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Harpers Ferry hosting Prelude to Freedom

By Staff | Aug 31, 2012

The Harpers Ferry Historical Association and the West Virginia Humanities Council will present a series of panel discussions, lectures and hands-on activities to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry. “Prelude to Freedom: The 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry” will take place Sept. 13 16 as part of the 2012 Civil War Sesquicentennial observation.

“Harpers Ferry dramatically altered the first invasion of the North,” said Dennis Frye, chief jistorian at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. “Harpers Ferry’s role has been overshadowed, even misunderstood, for 150 years. This presents the best opportunity to grab Harpers Ferry from the

clutches of history’s shadows.”

The Battle of Harpers Ferry on September 12-15, 1862, remains a little-known, yet critical turning point in the Maryland Campaign. Although the influence of this campaign on the Civil War is undeniable, few people recognize the role of Harpers Ferry in the ultimate Northern victory and the Southern defeat. The event will interpret the battle’s significance in the Maryland Campaign; how it influenced the Battle of Antietam; the role it played in the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation; contraband slaves who escaped to Union lines living in Harpers Ferry; and the citizens of a border town under bombardment.

“General Lee considered Harpers Ferry so important that he sent his best general, Stonewall Jackson, along with two-thirds of his army to conquer the position,” remarked Frye. “The subsequent battle became the largest waged in West Virginia during the war, yet it remains today a mystery of history.”

“Prelude to Freedom: the 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry” will present a distinguished array of outstanding historians and authors including Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, President of Harvard University and the Lincoln Professor of History; Dr. Allen Guelzo, the Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College; Dr. William A. Blair, Director of the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State University; James K. Bryant, II, Associate Professor of History at Shenandoah University; D. Scott Hartwig, Supervisory Historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, and Kathleen Ernst, education specialist, instructor and curator.

For more information on “Prelude to Freedom: The 1862 Battle of Harpers Ferry”‘ visit Facebook at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park or www.nps.gov/harpersferry or call 304-535-6029. Please also visit wvtourism.com/minisites/civilwar.aspx for more information on the 150th Anniversary of West Virginia and other Civil War history, sites and events.