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Avenging Angel: John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry 1859

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After decades of anti-slavery activity in nineteenth century America, the Abolitionists found a hero who martyred himself, resulting in the American Civil War. On October 16, 1859 John Brown led a small "army" of 18 men, consisting of 13 whites and five blacks, into Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Three other members of his force formed a rearguard at a nearby Maryland farm. A vet After decades of anti-slavery activity in nineteenth century America, the Abolitionists found a hero who martyred himself, resulting in the American Civil War. On October 16, 1859 John Brown led a small "army" of 18 men, consisting of 13 whites and five blacks, into Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Three other members of his force formed a rearguard at a nearby Maryland farm. A veteran of the violent struggles between pro- and antislavery forces in Kansas during 1855-56, Brown intended to provoke a general uprising of African Americans that would lead to a rebellion against slavery. The raiders seized the Federal buildings, including an armory and arsenal, and cut the telegraph wires. However, they failed to realize that further weapons had been removed to safety after flooding at the Hall Rifle Factory. Expecting local slaves to join them, Brown and his men fortified themselves in the Fire Engine House while the well-armed townspeople surrounded the building. The raiders and the civilians exchanged gunfire, and eight of Brown's men were killed or captured. By daybreak on October 18, a battalion of US Marines under the command of future Confederate commander Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee, with First Lieutenant James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart as second in command, stormed Brown's position in a fire engine house and captured or killed most of his force. Five of the conspirators, including Brown's son Owen, escaped to safety in Canada and the North. Severely wounded and taken to the jail in Charlestown, Virginia, John Brown stood trial for treason against the commonwealth of Virginia, for murder, and for conspiring with slaves to rebel. On November 2, 1859, a jury convicted him and sentenced him to death. Brown readily accepted the sentence and declared that he had acted in accordance with God's commandments. Responding to persistent rumours of further rebellion and written threats, Henry A. Wise, governor of Virginia, called out the state militia to guard against a possible rescue of Brown and his followers. Brown was hanged in Charlestown later that day, with John Wilkes Booth and Thomas (later "Stonewall") Jackson among those who witnessed the event. The Harpers Ferry raid confirmed for many Southerners the existence of a widespread Northern plot against slavery. In fact, Brown had raised funds for his raid from Northern abolitionists. To arm the slaves, he ordered one thousand pikes from a Connecticut manufactory. Letters to Governor Wise betrayed the mixed feelings people held for Brown. For some, he was simply insane and should not be hanged. For others, he was a martyr to the cause of abolition, and his quick trial and execution reflected the fear and arrogance of the Virginia slave-owning aristocracy. Many Northerners condemned Brown's actions but thought him right in his conviction that slavery had to end. The John Brown Raid on Harpers Ferry and his execution further polarized North and South and made a solution of the slavery issue central to the national debate which ultimately led to Civil War in 1861.


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After decades of anti-slavery activity in nineteenth century America, the Abolitionists found a hero who martyred himself, resulting in the American Civil War. On October 16, 1859 John Brown led a small "army" of 18 men, consisting of 13 whites and five blacks, into Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Three other members of his force formed a rearguard at a nearby Maryland farm. A vet After decades of anti-slavery activity in nineteenth century America, the Abolitionists found a hero who martyred himself, resulting in the American Civil War. On October 16, 1859 John Brown led a small "army" of 18 men, consisting of 13 whites and five blacks, into Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Three other members of his force formed a rearguard at a nearby Maryland farm. A veteran of the violent struggles between pro- and antislavery forces in Kansas during 1855-56, Brown intended to provoke a general uprising of African Americans that would lead to a rebellion against slavery. The raiders seized the Federal buildings, including an armory and arsenal, and cut the telegraph wires. However, they failed to realize that further weapons had been removed to safety after flooding at the Hall Rifle Factory. Expecting local slaves to join them, Brown and his men fortified themselves in the Fire Engine House while the well-armed townspeople surrounded the building. The raiders and the civilians exchanged gunfire, and eight of Brown's men were killed or captured. By daybreak on October 18, a battalion of US Marines under the command of future Confederate commander Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee, with First Lieutenant James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart as second in command, stormed Brown's position in a fire engine house and captured or killed most of his force. Five of the conspirators, including Brown's son Owen, escaped to safety in Canada and the North. Severely wounded and taken to the jail in Charlestown, Virginia, John Brown stood trial for treason against the commonwealth of Virginia, for murder, and for conspiring with slaves to rebel. On November 2, 1859, a jury convicted him and sentenced him to death. Brown readily accepted the sentence and declared that he had acted in accordance with God's commandments. Responding to persistent rumours of further rebellion and written threats, Henry A. Wise, governor of Virginia, called out the state militia to guard against a possible rescue of Brown and his followers. Brown was hanged in Charlestown later that day, with John Wilkes Booth and Thomas (later "Stonewall") Jackson among those who witnessed the event. The Harpers Ferry raid confirmed for many Southerners the existence of a widespread Northern plot against slavery. In fact, Brown had raised funds for his raid from Northern abolitionists. To arm the slaves, he ordered one thousand pikes from a Connecticut manufactory. Letters to Governor Wise betrayed the mixed feelings people held for Brown. For some, he was simply insane and should not be hanged. For others, he was a martyr to the cause of abolition, and his quick trial and execution reflected the fear and arrogance of the Virginia slave-owning aristocracy. Many Northerners condemned Brown's actions but thought him right in his conviction that slavery had to end. The John Brown Raid on Harpers Ferry and his execution further polarized North and South and made a solution of the slavery issue central to the national debate which ultimately led to Civil War in 1861.

23 review for Avenging Angel: John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry 1859

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    This is a good and very well illustrated summation of John Brown insurrection (it was not a raid so stop using that word). I have found some of Field's other Civil War books for Osprey wanting, but this one is about as good as it gets. This is a good and very well illustrated summation of John Brown insurrection (it was not a raid so stop using that word). I have found some of Field's other Civil War books for Osprey wanting, but this one is about as good as it gets.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan Berchiolli

    not exactly literature but concise & informative

  3. 4 out of 5

    Almantas Leika

    Osprey Publishing Raid publication.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Frédéric

    Very comprehensive narration of John Brown's actions at Harper's Ferry. Detailed yet clear and easy to read. Osprey's bird's eye views are once again of great help to visualize the city, its buildings and everybody's whereabouts. I don't feel like I need to read something else on the topic, all I wanted to know is here. Very comprehensive narration of John Brown's actions at Harper's Ferry. Detailed yet clear and easy to read. Osprey's bird's eye views are once again of great help to visualize the city, its buildings and everybody's whereabouts. I don't feel like I need to read something else on the topic, all I wanted to know is here.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Derrick Ranostaj

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert Knapton

  8. 4 out of 5

    John Somers

  9. 4 out of 5

    William Paley

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo

  11. 5 out of 5

    Basem.android

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rich

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dimitri

  15. 4 out of 5

    MTN343-Wishlist

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jester

  18. 4 out of 5

    Matthias Noch

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  20. 5 out of 5

    Umer Khan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jay

  22. 4 out of 5

    Krzysiek (Chris)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jackie Graham

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