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Overview

During the mid-1800s, the area of Maryland between Hagerstown, Frederick, and Harpers Ferry was one of the most trafficked pieces of territory in the United States. Maryland, a deeply divided border state, vividly illustrated the phrase commonly associated with the Civil War — brother fighting against brother. Though the war ended with Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox courthouse in 1865, it grew from a spark set in 1859. In the summer of that year, radical abolitionist John Brown rented the Kennedy farmhouse north of Harpers Ferry — a bustling town of nearly 3,000 including those stationed at the U.S. Armory. It was Brown’s intention to ...

During the mid-1800s, the area of Maryland between Hagerstown, Frederick, and Harpers Ferry was one of the most trafficked pieces of territory in the United States. Maryland, a deeply divided border state, vividly illustrated the phrase commonly associated with the Civil War — brother fighting against brother. Though the war ended with Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox courthouse in 1865, it grew from a spark set in 1859. In the summer of that year, radical abolitionist John Brown rented the Kennedy farmhouse north of Harpers Ferry — a bustling town of nearly 3,000 including those stationed at the U.S. Armory. It was Brown’s intention to seize the weapons at the Armory and flee to the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, establishing a base for the slave-guerrilla war he predicted would ensue. His failed attempt is chronicled at the superb Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. The Park is shared by Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia; it encompasses the restored town of Harpers Ferry, a cemetery, and a number of hiking trails that trace paths later taken by Union and Confederate troops. The surrounding scenic and rural countryside carries a bounty of Civil War sites. Antietam Battlefield, in Sharpsburg, MD is preserved as a monument to those who died in the bloodiest day of fighting in the Civil War. The Antietam visitor center displays Civil War relics and offers an interpretive film on the battle; Pry House Museum, on the grounds, is a historic home and former field hospital. Exhibits include a re-creation of an operating theater and objects related to the care of the wounded. South Mountain State Park is an 8,039-acre battle site that attracts hikers year-round — 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail pass through it. Monocacy National Battlefield, Frederick, MD, was the final attempt of Southern troops to bring the war to the North; the Gambrill Mill houses a visitor center and is the base of walking and driving tours of the battlefield. Boonsboro Museum of History (113 N. Main St., Boonsboro) is a tiny, eclectic museum with a treasure trove of history including Civil War relics. Walls are covered with weaponry from around the world; cabinets burst with ceramics and glass, including China trade porcelain of 1790, Depression glass from the 1930s, and examples of local Bell pottery.

Joanne Miller
About the Expert

Joanne Miller is the author of several Moon guidebooks, including Pennsylvania Handbook, Chesapeake Bay Handbook, and Maryland/Delaware Handbook.

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Joanne Miller for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Late spring through early autumn; South Mountain State Park attracts hikers all winter.