East Coast Road Trip 2018 – Day #8 – Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

The last day of our vacation (not including the drive back home) was also the day of the wedding W- and I had come to attend.  However, the wedding was an evening affair and not wanting to sit in a hotel room in Frederick, Maryland all day, we decided to get out and explore some sights not too far away.

The first stop of the morning was Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.  If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it should, especially to any student of U.S. history.  Not only was it a key site during the American Civil War, changing hands between the Union and the Confederacy eight times, but it was also the site of John Brown’s Raid.  John Brown was an abolitionist who, on October 16, 1859, conducted a raid of the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry along with 21 other men in the hope of using the weapons in the arsenal to begin a slave riot/uprising in the South.  The plan failed spectacularly, and Brown was convicted of treason and then executed.  Until this trip, however, I was not aware that during the raid, Brown and his men actually shot and killed a free black man named Howard Sheperd, who had been attempting to warn citizens of Brown’s intentions.  Seems ironic for such a famed abolitionist.


The easiest way to see the town is to park at the Visitors Center and then take the free bus to the station, at which point you can walk around and explore.  There is a way to park and walk without taking the bus, but it’s not a short walk and on the day W- and I were there, it was also hotter than blazes, so the bus’ air conditioning was a welcome relief.


If you’re more interested in just sticking to the Civil War aspect, there’s an auto tour one can take to Bolivar Heights, the site of a battle on October 16, 1861.  It was a relatively small battle with only 5 dead and 16 wounded combined for both sides, but since it was one of the earlier battles, it may be of interest to some Civil War aficionados.


In addition to viewing sites associated with the Civil War and John Brown’s Raid, for the avid hikers out there, you may be interested to know that not only does the Appalachian Trail run through the town of Harpers Ferry, but the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is located there as well.  I was incredibly excited about this, as you could probably guess based on some of my previous AT hiking posts, and convinced W- to follow part of the AT with me via a bridge crossing, despite the heat.  I wish we could have gone further, but we really weren’t prepared enough for that.  Maybe next time 🙂


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