"The personal experiences from the letters and diaries bring to life what the soldiers were going through in adjusting to life in Laurel," Baker said. "Most were from faraway places and were used to different cultural societies. For some, Laurel wasn't to their liking."
Closer to home, Lubieniecki said the exhibit committee members found a treasure in the museum's attic that no one knew existed. It was a copy of a pencil map drawn by Civil War mapmaker Frederick Munther, that laid out the entire Union encampment area in Laurel.
"We went to the Library of Congress and saw the original, scanned it and put it in the exhibit. It shows the Patuxent River, the railroad tracks, Main Street and where the soldiers were housed in tents and log structures," Lubieniecki said. "To think we had it in our files all the time."
The exhibit also has a section where visitors can read columns written for the Elmira Weekly Advertiser in 1862 by Thomas Beecher about various aspects of military life in Laurel. He was chaplain of a New York unit and the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Lubieniecki said they discovered the columns at the Binghamton library on microfiche.
"I love how they were so thorough in their findings for this exhibit," said Laurel resident Jhanna Levin, who is a museum volunteer. "This exhibit focuses on what was happening in Laurel during the war and I don't think anyone knew of these things."
In addition to having a tent with an unlit campfire on display, which children seemed fascinated with at the opening, there are glass cases of Civil War mementos associated with Laurel. Much of it, such as swords, medals, bullets and photos, is on loan from former Laurel resident John Bowen, who collects Laurel memorabilia and now lives in Hawaii.
The exhibit also includes a small section on free and enslaved African Americans in Laurel during the Civil War.
"There wasn't a lot of information on African Americans but we found that there were four drafted (who were enslaved) and seven freed drafted during the Civil War. We're not entirely sure if they actually served," Baker said.
They are sure that there were 470 free residents in Laurel during the Civil War and 127 were free African Americans. Other facts revealed in the exhibit are that Nicholas Snowden, who was born at Montpelier Mansion in South Laurel, served under the Confederacy and was killed in battle; Richard Barry, a local cotton mill worker, is the only local resident on record to have joined the Union Army; and when Lincoln ran for office, only one Prince George's County resident voted for him.
"This exhibit makes me feel proud of Laurel," said former Laurel resident Terry Stetson. "It emphasizes the importance of Laurel and the railroad here during the Civil War and that often gets lost. You don't see these interesting facts in history books."
"Stationed in Laurel: Our Civil War Story" continues at the Laurel Museum through Dec. 22. Located at 817 Main St., Laurel Museum is open Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free.. For more information, go to laurelhistoricalsociety.org or contact the Laurel Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 301-725-7975.