Hike honors Stonewall's victory

May 03, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -Confederate Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's victory at Harpers Ferry in September 1862 resulted in the largest surrender of U.S. troops in American history up until World War II - 12,500 Union soldiers, National Park Service Ranger Melinda Day said.

Hikers can learn about Jackson's victory and see one of the areas Jackson's troops took over - School House Ridge - in trapping a Union garrison in Harpers Ferry, which was part of Virginia at the time.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is offering a park ranger-led hike to the site of Jackson's victory to the general public for the first time. The hike will be this Saturday starting at 11 a.m. Participants are asked to meet at the Visitors Center by the park entrance off U.S. 340.

The park typically offers ranger-led hikes in June and September to outlying areas of the park, Day said.


The four-mile, round-trip hike to School House Ridge Battlefield is moderately difficult. The trail starts down hill and then there are rolling ridges. The return hike involves going back up Bolivar Heights.

Participants who don't want to go all the way can turn back toward Bolivar Heights.

Hikers are encouraged to wear appropriate footwear, be dressed to hike for a couple of hours and to bring water.

The Union garrison surrendered Sept. 15, 1862, to Jackson's troops after the Confederacy took control of Maryland Heights, Loudoun Heights and School House Ridge, according to the park's Web site.

Led by Jackson, three columns totaling 23,000 men advanced on Harpers Ferry. One column, under Brig. Gen. John G. Walker, moved atop Loudoun Heights. The second column, under Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws, took over Maryland Heights.

The third column, led by Jackson, had marched 51 miles in less than two days to get from Frederick, Md., to Boonsboro to Harpers Ferry where it sealed Union soldiers into the city by occupying School House Ridge.

Jackson's victory is considered brilliant because he was able to form a perfect trap around the garrison and move quickly, Day said.

Capturing Harpers Ferry was important because the Confederates needed the Shenandoah Valley as a line of supply and communication as they moved north, according to the park's Web site. The city was a supply base for the Union and served the Union in protecting its transportation corridors - the railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

If you go ...

WHAT: Stonewall Jackson's Brilliant Victory, a four-mile, park ranger-led hike to the site of the Confederate general's 1862 victory

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 5

WHERE: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

COST: Free

MORE: Meet at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park's Visitors Center, which is near the park entrance off U.S. 340. Park buses will take hikers from the Visitors Center to Bolivar Heights Battlefield, where the hike will begin. For more information, call the park's Visitors Center at 304-535-6298 or go to

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