Frederick has long been an important crossroads. With the building of the National Pike in the 1700s, it was linked with the port city of Baltimore and became a stop on the road west. Young Francis Scott Key grew up and practiced law in Frederick before writing the poem that would become our national anthem. When Elizabeth Ann Seton sought a place for her new community of religious women, she found a home just north of the city in Emmitsburg.
During the Civil War, thousands of wounded soldiers arrived in Frederick to recover. The first came in August 1862, following the Battle of South Mountain. More arrived the next month after the battle at Antietam, the bloodiest day of battle during the Civil War. So many wounded arrived, they outnumbered Frederick's own citizens.
In 1862, Barbara Fritchie confronted General Stonewall Jackson and was immortalized in poetry: "'Shoot if you must this old gray head; but spare your country's flag,' she said."
Two years later, Confederate general Jubal Early demanded ransom that saved the town from destruction. Battles at Harpers Ferry and Gettysburg brought more wounded before the Battle of the Monocacy was waged to the southeast.
Reminders of these sad days remain in the area's historic sites, museums, and the battlefields of Antietam, Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, and Monocacy, maintained by the National Park Service.
Today Frederick is Maryland's third-largest city, its suburbs extending down toward Washington, D.C. Downtown is a popular spot for shopping and dining, while outside town are rolling fields and orchards, the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains, and green space for picnicking and hiking.