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Six Years of Hell: Harpers Ferry During the Civil War Hardcover – October, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Beginning with a vivid account of John Brown's raid in 1859 and continuing through the early days of Reconstruction in 1865, Hearn familiarizes us with the miserable existence endured by the citizens of Harpers Ferry, Va., and its environs. Young Bvt. Col. Robert E. Lee arrived after Brown's raid, leading the list of prominent names (Stonewall Jackson, Joseph E. Johnston, Ambrose Burnside, George B. McClellan, Philip H. Sheridan) who held temporary command as the contending armies traded occupation of the town 14 times before the war's end. Hearns's account of the surrender of the Union Army at the Ferry by Col. Dixon S. Miles in September 1862 is superbly written. Was Miles a traitor, or merely incompetent? The travails of the citizens of Harpers Ferry do pale by comparison with such high drama. Also, however necessary Hearn's account of the strategies of both armies might be, sublimation of military tactics would have made for a more taut narrative line, allowing greater attention to the lives of the desperate inhabitants of a place where war made its home for six long years. By concentrating on the collision of events that took place on that small stage in northwestern Virginia, now West Virginia, Hearn provides a dramatic focus for a richly textured understanding of one part of the larger conflict.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Hearn (The Capture of New Orleans: 1862, Louisiana State Univ., 1995) has put together an outstanding historical account of the effects of the Civil War upon the town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia. He begins with the John Brown raid in 1859 and carries the action through the end of the war. Harpers Ferry was constantly occupied by either Confederate or Union forces; the author diligently describes the action that proceeded each takeover. Twenty-eight different commanders controlled Harpers Ferry during the war, and Hearn details the pros and cons of each. He also brings in the effects of this constant occupation on the civilian population as well as the vote to give statehood to the State of West Virginia. Overall, Hearn's work is a well-written, interesting account of one of the pivotal towns caught in the middle of the Civil War. For all Civil War collections.?W. Walter Wicker, Louisiana Tech Univ., Ruston
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Louisiana State Univ Pr (October 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807120901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807120903
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,593,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Morris on June 23, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently visited Harpers Ferry on a vacation where I was touring eastern Civil War battlefields and found the place so facinating that I wanted to learn more about it's history. While Harpers Ferry was an important location during the Civil War, in most Civil War books it's a sideshow of something larger such as the battle of Antietam. Fortunately with Chester Hearn's book it gets center stage treatment.
The book itself is well written and is a nice 300 pages in length. John Brown's raid, Lee's invasions of 1862 & 1863 as well as Early's 1864 raid are all covered and covered in depth in the book. Hearn's writing style is enjoyable and the book is well researched.
Unfortunately the maps in the book don't live up to the writing. The four maps are some of the worst I've seen in any Civil War book. The first two are barely acceptable. The one of the town itself doesn't even show the Bolivar Heights. The last two are the worst. They are so dark and the lettering so small that most of the wording on them is unreadable and they do not help the reader in any way. None of the maps show such important landmarks like Sandy Hook and not until the last one is even the Bolivar Heights shown but the lettering so small that you can barely read it.
This is a good book and Civil War buffs will enjoy it. You will be left with a better appreciation for the role Harpers Ferry played in the war. However Hearn would have served his work better and the reader would have gotten a better understanding of the events had he provided better maps and perhaps some photos of the area. It's one thing to read about the Loudoun and Maryland Heights and another to see them.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was looking to learn about the history of Harper's Ferry during the Civil War era, and this book delivered. It is well-written and easy to read. As others have commented, the maps are poor, but I was willing to overlook this due how much I thoroughly enjoyed this story of a place that is often just a footnote in Civil War history.
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By connie high on March 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Your service was fast and so appreciated. After buying this book for myself, my father grabbed it and is in love with it! What a great deal and great service. Thank you
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ScottK24 on April 28, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As some of the other reviewers have said, the maps in this are pathetic (worse on a Kindle). For a great account and telling of the story of Harpers Ferry during the Civil War, this is a fantastic book. I'm 3/4 of the way through at this moment. I actually just purchased it for the John Brown raid piece. While I've been enjoying the rest, I've found it hard to follow in a few areas for being somewhat new to the Civil War. That could just be me as names, dates, events seem to blur together. I still strongly recommended it and intend to read it over again.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Moonbeamer on September 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am reading this book right now and it is very good. I lived in Harpers Ferry so I can relate to a lot of what is written in this book. I'm a very satisfied customer!
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