Dan Hartzler’s Marylandia occupies the dimly lit library of an unassuming white-brick rancher nestled on a quiet street, a mere stone’s throw from the center of an old-fashioned town that splits the map between Union Bridge and Westminster.

The inside of the home is as eccentric as its owner. A roaring grizzly bear, with brown fur and gnashing teeth, greets you from the living room. It’s stuffed, of course, the trophy from a flintlock rifle hunt in Alaska. Above, towering over the landing, is an even bigger beast with darker fur and larger teeth. It’s the prize from another flintlock rifle hunt, this time in Siberia. All along the walls is a collection of antlered deer heads and wild birds in flight. With a glint in his eye and a wily smile behind a goatee of white hair that rivals Bradley T. Johnson, Hartzler explains that he goes on big game hunts ‘about every other year.’

“The flintlock is so much more fun than the percussion,” he admits later on. “You’ve got this click, bang, shoot. You’ve got all this action going on in front of your face before the bullet goes out. I thought, ‘That’s what I like.’”

He notes that the first flintlock he ever hunted with was an original Kentucky rifle that cost $110, but he’s upgraded to a more accurate, custom-made weapon, and it resides in Marylandia.

On the tiled floor of the library is a full-sized black bear rug—another hunting trophy—and it’s arguably the least extraordinary artifact in a room bursting with antiques, relics, keepsakes and collectibles that jump out at you like the inside pages of an illustrated encyclopedia.

“You know, we only have this stuff for a little while. We’re only caretakers of it. If they could talk, Oh, they’d tell us a story.” 

Dan Hartzler, militaria collector

For decades, Hartzler has hunted down, paid for and collected Maryland war-time memorabilia. His assemblage—spanning the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and the American Civil War—covers the four walls of Marylandia, rests inside a pair of dusty display cases and sits on several shelves. The remainder of his treasures are stashed in wooden barrels, leaned against the walls and hidden inside every nook and cranny of remaining space. The only pieces of furniture are a letter desk, a wooden chair draped with a pelt, a steel filing cabinet, a somber red hutch overwhelmed with papers, books and trinkets, and a deep, weathered arm chair.

There are two ways to enter the place; the very visible front entrance accessible by a narrow hallway lined with the nearly two-dozen books he’s written, and another, slightly hidden, doorway in the corner of the room that is rendered nearly invisible by the dozens of rifles, swords and pistols that hang above and on either side.

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Part of Dan Hartzler’s Civil War collection. 

It’s a collection that’s grown with Hartzler, who, now in his mid-70s, has been chasing down items for six decades. The result is over 100 rifles and pistols and nearly the same amount in swords.

“I remember when I started, I had nothing. It becomes a little bit at a time, a little bit at a time,” Hartzler explained. “I was a kid in high school when I started collecting. My dad took me out to a farm sale and I bought a musket with a crooked barrel. Then I went to a blacksmith and I had him straighten it because I wanted to shoot it.”

 

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Weapons from the Civil War on display in front of a Union Flag in ‘Marylandia’.

Hartzler began by collecting World War II memorabilia. He then quit to pursue antiques, including purchasing his first sword (an engraved blade that he bought for $35), before trading in his collection in favor of Maryland militaria.

“I would go to sales, and I would [approach] family members who had stuff but wouldn’t want to sell them to a kid. But I’d keep after them, contact them once a year and say, ‘Don’t forget me if you want to sell it,’” Hartzler remembered. “It was amazing how many people finally came around when they found out their families didn’t want them.

“This stuff doesn’t lose money. It’s not like car restoration. These guys who collect cars put a lot of money into them and never get it back. But guns haven’t been that way. Guns have been very good.”

The backbone of Marylandia is his Civil War collection, which not only includes guns and swords, but flags from both armies, buttons, gear and accoutrements. Most notable is a Confederate sharpshooter gun, a rifle collected from the Battle of Antietam, flags from the Maryland towns of Elkton, Baltimore and Frederick, and a surviving 1853 Enfield owned by Private Richard H. Shepherd of Second Maryland, Company ‘D’.

