- John Brown (abolitionist)
Daguerreotype of Brown, ca.1856.
Born May 9, 1800
Died December 2, 1859(aged 59)
Charles Town, Virginia
(now West Virginia)
Cause of death Hanging Resting place John Brown Farm and Gravesite Known for Pottawatomie Massacre
Raid on Harpers Ferry
Children 20 (11 survived to adulthood) Signature
John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American revolutionary abolitionist, who in the 1850s advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to abolish slavery in the United States. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre during which five men were killed in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas and made his name in the unsuccessful raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859. Later that year he was executed but his speeches at the trial captured national attention. Brown has been called "the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans" and "America's first domestic terrorist."
Brown's attempt in 1859 to start a liberation movement among enslaved African Americans in Harpers Ferry, Virginia electrified the nation. He was tried for treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia, the murder of five pro-slavery Southerners, and inciting a slave insurrection, found guilty on all counts, and was hanged. Southerners alleged that his rebellion was the tip of the abolitionist iceberg and represented the wishes of the Republican Party to end slavery. Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 escalated tensions that, a year later, led to secession and the American Civil War.
Brown first gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis. Unlike most other Northerners, who advocated peaceful resistance to the pro-slavery faction, Brown demanded violent action in response to Southern aggression. Dissatisfied with the pacifism encouraged by the organized abolitionist movement, he reportedly said, "These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!"  During the Kansas campaign he and his supporters killed five pro-slavery southerners in what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre in May 1856 in response to the raid of the "free soil" city of Lawrence. In 1859 he led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry. During the raid, he seized the armory; seven people were killed, and ten or more were injured. He intended to arm slaves with weapons from the arsenal, but the attack failed. Within 36 hours, Brown's men had fled or been killed or captured by local pro slavery farmers, militiamen, and U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee. Brown's subsequent capture by federal forces seized the nation's attention, as Southerners feared it was just the first of many Northern plots to cause a slave rebellion that might endanger their lives, while Republicans dismissed the notion and said they would not interfere with slavery in the South.
Historians agree John Brown played a major role in the start of the Civil War. David Potter (1976) said the emotional effect of Brown's raid was greater than the philosophical effect of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and that his raid revealed a deep division between North and South. Brown's actions prior to the Civil War as an abolitionist, and the tactics he chose, still make him a controversial figure today. He is sometimes memorialized as a heroic martyr and a visionary and sometimes vilified as a madman and a terrorist. Some writers, such as Bruce Olds, describe him as a monomaniacal zealot, others, such as Stephen B. Oates, regard him as "one of the most perceptive human beings of his generation." David S. Reynolds hails the man who "killed slavery, sparked the civil war, and seeded civil rights" and Richard Owen Boyer emphasizes that Brown was "an American who gave his life that millions of other Americans might be free." For Ken Chowder he is "at certain times, a great man", but also "the father of American terrorism." The song "John Brown's Body" became a Union marching song during the Civil War.
John Brown was born May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut. He was the fourth of the eight children of Owen Brown (February 16, 1771 – May 8, 1856) and Ruth Mills (January 25, 1772 – December 9, 1808) and grandson of Capt. John Brown (1728–1776).
In 1805, the family moved to Hudson, Ohio, where Owen Brown opened a tannery. Brown's father became a supporter of the Oberlin Institute (original name of Oberlin College) in its early stage, although he was ultimately critical of the school's "Perfectionist" leanings, especially renowned in the preaching and teaching of Charles Finney and Asa Mahan. Brown withdrew his membership from the Congregational church in the 1840s and never officially joined another church, but both he and his father Owen were fairly conventional evangelicals for the period with its focus on the pursuit of personal righteousness. Brown's personal religion is fairly well documented in the papers of the Rev Clarence Gee, a Brown family expert, now held in the Hudson [Ohio] Library and Historical Society.
At the age of 16, John Brown left his family and went to Plainfield, Massachusetts, where he enrolled in a preparatory program. Shortly afterward, he transferred to the Morris Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut. He hoped to become a Congregationalist minister, but money ran out and he suffered from eye inflammations, which forced him to give up the academy and return to Ohio. In Hudson, he worked briefly at his father's tannery before opening a successful tannery of his own outside of town with his adopted brother.
In 1820, Brown married Dianthe Lusk. Their first child, John Jr, was born 13 months later. In 1825, Brown and his family moved to New Richmond, Pennsylvania, where he bought 200 acres (81 hectares) of land. He cleared an eighth of it and built a cabin, a barn, and a tannery. Within a year the tannery employed 15 men. Brown also made money raising cattle and surveying. He helped to establish a post office and a school. During this period, Brown operated an interstate business involving cattle and leather production along with a kinsman, Seth Thompson, from eastern Ohio.
