Discovering the Past at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, was the setting of several climactic events that occurred before and during the Civil War, events that are part of our nation’s civil rights narrative. Visitors can step back in time and see the locations of these historic incidents that make up our country’s complex past.
John Brown’s Fort
John Brown was a radical abolitionist who believed in ending slavery by instigating violent revolts. Originally from the East, Brown was living in Kansas when he murdered pro-slavery proponents in 1856 in the conflict known as “Bleeding Kansas.” He then headed back East, determined to lead an armed revolt in Virginia. To get needed weapons, Brown and his men captured an arsenal in Harpers Ferry on Oct. 16, 1859. Their plan was quickly thwarted when a company of 90 Marines led by Col. Robert E. Lee and assisted by Capt. J.E.B. Stuart captured the men and put down the rebellion. Convicted of treason, Brown was hanged seven weeks later.
The Lockwood House
Called “Clayton Hospital” at the time of the Civil War, the Lockwood House was where wounded Union soldiers received treatment. It was a vital resource during the Battle of Harpers Ferry in September 1862.
During the Civil War, Confederate forces led by Col. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson were the first to gain control of Loudon Heights, the second tallest mountain overlooking Harpers Ferry. In 1861, Jackson ordered that three infantry blockhouses be built on top of the mountain, the remnants of which are still visible today.
Located across the Potomac River from Harpers Ferry, Maryland Heights was the site of the first battle between Union and Confederate troops. Because of its strategic location overlooking the Potomac and the B&O Railroad, Maryland Heights was the most important target of the Confederate army during the Battle of Harpers Ferry.
The Point marks the spot of a spectacular panoramic view of the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. From here, visitors can see the Potomac cutting its way through the Blue Ridge Mountains and three states – West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland. The surrounding terrain seen from this vantage point makes it clear why Harpers Valley played a strategic role in the Civil War.