1862 Maryland Campaign: Avenue of Invasion
The United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, often called the Harpers Ferry Armory, was a series of facilities used for the manufacture and storage of firearms for the United States government from around 1802 to the start of the Civil War in 1861. Chosen by George Washington as one of two locations for a federal armory, it produced a variety of guns and became the primary driving force of Harpers Ferry’s economy. In 1859, the armory was seized by John Brown and his followers as part of their attempt to instigate a slave uprising. When the Civil War began in 1861, the facilities were destroyed as both Union troops and Confederates fought for control of the town. Never rebuilt, the site of the armory is today mostly covered by railroad tracks.
In September 1862, a Union garrison of 14,000 soldiers under Col. Dixon Miles occupied Harpers Ferry. Knowing that Stonewall Jackson was encroaching, Miles occupied higher ground at Boivar Heights to potentially combat at Schoolhouse Ridge. On September 10, 1862, General Stonewall Jackson left Frederick, MD and approached Harpers Ferry on three sides: Maryland Heights, Loudoun Heights, and Schoolhouse Ridge. The town was effectively surrounded, but the rivers were an inconvenient barrier with no bridge granting access across.
Murphy Farm, also referred to as the Murphy-Chambers Farm, is a historic property at Harpers Ferry. Originally the home of Edmund H. Chambers, the farm would become an important factor in the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry, when Confederate forces used it to outflank the Union army. After the war the farm was acquired by the Murphy family in 1869, and would remain in their possession for 132 years. From 1895 to 1909 John Brown’s Fort sat on the property, which became the focus of a pilgrimage by the Niagara Movement in 1906. In 2002 the Trust for Public Land purchased the farm and transferred it to the National Park Service. Today Murphy Farm is a part of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
On the evening of September 18, 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to retreat to Virginia following a bloody, climactic battle at Antietam. With his beaten army in danger after having its invasion of Union territory halted, safety in Virginia lay across a ford in the Potomac River just outside Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia). Confederate forces made a dawn crossing on the 19th. Union forces seeking to continue their pursuit attempted to follow the Confederates across the river. The battle that ensued at Boteler’s Ford ended Lee’s Maryland Campaign, convinced Union General McClellan to abandon his pursuit of Lee, and contributed to President Lincoln’s eventual dismissal of McClellan as Commander of the Union Army.
SW corner King and Washington Sts. Officially chartered in 1743, this is the oldest continuous congregation in town. In the early 1780s, the congregation built a log church on the corner opposite the present site and shortly thereafter replaced it with a frame building on the same site. When the frame building burned in 1831, the church traded its former lots for the current site. The structure dates from 1836. A plain red brick building, it has a belfry and cupola atop the front gable. As the largest building in town at the time of the Battle of Antietam, the church served as a primary hospital for the wounded. During much of the 19th century, across King Street on the south side of Washington and near the Town Run, a large building known as the Virginia House served as the home of the Fayman family, makers of wool and fur hats.
One acre of land was set aside for use as a cemetery in 1780 by Abraham Shepherd to the Elders of the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church. Since then, the cemetery has served as the final resting place for scholars, soldiers, priests, and more. Following the American Civil War, Elmwood Cemetery was officially chartered in 1869. The cemetery is considered to be part of Shepherdstown's historic district and has grown significantly since its chartering.