• Sun beginning to set at Harpers Ferry, as seen from Maryland Heights. Photo by NPS Volunteer Buddy Secor.

    Harpers Ferry

    National Historical Park WV,VA,MD

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
1-2:30pm Author discussion and book signing with Daniel T. Davis and Philip S. Greenwalt at the Event Tent.
11am-4pm Capture History: Learn to be a Civil War Sketch Artist at Event Tent


Sunday September 28th
11am-2pm Capture History: Learn to be a Civil War Sketch Artist at Event Tent


Throughout the September 27-28 weekend

  • Family & Youth Tent on Hamilton Street
  • James Taylor Exhibition at Event Tent
  • "A Thousand Wagons a Day" guided horse and wagon rides
  • Soldier's City, 1864 living history demonstrations
 
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
Description: This year long exhibit will highlight dedication and commitment of African American soldiers and their fight for freedom.

Event: Harpers Ferry and the USCT Recruiting Station
Date: April 26-27, 2014
Description: This event will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Harpers Ferry's role in the recruitment of United States Colored Troops during 1864. Activities will include living history and ranger conducted programs.

Event: Invasion Stalled: Harpers Ferry and the Defense of Washington

Date: July 4-6, 2014
Description: This event will focus on the prelude of the Battle of Monocacy and Harpers Ferry's role in helping to delay Jubal Early's 1864 march on Washington. Activities will include living history, ranger conducted programs, and family/youth activities.

Event: Thunder in the Valley: Sheridan's 1864 Valley Campaign
Date: September 27-28, 2014
Description: This event will focus on Harpers Ferry's role as a staging ground and supply base during Philip Sheridan's 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Activities will include living history, ranger conducted programs, and family/youth activities.

Event: Abraham Lincoln and the Election of 1864
Date: October 11, 2014
Description: This event will explore Harpers Ferry's critical role in our nation's wartime presidential election. Activities will include living history, ranger conducted programs, and family/youth activities.

Event: Capt. Flagg's US Quartermaster City: Prospects of Peace
Date: December 6-7, 2014
Description: Learn the magnitude and scope of Harpers Ferry's role as Captain Flagg's 1864 US Quartermaster city that supplied Gen. Philip Sheridan's army in the Shenandoah Valley. Reflect on what the Civil War will determine; the Union of the States and eventual freedom of 4 million enslaved people.

Exhibit: The Freedman's Bureau, Educating the Newly Freed Slaved and the Prelude to Storer College
Date: February 1, 2015 through end of year
Description: This exhibit will launch a full year of activities that will highlight Harpers Ferry's role in the education of newly freed slaves post Civil War.

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].

Additional Information:

Units at Harpers Ferry during the Civil War

Did You Know?

Robert Harper was granted an exclusive ferry concession in 1861.

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.