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There is a federal arsenal and armory in Harpers Ferry which was built in 1796. It manufactured many of the muskets and rifles used in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The area came into historical prominance with the notorious raid of abolitionist, John Brown, on the buildings. This occurred on the night of October 16, 1859. John Brown and his "army" of 18 members came upon the arsenal, surprised the guards and captured the buildings. He wanted to incite the slaves to riot and also to arm them with these weapons. After much bloodshed and trouble, Brown and his men were captured by the Marines under the leadership of then Colonel Robert E. Lee. A trial was held and Brown, along with six of his men, were tried for treason, convicted and then hanged at Charles Town.
During the Civil War, Harpers Ferry was also regarded as a major city as far as the safety of Washington, D.C. was concerned. The arsenal was destroyed in 1861 by the federal garrison there as they fled before the Virginian troops. The buildings were never re-constructed. The following year, in 1862, General Stonewall Jackson took over the town's federal garrison after a fierce battle. He gained 12,500 Union soldiers as prisoners from the encounter.
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John Brown Wax Museum
Harpers Ferry, WV
Phone: 304 535-6342 or 535-2792
See life-size figures depicting the life of John Brown. Please call for admission fees and hours
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Phone: (304) 535-6223
The park comprises 2,300 acres at the Shennandoah and Potomac Rivers. There is much to see, including: exhibits, programs and hiking trails. The park has six Paths through History - Industry, John Brown, Civil War, African American History, Environmental History and Transportation. Tours are available.
The oldest surviving structure in the area was built in 1782. It is furnished with mid-19th century pieces.
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