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Harpers Ferry

September 12 - 15, 1862

Jefferson County, West Virginia

As Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia advanced into Maryland in the fall of 1862, Lee hoped to capture the vital Union garrison and arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Although Gen. George McClellan and the Army of the Potomac was in pursuit, in a bold maneuver Lee divided his army, sending three columns under Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to Harpers Ferry while the rest of the army marched towards Hagerstown. Surrounded on three sides by steep heights, the terrain at Harpers Ferry made it nearly impossible to defend, a problem made worse by the Union commander at Harpers Ferry, Dixon Miles’, lack of experienced troops. From September 12-15, Jackson’s troops placed their artillery on the heights looking down on Harper’s Ferry, and on the morning of September 15, Jackson ordered an artillery barrage that hit the small yet strategic town from three sides, followed by an infantry assault at 8 a.m. Miles, believing the situation to be hopeless, decided to surrender the garrison and its more than 12,000 men. As the decision to surrender was debated, Miles was struck by a shell that shattered his left leg, a wound that proved fatal. Jackson then took possession of Harper’s Ferry before joining the rest of Lee’s army at Sharpsburg, leaving Gen. A.P. Hill’s division at the garrison to continue the parole of prisoners.
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This battlefield was identified in our annual report History Under Siege™ in 2001 »  , 2002 »  , and 2007 »

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