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Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, United States

Murphy-Chambers Farm Trails

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 3.0 miles / 4.8 km
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: In 1894, Washington, D.C. journalist Kate Field, who had a keen interest in preserving memorabilia of John Brown, spearheaded a campaign to return the fort to Harpers Ferry. Local resident Alexander Murphy made five acres available to Miss Field, and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad offered to ship the disassembled fort to Harpers Ferry free of charge. In 1895, John Brown's Fort was rebuilt on the Murphy Farm about three miles outside of town on a bluff overlooking the Shenandoah River.

This trail guide will take you on a history journey through the foot steps of the past.


Tips: Make sure to bring a trail map with you. Trail maps are free and located at the Visitor Center. Bring plenty of water and snacks.

Points of Interest

Information
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Visitor Center

The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Park passes may be purchased at the fee collection entrance station daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The inscription at the center reads (First Panel):
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is the story of...

Industrial Development and the production of weapons at the Harpers Ferry armory.

John Brown's Raid and his attempt to end slavery.

The Civil War with Union and Confederate armies fighting over this border area for four years.

Black History from slavery to Storer College - chartered to educate men and women of all races, it became one of the first institutions of higher learning for Black Americans.

Explore Harpers Ferry's past!
Information
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Confederate Victory

This is the trail path used to reach Murphys Farm.

The marker inscription reads:
"The Rebels were all around us and our only refuge was the open canopy of heaven."
Sgt. Charles E. Smith
32nd Ohio Infantry
September 14, 1862

Thousands of Federal soldiers huddled in ravines on Bolivar Heights to escape the Confederate shells of September 14, 1862. By evening, the Federals were demoralized. Pvt. Louis B. Hull of the 60th Ohio Infantry wrote in his diary at sunset: "All seem to think that we will have to surrender or be cut to pieces."

By 8:00 a.m. on September 15, the situation had worsened for the surrounded and outnumbered Federals. During the night, Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill's division of 3,000 Confederates had turned the Federal left flank on the south end of Bolivar Heights. With Union artillery ammunition exhausted, the situation appeared hopeless.

About 9:00 a.m., Col. Dixon S. Miles, Union commander, decided to surrender his forces. Moments later, a Confederate shell fragment wounded the Colonel. He died the next day, leaving many unanswered questions about the Federal disaster at Harpers Ferry.

An unconditional surrender accepted by Stonewall Jackson from Union Brig. Gen. Julius White on School House Ridge finished the siege. The Confederates captured 73 cannon, 13,000 small arms, 200 wagons and 12,500 prisoners - the largest surrender of U.S. forces until Bataan during World War II.

Jackson reviewed the captured Federal garrison on Bolivar Heights on the afternoon of September 15. On Union soldier recalled: "There we were on the hill, our arms stacked before us, and waiting. Soon the celebrated 'Stonewall' Jackson rode along our lines with his staff. He rode a cream colored horse and was plainly dressed in ... a grey dingy suit."Another soldier shouted, "Boys, he's not much for looks, but if we'd had him we wouldn't have been caught in this trap!"
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Murphy-Chambers Farm Trails

These steps lead you on the trail. Use caution when crossing the road.
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Murphy-Chambers Farm Trails

This section of the trail is well maintained and shaded by the forest.
Information
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Murphy Farm

This is the sign indicating the entrance towards Murphy Farm.
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Home Becomes Battlefield

A home stands here on the farm land as a reminder of how the battlefield impacted home owners.

The nearby marker inscription reads:
The Civil War affected not only the soldiers who fought but the families whose homes and towns became battlefields. Edmund H. Chambers bought this farm in 1848 and lived here with his family until the Civil War. Although Chambers was a loyal Unionist, the Union confiscated his farm in 1862, forcing the family from their home. The U.S. Army arranged for an appraisal of the farm in the event of damage. At the war’s end Chambers found the property destroyed and filed a claim demanding restitution. In 1888, 23 years after the end of the war, he was still trying to settle his claim. There is no evidence that he was ever paid. He died in 1890.

I am now very poor and am eighty years old.
I am the son of a Revolutionary soldier…
and I think I have a very good record.
Excerpt from Edmund H. Chamber’s letter to the Secretary of War, 1888
Information
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The Fate of Harpers Ferry was sealed.

The cannons are pointing towards Bolivar Heights and cannons located at Bolivar Heights are pointing back towards Murphy Farm.

