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Tour of John Brown's Raid


Favorite Trips: Harpers Ferry

Although I enjoyed all the field trips, a few stand out as my all-time favorites:

  • Harpers Ferry, WV - John Brown's Raid
  • Richmond, VA - The Capital of the Confederacy
  • Gettysburg, PA - The Battle of Gettysburg
  • and a few others.


This is a view of Harpers Ferry as seen from Maryland Heights

What makes these trips so special?

- Outstanding scenery
- A dramatic story
- Variety - both indoor and outdoor sites, for instance

In Spring of 1999, I signed up for Advanced Civil War even though I had completed the entire series over a period of nine summers. One reason was that I wanted to repeat the Harpers Ferry trip, even though I had taken it twice before - once ten years ago with the NVCC class and later with a University of Virginia class taught by Dr. Poland on life in 19th-century Virginia.

I've been to Harpers Ferry on other occasions too, including other field trips that passed through this historic town. The town was strategically important and changed hands many times during the Civil War. Situated in a mountain pass where the Shenandoah River flows into the Potomac, the town was on an important railroad line.

Harpers Ferry is a portal to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, and in 1859 the abolitionist John Brown saw it as an ideal place to stage what he felt was a starting battle for slave independence. The town had that time housed a large munitions factory, which he planned to seize and use to arm the slaves.

Brown was more of a dreamer than a military strategist, however. His own men recognized that his plan was unlikely to succeed, but they were loyal to him and willing to give their lives for him and the cause of freeing the slaves.

Brown failed to start a slave rebellion, and the failure of his plans resulted in his capture and hanging. He did succeed in heating up the debate over slavery, however, and in instilling fear in the hearts of slaveowners throughout the south.

He had been dead for several years before slavery died in the United States. But he had played a part in hastening its demise by stirring the emotions of citizens on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

NEXT: Harpers Ferry - A John Brown Tour


Photos taken by Linda Javins Walcroft, Summer 1999



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