**ATTENTION**This is an ongoing project. I continue to add photographs and historic items of interest as I come across them. If anyone has old photos, interesting facts, or stories relating to the Thomas Viaduct, the Viaduct Hotel, or the surrounding area of Relay I would be very interested in them. My e-mail address is neutronfan@yahoo.com. Thanks.

June 02, 2012

Thomas Viaduct History,Civil War History, and Historic Photographs

 The Thomas Viaduct is a stone masonry railroad bridge that spans the Patapsco River and the Patapsco Valley gorge between the towns of Relay and Elkridge, Maryland and is the first multispan masonry bridge constructed in the United States to be built on a curve. It is the world's second oldest railroad bridge still in use (the oldest is the Carrollton Viaduct  located a few miles away) and is the world's largest multiple arched stone railroad bridge built on a curve.
 

 The Thomas Viaduct utilizes Roman-style stone arches using locally mined granite. The bridge is made up of 8 spans totaling 612 feet in length and is approximately 26 feet wide and 59 feet high from water level to the base of the track rails. It is built on a 4 degree curve which is achieved by building the piers in a wedge-shaped manner. 
 
The Thomas Viaduct was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, then B&O's assistant engineer and who later became their chief engineer. Many at the time doubted whether Latrobe's design could even support itself much less the 6-7 ton locomotives being used at the time so they nicknamed the bridge "Latrobe's Folly".  Benjamin Latrobe reportedly suffered from insomnia and nervous disorders as he designed and oversaw construction of the bridge including shortness of breath, fainting and indigestion. Conventional treatments of the day included bleeding, cupping, purging, and drinking turpentine!  Morphine and laudanum were commonly used for insomnia. 

  Construction began on July 4th, 1833 and the bridge was officially completed on July 4th, 1835 at a cost of approximately $200,000. Over 600 stone masons and free black men worked on the bridge and set up a camp on the Patapsco flats just downstream from the bridge site.  It was named after Philip E. Thomas who was the first president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O). A 15 foot tall obelisk stands today on the Relay end of the bridge, designating government and railroad officials connected to the project.

  Today the bridge carries 300 ton diesel locomotives and heavy freight traffic on a daily basis. The Thomas Viaduct has been in service, without interruption, since the day that it was opened in 1835.  It survived the great flood of 1868 as well as Hurricane Agnes in 1972, two floods that wiped out the Patapsco Valley and destroyed nearly everything in their path.

 The bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 28, 1964, and administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. The bridge has also been named a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).



** I'd like to point out an item of interest about the following historic paintings, lithographs and photos**

  You may notice that the very early pictures of the viaduct tend to make the 
bridge appear taller and a bit more graceful in it's overall appearance than it does today.  It took me much longer than it should have to figure out why.  The Patapsco River gorge has silted up significantly over the past 179 years. The soil all around the  the bridge piers is a spongy coarse sand in consistency.  I counted the number of granite blocks above ground level on several different bridge piers and found that they are buried anywhere from 3-4 feet to as much as over 8+ feet deep in mud compared with photos of the same piers 130 years ago.

  This is nothing new though.  Elkridge Landing  (now the town of Elkridge)  was just a thousand yards downstream of the Thomas Viaduct.  Two hundred and fifty years ago Elkridge Landing was a busy colonial river port rivaling old Annapolis. The river was much wider and deeper then and English ships sailed up the Patapsco river from Baltimore to pick up "hogsheads" of tobacco that were locally grown at the time. The river began to silt up due to mining and agriculture upriver as well as occasional floods (known as "freshets") which finally made it impossible to navigate and the port ceased to exist. There was even a small steamboat that went up the Patapsco river as far as the Thomas Viaduct and stopped at a wharf just below the bridge. The 1868 flood wiped-out the entire Patapsco river gorge as well as the steam boat channel and wharf. So if the Thomas Viaduct looks a little on the short and stubby side to you today, it actually is.
   
 Today, much of the river in the Elkridge/Relay area is little more than a shallow creek  that couldn't accommodate anything larger than a row boat. Also worth noting is that much less water flows down the Patapsco River today due to Liberty Reservoir and its 160 foot high dam completed in 1954. 




                           **Click On Any Photograph To Enlarge It**


       A wide-angle view of the outer curve side of the bridge showing all 8 
       spans. Photograph circa 1975. Courtesy of the History Room of the 
Baltimore County Public Library Catonsville Branch.


