the visitor center is your best first stop on a visit to harpers ferry. from the visitor center you can take a bus to the harpers ferry historic district. there is a small parking lot at the train station in the historic district but it is almost impossible to find a parking space there. other than the train station there is no parking in the historic district. also at the visitor center you can get information on the sites of the battle of harpers ferry.
while union general miles was preoccupied with lawton's attack at bolivar heights confederate general a. p. hill attacked miles' exposed left flank from the south. at the same time harpers ferry was being bombarded by the artillery of general lafayette mc laws from maryland heights and colonel stapleton crutchfield's artillery from loudoun heights. by now miles realized that he was surrounded and surrended his 12,000 man garrison to general jackson.
harpers ferry railroad fire house also known as john brown's fort is the most famous building in town. in october 1859 brown and his twenty one man "provisional army of the united states" tried to take possession of the united states armory and arsenal at harpers ferry. brown had come to steal and distribute the 100,000 rifles of the arsenal to arm a slave rebellion. armory workers discovered brown's men and after a shoot out with harpers ferry's towns people brown hid in the arsenal fire house. on the afternoon of october 17 th president james buchannan ordered a detachment of marines commanded by colonel robert e. lee to take the "fort". brown was captured and charged for "conspiring with slaves to commit treason and murder". brown was tried, convicted, and hung in charles town on december 2 nd 1859. during the raid on harpers ferry the following members of john brown's "army" were killed during the raid. john h. kagi, jeremiah g. anderson. william thompson, dauphin thompson, oliver brown, watson brown, stewart taylor, william leeman, lewis leary, and dangerfield newby.
during the battle of harpers ferry in september 1862 boliver heights was the site of a fake attack on harpers ferry. confederate general alexander lawton attacked union general dixon miles' defensive line on boliver heights which distracted him from the main confederate force of general a. p. hill to the south. while mile's troops were involved in the skirmish at bolivar heights general hill positioned his forces to attack miles' left flank.
the federal provost marshal of the harpers ferry district office is located on shenandoah street in the historic district. this building is open to the public and has a small museum. worth a look when in downtown harpers ferry.
pictured is the ruins of savery mill. in 1888 on the former site of the shenandoah locks, thomas savery built a large pulp mill to produce wood pulp for the paper industry. by the 1920's savery mill had the capacity to produce 15 tons of wood pulp per day. the mill closed in 1835 and was destroyed by a flood in 1936. this was the last water powered mill in harpers ferry.
in 1794 the united states congress passed a bill "for erecting and repairing of arsenals and magazines". president george washington selected harpers ferry for the location of an armory. in 1799 construction began on the national armory and three years later the mass production of muskets, rifles, and pistols began. the average annual production rate was estimated to have been 10,000 weapons per year. in 1859 john brown and his "provisional army of the united states" tried to capture the arsenal and distribute it's weapons to rebellious slaves. brown's plan failed and he was tried and executed. during the civil war the armory became a site of great strategic importance because of it's location near the mason-dixon line. on april 18 th 1861 union forces set fire to the armory. harper ferry residents were able to put out the fires quickly enough to save most of the armory's weapon making machinery. after rescuing the equipment the confederates shipped it south and destroyed what remained of the armory.
On a hot summers day, this southern town would have been steamy. Only the breeze coming up from the river would have provided some relief and that may have been minimal with the armory down below. Open porches to get out in the air would have been ideal. Those perched high above the surrounding town would have been ideal. These look down on High Street and over the Potomac.
This is where you'll spend most of your time. Here, you'll find a variety of museums and places to visit. As you move up the hill or away from Shenandoah Street, you'll leave the park and find a variety of shops selling souvenirs, food, and other items (clothing) of interest.
#17 - Harpers Ferry Wetlands (corner building)
Information on the floodplains of the Shenandoah River. The richness of natural resources and what you can see today on Virginius Island.
#16 - Allies for Freedom (2nd floor)
Talks about the 5 African-Americans who joined John Brown on that fateful Sunday.
#15 - John Brown Museum (building with white porch)
The complete story of John Brown's Raid, from his involvement in 'Bloody Kansas' to his death by hanging.
As you walk into town from where the bus drops you, you'll be looking down Shanandoah Street.
Harpers Ferry: A Place in Time (Stop #8) is the first building on the right as you approach. Here, you'll learn about the town itself. Why Harper set up his ferry here, the story of growth and the floods.
Provost Marshal Office (Stop #9) is the next building. It has been furnished as a Marshals office and tells about the men who served as representatives of the law.
The Civil War Museum (Stop #21) (brick bldg on the right) was closed on this February visit. On previous visits, it told of life in this border town during 4 years of war. The numerous times, that it changed hands, the build-up of troops and the final removal of the Armory.
Black Voices (Stop #22) uses spoken stories of the struggles and triumphs of black individuals in 19th Century U.S.
John Brown's Raid
John Brown believed he could free the slaves, and selected Harpers Ferry as his starting point. Determined to seize the 100,000 weapons at the Arsenal and to use the Blue Ridge Mountains for guerrilla warfare, Brown launched a raid on Sunday evening, October 16, 1859. 21-man in his "army of liberation" seized the Armory and several other strategic points. Thirty-six hours after the raid begun, with most of his men killed or wounded, Brown was captured in the Armory fire enginehouse (now known as "John Brown's Fort") when U.S. Marines stormed the building.
Brought to trial at nearby Charles Town, Brown was found guilty of treason, of conspiring with slaves to rebel, and murder. He was hanged on December 2, 1859. John Brown's short-lived raid failed, but his trial and execution focused the nation's attention on the moral issue of slavery and headed the country toward civil war.
High on a bluff overlooking the Lower Town, St. Peters Catholic Church has been a witness to the life and events that have swirled through these vallies. The church has become a symbol of Harper's Ferry after nearly a century of standing over the town.
Do you ever wonder where that postcard view of Harpers Ferry is taken from? This overlook area on Maryland Heights is indeed the spot to be. it is a good uphill hike from town and it begins by crossing the pedestrian bridge to the Maryland side. You must turn left and follow the road until you see the trail leading up through the woods. It does help to have the map with you as there is one more turnoff you must make on the trail to access the overlook area. Multiple trails in this region lead to various historic sites. Some are associated with the seige of Harpers Ferry. The views are outstanding above the cliffs. The hike should take a couple of hours.
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