Like most of Maryland, Howard County’s sentiments were divided during the Civil War. Unlike many areas, however, these Howard County sites connected with the war continue to serve modern day functions while standing as reminders of another era.
Savage Mill, along U.S. Route 1 on the banks of the Little Patuxent River, dates to 1820 and served as a textile mill from 1822 to 1947. During the 19th century, the mill primarily produced canvas used for sails on the famous clipper ships as well as tents, cannon covers, and other military products during the Civil War. Later, the canvas became painted backdrops for early silent films and cots, truck covers, and other military equipment during WWI and WWII. Today, Savage Mill is a destination shopping and dining complex with dozens of shops, restaurants, and other businesses.
The Patapsco Female Institute stood at the highest point in Ellicott City and offered a revolutionary course of study to its students from 1837-1891. The students studied botany, chemistry, and mathematics in a day when women were not expected to learn such subjects. The student body included girls from prominent families in both the North and South. Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps, who headed the school from 1841-1855, tried to encourage friendships between students from the different geographical backgrounds. During the Civil War, the 12th New Jersey Infantry Regiment camped near the grounds while guarding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Today, the stabilized ruins are part of a county park and host events.
The B&O Ellicott City Station Museum lies near the Patapsco River and is the oldest surviving train station in America. The first 13 miles of commercial railroad track in America began in Baltimore and ended here. The depot was constructed in 1830-31. You can see exhibits in the depot and freight house, where a 40-foot model train layout shows the original 13 miles of track. By the time of the Civil War, the B&O rail line was an essential part of military strategy and a commercial transportation hub and was guarded by Union troops.
The Thomas Viaduct is a railroad bridge over the Patapsco River Valley, completed by the B&O Railroad in 1835. When completed it was the largest railroad bridge in the United States and the first multi-span masonry bridge built on a curve in the country. Today, it remains the world’s oldest multiple arched stone railroad bridge. At the time of the Civil War, the B&O was the only railroad serving the nation’s capital, making the Thomas Viaduct a strategic military asset, heavily guarded by Union soldiers. The Thomas Viaduct still carries freight trains and is a National Historic Landmark.
Oakland Manor is among the historic structures retained by James Rouse when he developed the planned city of Columbia. Completed in 1811, the home and property were bought by George Gaither in 1838. Gaither’s son, George, Jr., captained the local militia unit, the Howard Dragoons. After the Baltimore Riot in April, 1861, the unit helped maintain the peace in Baltimore. However, most of the unit eventually sided with the Confederacy and served in Virginia and Maryland cavalry units. Other residents on the Oakland Manor property who were slaves joined the 9th U.S. Colored Troops and fought for the Union. Today, the property is available as a venue for weddings, meetings and other events.