The start of this hike is at the visitor center. You may attempt a shorter hike of 7.3 miles by riding the visitor center bus to... more » Harpers Ferry lower town. This hike is straineous. President Abraham Lincoln backed out from reaching the summit once the trail became steep. Be prepared to hike up steep trails. Other than that, have fun!
The Confederate Advance
Brigadier General John G. Walker commanded one wing of Jackson's three-pronged advance. Crossing the Potomac River at Noland's Ferry near Point of Rocks, Maryland, Walker advanced across the northern Virginia countryside to the eastern slope of Loudoun Heights. Colonel Miles had neglected to post any men or artillery on these heights, considering them to be well within the range of Federal gunners on nearby Maryland Heights. Walker, facing no Union opposition, moved a battery of artillery up onto Loudoun Heights and, on September 14, exchanged the first artillery fire with Union guns at Harpers Ferry.
Major General Lafayette McLaws commanded the second wing of the Confederate advance. McLaws understood the topography around Harpers Ferry well. At 1,448 feet, Maryland Heights was the highest ridge overlooking Harpers Ferry. "So long as Maryland Heights was occupied by the enemy," he wrote, "Harper's Ferry could never be occupied by us. If we gained possession of the heights, the town was no longer tenable to them."
McLaws ordered two infantry brigades to advance south along the crest of Elk Ridge – the northern extension of Maryland Heights. On September 13, these Confederates drove 4,600 Union defenders off the mountain despite "a most obstinate and determined resistance." One day later, McLaws opened fire on Harpers Ferry with four guns. less «