“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Harpers Ferry in Jefferson County, West Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

A Union Predicament

A Union Predicament Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 22, 2007
1. A Union Predicament Marker
Inscription. "Do all you can to annoy the rebels should they advance on you...You will not abandon Harpers Ferry without defending it to the last extremity."
Maj. Gen. John G. Wool, USA
Telegraph message to Col. Dixon S. Miles, USA
September 7, 1862

The first large-scale Federal occupation of Harpers Ferry began in February 1862. Despite the destruction of the armory and arsenal the previous year, Harpers Ferry remained important in protecting Union communication and supply lines and in deterring Confederate invasions of the North.

The Confederates invaded the North for the first time in September 1862. By September 7, Gen. Robert E. Lee's army had crossed the Potomac River and encamped outside Frederick, Maryland. The large Union force at Harpers Ferry, now located behind the invading Confederates, threatened Southern communication and supply lines. In response, Lee boldly divided his army into four parts, sending three columns to capture or destroy the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry.
Location. 39° 19.361′ N, 77° 45.682′ W. Marker is in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in Jefferson County. Marker can be reached from Prospect Avenue. Click for map. Located on the Bolivar Heights trail in the Harpers Ferry National Historical
Confederate Operations Map image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 22, 2007
2. Confederate Operations Map
Park. Marker is in this post office area: Harpers Ferry WV 25425, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Confederate Victory (here, next to this marker); Casualties of War (within shouting distance of this marker); Rats in a Cage (within shouting distance of this marker); The First Year of the War (within shouting distance of this marker); Closing the Doors (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Facing the Enemy (about 300 feet away); Historic Heights (about 400 feet away); Bolivar Heights Trail (about 400 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Harpers Ferry.
More about this marker. On the left is a drawing showing, "By early September 1862, 14,000 Federal troops occupied Harpers Ferry and vicinity, with more than half encamped on Bolivar Heights."

An operational map on the right details the movements of each part of the Confederate army. "Maj. Gen. Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson's Confederate force of 14,000 traveled 51 miles in three days and occupied School House Ridge, 1/2-mile west of Bolivar Heights, on September 13."
"Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws' Confederate force of 8,000 captured Maryland Heights after a battle there on September 13."
"Brig. Gen. John G. Walker's Confederate force of 2,000
Two Markers on the Bolivar Heights Trail image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain
3. Two Markers on the Bolivar Heights Trail
occupied undefended Loudoun Heights on September 13."
"After Jackson's column cornered the Federals into an inescapable position on Bolivar Heights, the trap was set. For five hours on Sunday afternoon, September 14, the Confederates fired their artillery from the captured heights. One hapless Federal wrote, '...the hissing and screeching of shot and shell discharged at us was a strange medley for a Sabbath day's worship.'

A duplicate of this marker stands near the Visitor Center.
Also see . . .  1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry. National Park Service summary of the battle. (Submitted on February 14, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
Categories. War, US Civil
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,076 times since then and 67 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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