Special Themes/Interests

Visit War of 1812 and Civil War-related sites as we commemorate these special anniversaries, travel the Religious Freedom National Scenic Byway, check out our lighthouses, our rich African-American heritage and our Amish communities. Expand your interests or build a new passion.

Civil War

St. Mary's County possessed cultural affinity with the Old South, but it's location in a state that the Union absolutely could not let declare for secession meant an extraordinary Union military presence.  And its African American population was doubtless pro-Union.  Over 600 African Americans from St. Mary’s County served in the Union Army; two were awarded Medals of Honor. Explore the site of one of the North’s largest prison camps for Confederate Soldiers at Point Lookout, visit our numerous monuments and uncover amazing stories off the beaten path.

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African-American Heritage

African-American history in Maryland begins in 1634 with the arrival of indentured servant Mathias de Sousa, one of the 140 settlers who first traveled here and established Maryland. While de Sousa’s story is inspiring—he voted in the early legislature, as tobacco became the basis of Southern Maryland’s economy, slavery became entrenched. Our historic sites and museums such as Sotterley Plantation, the United States Colored Troops Memorial Monument and Drayden African-American Schoolhouse, tell the story of our community while mirroring the larger struggles of our nation.

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Amish and Mennonite Community

During the 1930s, Amish and Mennonite families left Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and relocated to St. Mary’s County. Travel scenic back roads, explore farm markets and visit farm shops offering items such as leather goods, furniture and quilts. Visit farms with signs posted at entrances. All shops are closed on Sunday.

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The waters off the shore of the Chesapeake Bay could be treacherous. For over a hundred years, lighthouses made navigating the Bay safer. From the oldest lighthouse on the Potomac to one of the most haunted in America, St. Mary’s has great lighthouses—each with its own unique story. Explore all four!

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Religious Heritage

Maryland’s first colony is where the concepts of religious toleration and separation of Church and State were introduced to the New World. Our religious heritage sites and colonial churches speak to this time of experimentation. Follow the Religious Freedom National Scenic Byway which runs through St. Mary’s and Charles Counties. Our later churches also have compelling stories to tell.

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War of 1812

The Chesapeake Region was a major theater of war during the War of 1812. The British Fleet sailed up the Chesapeake Bay, raiding and invading virtually unchallenged along the Patuxent and Potomac Rivers. Visit St. Mary’s County sites along the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail and Byway. View exhibits, and enjoy War of 1812 programs.

View WAR OF 1812 SITES