Following the battle of Antietam, as the Army of the Potomac made its slow way northward, the Union II Corps found itself, on September 21, 1862, encamped atop Bolivar Heights near Harper’s Ferry. Lt. Josiah Favill of the 57th New York Infantry described the day’s march as “very pleasant, the road being good and the weather superb.”
Late in the day, Favill took time to do a little sightseeing. “Harper’s Ferry,” he wrote in his diary, “is one of the picturesque spots in America, delightfully situated in the gap of the Blue Ridge mountains.”
The Shenandoah here unites with the Potomac, and together they flow between the range of the mountains on the way to the deep blue sea. Away off to the southwest the Blue Ridge Mountains, with their thickly wooded slopes, form an impenetrable wall on the easterly side of the beautiful valley of the Shenandoah, and to the equally fertile Louden valley on the opposite side of the range.
The town lays in the hollow, at the foot of the heights, and is now of no importance, except as the place where the celebrated John Brown and his followers immortalized themselves. The old blackened walls of the government arsenal, destroyed at the very beginning of the war, stand like grim skeletons in the hideousness, and with the exception of a few straggling huts, is all there is of the place.
From Josiah Favill’s Diary of a Young Officer (Chicago: R. R. Donnelly & Sons Company, 1909), 191-2.