The nearby marker inscription reads:
After an exhausting night of dragging 20 cannon along the river and up the ravines to this site on Chambers (Murphy) Farm, General A.P. Hill and his 3,500 men sprang their trap on the unsuspecting Union army. Before dawn on the last day of the battle, the Confederates aimed their cannon at the Union line, only 1,000 yards away. When the morning fog lifted Hill signaled his artillerymen to open fire. Startled but alert, the Federals vigorously returned the fire. But an hour later their cannon were silent, triggering a Confederate charge. Hill wrote, “General Pender commenced his advance, when, the enemy again opening…[we ran] forward to within 400 yards, and, quickly…poured in a damaging fire. The enemy now displayed the white flag.” The Union garrison at Harpers Ferry fell.
Water
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Murphy-Chambers Farm Trails

The trail leads to a small creek. There is a trail that continues past the creek, but the trail is not maintained by Harpers Ferry National Park and it is private. This is also a great spot for pets to cool down and get wet.
Viewpoint
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Murphy-Chambers Farm Trails

This is a view of the Shenandoah River. This section of the trail towards the river view is wheel chair accessible.
Viewpoint
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Mountains, Men, and Maneuvers

This spot is good for taking a break and pictures. The view from this position is great.

The nearby marker inscription reads:
Confederate Major General “Stonewall” Jackson could not see this view. His lower vantage on Schoolhouse Ridge, 1000 yards upriver, blocked his sight of this strategic position. Yet Jackson remembered this farm from his time as Confederate commander at Harpers Ferry during the first days of the war. He knew if he seized this ground he would threaten the rear of the Union army atop Bolivar Heights. Despite overwhelming odds, Jackson’s men secured the Chambers (Murphy) Farm and the plateau on Loudoun Heights, overcoming rivers, cliffs, ravines, poor roads, and narrow shorelines. They forced the surrender of Harpers Ferry. With cannon now in close firing range from these surprise positions, Jackson was ready to launch his final attack on the Union forces.
Viewpoint
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Murphy-Chambers Farm Trails

This view may be seen a few feet down the mountain from a small path not maintained by the park. Use caution when walking down.
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A Moving Symbol

The nearby marker reads:
In it really began the Civil War.
Here was lighted the torch of liberty for all America…
For you this is the most hallowed shrine in this country. Henry McDonald, Storer College president

The foundations in front of you mark a temporary site of John Brown’s Fort, from 1895 to 1909. Originally located in Harpers Ferry, the fort was moved four times in 75 years. Entrepreneurs dismantled it and then rebuilt it on location at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. After the exhibition, journalist Kate Field saved the fort from demolition by raising the funds to move it here to Murphy Farm. In 1901 Storer College President Henry McDonald brought the fort to the college’s Harpers Ferry campus. After the closing of Storer College the National Park Service returned the fort near its original location in Harpers Ferry (lower town), where it stands today.
Landmark
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Pilgrimage

In July 1896, members of the National League of Colored Women traveled to Harpers Ferry from Washington, D.C. in a pilgrimage to John Brown' Fort located on the Murphy-Chambers Farm.

Mary Church Terrell, the League’s first president, helped lead its fight against lynchings and racial segregation. She described the organization’s mission as: “lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go…we knock at the bar of justice asking an equal chance.”

Mary Leary Langston (third woman seated from the left) was the widow of Lewis Leary, one of John Brown’s men mortally wounded during Brown’s raid. With this journey she returned to the town where her husband died fighting for the freedom of American slaves.
Animals/Wildlife
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Widelife

Along the trail, deer and other wildlife can be spotted in the woods or open fields.
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Struggle to the Heights

The slope next to the trail gives you an idea on how difficult it was to drag a cannon down and up the slope.

The nearby marker inscription reads:
Consider dragging 2,000-pound cannon up this ravine—at night. General A.P. Hill’s Confederates faced that task during the second night of battle. The assignment was essential to “Stonewall” Jackson’s plan to flank the Union army on the crest of Bolivar Heights. Hill’s men dragged artillery up this and other nearby ravines before rolling the cannon into position in the open field behind you. The names of these soldiers are not recorded in military reports about the event, but their labors soon changed the course of the battle.

Viewpoint
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Maryland Heights

You can see the summit of Maryland Heights from this viewpoint.
Pictures in this guide taken by: Lucky_Dog

2011

Murphy-Chambers Farm Trails Trail Map


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About the Author

Lucky_Dog
Lucky_Dog
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My paws may be short, but I can hike like the big dogs.

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