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April 21, 2013

Oakland’s Civil War Days recalls Jones-Imboden Raid

Confederate troops burned railroad bridge in 1863

OAKLAND — The streets of Oakland are about to be overtaken by Union and Confederate soldiers, but this time, the skirmish will bring together the community in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Jones-Imboden Raid.

Beginning Thursday, the community will observe the milestone with a series of events and activities called Oakland Civil War Days.

Though Garrett County was not yet a county at the time of the April 1863 raid, those early residents were witness to the battles between both sides of the Great War.

The residents of Oakland had managed to avoid much of the direct fighting until Robert E. Lee began plans to destroy major supply lines for the Union Army and targeted a nearby railroad bridge. Lee’s orders were carried out by two brigadier generals, John D. Imboden and William E. Jones.

A small group of Union soldiers from Company O of West Virginia were tasked with protecting the bridge, an invaluable portion of the B&O Railroad that helped provide much-needed supplies. These soldiers were in no way prepared for the more than 600 Confederates headed their way. Members of the 12th Virginia Cavalry, the First Maryland Battalion and John H. McNeill's Partisan Rangers took the Union soldiers by surprise, as well as the residents of Oakland.

The Confederate soldiers quickly subdued the opposition and burned the railroad bridge. While violence was avoided, the Confederates pillaged homes and businesses for supplies and food. The Union forces stayed only briefly in the area, as they moved toward their other targets, but the impact of that raid was not soon forgotten.

Accounts of those difficult days have been preserved and will be featured during Oakland Civil War Days, organized and hosted by the Garrett County Historical Society.

According to volunteer John Rathgeb, the four-day event will begin with a presentation by Our Town Theatre. Actors will present the experiences of those early settlers and soldiers in a series of vignettes titled “Civil War — The Common Threads” on Thursday as well as during special events throughout the weekend. The capture of Company O will be re-enacted Sunday at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

Rathgeb said he believes the living history demonstrations will be of particular interest to visitors.

“We will have encampments set up at The Glades, at the B&O Museum, including drills, marching and inspections,” he said. “We will have Civil War-era medical re-enactors and we will also have soldiers foraging throughout the community, just as they did during the Jones-Imboden Raid. Foraging was common at this time in Oakland. Oakland was occupied by Company O and while they were here they co-existed with the residents, likely using supplies they were able to find, as did the Confederate Calvary when they raided the town.”

Speakers will include authors Steven French and Daniel Toomey, acclaimed historians, as well as storyteller and singer Matthew Dodd. Hammer and Strings and the Shenandoah Minstrels will provide period music. Hammer and Strings will also  perform at a dinner Friday at the Pleasant Valley Community Center.

Shenandoah Valley Minstrels will provide the musical accompaniment for a Civil War dinner/dance Saturday at the Oakland Elks Club. Reservations for both dinners can be made by calling the Garrett County Historical Society at 301-334-3226.   

“While the Jones-Imboden Raid of the Civil War, which took place in Oakland, may not have the notoriety of the Battle of Gettysburg, the railroad in Oakland was important enough that when it was burned by the Confederate Calvary, John Garrett, president of the B&O Railroad, at the time, ordered it to be rebuilt, and it was done in five days,” said Oakland Mayor Peggy Jamison. “The railroad has always played an important role in the history and heritage of Oakland and the town appreciates the hard work of the committee that is bringing this small, but significant, event to our attention.”

Rathgeb said he hopes Oakland Civil War Days illustrates the determination and fortitude of the people of Oakland who rallied and recovered from the raid in just days following the exit of the Confederate soldiers. Activities and demonstrations will be held throughout the community and a free shuttle service will be available to accommodate visitors.

A full schedule of events can be found at www. agreatsmalltown.com/civil-war-days.html.

Contact Angie Brant at abrant@ times-news.com.

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