Avenging Angel # John Brown#s Raid on Harpers Ferry 1859

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He denounced Brown to Seward as a "vicious man" who needed to be restrained, but did not disclose any plans for the raid. Forbes partially exposed the plan to Senator Wilson and others. Wilson wrote to Samuel Howe, a Brown backer, advising him to get Brown's backers to retrieve the weapons intended for use in Kansas. Brown's backers told him that the weapons should not be used "for other purposes, as rumor says they may be.

John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry

Some historians believe that this trip cost Brown valuable time and momentum. Estimates are that at least eighty people knew about Brown's planned raid in advance.

Many others had reasons to believe that Brown was contemplating a move against the South. One of those who knew was David J. Gue of Springdale, Iowa. Gue was a Quaker who believed that Brown and his men would be killed. Gue, his brother, and another man decided to warn the government "to protect Brown from the consequences of his own rashness. The letter said that " old John Brown,' late of Kansas," was planning to organize a slave uprising in the South.

It said that Brown had a secret agent "in an armory" in Maryland. The letter said that Brown was stockpiling weapons at a secret location in Maryland. Gue acknowledged that he was afraid to disclose his identify but asked Floyd not to ignore his warning "on that account. He hoped that the extra security would motivate Brown to call off his plans. He knew that Maryland did not have an armory Harpers Ferry is just across the river from Maryland.

Floyd figured that the letter writer was a crank and forgot about it. He later said that "a scheme of such wickedness and outrage could not be entertained by any citizen of the United States. A modern reproduction of the fire engine house that became known as John Brown's Fort. Brown detached a party under John Cook Jr. Brown's men needed to capture the weapons and escape before word could be sent to Washington. The raid was going well for Brown's men. A free black man was the first casualty of the raid.

Hayward Shepherd, an African-American baggage handler on the train, confronted the raiders; they shot and killed him.


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Brown had been sure that he would win the support of local slaves in joining the rebellion, but a massive uprising did not occur, because word had not been spread about the uprising, so the slaves nearby did not know about it. Although the white townspeople soon began to fight back against the raiders, Brown's men succeeded in capturing the armory that evening. Army workers discovered Brown's men early on the morning of October Local militia, farmers and shopkeepers surrounded the armory.

When a company of militia captured the bridge across the Potomac River, any route of escape for the raiders was cut off. During the day, four townspeople were killed, including the mayor.

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Realizing his escape was cut, Brown took 9 of his captives and moved into the smaller engine house, which would come to be known as John Brown's Fort. The raiders barred off the windows and doors and exchanged the occasional volley with the surrounding forces. At one point Brown sent out his son, Watson, and Aaron Dwight Stevens with a white flag, but Watson was mortally wounded and Stevens was shot and captured. The raid was rapidly deteriorating. William H. Leeman, one of the raiders, panicked and tried to escape by swimming across the Potomac River, but he was shot and killed.

During the intermittent shooting, Brown's other son, Oliver, was also shot; he died after a brief period. Alburtis arrived by train from Martinsburg, Virginia. The militia forced the raiders inside the engine house. They broke into the guardroom and freed over two dozen prisoners. Eight militia men were wounded. Alburtis said that he could have ended the raid with help from other citizens.

By that afternoon, President James Buchanan ordered a detachment of U. Marines the only government troops in the immediate area to march on Harpers Ferry under the command of Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee of the 2nd U. Lee had been on leave when he was hastily recalled to lead the detachment and had to command it while wearing his civilian clothes.

A contemporary newspaper llustration showing the interior of the engine house immediately before the door is broken down by US Marines. Lee first offered the role of attacking the engine house to the local militia units on the spot. Both militia commanders declined, and Lee turned to the Marines. On the morning of October 18, Colonel Lee sent Lt. Stuart , serving as a volunteer aide-de-camp , under a white flag of truce to negotiate a surrender of John Brown and his followers. Lee instructed Lt.

Israel Greene that if Brown refused, he was to lead the marines in storming the engine house. Stuart walked towards the front of the engine house where he told Brown that his men would be spared if they surrendered.

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Brown refused and as Stuart walked away, he signaled a "thumbs down" to Lt. Greene and his men standing nearby. Seconds later, Greene led a platoon of marines to storm the engine house. Two marines armed with sledgehammers tried in vain to break through the door, but were forced to fall back. Greene found a wooden ladder, and he and about 10 marines used it as a battering ram to knock the front doors in. Greene was the first through the door and with the assistance of Lewis Washington, identified and singled out John Brown.

Greene later recounted what happened next:. He was moving as the blow fell, and I suppose I did not strike him where I intended, for he received a deep saber cut in the back of the neck. He fell senseless on his side, then rolled over on his back. He had in his hand a short Sharpe's cavalry carbine.

I think he had just fired as I reached Colonel Washington, for the Marine who followed me into the aperture made by the ladder received a bullet in the abdomen, from which he died in a few minutes. The shot might have been fired by someone else in the insurgent party, but I think it was from Brown. Instinctively as Brown fell I gave him a saber thrust in the left breast. The sword I carried was a light uniform weapon, and, either not having a point or striking something hard in Brown's accouterments, did not penetrate. The blade bent double. The action inside the engine house happened very quickly.

In three minutes, all of the raiders still alive were taken prisoner and the action was over. Lee made a summary report of the events that took place at Harpers Ferry. According to Lee's notes, Lee believed John Brown was insane, " Southerners had a mixed attitude towards their slaves. Many southern whites lived in fear of a slave insurrection. Paradoxically, whites claimed that slaves were well treated and content in bondage. And he does a wonderful job of bringing to life the fascinating, messianic leader who, on the way to the gallows, would incite a nation toward civil war.

Petersburg Times. Va, by Brown and his ragtag followers -- the event credited with lighting the fuse on the deadliest conflict in U. Horwitz brings all his gifts of character building and storytelling to Brown's rise and self-promotion… Horwitz's Brown did not die in vain. By recalling the drama that fired the imagination and fears of Brown's time, Midnight Rising calls readers to account for complacency about social injustices today. With stunning, vivid detail, he has captured the sheer drama and tragedy of John Brown and that bloody raid at Harpers Ferry that helped propel America toward civil war.

Brown's family and the men who joined him in these fights against slavery receive a more fully rounded treatment than in any other account. Of special note is the discussion of Brown's self-conscious emulation of Samson by pulling down the temple of bondage and dying a martyr in its ruins.


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McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom. The events surrounding the raid on Harpers Ferry--and the complex character of John Brown himself--come vividly to life in Tony Horwitz's irresistibly readable account. Part biography, part historical narrative, Midnight Rising is a riveting re-creation of the Harpers Ferry raid, told with an unblinking sense of Brown's tragic place in American history.

Writing with enveloping detail and a storyteller's verve, Horwitz shows why Brown was--and still is--so troubling and important to our culture. Ellis, author of Founding Brothers and First Family. In this thrilling, magnificent and essential book, Tony Horwitz shows how one man and a single event set the nation on a doomed course where the crimes of a guilty land could only be purged by blood. Swanson, author of Manhunt and Bloody Crimes. The Den opens at 8 a.

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