                A 1970's aerial view of the outer curve of the Thomas Viaduct from a 
              Library of Congress photograph. Floods tend to shift the course of the
              river at the bridge. The Patapsco river tends to flow under the 3rd, 4th
              &/or 5th spans of the bridge today (counting from left to right).
                The dark line that looks like a dried up stream bed running diagonally
              from the left bottom corner just below the tree tops in the foreground
              looks to be the remnants of the mill race for the old Hockley Grist Mill
              that ran from a small mill dam (just out of view upstream to the left)
              and then under the first bridge span on the right. The mill was just
              on the other side of the bridge. It burned down in 1883.

The Thomas Viaduct - Elkridge end of the bridge 1970.
      This angle isn't possible today because tree growth around
    the bridge blocks the view. Photo courtesy of the Library 
of Congress by William Edmund Barrett.

  The Thomas Viaduct in 1972. Tropical Storm Agnes had
   flooded the Patapsco River Valley in June of 1972 and did
          massive damage. Notice how clear the area around the bridge
is from the flood. Photo by blog follower Walt Hiteshew.
  Thanks for sharing Walt.


 This is a lithograph from 1835 by Thomas Campbell.  It was done the
     same year that the Thomas Viaduct construction was completed so this
         gives you asnapshot of how the area looked when the bridge was opened.
       The Builders Monument can be seen at right on the Relay end and the 2-
         flight staircase is barely visible on the left at the Elkridge end of the bridge.
Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.


Oil painting by John H.B. Latrobe of the Thomas Viaduct circa 1850-1860.
Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society #1945-105-4.


   Thomas Viaduct in 1880. This picture was taken from a
   hilltop where a Union Army artillery battery was placed
   during the Civil War to protect the bridge. The Hockley
    grist mill with a connecting ramp at the tracks is at right
    in the foreground. It burned down in 1883. The Viaduct
     Hotel with the obelisk in front of it can be seen at the far

end of the bridge. Photo credit Patapsco Valley State
 Park, courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library 
Legacy Web project.


  This one was taken from the same hilltop, circa 1890's - early1900's.
      Photo is from an e-book of The Modern Railroad by Edward Hungerford.


Thomas Viaduct with a passenger train after a snow storm in 1880.
   Courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project.

Thomas Viaduct - Relay end of the bridge in 1872. The rebuilt
   Hockley Mill can be seen at center left. There was a huge flood
  in 1868 that wiped-out the entire Patapsco River valley. Notice
  how the vegetation is practically non-existent in the river gorge
       4 years later. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can clearly
            see the remnants of pilings from what was a foot/cart bridge attached
      to the viaduct's piers on the first 3 spans. There is also a roof and
           wall of a building visible under the first span. See the drawing below.
 Photo B&O Railroad Museum.

            A period drawing downstream of the viaduct pre-1868. Notice
             the small foot/cart bridge directly in front of the viaduct and the
      building under the first span at right. The small bridge was
              destroyed in the 1868 flood & the building had to have been as
       well. The 1872 photo above shows only stone remnants of
   the pilings but the building looks like it was rebuilt. From
        the E-book Pictorial History Of The Civil War In The United
States Of America by Benson J. Lossing.

 The Thomas Viaduct at the Relay end of the bridge 1886. Notice
     the people having a picnic next to a lone tree in the foreground and
     several men fishing on the far shore. There is also a person looking
        down from the bridge walkway. The walkway was installed sometime
        after the 1868 flood destroyed the small foot/cart bridge shown in the
     above drawing. Notice also that there still are no shrubs and only a
       single tree present around the bridge 18 years after the flood. Photo
          courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project. 
                                
 The same angle of the bridge today. The scrubby little trees that grow
all around the bridge block most of the views that were available 125
      years ago. Notice that the river has shifted it's course over the years and
    no longer flows under the same spans as it did in the previous picture. 
Photograph taken April 2011.


  Thomas Viaduct at the Elkridge end of the bridge 1886. Again, the flood 
   damage from almost 20 years prior is obvious. Courtesy of the Baltimore 
County Public Library Legacy Web project. 


   Thomas Viaduct bridge piers 1886. A small mill dam can be seen just
upstream in the distance. Courtesy of the Baltimore County Public 
Library Legacy Web project.

