Harpers Ferry
Original Author: James Gardner, photograher; positive print by Alexander Gardner
Created: July 1865; printed ca. 1866
Medium: Albumen photographic print
Publisher: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Harpers Ferry

An 1865 photograph depicts Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Before and during the Civil War, this small, isolated town was an economically thriving community with great strategic importance because of its location along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the presence of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and the local firearms industry—including the United States Arsenal and Armory and Hall's Rifle Works. In 1859, Harpers Ferry emerged onto the national stage when the radical abolitionist John Brown and a small band of followers raided the armory in an attempt to ignite a slave insurrection. The town also became an object of intense military interest immediately after Virginia's secession in April 1861, during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, the Maryland Campaign of 1862, and the Valley Campaign of 1864.