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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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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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SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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