The Bower: A Surprising Find

By Paul Siedel
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2017, All Rights Reserved

Last June, while attending the Civil War Institute in Gettysburg, I decided to take a detour on my way home and look for a house called “The Bower.” Located somewhere between Martinsburg and Charlestown, West Virginia, it was, during the Civil War, owned by the Dandridge Family, and the house was offered by them to General Jeb Stuart to serve as his headquarters during the autumn of 1862 shortly after the Battle of Antietam.

While Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet had their headquarters at Bunker Hill, Virginia, on the Valley Pike (today U.S. 11) between Martinsburg and Winchester, Virginia, Stuart chose to stay at “The Bower.” Here during the months of September, October, and into November was located the famous “boys club,” which revolved around Stuart and his group of officers that included Stuart, John Pelham, Heros Von Borke, Wade Hampton, and much of the cavalry of Lee’s Army. The house was the site of many entertaining nights with Stuart and Von Borke reciting and acting out scenes from Dickens and Shakespeare. Lively conversation, dances, and games of whist, chess, and cards were all enjoyed by the folks, both military and civilian, during the sojourn at the Dandridge home.

The Bower, near Leetown, West Virginia

It was from this location that Stuart launched his Chambersburg raid in October 1862. John Pelham became enamored with Sallie Dandridge at this time, and the two spent many evenings walking through the fields and woods of the Dandridge property. No one knows, however, just how involved they actually became with each other, as Pelham was killed five months later at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia. Sallie was married to a local man after the close of the war, and she died in childbirth shortly thereafter. The whole lively sojourn came to a sudden halt when Burnside began to move on Fredericksburg. The “boys club” was broken up, and Stuart, Pelham, and Von Borke rode away from “The Bower” never to return.

I left Gettysburg and drove to Sharpsburg, Maryland, where I was able to obtain information on a place called The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War in Shepherdstown, Maryland. It was while visiting the Center that I happened by chance to read a plaque on the wall of the charming old house in which the Center is located. It seems that the house was purchased by actress Mary Tyler Moore and donated to Shepherd College in honor of her father, George. I was thoroughly surprised, however, knowing not only that Mary Tyler Moore was from this section of the country, but also that Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters in Winchester was at one time owned by an ancestor of the actress.

The George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, Shepherdstown, Maryland

It was here that I met Mr. Thomas White, who was more than helpful and assisted me in finding “The Bower” on a local map. Although I had found the approximate location on Google Maps, I did not know what condition the roads were in and if the owners would be friendly. I drove down Sulfur Springs Road and came upon the home, which is the centerpiece of a huge working farm in rural Jefferson County, West Virginia. The owners were more than happy to show me around while we talked and I took pictures. They were well aware of the historic significance of the home and showed me the exact location on the grounds where the soldiers had pitched their tents. I left feeling fulfilled in that I had visited a Civil War landmark that many of us have read about and knowing that it would be there for many more years to come.