Shepherdstown is a town in Jefferson County, West Virginia, USA, located along the Potomac River. It is arguably the oldest town in the state, chartered in 1762 by Colonial Virginia’s General Assembly.
Shepherdstown is well known for being the oldest town in West Virginia. It is also referred to as the most haunted town in America because it has always been home to inexplicable hauntings, strange accidents and unsolved crimes and mysteries. In a town of 1,700 residents, almost every single person has had an experience and the police have joined with the paranormal community to help solve some of the town’s deepest mysteries. Some of the events occurring in this town include the following:
- Strange lights
- The haunted Entler Hotel, now the town’s visitor center and museum
- Haunted streets that begin from the top of town at Duke Street all the way to River Road
- The ghost of Peyton Smith, a poker player who challenged another player to a duel after an argument
- Table 25 at the Yellow Brick Bank
- The clock tower of McMurran Hall, Room 1
The Battle of Shepherdstown, also known as the Battle of Boteler’s Ford, took place September 19–20, 1862, in Jefferson County, Virginia (now West Virginia), at the end of the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War.
Shortly before dusk on September 19th, Union Brig General Charles Griffin sent two regiments across the Potomac River at Boteler’s Ford. They attacked Pendleton’s rearguard, capturing four artillery pieces before being recalled. Pendleton incorrectly reported to Gen. Robert E. Lee that he had lost all 44 guns of his artillery reserve.
Early on September 20th, Porter sent two brigades across the Potomac on a reconnaissance-in-force. Major Charles Lovell’s brigade of Regulars encountered Maj. General A.P. Hill’s “Light Division” about a mile from the river. While withdrawing back to the ford, Hill’s men attacked under heavy Federal fire and the casualties were tremendous.
Col. James Barnes’ brigade was ordered to the top of the bluffs to cover the retreat, and two more Federal brigades were ordered to cross to the Virginia side of the river. After a violent clash along the heights bordering the river, Porter ordered a withdrawal. The colonel of the inexperienced 118th Pennsylvania refused to retire until orders were received through the proper chain of command. Their first time under fire, the 118th Pennsylvania were driven in by four Confederate brigades and suffered 36% losses.
Total Union dead and wounded at Shepherdstown makes it the bloodiest battle fought in what would become the state of West Virginia. George McClellan decided that an active pursuit of the enemy was not possible at this time and established a defensive posture along the Maryland bank. And for the Confederates, Robert E. Lee chose to abort his army’s movement back into Maryland. With the Confederates driven from Northern soil, President Abraham Lincoln used the opportunity to issue the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.
Peyton Smith was not intent on killing his best friend over a game and according to the story, his pistol was not loaded intentionally. His friend attempted to shoot over Peyton’s head but missed. Peyton was taken to the Entler for treatment but died from the wound. He reportedly had been placed into Room 1. Since the tragedy, several people have reported hearing him crying out for his mother.
Yellow Brick Restaurant
The manager of this establishment has reported paranormal activity. There is a story of a woman back in the mid 1900’s who was too afraid to sit at Table 25, stating there was a ghost of a woman who lives in that booth. Wine glasses have fallen off of racks and there are reports of a stereo being turn on that plays old time music. The below photo is from yellowbrickbank.com.
The paranormal activity is not exclusive to the downtown Shepherdstown area because additional hauntings have been reported at the Shepherd University’s campus. An old man supposedly haunts the clock tower of McMurran Hall. This location was also used as a hospital during the Civil War and it is believed that soldiers haunt the location. The photo below is of Shepherdstown’s Presbyterian Church which was also used as the hospital for wounded Confederate soldiers. (Historic Shepherdstown Museum)
A six part series is coming our way in June that investigates the reports about this town and the paranormal activity.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Happy Memorial Day Weekend to all.