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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is located at the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge. On October 16, 1859, John Brown, a fervent abolitionist, raided the town's arsenal in hopes of obtaining weapons to arm and free the slaves. Though Brown's failed quest led to his hanging later that year, his dream of freeing the slaves lived on for abolitionists.

A year-and-a-half later, at the onset of the Civil War, the armory at Harpers Ferry was targeted by secessionists when Virginia (Harpers Ferry was in Virginia at that time—the state of West Virginia was not founded until 1863) seceded from the Union. Federal soldiers set fire to the armory and arsenal to prevent them from being taken by the Confederates.

On September 15, 1862, Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson surrounded and captured the 12,500-man Union garrison stationed at Harpers Ferry. When the Federals returned to Harpers Ferry after the Battle of Antietam, they set forth to protect the town—and the B&O railroad that ran through the town—by transforming the surrounding heights into fortified encampments.

In 1864, during the Shenandoah Campaign, Union General Philip H. Sheridan used Harpers Ferry as his base of operations.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park was established on June 30, 1944.

view of armory

Armory Ruins

The stone foundation of the armory can be seen beyond the fence, across the street.

Photo by CNO


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