   The Thomas Viaduct - Relay end of the Bridge ca.1886-1897. There 
   are 2 people visible and also what looks like a horse drawn buggy or
wagon. This is from a glass plate negative and was obtained as a 
  reverse image (or "mirror image"). I flipped the image over which is 
    why the numbers are backwards. This photo is from the Smithsonian
   Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Dr. G. Howard White, Jr.
Collection.

  A closer photo of the people in the foreground. The Thomas
      Viaduct abutment at the Relay end can be seen just above the
   roof of the building at left in the background. Photo also from
 the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens,
 Dr. G. Howard White, Jr. Collection.

Two horse and buggies ford the Patapsco river downstream
          of the Thomas Viaduct circa 1900. Photo Patapsco Valley State  
    Park, courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy
Web project.


The Elkridge end of the Thomas Viaduct in 1911. Notice the small
  footbridge crossing the mill race that runs under the bridge. There 
is still a remnant of that race running under the bridge today. This
photo had to have been taken from the small landing half way up
    the stairs on this end. Photograph from a glass negative, Baltimore 
City Life Museum Collection, courtesy of the Maryland Historical 
Society MC6551.




        The Thomas Viaduct Builders Monument and a passenger train crossing
      the bridge in the early 1900's. This picture was taken from the Viaduct 
           Hotel's English Garden which was located directly in front of the hotel-end
            of the building. There is a person standing on the monument just to the left
        of the obelisk. A streetlamp is also visible just to the right of the obelisk.
    Courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library Legacy Web project.


  The same vantage point today. Photo taken in April, 2011. I have to
    confess that I took liberties with this photograph and removed a huge
  power line tower that was behind & to the right of the obelisk. It was
   a major distraction and ruined the photograph. The cloudy sky made
it easy to erase w/o being noticeable. The below photograph is the
 actual view today.


As it looks today with that obnoxious tower.


        Elkridge end of the bridge circa 1900. There are 2 women in long period 
 dresses on the end of the train car.  The small white sign up ahead 
      reads "B&O Royal Blue Trains".  There are 6 guys to the right near the
RR Crossing sign post. One of them is waving his straw hat at the 
  ladies on the end of the train as it goes over the bridge and the one 
closest on the right has a large camera tripod set up. Photo B&O  
Railroad Museum.
The same site in March 2014.  The camera man in the previous 
   photograph was set up where the bridge piling is on the right. The 
    line of scrubby trees behind that piling is where the fence was and
     also where the guys are waving at the train next to the RR Crossing
    sign. That tree line obscures the view of the Thomas Viaduct which
    was clearly visible in the 1900 photo. The far road that crosses the
        tracks in the previous photo is mostly still there behind the right piling
        and it runs down to Levering Avenue. The other road crossing in that 
    photo came down a hill that is out of the picture at far left. It is still 
    there but is little more than a wide trail going up the hill now. Photo
 by Jeff L.
    

   Thomas Viaduct -  Elkridge end of the bridge looking towards Relay
      and the Viaduct Hotel circa 1925. Courtesy of the Maryland Historical 
Society.

Thomas Viaduct with a steam engine pulling passenger cars 1925.
Photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

      Thomas Viaduct, Relay end of the bridge Circa 1920's. Photo
     taken from the Viaduct Hotel's passenger platform. Wooden 
         platforms are on both sides of the tracks running all the way up
       to the bridge. The entrance on the right to the bridge walkway
          at the Builders Monument is visible with a streetlight and a sign.
            Photo from a paper by J.E. Revelle titled "The Thomas Viaduct At
Relay, Maryland" April 30,1925.

The same site as it appears today. Photo taken March 2014 by Jeff L.



Fishermen at the Thomas Viaduct in 1935. Notice there are 3 people
on the bridge walkway. Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, Copyright 
Jennifer B. Bodine, Courtesy of AAubreyBodine.com.
http://www.aaubreybodine.com/gallery/default.asp?bc=44-705


 Children fishing upstream of the viaduct in 1935. 
Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, Copyright Jennifer
B. Bodine, Courtesy of AAubreyBodine.com
http://www.aaubreybodine.com/gallery/default.asp?bc=44-704

Looking upriver from the Thomas Viaduct walkway ca. 1920's-30's.
   Notice the small mill dam in the distance. Photo by J. Frank Andrews,
courtesy Ruth Andrews Sherwood.

