Travel to the beautiful Eastern Gateway of West Virginia, the only state created during the Civil War, and your home for a step back into time. Find out what it was like to live through the Civil War at a time when this area was still part of Virginia. Enjoy this evening relaxing at Charles Town Races and Slots with dinner at the buffet and gaming afterward on the slot machines or betting on the horses.
Today we go back in time beginning with Harpers Ferry National Historic Park where interpretive guides explain the chilling experiences of 1859 and John Brown’s influence on the Civil War. 2009 marked the Sesquicentennial of John Brown’s raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Following a guided tour, explore the many shops and exhibits on your own to get a feel for the “Ferry.” Next stop, the bloodiest day of the Civil War—Antietam. The National Park Service explains what the battle was like as you drive through the battlefield. Some say they can still hear the cries of the injured. Follow the path of the Antietam wounded to Shepherdstown, the oldest town in West Virginia. Be sure to stop at O’Hurley’s General Store for some time-tested merchandise. The Jefferson County Museum in Charles Town provides insight into this era. The actual cart used to transport John Brown to the gallows is on display and don’t forget to view the Jefferson County Court House, the site of John Brown’s trial for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. Tonight, follow the steps of those who went before during the “Ghost” tour of Harpers Ferry. Your guide tells of documented stories of the violent and often mystical experiences of former residents of this small village.
It’s time to move on to Martinsburg, a vital transportation link during the Civil War due to the railroad's location. The Roundhouse is your first stop today. The presence of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company in Martinsburg dates back to the 1840’s when the first engine and machine shops were erected for the expanding company. When West Virginia seceded from Virginia in 1861, the regions social and government institutions were thrown in turmoil. The Civil War decimated both the region and Martinsburg, specifically, because of the railroad yards. On May 22, 1861, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops stopped all trains going East at Martinsburg and Point of Rocks. Once he determined that all of the trains that could be caught had been caught, he blew up the bridges to the West and blew down the rocks on the tracks to the East, and the pirating of the B&O railroad was on. In total, 42 locomotives and 386 cars were stolen and destroyed, 36 and ½ miles of track, 17 bridges, 102 miles of telegraph wire, the “Colonade” Bridge and the B&O roundhouse and machine shops were destroyed. The Belle Boyd House was the home of one of the most famous Confederate spies, Belle Boyd, and includes a museum, book store and genealogy department. This afternoon, Berkeley Springs is your host as you explore the antique malls and self-help shops. Berkeley Springs State Park was the nation’s first health spa and the 1815 Roman Bath House with private 750 gallon bathing pools is open today for your use. Tonight find out why Berkeley Springs is known as one of the best “Art” towns in America by enjoying a performance at the Ice House or on selected evenings join the costume making group at the Ice House.
After a stop at Prospect Peak, the scenic overlook National Geographic lists as one of America’s most outstanding views, we change our mode of transportation today as we travel through the valley cut by the South Branch of the Potomac River known as “The Trough.” Board the Potomac Eagle Excursion Train for a three hour trip through some of the most beautiful countryside in West Virginia. Eagle sightings are not guaranteed on every trip, but the vistas and vintage train make the trip worthwhile. View historic farms and lush mountain greenery. Around every curve you are rewarded with the splendor of native wildflowers, evergreens, and mixed hardwoods in an unspoiled countryside environment. Below you runs the South Branch of the Potomac River, where the water is so clear that you can see fish as they lie resting in the shade. Above you the high mountain walls and thick forest help keep a secret few have discovered. You have entered a sacred place, the eastern home of our magnificent national symbol, the American Bald Eagle. These majestic birds soar high above in their natural habitat, undisturbed by the low rumblings of the occasional train and the passengers who have come for a sighting. Don't be surprised to see these superb flyers swooping overhead in pursuit of prey or gliding gently across the blue mountain skies as if to flaunt their supremacy of the air. Spend this evening exploring Romney, which changed hands 56 times during the Civil War. If it is the right time of year, Hampshire Heritage Days will be taking place. This annual festival features historic homes tours, crafts, food, juried fine art exhibit & sale, Artisan's Village with demonstrations, parade, music, French and Indian War and Civil War military encampments.
Today you travel south to Virginia to experience their many Civil War sights or north to Pennsylvania for a stop at Gettysburg. Remember, the eastern panhandle is only the beginning of the Civil War experience in West Virginia. Plan now to return in the future.