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Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood
Undated
May 1862


Wheeling Intelligencer
May 3, 1862

Harper’s Ferry as it now is.

Mr. Page, the talented editor of the Cleveland Leader, has recently returned from Fortress Monroe. He thus speaks of Harper’s Ferry as he saw it on his way homeward:

Coming to-day via Harper’s Ferry, we say the full effect of war’s desolation at that famous place. The government buildings, once stately and alive with industry are not a mass of ruins, the streets are filled with the rubbish from the burned and fallen houses, the splendid bridge is no more, private houses are burned down, sacked or turned into stables for the horses, and not a sign of business life or energy can be seen except that incident to the transfer of passengers and freight between the eastern and western shores of the Potomac. The engine house, where John Brown attempted to hold the United States at bay, is still standing. It is a plain, brown structure, with two double doors upon one side opening to the larger room, in which are confined about a dozen secessionist prisoners. One end of the building is used as a blacksmith’s shop. It is a significant coincidence, this holding rebel prisoners in the very room in which Brown’s infatuated but heroic band bid defiance to the whole pro-slavery world, and it may be that in that gang of ill clothed rebels are some who shouted and jeered at the hanging of the martyr of their prison house. The brick walls still show the marks of the bullets which were fired at Brown and his men, and a freshly filled hole shows where the aperture was made by the marines to get at the inside.- By the way, the Major Russell whose hospitality we enjoyed at Yorktown was in command of the U. S. Marines when they came here in 1859 to capture the handful of men whom Gov. Wise and all Virginia did not dare to arrest.

The bridge having been destroyed by the rebels, and the subsequent temporary structure carried away by the freshet, the passengers cross in a primitive style. A cable is stretched across the river. The passengers crowd upon a flat boat or scow as thickly as they can stand. Half a dozen laborers then pull the ferry across by the “hand over hand” process upon the big cable, and in the course of half an hour land you upon the opposite shore. A contemplation of the grand scenery around, and especially of the rapid current underneath, and the possible consequences should these chaps lose their hold and send us drifting helplessly down into the boiling, roaring rapids below, serve to keep one fully occupied during the passage. The bridge is being rapidly rebuilt.

The huge beetling crags which here form the eastern bank of the Potomac, are fearfully suggestive of some future time when they shall be loosened and come crashing to the foot of the cliff, shaking the very earth with their fall and crushing into indistinguishable wreck whatever may stand in their way. But as the “oldest inhabitant” has seen no change in their threatening position, so the “last man” may stand upon the river’s brink and look up to the same grim roof. Away up in a niche in the bluff where it seems absolutely impossible for a human foot ever to have trod, some of the “mudsills” of the federal army stationed here have placed “John Brown’s monument.” From the town it is plainly visible, as a simple pedestal and shaft, overlooking the scene of its subject’s exploits.

As we leave, a company of soldiers passing the engine house are chanting the John Brown song:

“John Brown’s body lies mouldering in the grave.” etc.


Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: Undated: May 1862

West Virginia Archives and History