saturday. Tabitha Johnston

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