Our first battlefield visit of the Semester: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. We arrived at Harpers Ferry at about nine in the morning on September 15. Since most of us had never been to or even seen Harpers Ferry before, we were blown away by the setting of the place. Surrounded by Maryland Heights, Loudon Heights, and Bolivar Heights, with Camp Hill in the middle, Harpers Ferry can easily be called a breath-taking view. We were soon met by our guide for the day, the esteemed Dennis Frye. More experienced Civil War travelers had been raving about Dennis for the days leading up to our trip, so it was a real privilege to meet him. He first took our group down to the Lower Town, which was the historic district of the town proper itself. Dennis showed us the house that he discovered Grant had stayed in on September 16, 1864. He proudly admitted that had once lived in that house as well, and told us the story of how he made sure to sleep in every room before he moved out, just to say that he slept in the same room that Grant did. We received a brief history of the Armory that was located there until 1861, as well as an overview of the raid of John Brown. We sat in the firehouse that John Brown used as a fortress during his thirty-six hour standoff in October, 1859. Sitting in that tiny building gave me chills because I realized that those very walls had seen such a crucial event. Before lunch, we managed to spend a few minutes at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. After touching both rivers at once, Joe and Anna made a pact to touch the main waterway at every battlefield hereafter. We also found time to visit the wonderfully stocked Harpers Ferry National Park bookstore. After a buffet lunch, we toured the battle grounds around the Ferry, spending time on Bolivar Heights, Schoolhouse Ridge, and the Murphy Farm. Dennis vividly explained to us the movements of Stonewall Jackson, who commanded the expedition to take the tiny town in September 1862 during the Maryland Campaign, and Dixon Miles, the commander of the Union garrison at the beleaguered town. Our tour of the battlefield ended on Bolivar Heights with the story of the surrender of the garrison. Fittingly enough, the surrender happened on September 15, 1862, exactly 144 years to the day. Our visit to Harpers Ferry unfortunately came to an end. We boarded the bus and arrived back at the Appleford before seven that evening. A day with Dennis Frye made us start counting down until the next time he will serve as our guide, at Antietam. Next week: Manassas.
Beginning the day in Lower Town
with the great Dennis Frye
Dennis Frye orients us to the
From Boliver Heights -
Maryland Heights on left,
Loudoun Heights on the Right
View from the Murphy Farm - a newly acquired tract of land the Park Service was able to save from development