At the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, Harpers Ferry is most famous for an October 1859 raid led by militant abolitionist John Brown. Brown hoped that news of his capture of the Harpers Ferry federal arsenal would lead to a mass slave uprising and that he could arm revolting slaves with the weapons he captured; instead, the raid was swiftly brought to an end after 36 hours by U.S. Colonel Robert E. Lee. The armory buildings were burned in 1861 in order to prevent capture by Confederate troops, and the war-weary town of Harpers Ferry changed hands eight times during the Civil War.
Archaeological Fun Fact: The first archaeological study at Harpers Ferry was conducted in 1959 at the site of the U.S. arsenal. Excavations at Harpers Ferry have answered a broad range of research questions, establishing that the area was inhabited by Native Americans seasonally for several centuries before European contact and providing information about the daily lives of those that witnessed the development and industrialization of the town. The park collection contains over 1.2 million artifacts!
* The Archeology Program at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park offers a 10-12 week summer internship program for students.
Park website: www.nps.gov/hafe/
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site in North Carolina preserves the remains of Roanoke, the first English settlement in North America. Settled in 1587, the colonists all disappeared before the next supply ship arrived in 1590 and their fate remains a mystery to this day. The island was occupied in 1862 by the Union army and a self-sustaining freedmen’s colony for slave refugees was set up. By 1864 the population grew to 2,200 residents. Today, park visitors can watch Paul Green’s outdoor symphonic drama The Lost Colony.
Archaeological Fun Fact: Roanoke Island was featured on the first episode of Time Team America, a PBS show that featured archaeologists given three days to make sense of an archaeological site. View the episode here.
Park website: www.nps.gov/fora/