Top Menu

The 1862 Maryland Campaign Part 2:
An Impossible Situation: Defending Harpers Ferry


Thursday, November 29, 2018

6:00 PM. Check in at headquarters hotel for a meet, greet, and to pick up your reading books. Tom Clemens’ opening lecture will discuss the Confederate move into Maryland and the political ramifications of the effort. The failure of the citizens of Maryland to rally to the Confederate banners left Lee in need of a decisive operation that would justify his invasion. The balance of the presentation will examine those plans in-depth. The result was Special Orders #191. Enjoy a pizza party with beverages and snacks during the “meet and greet.”

Friday, November 30, 2018

8:00 AM. We will return to the camps of Robert E. Lee on the banks of the Monocacy River to recap the campaign from September 10 to 13. We will discuss Lee’s Special Orders #191 and the Confederates’ move to implement them. We will spend the balance of the day putting place to the words of SO #191, paying particular attention to the challenges facing the maneuvering Confederate forces and the response of Federals in their way. Our travels will take us along the back roads with John Walker to Loudoun Heights and along McLaws’ route to Maryland Heights and along Jackson’s long circuitous route to Bolivar Heights. Past experience has shown us that only the truly hale and hearty should attempt the climb to the top of Maryland Heights; we will not do that but will go part way up the massive mountain, which will provide us with a significant appreciation of the site. From the lower perspective, we will discuss McLaws’ fight for the control of the heights. We will then return to the hotel for a 6 PM Q&A with Tom and guest historian(s). Afterward, we will enjoy a group dinner. Lunch and dinner are included.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

8:30 AM. This morning we head to Harpers Ferry, where we will spend the day in the town and on Schoolhouse Ridge for an excellent full-day examination of the fighting that took place. The battlefield has been largely preserved over the years and is now a first-rate interpretative experience. We will not overlook the historical significance of the town, and while there we will use the opportunity to tell the story of John Brown and his dramatic raid in 1859.

Jackson was successful in his efforts to take the town, and the resulting surrender of nearly 15,000 Union soldiers was the largest surrender of US troops until Bataan and Corregidor in 1942. The operation took longer than Lee intended, and after the rearguard action at South Mountain on September 14, he determined to abort the campaign. Jackson’s guarantee of the garrison’s surrender on September 15 led Lee to decide to pluck the fruits of Jackson’s efforts by camping along the banks of the Antietam. The price of success at Harpers Ferry was the unprecedented carnage at Antietam on September 17. Was it a good tradeoff? That will be addressed in Part 3 of the campaign series in 2019, led by Tom and Scott Hartwig. Lunch is included.


Registration includes two lunches, welcoming reception, one dinner, a reading book with maps, the academic program, support of a professional historian, tour director, and on-the-ground transportation appropriate to the registration (which will be limited to three vans: 29 people). We will also provide snacks, bottled water, and a limited selection of sodas.

Ten percent of your registration fee is a tax-deductible contribution to the BGES 25th Anniversary Capital Reserve Campaign.

Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

Travel Details


This program will be based in Frederick, Maryland. The hotel will be posted on this site. The headquarters hotel room block will likely be in the $110 a night range and it will be close to the interstate.


The servicing airports are Washington Dulles [IAD], Washington-Baltimore International (BWI), or Washington National (DCA). Traffic is awful around Washington and on I-95. Time your travel to arrive before 3:00 PM. Traffic becomes a problem around 3 PM and remains so until after 7 PM. If you can avoid DC all together, you are well advised. If you need a rental car, perhaps you can find a dirt cheap rental car on

Key Publications and Recommended Reading

You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. We recommend the following books to enhance your preparation for this tour. has a program to support non-profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site, one-half of one percent of your purchase price will be provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon. This will apply not only on this purchase but others you may make at other times.

  • David S. Hartwig: To Antietam Creek, The Maryland Campaign of September 1862. Available at AmazonSmile.
  • Ezra A. Carmen & Thomas Clemens: The Maryland Campaign of 1862, Volume 1: South Mountain (contains 70 pages on Harpers Ferry operation). Available at AmazonSmile.
  • Joseph L. Harsh: Taken at the Flood, Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign. Available at AmazonSmile.


Contact BGES about this program.