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Harpers Ferry: 1862

Harpers Ferry: 1862

"Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. View of town; confluence of Potomac and Shenandoah rivers; railroad bridge in ruins." Battle of Harpers Ferry, September 1862. Wet plate glass negative by C.O. Bostwick. View full size.


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It never ceases to amaze me how much destruction there was of infrastructure during the Civil War.

Cannons were somewhat primitive back then and they took considerable time to reload - (hardly WWII 88 or 105mm class), so the amount of time knocking things down or blowing them up seems somewhat inordinate. It's as if the pillagers almost enjoyed their vandalism.

Points of Interest

The long industrial buildings at right along the river are the U.S. Armory, principal objective of John Brown's raid in 1859.

Just to the left of the remains of the railroad bridge on the opposite bank, you can see a building extension built out over the river. This was almost certainly a toilet facility (similar to a medieval garderobe), built out over the retaining wall to empty directly into the river below.

How did you know I was going?

I'll be taking the family there this coming Friday for a camping trip to see Harpers Ferry and then the Antietam Battlefield.

I think they destroyed and rebuilt this bridge about five or six times during the Civil War.

Where is everybody

OK, very funny, who took the bridge down?

Glass Negative

The faults and scratches on the almost 150 year old negative just enhances the destruction. Great picture, we should all be grateful that these pieces of history are available.

The RR bridge

Destroyed and rebuilt something like five times during the war. Finally washed away by a flood in 1936.

Last Salvo

The hill at the extreme left in the photo was the location of one of Stonewall Jackson's artillery batteries that shelled Harper's Ferry and forced the surrender of 12,000 Union troops garrisoned in the city. Col. Dixon Miles, commanding the Federal troops, was killed after he negotiated the surrender by a last salvo fired from Loudoun Heights.

After paroling the Union prisoners of war, Jackson and A.P. Hill marched their troops to Sharpsburg, where they arrived just in time to turn the tide of that battle and save Gen. Lee from near defeat.


I lived in Virginia for many years and in my travels through the state drove by a number of bridge ruins from the Civil War. That always brought home to me the nearness and reality of the War. Here's the aerial view of the HF can count the same number of pilings as in the photograph:

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