Harper's Ferry , a town of Jefferson co., West Virginia, on the Potomac river, which forms the boundary of the state with Maryland, and at the mouth of the Shenandoah, where the united streams force their passage through the Blue Ridge, 45 m. N. W. of Washington; pop. about 2,500. It is built around the base of a hill, and is connected by a bridge with the opposite bank of the Potomac. The Baltimore and Ohio and the Winchester, Potomac, and Strasburg railroads unite here, and the Ohio and Chesapeake canal runs along the Maryland bank. Before the civil war it was the seat of an extensive and important United States armory and arsenal. It has a large flouring mill, a college for colored youth, five or six schools, and five churches. It has not yet recovered from the effects of the war. The scenery around Harper's Ferry is celebrated for its striking beauties. Thomas Jefferson pronounced the passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge "one of the most stupendous scenes in nature, and well worth a voyage across the Atlantic to witness." - The place acquired some notoriety just previous to and during the civil war.
On Oct. 16, 1859, John Brown, at the head of a small party of abolitionists, seized upon the town and armory buildings, of which he held possession for more than a day, when he was captured. (See Brown, John.) On April 18, 1861, the arsenal was seized by a party of insurgents, and the workshops were partly burned. The place was afterward alternately in the hands of both parties. In September, 18G2, a Union force of about 12,000 men, under Col. Miles, was stationed here. On the 12th, four days before the battle of Antietam, a strong confederate force under Jackson and A. P. Hill appeared before Maryland heights on the Maryland shore, and early in the morning of the 13th drove the Union troops stationed there behind their breastwork. This was soon after taken, when the federals withdrew across the river. On the same day the confederates established batteries on Loudon heights on the Virginia shore, and on the 14th they opened fire both from these and Maryland, heights, renewing it at daybreak of the 15th from seven commanding points. The federal guns returned fire from Bolivar heights, but ineffectually, and Col. Miles surrendered his force (being mortally wounded almost in the act), the cavalry of which alone had escaped in the night.
The confederates made about 11,000 prisoners, and captured 73 guns, 13,000 small arms, and a considerable amount of stores.