In 1831, one of his sons died. Brown fell ill, and his businesses began to suffer, which left him in terrible debt. In the summer of 1832, shortly after the death of a newborn son, his wife Dianthe died. On June 14, 1833, Brown married 16-year-old Mary Ann Day (April 15, 1817 – May 1, 1884), originally of Meadville, Pennsylvania. They eventually had 13 children, in addition to the seven children from his previous marriage.
In 1836, Brown moved his family to Franklin Mills, Ohio (now known as Kent). There he borrowed money to buy land in the area, building and operating a tannery along the Cuyahoga River in partnership with Zenas Kent.  He suffered great financial losses in the economic crisis of 1839, which struck the western states more severely than had the Panic of 1837. Following the heavy borrowing trends of Ohio, many businessmen like Brown trusted too heavily in credit and state bonds and paid dearly for it. In one episode of property loss, Brown was even jailed when he attempted to retain ownership of a farm by occupying it against the claims of the new owner. Like other determined men of his time and background, he tried many different business efforts in an attempt to get out of debt. Along with tanning hides and cattle trading, he also undertook horse and sheep breeding, the last of which was to become a notable aspect of his pre-public vocation.
In 1837, in response to the murder of Elijah P. Lovejoy, Brown publicly vowed: “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!” Brown was declared bankrupt by a federal court on September 28, 1842. In 1843, four of his children died of dysentery. As Louis DeCaro Jr shows in his biographical sketch (2007), from the mid-1840s Brown had built a reputation as an expert in fine sheep and wool, and entered into a partnership with Col. Simon Perkins of Akron, Ohio, whose flocks and farms were managed by Brown and sons. Brown eventually moved into a home with his family across the street from the Perkins Stone Mansion located on Perkins Hill. The John Brown House (Akron, Ohio) still stands and is owned and operated by The Summit County Historical Society of Akron, Ohio. As Brown's associations grew among sheep farmers of the region, his expertise was often discussed in agricultural journals even as he widened the scope of his travels in conjunction with sheep and wool concerns (which often brought him into contact with other fervent anti-slavery people as well).
Transformative years in Springfield, Massachusetts
In 1846, Brown and his business partner Simon Perkins moved to the ideologically progressive city of Springfield, Massachusetts. In Springfield, Brown found a community whose white leadership - from the community’s most prominent churches, to its most wealthy businessmen, to its most popular politicians, to its local jurists, and even to the publisher of one of the nation’s most influential newspapers - were deeply involved and emotionally invested in the anti-slavery movement. Brown and Perkins' intent was to represent the interests of the Connecticut River Valley's wool growers against the interests of the region's wool manufacturers - thus Brown and Perkins set-up a wool commission operation. While in Springfield, Brown lived in a house at 51 Franklin Street.
Several years before Brown's arrival in Springfield, in 1844, the city's African-American abolitionists had founded the Sanford Street "Free Church" - now known as St. John's Congregational Church - which went on to become one of the United States most prominent platforms for abolitionist speeches. From 1846 until he left Springfield in 1850, John Brown was a parishioner at the Free Church, where he witnessed abolitionist lectures by Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. Indeed, during Brown's time in Springfield, he became deeply involved in transforming the city into a major center of abolitionism, and one of the safest and most significant stops on the Underground Railroad. John Brown's Bible is still on display at St. John's Congregational Church in Springfield, which to this day remains one of the Northeast's most prominent black churches.
In 1847, after speaking at the "Free Church," the famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass spent a night speaking with John Brown, after which he wrote, "from this night spent with John Brown in Springfield, Mass. in 1847 while I continued to write and speak against slavery, I became all the same less hopeful for its peaceful abolition. My utterances became more and more tinged by the color of this man’s strong impressions.” 
While in Springfield, as Brown learned more about abolitionism and the Underground Railroad, he also learned more about the region's mercantile elite, which while initially a 'curse', proved ultimately to be a 'blessing' to Brown's later activities in Kansas and at Harper's Ferry. Springfield's mercantile elite reacted with hesitation to change their theretofore highly-profitable formula of low-quality wool sold en masse for low prices. Initially, Brown naively trusted Springfield's manufacturers, but soon came to realize that they were determined to maintain their control of price-setting. Also, on the outskirts of Springfield, the Connecticut River Valley's sheep farmers were largely unorganized and hesitant to change their methods of production to meet higher standards. In the Ohio Cultivator, Brown and other wool growers complained that the Connecticut River Valley's farmers' tendencies were lowering all U.S. wool prices abroad. In reaction, Brown made a last-ditch effort to overcome the Pioneer Valley's wool mercantile elite by seeking an alliance with European-based manufacturers. Ultimately, Brown was disappointed to learn that Europe wanted to buy Western Massachusetts's wools en masse at the cheap prices they'd been getting from them. Brown then traveled to England to seek a higher price for Springfield's wool. The trip was a disaster, as the firm incurred a loss of $40,000 (over $980,000 in today's dollars), of which Col. Perkins bore the larger share. With this misfortune, the Perkins and Brown wool commission operation closed in Springfield in late 1849. Subsequent lawsuits tied up the partners for several more years.
