Learn More About The U.S. Civil War At This National Historical Park

The American Civil War was a defining chapter in the country's history. From the opening shots at Fort Sumter in 1861 to the surrender at Appomattox in 1865, the war touched nearly every corner of the nation. Numerous sites bear witness to its history and allow us to connect with the past. Some obvious and unmissable ones are the battlefields in Gettysburg, PA, Vicksburg, MS, and Manassas, VA.

Another place Civil War buffs can learn more about the war years and the fight for Civil Rights is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The site sits where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, and it's a place that combines natural beauty and fascinating history. It stretches across West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland, and visitors can do a deep dive into many facets of American history and discover gorgeous hiking trails on the Blue Ridge, too. Blogger Past Lane Travels highly recommends Harpers Ferry as a cute town with something for all the family.

Civil War sites at Harpers Ferry

Start your trip to Harpers Ferry in the Lower Town. Here, you can discover more about the abolitionist John Brown, who led the famous raid on the U.S. Armory and Arsenal in Harpers Ferry in 1859. This raid heightened tensions and increased the likelihood of a Civil War in the U.S. You can see John Brown's Fort and a museum dedicated to him in the town.

You can also learn about the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry, which saw Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson lead a successful attack against the Union garrison there. This was the largest defeat of Union troops during the Civil War.

You can hike some of the park's trails to see several battlefield areas, including the Murphy-Chambers Farm Trail and the Schoolhouse Ridge Trails. A longer trail leads to Maryland Heights, which takes you past Civil War artillery batteries and the Stone Fort. Bloggers Two Sisters Abroad call the Maryland Heights Trail one of the best you can do in the area for its stunning views. The American Battlefield Trust writes that the battlefields around Harpers Ferry are well-preserved. As of October 2023, the Civil War Museum is closed for repairs.

More to do in and around Harpers Ferry

There are more historical hikes in the area, too. Blogger The Solo Life recommends the trek up to Jefferson Rock, where Thomas Jefferson stood in 1783 and observed the town. Jefferson Rock sits on the Appalachian Trail, which runs through Harpers Ferry, so you can even say you hiked a little bit of it, too. Near Jefferson Rock, you'll also find some parts of Storer College, founded just after the Civil War. It was open to all genders and races.

The little town itself is also a delight. Wandering around feels like you've stepped back in time to the mid-19th century. Jessica James of Past Lane Travels writes about their love for the reconstructed buildings like The Provost Marshal's office and an old dry goods store. Two Sisters Abroad also loved the True Treats Historic Candy store, where you can buy historic treats. Finally, you can round off your trip with a ghost tour. The spooky trips, run by "O' Be JoyFull" Historical Tours, introduce several stories from the Civil War era and are highly rated on Tripadvisor, with one reviewer writing in October 2023 calling the tour "phenomenal."