Of the 54 officers and men in Company D, only four made it to Appomattox to surrender. Shepherd was one of them. Sometime during the war, he took the time to inscribe his name near the bottom of the rifle.

“A guy from Massachusetts had it,” Hartzler noted. “I wrote to him, and [at first] he didn’t want to sell it, [but] then he wrote back to me and said he would.”

Just to the left of Marylandia’s main entrance, adorned on the wall, is what Hartzler considers his most prized possessions: the sword and sidearm of Maryland cavalry officer Harry Gilmor, who commanded the Second Maryland Calvary and famously led the raid through Baltimore County in 1864.

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Harry Gilmor, pictured with his sword,  led several cavalry raids into his home state of Maryland.

“I would think it is, yeah,” Hartzler admits. “It’s a French light cavalry saber. It has a star up here [near the handle]—maybe it’s a major star?—that was hand engraved. Then there’s his pistol. It’s a Leech and Rigdon, Confederate, made in Georgia. His name is on the back strap.”

Hartzler, who owns Hartzler Funeral Homes in four Maryland locations, admitted that he first came across Gilmor’s pistol in a book, tracked down the author, and was directed to Connecticut, where the weapon’s purchaser resided.

Hartzler acknowledged that he paid $900 for the cavalry commander’s sidearm—and later shot live ammunition out of it when targeting a barn’s weathervane. 

“I had a name and no address from Connecticut, so I started calling funeral homes up there—I’m a funeral director—and I said, ‘Do you know anyone with this name?’ One guy said yes, and gave me his telephone number. I called him and asked if he was the collector who had Gilmor’s pistol. He said, ‘Yes… and I’d like to sell it,’” Harztler said. “Wasn’t that lucky?”

It’s been a life’s journey that’s taken Hartzler across the country and even into Canada. His collection has been on display at historical societies across the state and featured in the many books he’s written. Most recently, Hartzler published “American Silver-Hilted, Revolutionary and Early Federal Swords,” which came out in 2015.  

“As I collected stuff, people were interested, so I kept writing. I’ve done 20 books,” he said. “You know, we only have this stuff for a little while. We’re only caretakers of it. If they could talk, Oh, they’d tell us a story.” 

JS

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THE HUNT FOR FERRYBOAT ‘MARYLAND’

By Jordan Schatz

PERRYVILLE, Md. — Before it burnt and sank in the evening hours of Dec. 8, 1888 in the dark waters of New York City’s Harlem River—nearly 160 miles north of its hometown in Perryville, Md.—the massive ferryboat “Maryland” served as one of the most critical sailing vessels of the entire American Civil War.

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Pencil drawing of the “Maryland”

Propelled by two giant water wheels and weighing in at a remarkable 1,150 tons, the impressive double-ended, iron hulled “Maryland” held a distinguished career as the ship that helped usher the first Northern troops south of the Mason-Dixon Line. For a dozen years prior to the 1866 construction of the Pennsylvania, Wilmington and Baltimore Rail Road Bridge across the Susquehanna River, the “Maryland” transported PW&B wood-burning locomotives and passenger cars from Perryville to the opposing shore town of Havre de Grace, located nearly a mile away across the fast-flowing river.

A week-long journey into history books revealed the famous ferryboat’s spirited life story—one that included the 6th Massachusetts Volunteers (of Baltimore Riot lore), the infamous Union General Benjamin F. Butler and even ‘Old Ironsides’ herself, the USS Constitution, the hero ship of the Revolutionary War.

Beginning in 1853, the “Maryland” harmlessly transported trains across the Susquehanna near the point where it flowed into the Chesapeake Bay. That all changed on April 19, 1861.