The Fugitive Slave Act and The League of Gileadites
Before Brown left Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1850, the United States passed the notorious Fugitive Slave Act, a law which gave federal marshals the right to pursue and capture runaway slaves. In response to Fugitive Slave Act, John Brown founded a militant group to prevent slaves' capture - The League of Gileadites - in Springfield. In the Bible, Mount Gilead was the place where only the bravest of Israelites would gather together to face an invading enemy. Brown founded the League of Gileadites with these words, "Nothing so charmes the American people as personal bravery. [Blacks] would have ten times the number [of whites friends than] they now have were they but half as much in earnest to secure their dearest rights as they are to ape the follies and extravagances of their white neighbors, and to indulge in idle show, in ease, and in luxury."  On leaving Springfield in 1850, Brown instructed the League of Gileadites to act "quickly, quietly, and efficiently" to protect slaves that escaped to Springfield - words that would foreshadow Brown's later actions preceding Harper's Ferry. It is worth noting that from Brown's founding of the League of Gileadites onward, not one person was ever taken back into slavery from Springfield, Massachusetts. On leaving Springfield in 1850, Brown gave his rocking chair to the mother of his beloved black porter, Thomas, as a gesture of affection.
Some popular narrators have exaggerated the unfortunate demise of Brown and Perkins' wool commission in Springfield with Brown's later life choices. In actuality, Perkins absorbed much of the financial loss, and their partnership continued for several more years, with Brown nearly breaking even by 1854. The men remained friends after ending their partnership amicably. Indeed, Brown was a man of great talent and judgment in farming and sheep raising; however, he was not a good business administrator. The Perkins and Brown partnership not only reveal Brown as a man with a widely appreciated specialization (long since forgotten), but reflect his perennial zeal for the underdog which drove him to struggle on behalf of the economically vulnerable farmers of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and those near Springfield, Massachusetts.
Brown's time in Springfield sowed the seeds for the future financial support that he would receive from New England's great merchants, introduced him to nationally famous abolitionists like Douglass and Truth, and included the foundation of his first militant anti-slavery group The League of Gileadites. During this time, Brown also helped publicize David Walker's speech called Appeal. Brown's personal attitudes evolved in Springfield, as he observed the success of the city's Underground railroad and made his first venture into militant, anti-slavery community organizing. In Springfield, Brown found a city that shared his own anti-slavery passions, and each seemed to educate the other. Certainly, with both successes and failures, Brown's Springfield years were a transformative period of his life, which catalyzed many of his later actions.
Homestead in New York
In 1848, Brown heard of Gerrit Smith's Adirondack land grants to poor black men, and decided to move his family among the new settlers. He bought land near North Elba, New York (near Lake Placid), for $1 an acre, although he spent little time there. After he was executed, his wife took his body there for burial. Since 1895, the farm has been owned by New York state. The John Brown Farm and Gravesite is now a National Historic Landmark.
Actions in Kansas
In 1855, Brown learned from his adult sons in the Kansas territory that their families were completely unprepared to face attack, and that pro-slavery forces there were militant. Determined to protect his family and oppose the advances of pro-slavery supporters, Brown left for Kansas, enlisting a son-in-law and making several stops just to collect funds and weapons. As reported by the New York Tribune, Brown stopped en route to participate in an anti-slavery convention that took place in June 1855 in Albany, New York. Despite the controversy that ensued on the convention floor regarding the support of violent efforts on behalf of the free state cause, several individuals provided Brown some solicited financial support. As he went westward, however, Brown found more militant support in his home state of Ohio, particularly in the strongly anti-slavery Western Reserve section where he had been reared.
