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School House Ridge North Trail - Bolivar Heights Battlefield

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview :  From his command post near Halltown, "Stonewall" Jackson methodically and deliberately positioned his cannons "to drive the enemy"... more »

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.

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Points of Interest

1. Bolivar Heights Battlefield

2. Facing the Enemy

The nearby marker inscription reads:
Union Commander Dixon Miles knew the Confederates were coming. His cavalry reported the Southern troops advancing from three different directions. Ordered to "hold Harpers Ferry until the last extremity." Miles divided his forces to retain Maryland Heights - the highest mountain - and to defend Bolivar Heights ... More

3. Fortifying Bolivar Heights

The shallow ditch to the side of the trail is the remains of an infantry trench line that extended the length of the ridge line. Originally only a couple of block houses reinforced the infantry trench. By 1864, five such block houses were erected to defend this approach to Harpers Ferry. By that time, the town was a supply base for a major... More

4. Federal Artillery Demonstration

Harpers Ferry Park’s Living History staff demonstrating federal artillery.

5. Federal Artillery Demonstration

Federal artillery demonstration on the battle which led to General Stonewall Jackson’s capture of 12,500-man Federal soldiers.

6. Military Camp

A historical reenactment of a military camp.

7. Protecting the Supply Lines

The nearby marker inscription reads:
"...make all the valleys south of the Baltimore and Ohio [rail]road a desert as high up as possible...so that crows flying over it [Virginia] for the balance of the season will have to carry their provisions with them."
Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, USA
July 17, 1864

Securing Harpers Ferry as a supply base was... More

8. Suppy Line

This trail was used as a supply line. Protecting the supply line was essential during the war.

9. From Skirmish Line to Burial Ground Marker

The nearby marker that is located on the trail towards the right reads:
Some of the Union infantrymen who defended this ground on the night of September 14th returned the next day. Even though the Confederate strategy had won the battle for Harpers Ferry, and these Union soldiers were part of the largest surrender of United States troops in... More

10. The First Line of Defense: The Union Skirmish Line

The nearby marker inscription reads:
After sunset on September 14, 1862, the Confederate cannons across the road on School House Ridge vanished in the darkness. The features of the landscape began to blur as the shell-shocked Union soldiers on Bolivar Heights wondered if they could survive another day of artillery bombardment. The Union troops... More

11. A Dangerous Position

This spot indicated the front lines. Fighting would first happen on these premises. Shots would wisp over heads peeking over the trench line.

The marker inscription reads:
On the dark, moonless night of September 14, 1862, 100 men from the 126th New York Regiment established a skirmish line here. These men were new to the war, having only been in... More

12. School House Ridge North

This is the entrance sign towards School House Ridge North.

13. School House Ridge North Trail

The path is well maintained and there are hiking signs indicating the direction towards the path.

14. School House Ridge North Trail

From this position, you may observe the surrounding battlefields. Bolivar Heights and Loudoun Heights may be seen from here.

15. No Man's Land

This was a dangerous position to be in during the war. Anyone caught in the middle was vulnerable to attacks.

16. Fake Attack

The marker inscription reads:
"Stonewall" Jackson understood the principle of military deception. On the second evening of the battle, he used deception here. To lure the Union attention away from the south end of Bolivar Heights, Jackson faked an attack against the north end of the heights in front of you. Using darkness to disguise the deceit,... More

17. Confederates Converge

The marker inscription reads:
Confederate General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North hinged on eliminating the Harpers Ferry garrison. To do so Lee devised Special Orders 191. He divided his force of 40,000 into four parts. Three columns marched from near Frederick, Maryland, 22 miles northeast of here, to seize the three mountains... More

18. Assessing the Obstacle

The marker inscription reads:
Never had "Stonewall" Jackson faced a stronger enemy position. Arriving here on Schoolhouse Ridge on the first day of the battle, Jackson scanned Bolivar Heights (the lower ridge in front of you) and saw a dangerous enemy - 7,000 Union infantry and dozens of cannon stretched across the ridge, ready for battle. He... More

19. Destined for Antietam

Antietam is the mountain furthest to the left.
The marker inscription reads:
Text of the marker is arranged to illustrate the movements of the Confederate Army during the Antietam Campaign of 1862:

September 10, 1862 from Frederick, Maryland
Confederate commander Lee sends part of his army to capture Harpers Ferry, while he waits in Maryland to... More

20. Union Skirmish Line

The marker inscription reads:
Union troops on the crest and slope of Bolivar Heights to the East were attacked by Confederates lead by Gen. Jackson from School House Ridge to the West on 14 Sept. 1862. Private Paylor, Co. D., 111th NY, recalled this as "an awful fight." This action helped defeat 12,000 Union troops at Harpers Ferry. Their... More

21. Five Rounds into the Darkness

The marker inscription reads:
The 115th New York Regiment, young and inexperienced, formed a skirmish line here. When gunfire erupted on their left during the night, the men of the 115th must have felt the rush of adrenaline through their veins. Dander was headed in their direction. There was not time to think. For all they knew, a full-scale... More

22. The Confederate Perspective

The marker inscription reads:
"General J.R. Jones was directed to make a demonstration against the enemy's right."
Jackson's official report

Confederate Colonel Edmund Pendleton wrote about the night of September 14, 1862, from his perspective across the road on School House Ridge. Pendleton and his men were facing this direction, holding the... More

23. A Union Predicament

You can view the Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry Lower Town, Maryland Heights, and Loudoun Heights from this position.

The marker inscription reads:
"Do all you can to annoy the rebels should they advance on you...You will not abandon Harpers Ferry without defending it to the last extremity."
Maj. Gen. John G. Wool, USA
Telegraph message to Col. ... More

24. Closing the Doors

The marker inscription reads:
Resting with his troops in Frederick, Maryland, 20 miles northeast of here, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had hoped the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry would abandon its post when he invaded the North. They did not. Lee decided to attack. He divided his army into four columns, sending three to seize the three... More