When in the eastern US it's hard to not come across historic places, especially battlefields. I visited some of these battlefields on a class trip to Washington DC in high school, which was many moons ago, so most everything was new to me. I guess back then I wasn't as interested in history as I was having fun with friends. Rick loves history, especially military events, so I had my own tour guide! We had a couple weeks before our workamping gig in NC so we decided to immerse ourselves in history. We were also going to share some of that history with the boys later in the trip.
We started in Harpers Ferry, WV where we stayed at a KOA that was situated on part of the battlefield where John Brown raided the arsenal years before the Civil War started in an effort to arm slaves to start a rebellion. It was interesting to see the union defensive positions within the campground, but that was about all the campground had going for it, in our opinion. The sites were on top of each other, with sewers hook up next to your picnic table and rules were not enforced, nor was management responsive to issues. Part of the park has many full time residents, who feel rules do not pertain to them and parties can go all night long. With a nightly rate in the high $60's to $80's, it again reinforced our feeling that KOA's just aren't our thing and are not worth the price.
The town of Harpers Ferry is actually the the National Park and the park service owns several of the buildings and has museums and period setups in them. Due to COVID some were closed but others were open and were pretty interesting. Historical importance here goes back to the days of Lewis and Clark.
During the course of the Civil War, Harpers Ferry changed hands several time due to it's critical location on the convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers with railroads running through the area.
We walked around the rest of the town and found several beautiful homes, a cool hotel up on the bluff that folks are trying to bring back to life and also the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
The National Park also includes area surrounding the town of Harpers Ferry were several battles were fought. Bolivar Heights, an area above Harpers Ferry was the site of 5 different engagements throughout the Civil War with other areas being key confederate victories for Stonewall Jackson's confederate troops. It was a beautiful sunny day to drive the area and take a couple walks, which had some amazing views!
We also visited Monocacy and Antietam battlefields while in the area. Both of these battlefields were driving tours through the countryside. Visitor Centers were closed but Antietam had park rangers in a tent out front who were more than happy to answer questions and hand out guides.
Monocacy is a lesser known battlefield and it showed as we were the only ones we saw touring the sites. This battle encompassed several family farms and was the battle that saved Washington, D.C. on July 9, 1864 during the third and final Confederate Invasion of the North.
Our last battlefield in this area was Antietam. In September of 1862, General Robert E. Lee's forces engaged Union Gen. George B. McClellan's union soldiers in what was known as the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. Throughout this driving tour, there were many monuments, Dunker Church which was the focal point of the Union attacks the morning of the battle and the beautifully preserved Burnside Bridge which Union Gen. Burnside finally overtook and pushed Confederate forces back toward Sharpsburg. Sunken Road, also known as Bloody Lane, was the most sobering portion of the tour. To stand where soo many lost their lives and to read the observation..."They were lying in rows like the ties of a railroad, in heaps like cordwood mingled with the splintered and shattered fence rails. Words are inadequate to portray the scene." It really amplified what took place in this unassuming country lane.
There were several other roadside historical markers and areas of interest, but we just ran out of time in the area. We ended our area battlefield tour with a fantastic german sampler dinner for two at Schmankerl Stube in Hagerstown, MD.
Next up, the biggest battle of them all...
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