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     TRAIN SPOTTING ON THE POTOMAC white logo
BY CHRIS POH

Bolstered by the resounding defeat of Federal forces under the command of Major General John Pope at Second Manassas during late August of 1862, Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia envision the possibility of achieving a similar outcome on Union soil. On September 4th, four advance Confederate brigades crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, marking the South’s first invasion of the North. Lee believed that a victory this close to Washington would sufficiently damage Northern morale enough to bring about the defeat of Lincoln supporting Republicans in the upcoming fall election of the United States House of Representatives. And that with war weary Democrats in control of Congress the President would be forced to negotiate an end to the conflict.

In order to maintain operations north of the Potomac, Lee would need to disrupt his opponent’s ability to resupply, while at the same time securing his own line of supply and communications back to Virginia through the Shenandoah Valley. This would precipitate the need to capture the Federal arsenal and the railroad lines at Harpers Ferry. On September 15th, Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson delivered both prizes to the Confederacy. There would be little time to celebrate this victory though. Leaving his subordinates to attend to the final details of the surrender, Jackson, on orders from command, proceeded to the vicinity of Sharpsburg, Maryland with all possible haste.

At sunrise on the 17th day of September 1862, Jackson’s tough battle-tested veterans engaged troops from General Joseph Hooker’s 1st Corps in a cornfield less than a mile from the Antietam Creek. The bloody brawl that   ensued that morning marked the beginning of the deadliest day of warfare in American history. By nightfall both armies had been decimated by the unspeakable carnage. On September 18th, an improvised truce allowed both sides to remove their wounded from the blood soaked battlefields. On the following day, with the ever cautious Union Commander General George McClellan showing little sign of wanting to renew the contest, Lee moved most of his forces back across the Potomac to Southern ground and the relative safety of Virginia.

The scarred remains of Lee’s ill-fated Maryland campaign would be slow to heel. In June of 1863, the loyal sons of Virginia once more passed over the hallowed fields near Sharpsburg as they marched northward to invade Pennsylvania. The memories of that cruel September would be painfully revived as they gazed upon the still unburied bleached bones of their comrades and fallen foe. And by early July, Confederate forces were again prowling the streets of Harpers Ferry after Union troops were driven out and had moved north to join Major General George Meade’s army near Gettysburg. The grey clad soldiers found conditions to be much the same as when they had left them after Stonewall Jackson’s attack of the previous summer—most of Harpers Ferry remained an uninhabitable ruin. The town which had been instrumental in providing both sides with the means to wage war would ultimately become a permanent casualty of the conflict. Harpers Ferry would never again realize anything equivalent to its robust prewar industrial economy. The town which had boasted a population of better than three thousand at the breakout of hostilities in 1861 today has just slightly over three hundred residents.

For those generations of stalwart souls that continued to make Harpers Ferry their home after the Civil War, much of their own personal prosperity could probably be attributed to God and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. A considerable amount of the town’s commerce from the late nineteenth and well into the twentieth century was derived from the thousands of people who would come here each year to relax and delight in the area’s dramatic scenic splendor. For many that came to Harpers Ferry the journey was made by way of the country’s first common carrier, the B&O Railroad. Today, a good number of the town’s visitors come just to watch the trains—and the geography of the town provides a superb setting for one of the best rolling stock shows in America.




Ruin of Railroad Bridge in Harpers Ferry, WV as seen in American Public House Review
THE BRIDGE WAS DESTROYED SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE CIVIL WAR


                            http://www.pbase.com/terry434     
Scene from gods and generals as seen in American Public House Review
CONFEDERATES ON THE PROWL IN HAPERS FERRY AS DEPICTED IN THE FILM, GODS AND GENERALS.


Public Domain     
Columbian 1949 advertisement as seen in American Public House Review
THE BALTIMORE AND OHIO COLUMBIAN FROM A 1949 AD


Bird's evey view of Harper's Ferry WV as seen in American Public House Review
A BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF HARPERS FERRY FROM THE MARYLAND HEIGHTS.  A CSX FREIGHT TRAIN RUMBLES OVER THE BRIDGE.




For the intrepid train enthusiast, the best seat in the house is atop the Maryland Heights overlooking the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. And for the sake of this article, I want to thank Terry Tabb personally for making the climb in order to get that shot. There is though one major drawback to this particular vista—apparently the National Park Service does not provide water, restrooms or pints of Old Dominion at this location. So my preferred vantage point for catching a glimpse of CSX locomotives or Amtrak’s Capitol Limited, while also being able to enjoy the aforementioned brews, is on the outside deck at the Secret Six Tavern. For those that prefer to hear something other than the wail of train whistles or the rumble of steel wheels, there is always an ample supply of good conversation and some occasional live music inside this warm and inviting rustic pub.

