Sunday, June 03, 2007

Climbing Maryland Heights

I had been all over Antietam and Harpers Ferry over the past couple decades -- except for one spot: Maryland Heights. We solved that issue Friday, climbing to the top and back in about 2 1/2 hours. It was about a five-mile hike and well worth the effort.

Maryland Heights overlooks Harpers Ferry, the small West Virginia town at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. In Maryland, it was a strategic site for both Civil War armies. Stonewall Jackson used the Heights to shell Harpers Ferry before capturing the Union garrison there in 1862. Later, the Union Army built its own powerful garrison on the Heights, adding a stone fort, powerful long-range cannon, powder magazines, campgrounds and more.

Ruins of the stone fort, gun emplacements (bottom photo) and campgrounds built by Union soldiers still remain. It's a wonder how soldiers hauled cannons and supplies to the top of the mountain. I had to stop several times on the way to the top, about 2,400 feet up. I have a new respect for President Lincoln, who made the journey up the mountain in 1864. He didn't make it all the way up, but he scores major points with me for the effort. Afterall, he was in his mid 50s and he had the heavy stove-pipe hat and all.

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