     The Thomas Viaduct in 1936 - photo taken from the staircase on the
        Elkridge end of the bridge. Notice the Viaduct Hotel & Train Station in 
          the background at center-right. Courtesy of Historic American Buildings
Survey. Photo by E.H. Pickering.
  The same angle today. The bridge looks like it is being
   swallowed-up by a jungle. I hope that they can at least 
raise the funds needed to clear the trees and shrubs 
 from around the bridge. Photo by Jeff L., July 2012. 



   Thomas Viaduct outside curve with locomotive crossing over
     towards Elkridge pre 1948. The Viaduct Hotel can be seen at
            center in the background. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, 
         you will see 3 people on the bridge walkway in front of  the train.
 Photograph from the Library Of Congress, courtesy of 
the Smithsonian Institution.



B&O's streamlined "Royal Blue" passenger train in 1937 crossing the 
 bridge from the Elkridge side toward Relay in a publicity photo. Image
from Wikipedia.


  2 streamlined steam locomotives being photographed on the bridge in 1939.
  One of the photographers is visible at the right of the photo with a camera on
   a tripod. The railroad frequently used the Thomas Viaduct to "pose" their new
   locomotives on for promotional photo shoots. The" Royal Blue" is on the right
and the British train the "Coronation Scot" is on the left. Photo B&O Public 
Relations Dept.


The same 2 trains photographed head-on in 1939. Photo from Life 
Magazine historical archives.

Capitol Limited posing on the bridge before entering Relay
circa 1950's. Photo B&O Railroad Museum.

B&O's Royal Blue crossing over the Thomas Viaduct
in 1952. Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine, Copyright
 Jennifer B. Bodine, Courtesy of AAubreyBodine.com.
http://www.aaubreybodine.com/gallery/default.asp?bc=07-093



B&O's Columbian crossing the viaduct into Relay, 1949.
Image from Wikipedia.


  Locomotive pulling Royal Blue passenger cars May 1972. Photo
taken by blog follower Walt Hiteshew. Thanks for sharing Walt.
Too bad they don't do excursions like that anymore. Wish I had
been there!
A closer view near the Relay end of the bridge. Photo by Walt
Hiteshew May 1972.


CSX 3122 crossing the Thomas Viaduct into Relay. Photo by
Jeff L. March 22, 2014.



     The next 2 color photographs were donated by Jim Kleeman. A widow that used to work for him gave him several slides taken by her late husband Jack Shields, who used to go out with a few buddies and photograph trains in the Baltimore area.Thanks for sharing these great photos Jim.


B.&O.'s Royal Blue 56 passes over the Thomas Viaduct circa 1950. 
Photograph by Jack Shields, courtesy of the Jim Kleeman 
collection.

         Another B.&O. Royal Blue passes over the bridge in front of the closed
 Viaduct Hotel circa 1950. Notice how well manicured the property
 is across the tracks where the 2 lamp posts are. The 2 bushes on
         this side near the builders monument are neatly trimmed as well. Even 
       10-12 years after the hotel and station closed down the B&O Railroad 
        still cared enough to keep it looking nice for the train travelling public.
           Photograph by Jack Shields, courtesy of the Jim Kleeman 
collection.


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         CIVIL WAR HISTORY

 The B&O Railroad was the only railroad into Washington DC until after the Civil War, thus it was an essential supply train route for the Union during that time. To prevent Confederate attack or sabotage of the Thomas Viaduct and the Washington Junction, the Eighth New York and the Sixth Massachusetts regiments as well as Cook's Boston Artillery Battery took control of the railroad junction, the Relay House train station and the Thomas Viaduct on May 5th, 1861.The Relay House itself became the occupying Union Army headquarters.

 Cook's artillery was set up on a hill known as Elkridge Heights on the Elkridge side of the Patapsco River. Two cannons overlooked the bridge and river valley facing north towards Relay and was known as Camp Essex.


 A Union fort known as Fort Dix was built in Relay on top of the hill behind the Relay House overlooking the viaduct and Patapsco river valley and was named after General John A. Dix.. The Engineers who were in charge of building the fortifications for Federal Hill in Baltimore built an earthen-type fort which included a substantial timber block-house and a magazine sunk deep into the ground which was covered with a high mound of earth. In front of the magazine entrance was another mound of earth to protect it from incoming enemy shells.  An artillery battery was set up on the bluff overlooking the Thomas Viaduct with 7 twelve pound cannons, 1 thirty-four pounder and one heavy Howitzer. There was also a sandbag artillery battery with 2 twelve-pounders set up at the tracks on the Old Main Line about 150 yards past the junction, facing northwest.