Photograph by Chris Poh    
Looking down the tracks from Harpers Ferry station as seen inm American Public House Review
LOOKING DOWN THE TRACKS FROM HARPERS FERRY STATION


The Secret Six is named for the clandestine committee of six wealthy and prominent men that funded the activities of the abolitionist John Brown. On October 16, 1859, Brown along with a party of 18 other men attacked the United States armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Their plan was to incite a slave rebellion in Virginia, and then to equip an army of those that partook in the insurrection with the munitions seized during the raid.

Brown’s initial actions were met with little resistance; but on the second day things would begin to unravel. The raiders were now being engaged by local militia, and the conductor on an eastbound B&O train, that had been temporarily detained the previous night, was able to telegraph word of the attack to the company’s master of transportation in Baltimore. From there authorities in Washington were alerted, and President James Buchanan ordered a detachment of U.S. Marines under the command of Brevet Col. Robert E. Lee 2nd U.S. Cavalry and his volunteer aide-de-camp Lt. James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart 1st U.S. Cavalry to return to Harpers Ferry. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad would provide the military transport, and by the morning of October 18, 1859, John Brown’s grand scheme to dismantle “the South’s peculiar institution” was brought to an end.


Robert E. Lee  as seen in American Public House Review
ROBERT E. LEE

Jeb Stuart as seen in American Public House Review
JEB STUART

That day would also mark the last time Virginia gentlemen on horseback would find common ground with the men that rode Maryland’s iron horse. Within 18 months the War Between the States would commence, and for the next four years the assets of the Baltimore and Ohio, including their bridges at Harpers Ferry, would be a constant target of the Army of Northern Virginia. The negotiated peace at Appomattox in 1865 would put an end to the fighting; but it would not put an end to the bitter feelings between North and South. Even today our national political dialogue reflects the differences between the states and the Federal Government.

As for myself, I will always choose real peace over a negotiated accord. That is why I come to a place like Harpers Ferry and the deck of the Secret Six Tavern—a place where I can raise a pint of Old Dominion to all Americans—as the Capitol Limited passes by!


Capitol Limited by Terry Tabb as seen in American Public House Review
AMTRAK'S CAPITOL LIMITED COMIN' THROUGH HARPERS FERRY



Photograph by Rick Garland    
The Secret Six Pub in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia as seen  in American Public House Review
THE SECRET SIX FROM THE STREET

Photograph by Rick Garland     
Rear deck on the Secret Six Tavern in Harpers Ferry, WV as seen in American Public House Review
THE REAR DECK

Photograph by Chris Poh     
Interior of Secret Six Tavern in Harpers Ferry, WV as seen in American Public House Review
INTERIOR

Photograph by Chris Poh     
Taps at Secret Six Tavern in Harpers Ferry, WV as seen in American Public House Review
TAPS




SECRET SIX TAVERN


186 HIGH STREET

HARPERS FERRY, WEST VIRGINIA 25425


304-535-3044

no website presently

DIRECTIONS



Rick Garland as seen in American Public House Review
RICK GARLAND - "O BE JOYFULL"
Historical Tours & Entertainment

www.obejoyfull.com
732/801-0381

www.harpersferryghost.20m.com
- 304/725-8019 or 732/801-0381

CLICK HERE TO GIVE A LISTEN TO A SAMPLE OF HIS PERFORMANCE RECOUNTING THE EXPLOITS
OF JEB STUART.




Some Special Thanks are in Order:

This particular article, like so many others that have appeared over the last three years would not be possible if not for those individuals that have provided additional images, information, insights and inspiration. But this time around the assistance was exceptional.

So first off, let me thank Terry Tabb for use of his outstanding photography. Take a look at some more: http://www.pbase.com/terry434

Also, Don Coker, a wonderful writer and painter who loves a good piece of rolling stock as much as I do. I was hoping that Don might have some railroad paintings from Harpers Ferry; but those trains are still in the roundhouse. Anyway, I thought it only fitting that we share a couple of his latest works. We have included a pair of his paintings below. Check out his engaging website, or contact Don via email. His address is:  cokerart@yahoo.com.

And lastly, many thanks to Rick Garland of “O’ Be Joyfull” historical and ghost tours of Harpers Ferry. We invite you directly above to take a ride with Rick as he recounts the Civil War exploits of Major General J.E.B. Stuart.




http://www.doncokerart.com/blog   cokerart@yahoo.com     
"Heritage" by Don Coker as seen in American Public House Review
"HERITAGE,"  A SOUTHERN RAILWAY BY DON COKER




http://www.doncokerart.com/blog  cokerart@yahoo.com     
SLOW TRAIN DOWN SOUTH by Don Coker as seen in American Public House Review
  "SLOW TRAIN DOWN SOUTH"  BY DON COKER
 SYLVANIA CENTRAL ENGINE WITH A JIM CROW CAR CROSSES A DIRT ROAD GRADE IN ZEIGLER , GEORGIA EARLY 1950'S.



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