Monday, September 7, 2015

Harper's Ferry Then and Now (Part 1)

One of the most detailed series of photographs to come out of the Civil War was created at one of the war's most volatile border towns in 1862.  The 22nd New York State Militia was stationed at Harper's Ferry during its three months service from May 28, 1862 to September 5, 1862.  While the unit saw no major fighting during their time at Harper's Ferry, their service certainly did leave us with a great view of garrison life at this most important of Civil War towns.  Many of the photos are fairly easy to recreate because of the great state of preservation in the historic town today.  Of course a number of locations have changed with development and destruction during the war, but a number of the sites are easily found.  Using the great images taken of the 22nd New York State Militia during their stay, we'll visit the modern sites and examine the changing scenery more than 150 years later.  We'll also take a look at some other famous views from Harper's Ferry, Then and Now.

Photo 1:

This photo shows Company A, 22nd NY State Militia in formation along Filmore Street on the western slope of Camp Hill.  From above Harper's Ferry, this view looks to the northwest with St. John's Lutheran Church in the left background.  St. John's is located along the north side of modern day Washington Street, or Business 340, just west of the intersection with Zachary Taylor Street.  The home in the back right is also still standing along Washington Street with a few alterations made since 1862.  In the background you can see the steep ridges above the Potomac River on the Maryland side of the river.  Below is the present view of the area where this photo was taken.

Below is a modern view of St. John's Church.  An artillery shell did major damage to the right window and the patch work is still clearly visible with a closer look.

Below is a modern view of the home seen in the back right of the Company A photo from along Washington Street.


The photo below is another from the series taken of the 22nd New York State Militia.  This one was also taken near Filmore Street near Anthony Hall from old Storer College campus.  The building in the back left is still standing today, known as Virginia Lodge Number 1, former Odd Fellows lodge.  

Below is the modern day view of the same area.  

Here is Lodge Number 1 from a different angle.


Another of the group shots taken of the 22nd New York State Militia was taken at Lodge Number 1 as well.  This one with the men gathered around the artillery positioned just to the south of the building.

Below is the modern view.  This perspective is a little bit closer, but the tree on the left edge of the photo might possibly be the same one that the soldier is sitting in to the left side in the original photo.


The following is another of the 22nd New York State Militia photos taken at Lodge Number 1.  The soldier is holding an Enfield Rifle Musket with the early style saber bayonet.  

Modern View:

Photo 5:

The following photo shows Colonel Dixon S. Miles in front of Anthony Hall.  Miles was a career military man and born in 1804.  He graduated from West Point in the class of 1824.  Like many Civil War officers, he served in Mexico and was brevetted for gallantry. He then served on the frontier and by the time the war broke out, he was a colonel.  At First Bull Run he commanded a division, which did not get into the fight, being held in reserve.  It was probably for the best because Miles was accused of being drunk.  He was then placed in command of a brigade with orders to defend the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  His headquarters were at Harper's Ferry.  As "Stonewall" Jackson's men hemmed in Harper's Ferry during the Maryland Campaign in September of 1862, Miles ordered the withdraw of troops from Maryland Heights which isolated all of his units in the environs of the town, surrounded by a ring of mountaintop artillery positions which Jackson utilized to full potential.  After holding a council of war, Miles decided that the best course was surrender, but an incoming shell mortally wounded him on the evening of September 15.  He died the following day in the hands of Jackson's men.  His force of nearly 12,000 soldiers were surrendered as the largest capitulation of U.S. forces until World War II.  

Anthony Hall on the former Storer College grounds has changed a great deal over the years.  The original building was finished in 1848, but it burned in the early part of the 20th Century, but was rebuilt with some additions on the original foundation.  Some of the other original features, like the front stairs are still the same as well.     

Modern view:

A full view of modern Anthony Hall can be seen below.  Today the building is the Mather Training Center operated by the National Park Service.


This view is looking down on Harper's Ferry and the Potomac River at its confluence with the Shenandoah River from Harper's Cemetery.  The roof of the church in the right foreground is the St. John's Episcopal Church built in 1852.  Today all that remains are the church's ruins.  St. Peter's Catholic Church today would be just out of view to the right.  The armory (or what remains of it) are visible along the Potomac shore in the lower left part of the photograph, directly over the top of the large tombstone in the left corner of the image. 

Maryland Heights is across the river to the left, Loudon Heights is across the river on the right side of the photo.  The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bridge is visible across the Potomac River with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal along the far shore as well, with Lock 33.     

Modern view:

Ruins of St. John's Episcopal Church today.  The roof of this church was visible in the original photo.


The following image is a view towards Loudon Heights from Harper's Cemetery.

Modern view from near the same location today:


The Brackett House was built in 1858 as the U.S. Armory Superintendent's Clerk's residence.  The structure is named after Dr. Nathan Brackett, who helped to found Storer College for freedmen in 1867. 

The following two photos are of the west (directly below) facade and east (next photo) facade of Lockwood House.  It was built in 1847 as the U.S. Army Paymaster's house.  During the Civil War it was the headquarters for both Brigadier General Henry Lockwood, commander of an independent brigade, and also, Major General Philip Sheridan for his 1864 Valley Campaign.

The Morrell House (below) was built in 1858 as the U.S. Paymaster Clerk's family residence.  Reverend Alexander Morrell of Maine lived here for a short time with his family.  Morrell was responsible for bringing the Freewill Baptist beliefs to the Shenandoah Valley.  The church's goal was to educate formerly enslaved people and Morrell was instrumental in the area, preaching and teaching for nearly twenty years. 

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