Witness to War
During the Civil War, the Union and Confederate armies each used the Frederick County Courthouse as a hospital and a prison.
Cornelia McDonald, a local citizen, nursed the wounded here after the First Battle of Kernstown on March 23, 1862. She later wrote, "I went to the court house; the porch was strewed with dead men. Some had papers pinned to their coats telling who they were. All had the capes of their coats turned over to hide their still faces; but their poor hands, so pitiful they looked and so helpless. ... Soon men carried them away to make room for others who were dying inside."
Sgt. Henry Peck was one of 63 soldiers of the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry (The Corn Exchange Regiment) captured at the Battle of Shepherdstown (in present-day West Virginia) on September 20, 1862, and briefly imprisoned here. Peck later wrote, "In Winchester we were consigned to the court-house and the inclosure between it and the street. There were already in the these precincts a crowd of some 300 rebels, stragglers, conscripts and the riff-raff a provost-guard can pick up—a miserable lot—who did not fraternize with our men, and who were so filthy in clothing and habits that our men remained of choice in the open yard without tents or blankets, even during the nights of hoarfrost, to avoid contact with those in the court-house, which we were otherwise free to occupy."
The Greek Revival-style Frederick County Courthouse, designed by Baltimore architect Robert Cary Long, Jr., was completed in 1840. It was the third on this location. In 1758, the first courthouse was the site of George Washington's first election to office, when voters here elected him a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.