As part of its America the Beautiful quarters series, the United States Mint has released a quarter commemorating Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia. The back of the coin has an image of the 1848 fire engine and guard house built as part of the 19th century Harpers Ferry Federal arsenal complex, which is better known now as John Brown’s Fort.
In October 1859, abolitionist John Brown and a group of followers hoped to inspire and arm a slave revolt by capturing the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Brown and his followers eventually barricaded themselves in the engine house, which was stormed and captured by a company of U.S. Marines led by army Colonel Robert E. Lee, who was assisted by his aide Lt. J.E.B Stuart.
Brown, as well as several members of his party, were later hanged for treason. The incident helped push the United States closer to Civil War.
Harpers Ferry figured prominently in the Civil War. In April 1861, the armory and arsenal was burned by Union forces to keep the weapons and machinery to make those weapons out of Confederate hands. The arsenal and muskets were destroyed, but Confederates saved the tools and weapons making machinery, shipping them to armories further south. Union forces reoccupied Harpers Ferry in 1862, stationing over 12,000 troops there. During the Antietam Campaign, the town and its garrison was captured by a Confederate army corps under the command of Stonewall Jackson. Nearly 12,500 Union soldiers surrendered in what was the largest surrender in U.S. history up to that point. Harpers Ferry was reoccupied by the Union Army again after Antietam, and was an important supply base later in the war. The town became part of the new state of West Virginia in 1863. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park was established in 1944.