Harpers Ferry and the Civil War
Upcoming 150th Commemorative Events
Thunder in the Valley: Sheridan's 1864 Valley Campaign
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will host a Civil War 150th Anniversary commemorative event, Thunder in the Valley: Sheridan's 1864 Valley Campaign on September 27 and 28, 2014. This event highlights Harpers Ferry's role as the main supply depot during Union General Philip H. Sheridan's campaign to engage in total warfare and defeat Confederate General Jubal Early's army in the Shenandoah Valley.
September 27-28 Activities & Programs Schedule
There are several ongoing activities, ranger programs, and living history demonstrations during this event. Here is a PDF document detailing our schedule for this commemorative event.
Highlights of the event include:
Saturday September 27th
Schedule of Harpers Ferry's Civil War Events, 2014-2015
Exhibit: The USCT & the Spirit of Freedom
Date: February 2, 2014 through end of year
Event: Harpers Ferry and the USCT Recruiting Station
Date: July 4-6, 2014
Event: Thunder in the Valley: Sheridan's 1864 Valley Campaign
Event: Abraham Lincoln and the Election of 1864
Event: Capt. Flagg's US Quartermaster City: Prospects of Peace
Exhibit: The Freedman's Bureau, Educating the Newly Freed Slaved and the Prelude to Storer College
A downloadable version of this schedule is available as a PDF.
Overview of Harpers Ferry and the Civil War
The Civil War had a profound and disastrous effect on Harpers Ferry, leaving a path of destruction that wrecked the town's economy and forced many residents to depart forever. Because of the town's strategic location on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, Union and Confederate troops moved through Harpers Ferry frequently. The town changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865.
On April 18, 1861, less than 24 hours after Virginia seceded from the Union, Federal soldiers set fire to the Armory and Arsenal to keep them out of Confederate hands. The Arsenal and 15,000 weapons were destroyed, but the Armory flames were extinguished and the weapons-making equipment was shipped south. When the Confederates abandoned the town two months later, they burned most of the factory buildings and blew up the railroad bridge. [Learn more about the Armory & Arsenal]. The first Harpers Ferry citizen killed during the Civil War was Frederick Roeder. To learn more about him, click here.
Federal forces re-occupied Harpers Ferry in 1862. During the Confederacy's first invasion of the North, on September 15, 1862, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson surrounded and captured the 12,700-man Union garrison stationed here. When the Federals returned to Harpers Ferry after the Battle of Antietam, they began transforming the surrounding heights into fortified encampments to protect both the town and the railroad. In 1864, Union Gen. Philip H. Sheridan used Harpers Ferry as his base of operations against Confederate troops in the Shenandoah Valley. [Learn more about the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry].
Did You Know?
Robert Harper operated a ferry across the Potomac River in 1747. His heirs, the Wagers, maintained the operation until 1824 when a bridge was built across the Potomac.