Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

This historic site as well as the nearby Antietam Battlefield are two reasons Civil War buffs head to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Harpers Ferry History National Historical Park in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (photo courtesy of NPS/volunteer photographer Buddy Secor)

Situated between the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in West Virginia, Harpers Ferry is where John Brown and fellow abolitionists broke into the federal armory in 1859 in hopes of inspiring a slave revolt in southern states.

The multiday raid in the fall of that year ended with Brown and his men barricading themselves in a building prior to capture. Within weeks, Brown was hanged for treason, inflaming passions and pushing the nation closer to Civil War.   

Today, the place where Brown made his final stand is known as John Brown’s Fort and is open to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park visitors. After being dismantled, moved and rebuilt multiple times, the building now stands about 150 feet from where it did in 1859. The nearby John Brown Wax Museum tells the story of the raid with 87 life-size figures.

Those looking for a historic place to stay will find it at The Town’s Inn. Housed in two structures that have been standing since 1820 and 1840, the eight-room property began as residential homes. When it’s time for a meal, The Rabbit Hole has an outdoor deck that looks out over Harpers Ferry and a sandwich-focused menu that includes a build-your-own burger and barbecue pulled pork. Another option is The Anvil Restaurant, which serves appetizers, sandwiches and entrees that change weekly.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is just one reason Civil War buffs travel to this part of West Virginia during the summer. The historic community is located just 16 miles from the Antietam National Battlefield, where 23,000 soldiers were wounded, killed or went missing during 12 hours of intense fighting on Sept. 17, 1862. Both Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Antietam National Battlefield have traditionally offered guided tours during the summer. 

171 Shoreline Dr., Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, 304/535-6029, nps.gov/hafe