Baltimore Riot

When President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 militia to rise up in response to the Confederate’s bombardment of Fort Sumpter in April 1861, the 6th Massachusetts Volunteers—numbering nearly 700 men—answered the call. They departed from Boston by train and two days later, arrived in Perryville around sun up on April 19. From there, they boarded the “Maryland,” which took men, train car and locomotive across the Susquehanna and unloaded them in Havre de Grace. The men then embarked the rest of the way to Baltimore, where they would make the trek across the city to Camden Station—and the Washington D.C.-bound B&O Rail Road.

The march by the volunteers across the city sparked violence from a waiting mob and resulted in the first bloodshed of the Civil War—the infamous Baltimore riot.

‘The Beast’ and the USS Constitution

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Gen. Benjamin F. Butler

One day after the Baltimore riot, the 8th Massachusetts, under Gen. ‘The Beast’ Butler, arrived in Perryville intending to take the same route as the 6th Massachusetts. Upon learning that future Confederate general Isaac Trimble had burned several rail road bridges between Havre de Grace and Baltimore, the Union commander commandeered ‘The Maryland’ and directed it farther down the Chesapeake to Annapolis, where it arrived just in time to put down a secessionist uprising.

Southern sympathizers in the Maryland capital were attempting to steal the famous American vessel, the USS Constitution, which lay docked near the US Naval Academy. Butler thwarted the mission and had the “Maryland” tow the famous gunship to safer waters. During the operation, the ferryboat captain purposely ran the “Maryland” into a sandbar, where it sat for several days with Massachusetts soldiers stuck on board. The captain would be thrown in jail.

From Annapolis, Butler marched to Baltimore, where he took over the town under cover of darkness and trained the guns on Federal Hill in the direction of the revolting city. For the remainder of the war, Baltimore would be under Union occupation. Meanwhile, the “Maryland” would be rescued from the sandbar and returned to Perryville.

Aftermath

For the next five years, the “Maryland” would transport Union troops down the Chesapeake and across the Susquehanna until the conclusion of the war, when the PW&B Rail Road finished construction of a bridge across the river—at the time, one of the largest and most expensive rail bridges every built in the world. The ferryboat would sit unused for a decade before finally finding a new home in the north, transporting trains across the Harlem River between New Jersey and New York City. From 1876 until a disastrous kitchen fire in 1888 crippled the vessel, the ship made four trips a day across the river: A somber end to an otherwise extraordinary career.

JS

INTO THE SLAUGHTER PEN

As it appeared in the July 2016 Newsletter

CULP’S HILL, a heavily wooded mass of tall trees and smooth boulders, rose up more than 630 feet above sea level and silently watched over the unassuming crossroads village of Gettysburg. Since the late 18th century, its two round peaks served as farm land, but for three days in July, 1863, it witnessed some of the most fiercest fighting of the entire American Civil War.

The hill—and its decisive place just east of Gettysburg—quickly served as a rallying point for both Union and Confederate forces when they smashed into one another on July 1. Whichever army could place their guns on the heights first would own the battlefield.

Recently promoted Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell, who less than two month earlier had taken control of the Army of Northern Virginia’s famed Second Corps following the death of its former commander, Stonewall Jackson, at Chancellorsville that May, approached Gettysburg from the north. In the late afternoon on Day 1, the bald-headed general clashed with the Union XI Corps and portions of the I Corps and drove them back through town to both Cemetery Hill and the much larger Culp’s Hill beyond.

Against Commanding General Robert E Lee’s better wishes, Ewell opted not to challenge for the heights and Union forces took command of Culp’s and turned the unassuming hill into a virtual fortress.

Ewell’s inability to push through and capture Culp’s Hill by the conclusion of July 1 laid the groundworks for the Army of Northern Virginia’s crushing defeat at Gettysburg and the subsequent surrender at Appomattox two years later. It would also bring heavy casualties upon the First Maryland Infantry (later named the Second Maryland), a large confederate battalion — nearly the size of a regiment– located in Ewell’s third division, under Maj. Gen. Edward “Allegeny” Johnson, that spent the evening of July 1 sleeping on their rifles, nearly a mile away from Culp’s Hill.

