A Visit to Harpers Ferry
by Dave Pattison
Harpers Ferry by Moonlight (Library of Congress)
One of the most beautiful and historic towns in America is Harpers Ferry WV. Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River. It is surrounded by Maryland Heights, Loudon Heights, and Bolivar Heights. If you have not been to Harpers Ferry, I highly recommend going there. You can park at the National Park Visitor Center and take a shuttle bus to the lower town. Touring the lower town is like going back in time to the 1850’s.
The Appalachian Trail passes right through Harpers Ferry. Hiking trails lead to the top of Maryland Heights and Loudon Heights for beautiful views of Harpers Ferry, the rivers, and the surrounding area.
Harpers Ferry changed hands several times during the Civil War. You can visit the engine house, where John Brown and his raiders were captured during their ill-fated raid in October of 1859. You can also tour Boliver Heights, which is where the Union Army surrendered 12,693 men to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s troops prior to the Battle of Antietam.
Civil War Round Table member Arnold Schofield served a tour of duty in the National Park Service at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. I first met Arnold during the John Brown Symposium in October of 2009, which was the 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid.
On the evening of October 16, 2009, Dennis Frye, Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, led a group of 300 people on a 5-mile hike, starting at the Kennedy Farmhouse in Maryland and ending at the engine house in Harpers Ferry. We followed a horse-drawn wagon and hiked during a light rain, which added a sense of realism to the event. Periodically, Dennis Frye would halt the procession and ask us to imagine what John Brown and his men were thinking as they walked slowly toward their ultimate fate. Those men were going to war. That was a night I will always remember.