During the Civil War, the imposing Maryland Heights, overlooking the strategic town of Harpers Ferry, Va., was bristling with Union guns and encampments. In the spring of 1862, Federal engineers installed a seven-gun Naval battery atop the Heights, a spectacular feat just for the effort that it took to haul the heavy weapons up the steep mountain that rises to 1,400 feet.
Evidence of the Union army's stay atop Maryland Heights abounds even today, including the remains of a parapet for the Naval battery and a stone fort near the summit. After a serpentine, butt-kickin' 40-minute hike this afternoon, I arrived at the Harpers Ferry overlook, a stone outcropping that offers a breathtaking view of the formal arsenal town at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Of course, the town is best known for the attempted slave revolt incited in October 1859 by John Brown, who was born in Torrington, Conn. Brown, a hero to some and a villain to others, was captured at Harpers Ferry and later hanged in nearby Charles Town. Below is an interactive panorama from town level; Maryland Heights may be seen at left.