  To prevent the smuggling of arms and supplies by railway to the Confederate southern states, both freight trains and passenger trains passing through Relay were stopped and searched at the Relay House station by Union troops. Passengers had their trunks and even their food baskets searched. Everything from picnic baskets full of brass buttons destined for Confederate uniforms to thousands of percussion caps for rifles and pistols hidden in trunks were found and confiscated.

 There were eventually over 2,000 troops stationed around the Thomas Viaduct in Relay, Elkridge, and the fields across the tracks from Relay that would later become the village of St. Denis. The entire area became a military occupation for the duration of the war, much to the dismay of the local residents. People's homes and buildings were occupied. Some of the soldiers not satisfied with their camp grub would forage around the countryside for something better; often robbing chicken coops, meat houses, dairies, etc.. If the soldiers at any of the camps wanted wood, hay or straw, they usually took it without the permission of the owner.

 Soldiers caught stealing chickens were often forced to march up and down the Relay House platforms all day wearing a wooden barrel with the top and bottom knocked out of it. A sign saying "Chicken Thief" was hung from it so that everybody passing by could see what they had done. Another popular form of punishment was having the offender march up and down the platforms wearing a knapsack full of rocks.

 There was one recorded incident of a group of soldiers under the command of a non-commissioned officer that began taking straw from a stack without the owner's permission. The farmer only mildly protested because he didn't want to get into trouble but his wife didn't share his fears. She demanded to see a quartermaster's order for the straw. The non-com replied that he didn't need one and told his soldiers to continue loading up the straw. She drew a pistol from under her apron and told them that she would shoot the first man that put a fork in their straw without an order. The soldiers left the farm and the non-commissioned officer returned later with the requested quartermaster's order. She then let them take the straw knowing that the government would pay her for its value.
 
  The areas of Relay and Elkridge were under martial law for four years so there was little to no advancement or improvements made there until the end of the war in 1865. Relay remained only a small hamlet until after the war was over.
 
              ***Click On Images To Enlarge Them***


 Google image from 2010 of the hilltop site where the Union Fort was
    located and of the Relay House which was taken over and used as the
 Union Army's regimental headquarters during the Civil War.


      Google Earth image of the Union Army's Camp Essex site located
  on Elkridge Heights at the Elkridge end of the Thomas Viaduct.
Cook's Boston Light Artillery camped here and had 2 cannons
deployed at the top of the hill overlooking the Thomas Viaduct
during The Civil War.


Union Soldiers pose in front of the Relay House hotel & 
train station 1861. The Thomas Viaduct is located just 
 around the bend at left. Photo Maryland State Archives.


     Union troops pose for a picture at the Relay House in 1861 with a 
waiting locomotive. Photo B&O Railroad Museum.



The Relay House ca. 1860's. Notice the crude telegraph pole
    at the passenger platforms.  That big white sign is in every Civil
   War era photo of the Relay House that I have come across. It is
 probably some kind of notice warning people that they will be
 strung up by their thumbs or shot if war-related contraband is 
      found to be in their possession! Photo courtesy of the Baltimore 
County Public Library Legacy Web project.



   Cook's Boston Light Artillery at the edge of the hill overlooking the 
 Thomas Viaduct and the Patapsco River on the Relay side of the
      bridge in 1861. Bad boys showing off their sabres! The photographer
     must have been set up on the large rubble pile that was on this site
  because there is no way to get this angle today without standing
on a ladder. When they blasted out the hillside to move the Old
    Main Line tracks they dumped the rocks on this site and left them
   there until they decided to clear it in the late 1860's. The Viaduct
      Hotel was built on the site in 1873. Also, notice the telegraph poles 
     attached to the railings running across the bridge. Photo Patapsco
     Valley State Park, courtesy of the Baltimore County Public Library
Legacy Web project.

 The Thomas Viaduct 1861 from the bluff where the Union artillery
 battery was placed. Notice the man standing at bottom left. Union
Fort Dix was located behind the photographer. Courtesy of the
Howard County Historical Society.



 This is a sketch of a Union sandbag artillery battery facing north on the
Old Main Line. The battery was located about 100 yards to the right of
     where the soldiers two photographs back are standing. From the Harper's
 Weekly magazine dated June 1, 1861.

