Harper's ferry, West Virginia

Steven Dutch, Professor Emeritus, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

The Old Town

Until 1863, Harpers ferry was in Virginia, but then West Virginia seceded from secession.

John Brown's Attack

For something without wheels, John Brown's "Fort" racked up a lot of miles. It was originally the fire station for the armory, and was the only armory building to survive the Civil War. It was moved to Chicago in 1891 for the Columbian Exposition, moved back and set up on a farm, then on a college campus, and finally returned to near its original location.
The original foundation of Brown's "Fort."
The arsenal was completely destroyed in the civil war. The site is now a raised embankment on the bank of the Potomac.

Lewis and Clark?

What were Lewis and Clark doing here?

As the monument explains. Lewis came here before the expedition to gather weapons and materials, including the frame for a collapsible boat. Then he journeyed to Pittsburgh and down the Ohio to join Clark.

Below: plaque commemorating the expedition.

The Point

This is the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah. Looking downstream, the Potomac enters from the left and the much smaller Shenandoah from the right. Both rivers are shallow and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal follows the Potomac on the far shore.

Harpers ferry is surrounded by high ground behind and on both sides. One Civil War General said he'd rather attack this place a hundred times than defend it once.

The Appalachian Trail crosses the bridge.

Trestle and Canal

Above: a picturesque railroad trestle runs along the bank of the Shenandoah.

Below, left: Behind the town is a steep bedrock hill.

Below, right: A canal also runs parallel to the Shenandoah. Not for transportation but to supply water to a blacksmith shop.

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Created 22 June 2007, Last Update 04 June 2020