Invasion Stalled: Harpers Ferry and the Defense of Washington

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Date: June 16, 2014
Contact: Todd Bolton, 304-535-6026

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park will host a Civil War 150th Anniversary commemorative event, Invasion Stalled: Harpers Ferry and the Defense of Washington on July 4, 5, and 6, 2014. This event highlights the engaging role of Harpers Ferry in delaying Confederate General Jubal Early's 1864 march on Washington and the run up to the Battle of Monocacy.

"Harpers Ferry first sounded the alarm of the last Confederate invasion of the North," explained Dennis Frye, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park's chief historian and Civil War author. "Then the Southern army stalled for four days -four long days - trying to maneuver the U.S. defenders out of the Harpers Ferry forts. Those four days earned invaluable time to rush Union troops to help save Washington." 

The three-day commemoration will provide visitors with a variety of programs including the diverse places and faces of this little-known piece of Civil War history. The stories of citizens and soldiers in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia bring to life the dangers of life in the border town of Harpers Ferry during war. The battle included fighting on Maryland Heights, Loudoun Heights, Bolivar Heights, Camp Hill and Fort Duncan surrounding the town. Featured programs will include living history activities, artillery programs, family/youth activities, ranger conducted programs, special exhibitions by Monocacy National Battlefield, the Civil War Defenses of Washington and Cedar Creek & Belle Grove National Historical Park, concerts by the Wildcat Regiment Band, the Ft. McHenry Fife & Drum Corps, and special keynote presentations by Dr. B. F. Cooling and Dennis E. Frye. 

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park includes land in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The park opens at 9 a.m. daily throughout the year. Parking is available at the PARK ENTRANCE via U.S. Route 340. Shuttle buses run every 15 minutes from the National Park Visitor Center to the special event sites. 

For detailed information about the July commemoration and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, visit

Additional Historical Information In the summer of 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early led 14,000 soldiers down the Shenandoah Valley to draw Federal troops away from the siege of Richmond, Virginia. Early boldly targeted Washington, D.C, and chose the Potomac River water gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Harpers Ferry as his portal to the capital. 

On July 4, as the Confederates approached Harpers Ferry, Federal Brigadier General Max Weber abandoned the town, destroyed the B&O railroad bridge, and retired to the defenses of Maryland Heights. Town resident Joseph Barry recalled, "At no time during the war was there as deep a gloom on Harpers Ferry as on that anniversary of the birth of our nation.” 

The Federals, reinforced by General Franz Sigel, bombarded the town where Early’s men had taken cover. Early crossed the Potomac and attacked the defenders of Maryland Heights; for the first time in the Civil War the Federals held on to their mountain fortress. The stalled invasion cost Early four days and allowed Federal forces to make a desperate, one-day stand at Monocacy. Ultimately, veterans from General Ulysses S. Grant’s army had just enough time to reinforce the all but empty forts circling Washington and prevent Early from wreaking havoc in the District of Columbia.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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Mailing Address:

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
PO Box 65

Harpers Ferry, WV 25425


(304) 535-6029

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