After two hard weeks of classes, we finally took our first trip of the semester! Our group (minus Dr. Guelzo, who was a bit under the weather) arrived at the Visitor's Center in Harper's Ferry around 9 am to beautiful and sunny skies, where we met Dennis Frye of the National Park Service. Coming into the Gettysburg Semester, I knew that we would be touring the battlefields with some great guides, but Dennis was more than qualified to show us around! We started our tour in the historic Lower Town.
Harper's Ferry, West Virginia is one of the most beautiful places in our country, with its picturesque vistas of wooded mountains and winding rivers that frame the quaint historic town. It was precisely this locale that made it such an important start to the beginning of the war, as well as during the war. Dennis got us acquainted with the town right away, and we jumped right into the story of John Brown's Raid. The tour started with a freight train barreling across the tracks not more than fifty feet away from the buildings in town (I pity the people who try to sleep here!), and ended with our demonstrating how the fort was finally taken. After some time for us to peruse the Bookshop, we all left with some kind of fancy good, whether it be a Civil War tie for James, or a postcard of beloved Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain for Jessie.
After lunch, we continued on our tour, jumping ahead three years. Again, understanding the terrain proved to be the most important aspect of the battle here in September of 1862, and Dennis showed us from many different angles the significance of Maryland Heights, Loudoun Heights, and Bolivar Heights. The end of the tour found us peering down the 300 ft. cliff that Jackson's men scaled in the dark with about twenty cannons (and no modern technology). This unbelievable feat was a wow moment for all of us, but John, one of our token Southerners, could not resist relishing the Confederate victory (he can have this one, but I think we all know who has the final laugh!). The trip back was great; I slept like a baby, despite some pictures being taken unbeknownst to me. Oh well, I guess I will have to sleep with one eye open on our next trip, to Manassas!