Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bush River R.R. Bridge Raid - 1861


Today in 1861 Isaac R. Trimble, the engineer who helped build Delaware's railroads, led a party of Confederate sympathizers to destroy railroad bridges over Maryland's Bush River. The Bush River basin lies entirely in Harford County, Maryland and was a major Railroad River crossing for the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Rail Road. Fort Sumter had just been fired upon a week or so before this.

Realizing that Maryland had more Southerns than Union people in it and they would cause damage to the company's property. President Samuel M. Felton, of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, organized a select force of about two hundred men to guard the bridges, and act, if necessary, as a military body. A train was kept in readiness to concentrate them at any time, and in order to allay suspicion, they were put at work whitewashing the bridges, some of which were given, it is said, six or seven coats, a very good protection against fire. The Mayor and Police Commissioners of Baltimore ordered the destruction of the bridges. The work was entrusted to a force in charge of Isaac R. Trimble, formerly a superintendent of the railroad company (he would later join the Confederacy).

As a result, in April, the Harris Creek bridge at Baltimore, and the Bush River bridge were burned. The draw of the long Gunpowder River bridge was burned six days later. All telegraph wires leading from Baltimore were cut.

From this raid on the Bush River Bridge a remarkable heroine would be produced in the form of Miss Jane Bowman. Her exploits were recorded a couple of months after the event took place when the First Delaware Volunteers then were guarding the bridge.
In a letter to Col. H. H. Lockwood, commander of the Eastern Shore Union forces.

Camp Dare, at Bush River
July 11, 1861

Col. H. H. Lockwood:

Sir: As a part of the command stationed on the line of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, we deem it but right and proper to make known to you the heroic conduct of the daughter of Mr. Bowman, the keeper of the bridge at this place, on the night of the burning of the bridge by Trimble and his men. From Mr. Smith, the master carpenter of the road, and others who where present on the occasion, we have learned the following particulars:

When the train bearing the bridge-burners had crossed the bridge, and Trimble had drawn his men in line immediately in front of Mr. Bowman's house, the object of their coming was announced in the hearing of Miss Jane by Trimble himself. She pronounced him a coward, and in a loud voice called upon the men, who had been armed by the road and placed there to protect the bridge, to defend it, and when she saw these men throw away their arms, some of them taking to the woods and others hiding within her father's house, she called upon them again not to run, but to stand fast and show themselves to be men. At this time, seeing one of the pistols lying on the floor of the porch, which had been thrown away by one of the bridge-guards, she picked it up and ran with it. Meeting Mr. Smith she gave it to him, saying at the same time, "Use it; if you will not, I will."

Another evidence of the wonderful courage and presence of mind of Miss Jane was shown in her anxiety for the safety of one of the men employed by her father to assist him in taking care of the bridge. This man was on the draw at the time the firing of the bridge commenced. Miss Jane was the first to think of him, and promptly called upon her father, or some one, to go for him in a boat, saying, "If no one else will go, I will."

In conclusion, permit us to say that such heroism in a young lady as shown in the conduct of Miss Bowman on this occasion has rarely been met with anywhere, and, in our opinion, should not be suffered to go unrewarded.

James Green
Captain Company D, First Delaware Volunteers
E. J. Smithers
First Lieutenant

From The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

Shortly afterwards the 1st Delaware Regiment Infantry would be assigned to the rebuilt Bush River Bridge for guard duty.

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