"To have interfered as I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right." - John Brown

By: Joshua Koss and Kyle Fletcher

Who, What, When, Where, Why

John Brown was a fierce militant abolitionist, whose plan was to create a base nestled within the cover of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Brown then planned to launch attacks on slaveholders and assist runaway slaves. Although he had been ready to launch a major attack in 1858, a member of his group threatening to reveal the plan forced Brown to go into hiding and wait. The following summer, after a year of waiting under cover, Brown rented a farm in Maryland, across the Potomac River near Harper's Ferry. There, Brown waited for his men to arrive; unfortunately, the year of forced waiting greatly diminished the amount of men that arrived at the farm to assist Brown. Some believed the attack would fail, while others had simply changed their minds or moved away.

Ignoring the decrease in men, on October 16, 1859, Brown led 5 black and 16 white men to Harper's Ferry. After marching through the night, the men reached the town at 4 am. After cutting the telegraph wires, they captured a federal armory and arsenal, and took hold of a rifle shop. They then rounded up 60 of the towns important citizens. Brown's plan relied heavily upon the hostages slaves coming to aid and contribute to the attack; not one slave came.

The local militia soon located Brown; realizing that he was in a dire situation, Brown sent out his son to negotiate with the townspeople. The son was immediately killed. By then, word of the attack had reached President Buchanan, who quickly dispatched marines and soldiers. By the time that the small force - under the lead of Robert E. Lee - reached the scene, eight of Brown's men had already been killed. Lee's men put an immediate end to the skirmish.

In the end, 10 of Brown's men had been killed, including two blacks and both of his sons. All seven that were captured, including himself, were tried, sentenced, and executed. Only 5 of the original 22 man group escaped and survived. John Brown was sentenced to death, by hanging, ending his dreams of leading a slave-rebellion.

16 months later, Abraham Lincoln was elected president, the Union dissolved, and a Civil War ensued.

U.S. soldiers attacking John Brown and his men
October 18 issue of the New York Herald, reporting John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry

The Ranking:

John Brown's attack on the armory at Harpers Ferry, VA, played a rather large role in the Civil War. Therefore, we gave the attack a ranking of a 4, on a scale of 1-5. We felt that a 4, rather than a 5, was the correct ranking, because slavery and seccesion played much bigger roles in the Civil War, but the attack was still a near-breaking point.

The raid could almost be called the lighter to the fuse of the Civil War. The raid "ignited" many southerners, because it showed the extent that the abolitionist zealots would go to to try and stop slavery, further scaring them into thinking that all northerners and republicans wanted to totally ban slavery.

The Viewpoints:

The riad on Harpers Ferry was met by opposing viewpoints from some in the North. The North was split; those who were not hard-core abolitionists felt that the raid had gone too far in taking the lives of innocent civilians and attacking a federal establishment. Other abolitionist Northeners felt that John Brown was a martyr, attacking the horrid institution of slavery at its source. These Northerners were some who supplied Brown with weaponry, with around 168 Carbines and many pikes brought for his use. The South viewed the raid on a totally different level. They felt that it was a direct attack on their livelihoods.

People in the South felt that John Brown was a terrorist, attacking his own countrymen over what they thought was a non-issue. They also saw this as a foreshadowing of what was to come from other militant abolitionists. Southerners also saw that since the North supported John Brown and his terroristic actions, they would support anything, including total aboltion. To the South, this was an utter impossibiltiy. After Lincoln was elected on the platform of stopping slaveries spread, many southern states that hadn't already left under Buchanan left the Union, and civil war became imminent.

The following video relates the story of John Brown. In addition to numerous facts told, famous paintings are shown. Throughout the video, the famous song, "John Brown's Body" is played.

Please enjoy the following song. The Reggae Cowboys sing the self explanatory title, "John Brown." Made obvious by their lyrics, the Reggae Cowboys are supporters of John Brown and his actions.

Works Cited:

"The Raid on Harpers Ferry." 18 May. 2009. <>.

"John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry, VA" 18 May. 2009.

"John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry." 18 May. 2009.

"Schels' Lectures"