A vivid rendering of the experience of the inhabitants of Harpers Ferry, after abolitionist John Brown's 1859 raid on the US armory and gun factory there hastened the coming of the Civil Way. Prolific Civil War writer Hearn (The Capture of New Orleans, 1862, 1995, etc.) has set out to explore how the residents of Harpers Ferry, a small, thriving industrial town nestled in a beautiful scenic area, coped with six years of life spent on or near the front lines. Their story begins in 1859, when Colonel Robert E. Lee, of the United States Army, and First Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart, with 90 US Marines and some Virginia militia, restored order after the bloodletting brought on by Brown, who was summarily tried and hanged. When war came, Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston, aided by Colonel Thomas Jackson (not yet known as ""Stonewall"") destroyed the town's factories, bridges, and railroad tracks. The town changed hands repeatedly during the war. Battles large and small were fought nearby. Armies poured through its streets. And even when they moved elsewhere, the townspeople were harassed by Southern mounted guerrillas led by Confederate officers Mosby and Mobley, who stole food, horses, and other property while destroying bridges and rail facilities. Friendly Union occupation troops who kept order and prevented further looting swayed many civilians to support the northern cause. As a result, West Virginia was carved out of secessionist Virginia and voted into the Union. Hearn's lively narrative recreates this extraordinary experience from letters and memoirs, providing a powerful reminder that war is hell for civilians as well as soldiers.