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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Bolivar in Jefferson County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
 

The First Year of War

 
 
The First Year of the War Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, September 22, 2007
1. The First Year of the War Marker
Inscription.  
"The people for the most part were tongue-tied with terror...overwhelmed with ruin..."
Porte Crayon, war correspondent
April 18, 1861

The armory and arsenal's destruction signaled the beginning of the war and the end of prosperity in Harpers Ferry. On April 18, 1861, the day after Virginia seceded from the Union, Virginia militia awaited reinforcements on this ridge while preparing to seize Harpers Ferry. At 10:00 p.m. the out-numbered Federal garrison blew up the arsenal and attempted to burn the armory before retreating into Maryland.

War correspondent Porte Crayon, wrote: "There was a sudden flash that illuminated for miles around the romantic gorge where the rivers meet.... The flashes and detonations were several times repeated; then a steadier flame was seen rising from two distinct points, silently and rapidly increasing in volumes until each rock and tree on Loudoun and Maryland Heights were distinctly visible, and the now overclouded sky was ruddy with the sinister glare."

Col. Thomas J. Jackson arrived ten days after the arsenal's destruction to assume his first command of the
The First Year of the War Marker image. Click for full size.
October 11, 2009
2. The First Year of the War Marker
Civil War. He drilled thousands of Virginia volunteers encamped here on Bolivar Heights into a disciplined military unit that soon became famous as the "Stonewall Brigade." In mid-June 1861, Maj. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston ordered the Confederate forces to abandon Harpers Ferry, pronouncing the area "untenable."

On October 16, 1861, exactly two years after John Brown raided Harpers Ferry, 500 Confederates led by Col. Turner Ashby attacked 600 Union soldiers commanded by Col. John White Geary on this ridge. Ashby ordered repeated assaults on the Union position. After six hours of fighting, Geary's troops ultimately repulsed the Confederates. The "Battle of Bolivar Heights" ended as Ashby's troops fell back toward Charles Town and Union flags were planted on the ridge.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil.
 
Location. 39° 19.398′ N, 77° 45.66′ W. Marker is in Bolivar, West Virginia, in Jefferson County. Marker is at the intersection of Prospect Avenue and Whitman Avenue on Prospect Avenue. Located on the Bolivar Heights trail in the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 47 Spring Street, Harpers Ferry WV 25425, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Rats in a Cage (a few steps from this marker); Closing the Doors (within shouting distance of this
Section of the Arsenal Ruins image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, August 12, 2007
3. Section of the Arsenal Ruins
Downtown in Harpers Ferry the foundations of sections of the old arsenal are preserved.
marker); Facing the Enemy (within shouting distance of this marker); Harpers Ferry (within shouting distance of this marker); Bolivar Heights Trail (within shouting distance of this marker); Historic Heights (within shouting distance of this marker); Battle of Harpers Ferry / Union Stronghold (within shouting distance of this marker); A Union Predicament (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Bolivar.
 
More about this marker. On the lower left is a drawing of the destruction of the arsenal captioned, "Later, Crayon drew this illustration for Harpers Monthly Magazine." On the lower right, "This eyewitness illustration shows the Confederates using naval cannon on Bolivar Heights during the early months of the war."
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 6, 2020. It was originally submitted on February 14, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,189 times since then and 4 times this year. Last updated on September 6, 2020, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. Photos:   1. submitted on February 14, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   2. submitted on October 14, 2009.   3. submitted on February 14, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.
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Feb. 27, 2021