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New Trails At Harpers Ferry Show Park's Wartime Look

By Deborah Fitts

- (December 2007) HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - For those who like to get out of their cars and walk on a battlefield, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park offers some new trails.

Schoolhouse Ridge, where Confederate commander Stonewall Jackson engineered his siege and capture of the federal garrison at Harpers Ferry, is newly accessible to the public through miles of trails and a dozen wayside exhibits.

Schoolhouse Ridge North is the area of the park most recently addressed. Superintendent Don Campbell noted that a 1.5-mile loop trail opened in October with a half-dozen interpretive waysides. Trails and exhibits at Schoolhouse Ridge South were completed earlier in the summer.

The work included not only trail-building and interpretation but also removal of hedgerows, modern fencing and other non-historic features, and installation of historic road traces, Virginia worm fences, and several cannon.

Campbell said the park is using historic maps to ascertain the patterns of vegetation and farm fields in 1862. He cited "a decade of work" to bring these and other recent land acquisitions back to their wartime appearance.

Meanwhile, on Bolivar Heights the park has added worm fencing and cut through woods for about 100 yards to provide visitors with a vista to Schoolhouse Ridge, several thousand yards distant. The Murphy Farm, where Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill made a surreptitious march to strike the Federal flank, was the first to get trails and exhibits.

"Now you can stand on Bolivar Heights and look across to Schoolhouse Ridge, and turn and look across at the Murphy Farm, and get quite an understanding of the events of 1862," Campbell said. "It's really quite spectacular - an unobstructed view of rural farmland as far as you can see."

Campbell noted that the park's Civil War history "was always talked about in the Lower Town or on Bolivar Heights. We didn't own the Murphy Farm or Schoolhouse Ridge. Now that they're in the park and protected we're in the process of removing 20th-century influences on the land, and slowly restoring the battlefield and making it available for public enjoyment.

It's exciting to restore this hallowed ground to what it looked like in 1862."

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