by Dave McMillion, (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail
HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Another 70 acres of School House Ridge property has been acquired for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, putting the park closer to having all the land it hoped to obtain in the historic area.
The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, and the National Park Service announced Monday the acquisition of the Ott property in School House Ridge.
The Trust for Public Land worked with the Ott family, which has owned the property for several generations, to secure an option to purchase the land on the north side of U.S. 340 at the intersection with Bakerton Road for $2.47 million, according to a press release from The Trust for Public Land.
School House Ridge is where Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson oversaw the capture of 12,500 troops in 1862, the largest capture in the Civil War.
It remained the largest military capture until World War II.
School House Ridge is considered to be the most significant battlefield in West Virginia because 37,000 troops were involved in Jackson's siege, Civil War experts say.
No other West Virginia battle involved that many troops.
School House Ridge consists of rolling farmland on both sides of U.S. 340 west of Harpers Ferry.
Congress recently authorized a 1,240-acre expansion of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and about 600 of those acres were identified as areas the park wanted to preserve in School House Ridge, park Superintendent Donald Campbell said Monday.
Only one large tract - which is about 74 acres - remains in the School House Ridge area which the park hopes to acquire, Campbell said.
Campbell praised West Virginia congressional members, The Trust for Public Land, the Ott family and others in bringing the latest tract under protection.
"The Ott farm is at the heart of the matter, the center of the Confederate line where General Stonewall Jackson orchestrated his brilliant victory over Union forces - the farm is where history happened," said Campbell.
"School House Ridge is a unique historic landscape whose future is now assured," said Alan Front, senior vice president of the Trust for Public Land.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park plans to establish walking trails in the School House Ridge area and interpretive areas to explain the history of the area, Campbell said.
Public restrooms and parking areas also will be constructed, said Campbell, adding that the improvements should be open to the public by next summer.