Lightning Sketches from the Past

Recently, I started working events at an incredible historic location in Urbana, Maryland.  It’s called the Landon House, and it has quite a story to tell.  Built in the 1740s as a silk mill on the Rappahannock River in Virginia, it was taken apart, transported to Maryland and reassembled in the 1840s by a minister who opened it as a “female seminary” or girls’ school.  By the 1850s, it had become a boys’ military academy.  By the time of the Civil War, in the 1860s, it was abandoned.  In the late summer of 1862, J.E.B. Stuart and his Confederate cavalry occupied Urbana, keeping an eye on the Union troops as the Confederates invaded Maryland.  The “Gay Cavalier” and his troops were having a wonderful time socializing with the local ladies when Stuart came upon the abandoned Landon House and decided it would be the perfect site for a ball.

On September 8, 1862, Stuart and his troops held the “Sabers and Roses Ball” in the large ballroom of the Landon House, with regimental flags flying and Barksdale’s Mississippi band playing.  The young ladies and soldiers danced the night away and enjoyed a respite from the constant threat of war that permeated their lives.  Midway through the frivolity, the men were called away to a skirmish in nearby Barnesville.  They rode off on their horses, took care of business and returned with renewed vigor, rounding up the ladies who had departed for home and bringing them back to the Landon House to resume the party.  Soon, however, the casualties from the fighting began trickling in, and the Landon House went “from hospitality to hospital,” which it would do again before the war was over.

By September 16, the Confederates had moved on towards Antietam, and hordes of Union troops passed by the Landon House on a forced march from Rockville, Maryland, headed for the same destination.  It was hot and the men were exhausted, shedding blankets and knapsacks along the way.  One unit, the 155th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, decided to stop at the Landon House for the night.  In the parlor, they observed graffiti that had been written on the walls by their Confederate counterparts with charcoal sticks drawn from the fire.  The Yankee soldiers decided to draw their own “lightning sketches” alongside the Confederates’ handiwork.  Prominent in these were sketches of Lincoln and comments from the 155th Pennsylvania, with the date and unit recorded for posterity.

In researching the 155th for a display, I came upon the history of the regiment and was able to put names to the “lightning sketches”, and faces and stories to those names.  I’ll be sharing them with you in my next blog post.

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4 Responses to Lightning Sketches from the Past

  1. I’d love to see a picture of the house. And I’ll have to check back again to find out how the house got haunted.

    • says:

      Thanks, Marsha! I’ll be sending you a picture via e-mail; tweeting it continues to fail. I’ll be talking more about the paranormal aspects in future blogs. Thanks for visiting!

  2. Julia says:

    i have been to The Landon House before, in fact we took a ghost tour and we took a picture of the lightning sketches

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