The Civil War is the focus of five of the historical markers installed in August along the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail between Newville and Shippensburg. The trail follows the bed of the Cumberland Valley Rail Road, which played a key role in supplying Union armies in Virginia and Maryland during the 1861-65 war, which killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
The markers include photos supplied by Shippensburg Historical Society, Cumberland County Historical Society, Dickinson College, the Library of Congress and private sources.
The markers address topics such as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 1863 invasion of the Cumberland Valley, the Cumberland Valley Rail Road’s role in 1862’s Battle of Antietam in Maryland, Cumberland County’s contribution to the Union Army’s 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry and more.
The photos seen here are from Cumberland County Historical Society. Included is Capt. William Miller, who won the Medal of Honor for leading Company H of the 3rd Cavalry in a charge credited with helping defeat J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry on July 3, 1863, during the Battle of Gettysburg. His award citation reads that he, “without orders, led a charge of his squadron upon the flank of the enemy, checked his (the enemy’s) attack, and cut off and dispersed the rear of his column.”
Company H was formed from the Newville-based Big Spring Adamantine Guards, which one marker says was “Cumberland County’s leading cavalry militia unit.” The marker goes on to say adamantine comes from a Greek word meaning “hard or unyielding, like a diamond.” About 130 local men served in Company H from 1861 to 1864.
The area also contributed to the Union infantry, as the markers attest. Among those commemorated there are John Hemminger of Carlisle and Augustus Kyle of Newville.
Cumberland Valley Visitors Center and the South Mountain Partnership of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources provided funding for the five Civil War markers and eight others focusing on local history and resources.
Cumberland Valley Rail Trail, which runs nine miles from Shippensburg Township Park to Newville Trailhead Park, is available for bicycling, hiking, running, horseback riding, bird watching and cross-country skiing.
The volunteers who maintain the trail hope to extend it east to Carlisle.