A Civil War Itinerary: Frederick, Md., to Harpers Ferry, W.V.
In three days, you will be able to cover the area very well. You can choose to spend as much or as little time as you like at the various sites. No matter what, make sure you spend ample time at Antietam and Harpers Ferry as they are the stars of this itinerary! If you visit all eight stops it all, you’ll be covering events from John Brown’s Raid (1859), the Maryland Campaign (1862), the Confederates’ march on Washington (1864), and much more.
Fought on September 17, 1862, this battle was the single bloodiest day in American history, with more than 22,000 casualties. President Lincoln used this partial victory to issue his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
Located near the Antietam National Battlefield but over the West Virginia line, the lovely (and rather hip!) Shepherdstown served as a Confederate hospital after Antietam and was the site of rearguard battle on September 20, 1862.
What to do:
Start by walking the main drag through the historic town. Great shops and restaurants abound!
See the old Cement Mill, where an intense fight took place.
Visit the Elmwood Cemetery, where many Confederate casualties of the Maryland campaign are buried.
Insider tip: The Bavarian Inn is a beautiful hotel and Inn on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown that serves authentic German cuisine.
Stop #3: Ferry Hill Place/C&O Canal
Time: 30 minutes
The C&O canal served as an important transportation route for Union supplies during the war. Ferry Hill Place, perched above the canal opposite Shepherdstown, was the home of Henry Kyd Douglas, a member of General Stonewall Jackson’s staff.
Insider tip: The Ferry Hill house is only open on weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day, but the canal trails are open year-round.
Stop #4: Harpers Ferry
Time: 4 hours (longer, if you wish to hike Maryland Heights)
Harpers Ferry has a fascinating history of arms manufacturing and transportation – and, of course, slavery and the Civil War. This beautifully preserved town changed hands several times during the Civil War, and was also the site of John Brown’s famous 1859 raid.
Exit the Park and drive to Bolivar Heights, a crucial site for many of the battles at Harper’s Ferry during the Civil War, and walk the interpretive trail.
The moderate walk up the stone steps to Jefferson’s Rock, where our third president proclaimed the view from that place was worth a trip across the Atlantic.
If you have time:
One of the best and most challenging of all Civil War hikes is to visit the overlook and the Stone Fort atop Maryland Heights across the river form the Lower Town. See a Park Ranger for information and allow two hours for this particularly rigorous hike.
This home was rented by John Brown and his followers as headquarters to prepare for their 1859 raid on Harpers’ Ferry.
What to do:
Check out the interpretive markers outside the house.
Walk the grounds.
Insider tip: While the house may not be always open, visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and look in the windows.
Stop #6: South Mountain State Battlefield
Time: 2-3 hours
Visit the gaps in South Mountain where soldiers struggled for possession of the passes on September 14, 1862. The Battle of South Mountain produced 4,500 casualties and set the stage for the Battle of Antietam.
What to do:
Start at Crampton’s Gap, where the Union army pushed hard against the Confederate position to relieve the garrison at Harper’s Ferry.
Read the interpretive markers and grasp the importance of the position.
Visit the War Correspondents’ memorial. Don’t worry—you can’t miss it!
Drive to Fox’s Gap, which the Confederates held despite strong Union pressure.
Browse the markers and monuments there.
Walk the North Carolina trail.
If you have time:
While you are at Crampton’s Gap, take a quick hike further up the rock-choked mountain on the Appalachian Trail—just so you can say you did!
Take advantage of the particularly excellent gift shop.
Insider tip: There are more than a dozen excellent restaurants and plenty of great shops along the main drags. We like Frederick Fudge for sweets and Frederick Coffee Company for a quick bite. Both are on East Street.
Sharpsburg, Maryland | The site of the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. Antietam witnessed twelve hours of combat on September 17, 1862, in which 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or left missing.