First Stop of "Quick Getaways" hits Harpers Ferry

HARPERS FERRY, WV- Through out this summer, WHAG will show you a series of "Quick Getaways." The first spot is a small town in West Virginia that was the site for four consecutive years of battles, but the history starts with a raid led by a famous abolitionist.  

Today the town of Harpers Ferry in West Virginia has a population of less than a 1,000 people with tourists around the world visiting its historical sites.  But more than a century and a half earlier, Harpers Ferry was filled with non-stop carnage and bloodshed between the Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War.  

"The Battle of Antietam was one day in American history, the Battle of Gettysburg is three days in American history, but for the Civil War, Harpers Ferry was 1,400 consecutive days of the Civil War, as a result of this location," says Dennis Frye, the Chief Historian at Harpers FerryNationalHistoricalPark

To this day many of the Civil War sites are preserved in Harpers Ferry.  Visitors come to this historical hilltop in West Virginia, overlooking the Potomac River to the MarylandHeights, which was fortified by the Union, to prevent the Confederates from possibly invading WashingtonDC, 60 miles away.  During those years, both the Union and Confederacy tried to control the town for strategic reasons.

"Whoever held Harpers Ferry through out this end of the Shenandoah Valley, in many respects could control invasion routes to Maryland and Pennsylvania, can control invasions routes from Pennsylvania into Virginia, the Confederates could potentially threaten WashingtonDC, "says Dennis Frye, the Chief Historian at Harpers FerryNationalHistoricalPark

Harpers Ferry was home to one of the largest United States armory and arsenal site which once stored about a 100,000 weapons is now part of the Harpers FerryNationalHistoricalPark.  Before the war, the abolitionist John Brown led a group of 18 men to seize weapons to launch a war against slavery, but Brown was surrounded then captured by US Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee, the whole story of John Brown can be found at the JohnBrownWax Museum.

"The very fact, John Brown comes to Harpers Ferry seizes the United States Armory and Arsenal was an attack on the United States of America, and attack on Slavery permitted in the United States," says Dennis Frye, the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. 

Other attractions include, the Lockwood House, which were the headquarters for Union General Philip Sheridan, then the Odd Fellows Lodge which housed the New York Regiment, and to the Battlefields of Bolivar Heights.

"This was the precursor to Antietam, this was the battle that allowed the Battle of Antietam to occur, in 1863 when the Gettysburg campaign occurred there would be fighting at Bolivar Heights, before the Confederate Army got to Gettysburg," says Dennis Frye, the Chief Historian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Also be sure to check out the bridge piers ruins of the Baltimore-Ohio Railroad, which was built and destroyed 9 times during the war, the Saint Lutheran's church that was transformed into a hospital. Before the Civil War, the bell on the church was rung to sound the alarm of John Brown's raid.  

During the war, Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times, between the Union and the Confederacy.

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