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Harpers Ferry siege explored in book written by historian

By Staff | Apr 13, 2012

The Harpers Ferry Historical Association is proud to announce the release of “Harpers Ferry Under Fire: A Border Town in the American Civil War.” Written by Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Chief Historian Dennis E. Frye, the book is a 200-page pictorial narrative with sidebars, historic photos, illustrations, maps, and full-color images.

Harpers Ferry’s picturesque setting at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers is today a quaint tourist destination, but during the Civil War its location at the gateway to the Shenandoah Valley made it “a military necessity” for Union and Confederate commanders. The town changed hands eight times between 1861 and 1865; the B&O Railroad bridge over the Potomac was destroyed and rebuilt nine times in four years.

Thousands of escaped slaves, or contraband, sought refuge here behind the Union lines.

In September 1862, Stonewall Jackson surrounded and captured over 12,500 Federal soldiers, the largest Union surrender of the war. The town’s economy was wrecked. Citizens fled. Those who remained were subjected to four years of repeated invasions, military occupations, martial law, hunger, deprivations and danger.

In Harpers Ferry Under Fire, the town’s tumultuous war years are explored through the voices of the civilians, nurses and soldiers who experienced it firsthand.

Their diaries, letters and memoirs relay the fear, emotions and sometimes humor that carried them through the war.

In addition to numerous Library of Congress and National Archives photos, the book includes commissioned artwork and rare images from private collections.

Harpers Ferry Under Fire: A Border Town in the American Civil War by Dennis E. Frye (Harpers Ferry Historical Association, 2012), 200 pages, Paperback $21.95, Hardcover $39.95. The book can be purchased at the Park Bookshop in Lower Town Harpers Ferry, by calling 304-535-6881, or via the Bookshop online at www.harpersferryhistory.org.