The same site as it appears today, minus the second set of tracks.
Photo taken March 2014 by Jeff L.

The same artillery battery in 1861. Photo taken from the
    hill in front of the battery. Courtesy of the Howard County
Historical Society. 



    Cook's Boston Light Artillery at Camp Essex on Elkridge Heights
   circa 1861. The bottom of the American Flag can be seen at the
top just right of center which is hanging from what looks like a
sappling that was cut down and used as a flag pole. Courtesy 
of the Howard County Historical Society.


  Cook's Boston Artillery Battery again in 1861, but this photo shows
  the troops facing the bridge rather than the photographer. 
Courtesy 
of the Howard County Historical Society.



            If you look carefully at the previous 2 photos, you will see that the cannons
          and troops are set up on a kind of shelf that is about 3-4 feet below where
          the photographer is standing.  This is how it looks today. The line running
    horizontally through the center of the photograph is the drop-off to the
         shelf where the cannons were.  It is considerably smaller today because
the hill has a huge problem with erosion.  There are very few trees
 on the hillside and the county has posted a bunch of signs warning
people not to disturb the vegetation.



I'm standing a couple of feet from where the shelf drops down and 
    juts out from the hillside. It is definitely big enough even today to hold
     a couple of cannons but it was much wider and deeper 150 years ago
 as seen in the previous historic photos.



  This is another sketch from the Harper's Weekly magazine
from June 1, 1861. The original caption underneath of the
   picture read "The Bouquet Battery, commanding the bridge
   at the Relay House, Lieutenant Josiah Porter, Boston Light
   Artillery. commanding". The Thomas Viaduct can be seen 
   directly in front of the cannon on the right. The sandbagged
   artillery battery with flag pole from 5 & 7 pictures back can 
be seen off in the distance just right of center.



        Another drawing of Bouquet's Battery on Elkridge Heights. The Relay
House can be seen under the flag and to the right in the distance.
Courtesy of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology.





    A similar vantage point today but I'm closer & lower. Unfortunately, I
   had to take this picture from the I-895 highway bridge that was built
           directly in front of the "artillery hill". The Hockley Grist Mill was where the
           road is on the right. The grist mill's separate track ran up next to the right
          track on the wide gravel berm. The house in the far distance is on a bluff
    where the Union Army Civil War fort was built to defend the Thomas
           Viaduct and Relay. The highway bridges actually run right over top of the
        area where the 2 roads cross the tracks in the above photograph . The
             next photograph shows the hill where the Union cannons were positioned,
      as seen from the I-895 highway bridge that I'm standing on.


      The actual hill known as Elkridge Heights where Cook's Boston Artillery  
    was positioned. I climbed that hill and was within 50-75 feet of the I-895
        bridges at the top. Of course the original view is blocked by these bridges
          as well as the scrubby little trees clinging for dear life to the eroded hillside.
I'm sure that the Union Army clear-cut the hill at the time to have an
    unobstructed view and field-of-fire of the bridge as well as the Patapsco
river valley.


  This is the view today from the hill top. I am standing where the cannons
   were deployed. Because of the 2 highway bridges and the scrubby trees, 
  the view is totally ruined. I was standing on the far bridge in the previous 
2 shots.


 This is a New York Times article published May 11, 1861 about the disposition of General Butlers command from the Relay House:

FROM THE RELAY HOUSE; DISPOSITION OF GEN. BUTLER'S COMMAND A BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY GEN. BUTLER'S CAMP CLERMONT HILL Opposite Relay House, MD.

