Sunday, April 08, 2012

Bolivar Heights

So how to spend an Easter Sunday? Why with a trip up to Bolivar Heights to hike the battlefield, contemplate events of days gone by, and throw a tennis ball with the tennis-ball-whipping stick for Murphy.

I haven't been up here in a bit, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Park Service has emplaced more cannon here.I loves me some cannon.
This picturesque hill was the site of a large Federal garrison in September of 1862, and on September 12th, Confederate States General Robert E. Lee decided to attack and secure the guns and ammunition stored here at the Harpers Ferry Arsenal as part of his invasion of the North. The fact that he was outnumbered by a force twice his size and being pursued by another Federal force under McClellan really didn't deter him (Hell, McClellan wouldn't have deterred a Boy Scout troop, he moved so slow.) so he attacked, dividing his force into three elements, one of which drove the Federals off of the high ground on Maryland Heights and penned them up here on this spot where the other two trapped them and began shooting them to pieces. Key defensive positions that could have helped prevent this weren't manned, and the Confederates surrounded the town with plenty of cannon and began slugging this position hard. After ceding their best strongholds and stupidly allowing themselves to be boxed up on a bare hilltop surrounded by enemy artillery, the Union army surrendered without even trying to fight and 12,000 Union troops were marched off into captivity in the South before McClellan's relief force could arrive. This was the largest surrender of US forces in history up until Bataan and Corregidor fell in World War Two. Lee them went just a bit north and west and engaged Union forces again at a little town called Sharpsburg, better know today as the Battle of Antietam, where his attack was blunted as the two sides fought to a draw before Lee abandoned his invasion of the North and slipped back into Virginia leaving 23,000 dead and wounded from both sides behind.
So I'm looking at this cannon and wondering how much fun I could have some night with a pound or two of black powder and a cannonball.

Below is the remains of one of the old defensive trenches dug by the Union troops.We had a good time and played fetch until Murphy got tired, then we adjourned and left the hilltop to the thick clouds of gnats that seem to own it now.

Traveling with Murphy is always an adventure. He gets so excited that he absolutely will not just lay down in the back of the SUV and relax."But I AM in the back! My two hind legs are still in the cargo compartment so it counts!"


  1. Are those restored, "real" canons, or reproduction ones?

  2. @drjim, I believe that this batch are very real-looking replicas. The markings are all there, but "too nice", and the rifling suddenly stops about six inches down the muzzles. They look really good, but they also look like they just left the foundry, a dead give-away.

  3. Yeah, probably be waaay too expensive to put real ones in a park.

  4. "...rifling suddenly stops about six inches down the muzzles."

    Or, possibly produced with an extra long leade by Silas Weatherby. ;-)

  5. Sounds like a good day!

  6. So what is the purpose of putting replica cannons there? That takes the fun out of it.

    Sounds like you had fun, though... just as well.