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Harper's Ferry, Virginia

The Illustrated London News, vol. 38, no. 1090, p. 496.

May 25, 1861


Harper's Ferry is a small town built upon a narrow declivitous tongue of land lying directly at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. As the mountain sides converge precipitously at all points there is but little space for building on the level ground; the houses and public buildings are therefore perched on ledges of rock, and in some cases appear like cages hung up on the sides of the mountains. The name of this place has of late become familiar to most of our readers; first, through the notoriety it obtained in consequence of one John Brown, an Abolitionist enthusiast, having endeavoured to get up an insurrection here; secondly, because the Virginian Secessionists attacked the national armouries and arsenal located here. These were abandoned by the Unites States' officers in charge, but not until they had burnt and destroyed nearly all the public property in their keeping. No doubt we shall soon hear again of Harper's Ferry, as it is extremely probable that the recovery of that place will be one of the earliest operations of the Union army in the coming campaign. The force of the rivers whose waters unite here has torn asunder the mountain range that opposed their downward passage to the sea, and through a tremendous cleft in the rock, as one river, their mingled waters roll on to Washington. For grand, picturesque beauty the scenery of this place is unequalled; and many Europeans who have visited it say it is well worth crossing the Atlantic to see. Harper's Ferry is on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. About eighty miles from the city of Baltimore the railway crosses the river at this point by a remarkable bridge of six arches, each of one hundred and thirty feet span. These arches are all of timber and iron, and roofed over, as is usual with all such structures in America. The United States' armouries having occupied all the little level ground that existed at the foot of the mountain, the railway company had to construct a road for their line on the bed of the river for three quarters of a mile, supported by a wall of masonry and iron piling.

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