Fast forward to 1861 and the monument that these patriotic citizens built had fallen into ruin from neglect and vandalism. And as the monument went, so did the country. The country that George Washington had fought to had begun destroying itself and the patriotism that had built this monument had turn from a local sense of pride in one's country to a regional hatred for their countrymen.
For the better part of a year, the monument lay in ruin among the quiet countryside of western Maryland. That would all change in September 1862 when Robert E. Lee pushed his Army of Northern Virginia, fresh off a summer of victories, across the Potomac River and into Maryland as part of a massive Confederate offensive in both the Eastern and Western Theatre's of the war. Only days after entering Maryland, Confederate forces began marching up the National Pike and crossed South Mountain just a mile from the monument. Some of these Confederates, the division of Major General Daniel H. Hill, would be encamped nearby at Boonsboro and on the 13th, Confederate cavalry is being pushed back from the Catoctin's Mountain gaps and Confederate infantry support is moving up to hold the vital gap Turner's Gap on South Mountain. The stage for the Battle of South Mountain had been set.
Throughout the next day, tides of men and the rain of hot lead and shrapnel poured across the mountainside, first at Fox's Gap, then Frostown, Turner's, and Crampton's. The fight that would have the most impact on the monument would occur just below at the Frostown Gap where the Pennsylvania Reserves would do battle with the tenacious Alabamian's of Robert Rodes' brigade. When Confederate reinforcements under James Longstreet arrived, a most peculiar incident occured involving the monument. Confederate artillery commander E. Porter Alexander recalled:
|View from monument. Antietam is on the left.|
|Signal station similar to the one that would be constructed around the monument.|
|Restored monument 1880's.|
|Front view of monument 1910's|
|Crack in monument. Dynamite had been placed in this crack at one point.|
|Rebuilding the monument.|
For 184 years, the monument has stood as a testament to the patriotic feelings that the everyday citizen has for their country. It also stands a simple monument built to the memory of George Washington and all the revolutionaries who sacrificed all so that freedom could be achieved. It survived the countries greatest trial despite already being in ruins. Today the monument serves as the focal point of Washington Monument State Park which is also the home of South Mountain State Battlefield.