The Civil War in Montgomery County

Montgomery County in the 1860s

As the Civil War enveloped our nation in the 1860s, the residents of Montgomery County lived in a war zone.  Strategically located next to the City of Washington (Washington DC), Montgomery County and the State of Maryland were of vital importance to the security of our nation’s capital.  For the first time since the War of 1812, people felt the touch of war.

Residents of the county were impacted in many ways.  Union and Confederate soldiers regularly passed through the area, small bands of troops conducted raids, and young men went off to fight on both sides of the conflict.  Spies and smugglers made trusting your neighbor difficult, staple goods became more and more scarce, and cannon fire heard from across the river created a tension felt by all.  In the midst of this, martial law was imposed throughout Maryland.  This military rule meant checkpoints, curfews, passes for travel to certain places, seemingly random citizen arrests, and the seizure of property.

Maryland was a slave-holding state until emancipation on November 1, 1864, when the Maryland Constitution outlawed slavery.  Of the county’s approximately 18,000 residents in 1860, over 5,400 were enslaved and 1,550+ were free blacks.  The county had 760 slave owners, 674 with holdings of fewer than 15.  Sentiment in the northwestern part of the county was mostly pro-South and pro-slavery.  On the other hand, the Quaker residents of Sandy Spring had freed their slaves by the early 1800s.  The State and county debated secession throughout 1861 but never reached consensus on the issue.

As part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Heritage Montgomery produced the documentary film, Life in a War Zone: Montgomery County during the Civil War, a 32-page brochure Guide to the Civil War in Montgomery County, Maryland, and, in partnership with Washington Revels, the musical CD, “Hard Times Come Again No More: American Music of the Civil War Era.”

Life in a War Zone:
Montgomery County during the Civil War 

In conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Heritage Montgomery produced an Emmy®Award-winning 60-minute documentary film, Life in a War Zone: Montgomery County during the Civil War.  

Shot in high definition, the video powerfully tells the story of Montgomery County in the 1860s and the effect the Civil War had on the daily life of its citizens.  Montgomery County was strategically located next to the District of Columbia and in the path of major troop movement to and from the Confederate state of Virginia and the battles of Antietam (in Sharpsburg, Maryland) and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania).  Thousands of Union soldiers camped in Rockville and Poolesville for extended periods.  The war had a significant impact on the county and its residents for the duration of the conflict and beyond.  The film uses historic and contemporary images, beautiful photography, first-person accounts and a stirring soundtrack to tell the story of the war years in Montgomery County.

To view the video online, click the links below.  The film is also available in DVD format on our Gift Shop page.

Life in a War Zone: A Guide to the
Civil War in Montgomery County


Heritage Montgomery has published a 32-page brochure, “Life in a War Zone: A Guide to the Civil War in Montgomery County, Maryland,” guiding visitors to heritage sites in the county with stories of Civil War significance.

From Poolesville to Rockville to Sandy Spring, learn more about how county residents’ lives were affected by constant troop movement throughout the area, as well as federal occupation, during the Civil War years.  Walk along the Potomac River at Edward’s Ferry, where gas-fired balloons were once used to scout Confederate activity across the Potomac in Loudoun County; visit the majestic Monocacy Aqueduct, part of the vital supply route of the C&O Canal; or hike the Underground Railroad Experience Trail at Woodlawn Manor in Sandy Spring.

You can access the brochure by clicking the link below, or contacting the HM office for a paper copy.

Click here to view the brochure.