Published: May 11, 1861

Tuesday, May 7, 1861.
  The men now under Gen. BUTLER's orders here are encamped on one of the most beautiful spots the eye could rest upon. The Relay House is situated in a deep valley, through which the Baltimore
and Ohio Railroad runs and from which the hills on either side slope gradually to a height commanding a full view of the surrounding country. The Eighth New-York Regiment was the advance guard in taking possession here, and arrived at noon on Sunday. The Sixth Massachusetts arrived somewhat later, by special train, from Washington. The Eighth New-York occupy one of these magnificent hills, and the Sixth the other, the valley, which is lined with troops -- detachments from the regiments -- separating them. I went over the camp this noon, and was surprised to find how rapidly the men had thrown up their tents and batteries, and made themselves comfortable. The tents and camp appointments of the Sixth have not yet arrived from Boston; but anyone to look at their quarters on Clermont Hill, would suppose that they were in little need of other tents than those which adorn the place of their encampment Numerous tasteful little barracks, made of limbs and boughs of trees, beautifully thatched and decorated with foliage, and well lined with straw within, are dotted all over the hill. The men are well provided with provisions, and they have a part of a house far down on the west side of the hill, which they call Doctor's Quarters. The family who occupied the house when the troops took possession of the place still remain, and have sufficient room for comfort. 
  The men are particular here, as indeed they are everywhere they go, to cause as little discomfort, and no interruption to the ordinary routine of daily occupations, as is consistent with their duty; and it is a gratifying thing to hear the people at this place and at Washington, expressing their pleasure at the behavior of the Northern soldiers. They are quiet, inoffensive, and always sober. The men here are a splendid set of fellows in appearance. Gen. Butler himself has a fine, military presence, self-possessed and full of vigor, with a hearty urbanity of manner that makes him very popular. He rides over the camp daily, mounted on a splendid animal apparently as full of fire as his manly-looking rider. The officers attached to the General's staff and to the regiments are noble-looking men -- strong, sinewy, and full of a determined force of character. They are of polished manner also, and know how to treat a lady with deference, even though she be a Secessionist, They meet with many having such sentiments in this latitude.
  One of the Eighth (New-York) Regiment accidentally shot himself this morning, while resting his chin on the muzzle of his gun. The bullet entered the poor fellow's brains, killing him at once. One of the Sixth was also unfortunate to-day. He came near being poisoned, -- something of that nature having been given him in the food or drink he had taken in the neighborhood. The men intend to keep a strict watch hereafter. A noisy Secessionist, a Baltimorean, was arrested here this morning. He shook his fist in the face of an officer, and with imprecations, said: "I was one of them who fired on you at Baltimore, and I'll do it again when I get a chance." This, with other insulting remarks, procured a lodging for him in the Guard-house, where he awaits Gen. BUTLER's orders. They have a few men on the sick list here, but none dangerously ill. Friends at home may be sure that the sick will be tenderly taken care of. Miss Powell, from New-York, has been all through the camp here, and has placed two of the efficient nurses of her corps under the orders of Gen. BUTLER, to go wherever they are wanted with his men.
  The Boston Flying Artillery that accompanied the troops here, have planted two fine batteries, commanding both points of the road leading to Baltimore and Washington. One commands the Bridge of the Washington Turnpike across the Patapsco, and the other could rake in a few moments the magnificent stone railroad bridge of the Washington branch, and has a fine sweep of the main track. It is a splendid military position, and can be held against any force that would make an attack.
  The Fifth (German) Regiment are new stationed at the Annapolis Junction, about 22 miles from Washington. They deserve the greatest praise for their vigilance and devotion. I saw them to-day, and their movements were very fine. I was amused at the way in which one of them related his love for the "Junion," (Union.)  The Regiment is under Col. Schwarzwaelder, and are well-built, active men. For some reason the afternoon train which was to go to Baltimore to-day has been ordered back to Washington.
  I saw Capt. BRIGGS, son of Ex-Gov. BRIGGS, of Massachusetts, at the Relay House today. He had just come from Fort McHenry. You may fancy how well the fort is occupied when you hear that some of the officers are obliged to camp in the stables.
  This is a beautiful region of country, and to-day's bright sun and lovely blue sky, light up the hills and valleys with all the soft, green, glowing beauty of early Summer. You have only to descend to the valley on the West side of Clermont Hill, to find yourself out of sight of the troops, who are within a minute's walk on the hill. In this valley your gaze is shut out by the hill from everything but the peaceful meadows of velvet green, the quiet cattle grazing, and the calm heavens. It was difficult to realize in this holy peace, that grape and cannister, and bullets and cold steel were on the other side of this high hill, ready to do a terrible work, and illustrating a commotion which will startle the world. Oh! that the men who have insulted the Stars and Stripes could really feel the value of this holy peace which they have broken, and the dreadful results to them which must follow. I told a Southern gentleman, to-day, who was expressing, with myself, a sorrow for the suffering which must fall on the South, that the world could never forget that when they rebelled against the Government, they had the control over it in both Houses of Congress. He sighed and said, "Yes." That reproach will always cling to them, and most damage their cause. More anon. Adlou. E.

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