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Harpers Ferry

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Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, formerly Virginia, was a real treat to visit. Not only is it beautiful with scenery that made Thomas Jefferson declare that it was the most beautiful place on earth, but enjoyable to stroll around the old town.

Harpers Ferry is named after a man by the name of Harper, who used to run a ferry across the river here.

You probably could have guessed that.

Note: I put my captions to the photos above them. Afterall, you scroll down and don't want to go back if you don't have too.



Harpers Ferry is not a place I can really describe very well, but is a place to be experienced. Much like some of the old towns in Europe that I visited 20 years ago when I was in the Army, this is a town where you can wander the streets and enjoy input from all your senses. There are plenty of café's, craft shops, or museums that cover a four block area.





Wander in this store front, and it is the recreated provost marshal's office.



If you follow the National Park brochure they are easy to find, but what is the fun in that? I decided to wander around aimlessly and see what I found. When I had enough of that, I pulled out the brochure to see what I wanted to visit that I missed on the first go-around.

Do what I did, and park at the national park visitor center. Then take the shuttle bus into town. Otherwise, there is not any easy parking in this old town that is over 200 years old.

George Washington had this town become a major manufacturing center because of the water power available from the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. The rivers meet here and form the most beautiful gorge. But the beauty is deceptive, because floods are frequent and have been the ruin of the industry in town over time.



One of the major industries that were here was the Harpers Ferry Armory that manufactured muskets and rifles before the Civil War.







Recreated gunsmith shop.



Which leads us to John Brown, which is what Harpers Ferry is most known for. John Brown came here on October 16th, 1859, took over the armory, and had plans to take 100,000 muskets and arms from here to start a slave rebellion / insurrection in the country. His actions inflamed the country as one of the events that helped precipitate the Civil War.

The Many Faces of John Brown



John Brown, prophet, firebrand, abolitionist, or visionary?



Unfortunately for John Brown, the local folks did not share his insurrection fever, and did not join him in his uprising. The local mob killed and mutilated one of the bodies of his men before the Army & Marines arrived. By the time the federal forces arrived, Brown and his surviving members were holed up in the small armory firehouse, also thereafter known as Brown's Fort. A contingent of US Marines commanded by Robert E. Lee stormed the firehouse and captured Brown, who was holding his dying son.

Scenes of the life of John Brown at the John Brown Wax Museum. Look for it, because it is not listed in the national park brochure!

John Brown takes over the town, and ironically his first victim is a former slave.



Marines commanded by Robert E. Lee storm Brown's Fort and take John Brown, who is holding his dying son.



Sharpes Rifle owned by Brown



Brown was tried and hanged, along with the four other surviving coconspirators.

Brown's Fort survived because it was eventually removed as part of the Columbia expedition in the 1890s. No other part of the armory building or factory remains. The firehouse changed hands of ownership, but eventually made it back home.

Brown's Fort / Armory Firehouse





This obelisk marks the original location of the firehouse, just up the hill from where it is now.



During the Civil War, the town changed hands between Confederate and Federal forces several times.

Harpers Ferry is definitely worth a visit for the whole day if possible. What I enjoyed most is wandering the streets and walking into a storefront that turned out to be a museum. There are several places like this. So when you visit, don't be afraid to wander into the doorways and see what you will find.

Train tunnel with a walkway for pedestrians along the bridge over the river.

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