“The result was nicknamed ‘slaughter-pen,’ as more than 300 Marylanders charged the strong position and nearly half were killed or wounded…”

BY MID-MORNING on the second day, Lee had a plan.

It involved a simultaneous two-prong attack, with Lt. Gen. James Longstreet attacking a pair of Union-fortified hills on the opposite side of the battlefield known as The Round Tops, while Ewell would mount an assault on Culp’s Hill, which had now been reinforced by the Union’s XII Corps. Both sets of hills formed the ends of the fabled Union fishhook.

Upon hearing Longstreet’s guns open up at 4 p.m., Ewell called for the attack. For three hours, the Second Corps commander levied heavy cannon fire on Culp’s Hill to little success. When dusk came, he ordered three brigades, numbering nearly 4,700 men, to cross Rock Creek at the base of Culp’s hill and climb the eastern side of the heights.

Confederate casualties were high. Scrambling and stumbling up the steep slope through the overgrown brush, black trees and smooth rocks, the right flank and center of the Confederate attack was repulsed by a heavy wave of bullets from above. But on the left side, the six divisions under Brig. Gen. George “Maryland” Steuart, including the Second Maryland, splashed across the creek, raced up the hill and charged through the semi-darkness in the direction of the breastworks.

“[A sudden change in direction] brought the Third North Carolina and Second Maryland face to face with the enemy behind a line of log breastworks, and these two regiments received their full fire at a very short range, for owing to the darkness, the breastworks could be seen,” said William W. Goldsborough, a major in the Second Maryland. “The Second Maryland and Third North Carolina were staggered for a moment by the enemy’s fire, but, quickly recovering, pressed forward and drove the enemy out of the works.”

When night again settled over Gettysburg, the opposing men of the XII Corps had retreated into an open field and lay waiting on the hill beyond while Steuart’s Brigade settled into the breastworks.

THE NEXT MORNING, July 3, dawned muggy and hot, with the sickly stench of death and gunpowder mixing with the damp earth and bitter scent of the trees. At sunrise, Steuart’s Bridgade, bunkered down, came under heavy attack from Union batteries, whose cannons rained down fire for half and hour.

“To add to the horrors of the situation, a battery or two opened up upon the division at short range,” Goldsbourgh said. “Most of their shells fell among the men of Steuart’s Brigade, who were compelled to closely hug the ground behind the breastworks for protection.”

What came next was nothing short of murder.

Commanded by Lee to take the hill, Ewell ordered three attacks on the Union fortifications, the third of which featured the Second Maryland. It would prove disastrous. The Second Maryland and 10th, 23rd and 37th Virginia regiments emerged from the wood line and charged across the open field (later named Pardee Field) with multiple battalions on either side of a long, stone wall. The result was nicknamed “slaughter-pen,” as more than 300 Marylanders charged the strong position and nearly half were killed or wounded as they rallied to within a few feet of the Union forces only to be cut down.

Afterwards, Steuart is said to have broken down, wringing his hands, while great tears streaked down his cheeks, and crying, “My poor boys!”

“What a field was this,” Civil War historian Samuel P. Bates said. “For three hours of the previous evening, and seven [hours the next] morning … the most terrible elements of destruction known to modern warfare [had] been wielded with a might and dexterity rarely ever paralleled. The woods in which the battle had been fought was torn and rent with shells and solid shot and pierced with innumerable minnie balls. Trees were broken off and splintered, and that entire forest, where the battle raged most furiously, was, on the following year, leafless, the stately but mute occupants having yielded up their lives with those whom they overshadowed.”

The Marylanders fell back to the log breastworks captured the night before and repulsed repeated attacks by the enemy, until ordered to retreat.

“[The Second Maryland] met the determined men of [the enemy], which poured into them so continues a fire that when within seventy paces, their columns wavered and soon broke to the rear,” Union Gen. John W. Geary said. “The First Maryland Battalion was in the advance, and their dead lay mingled with our own.”

JS