The town of Martinsburg, once part of Virginia, changed hands over 50 times during the Civil War. The North was determined to maintain control of the valuable railroads and the South was intent on destroying them.
In 1861, Confederate troops used teams of horses to drag locomotives to the town of Winchester, 22 miles away. They burned what they could not steal to insure the locomotives could never be used again. Because Maryland owned the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, any sympathies Marylanders had for the South were now gone and the state became a part of the North. Within a year, General Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate troops returned to Martinsburg to burn the enormous Roundhouse complex. It was rebuilt 3 years later. For the reminder of the war, both sides fought bitterly over the railroad lines. Confederate troops destroyed them, and Union troops repaired them nine times. Click here to download a PDF of our Roundhouse brochure, which further details the history of the Roundhouse.
One feisty resident gained notoriety for her cunning ability to play both sides. As the story goes, seventeen year old Belle Boyd’s decision to become a spy arose from an incident where rowdy Union soldiers broke into her family home to remove a Confederate flag and replace it with the Union flag. When her mama declared that it would be burned if they dared, a soldier insulted her and knocked her to the ground. Miss Boyd summarily shot the man dead. She escaped prosecution because the soldier was quite drunk, but was sent to live with an Aunt in Front Royal, Virginia, where the seeds of contempt took root and a spy was born. Belle secretly passed useful information to General Jackson regarding Union troop movement.
The Berkeley County Historical Society is an excellent resource for information on the rich history of the area. Visit www.bchs.org for more information on their extensive archives collection, publications, the Belle Boyd museum and gift shop.