Brown and the free settlers were optimistic that they could bring Kansas into the union as a slavery-free state. But in late 1855 and early 1856 it was increasingly clear to Brown that pro-slavery forces were willing to violate the rule of law in order to force Kansas to become a slave state. Brown believed that terrorism, fraud, and eventually deadly attacks became the obvious agenda of the pro-slavery supporters, then known as "Border Ruffians." After the winter snows thawed in 1856, the pro-slavery activists began a campaign to seize Kansas on their own terms. Brown was particularly affected by the Sacking of Lawrence in May 1856, in which a sheriff-led posse destroyed newspaper offices and a hotel. Only one man, a Border Ruffian, was killed. Preston Brooks's caning of anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner also fueled Brown's anger. These violent acts were accompanied by celebrations in the pro-slavery press, with writers such as Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow of the Squatter Sovereign proclaiming that pro-slavery forces "are determined to repel this Northern invasion, and make Kansas a Slave State; though our rivers should be covered with the blood of their victims, and the carcasses of the Abolitionists should be so numerous in the territory as to breed disease and sickness, we will not be deterred from our purpose" (quoted in Reynolds, p. 162). Brown was outraged by both the violence of the pro-slavery forces, and also by what he saw as a weak and cowardly response by the antislavery partisans and the Free State settlers, who he described as "cowards, or worse" (Reynolds pp. 163–164).
Biographer Louis A. DeCaro Jr. further shows that Brown's beloved father, Owen, had died on May 8, 1856 and correspondence indicates that John Brown and his family received word of his death around the same time. The emotional darkness of the hour was intensified by the real concerns that Brown had for the welfare of his sons and the free state settlers in their vicinity, especially since the sacking of Lawrence seems to have signaled an all-out campaign of violence by pro-slavery forces. Brown conducted surveillance on encamped "ruffians" in his vicinity and learned that his family was marked for attack, and furthermore was given reliable information as to pro-slavery neighbors who had aligned and supported these forces. The pro-slavery men did not necessarily own any slaves, although the Doyles (three of the victims) were slave hunters prior to settling in Kansas. According to Salmon Brown, when the Doyles were seized, Mahala Doyle acknowledged that her husband's "devilment" had brought down this attack to their doorstep – further signifying that the Browns' attack was probably grounded in real concern for their own survival.
Sometime after 10:00 pm May 24, 1856, it is suspected they took five pro-slavery settlers – James Doyle, William Doyle, Drury Doyle, Allen Wilkinson, and William Sherman – from their cabins on Pottawatomie Creek and hacked them to death with broadswords. Brown later claimed he did not participate in the killings, however he did say he approved of them.
Account of the Pottawatomie Massacre by John Doyle, Son of James P. Doyle
"I, John C. Doyle, was born in Knox County, Tennessee December 19, 1838. My father, Pleasant Doyle, moved to Walker County, Ga., in 1845, moved to Chattanooga1 in 1848, and lived in and around Chattanooga until October 11, 1855, at which time we moved to Kansas; traveled through the country in wagons, via Nashville, Hopkinsville, Ky., St. Louis, Mo., Kansas City, Mo., then fifty miles southwest to Franklin County, Kansas, arriving there November 18, 1856. We settled on a claim of one hundred and sixty acres, built a house, and spent the winter there. In the spring of 1856 we planted a crop. Everything was quiet and peaceful until the night of May 24, when John Brown, with about twenty-five men, came to the house and demanded admittance. When refused admittance, they set fire to the house with torches made of prairie hay. To keep up all from being burned to death my father opened the door. They came in the house and handcuffed my father and my two older brothers and started to take me but my mother begged them to leave me, as I would be all the protection she would have. Brown told mother they were going to take father and the boys to the army, and left the house with them. They took them about three hundred yards from the house and murdered them. My father was shot in the head, my brothers cut to pieces. They left them all dead in a heap. They then went over two miles further to Potawatma River and killed two more men by the names of Wilkerson and Sherman. After they had killed my father and brothers, some of Brown's men came back to our house to get our horses, but failed to find them, as we had them staked out on the prairie to graze, as that was the way we had to feed them.
"...After daylight I went to some neighbor's houses and got them to come and help bury father and my brothers. After burying them I loaded up a few things in a wagon and brought my mother and the rest of the children to Cass County, Mo. We remained there until September of the same year, then came back to Chattanooga to live.
"In November, 1859, when John Brown was hanged at Charlestown, W. Va., I had permission from Governor Wise to hang him, but failed to get there on account of a landslide between Morristown and Bristol.
"I went into the Confederate army in June, 1861; was paroled at Charlotte, N. C, May, 1865.
"My mother lived in Chattanooga, until the town was being shelled in 1863, then moved out a few miles in the country, near Chickamauga. As Rosecrans retreated from Chickamauga, his army destroyed everything.
"Our family consisted of six boys and one girl. My father's object in going to Kansas was to get a home for us. Brown said he murdered them on account of being slaveholders, but my father had never owned a negro and never expected to. Brown and his men simply murdered them because they were from the South."
Palmyra and Osawatomie
A force of Missourians, led by Captain Henry Pate, captured John Jr. and Jason, and destroyed the Brown family homestead, and later participated in the Sack of Lawrence. On June 2, John Brown, nine of his followers, and twenty local men successfully defended a Free State settlement at Palmyra, Kansas against an attack by Pate. (See Battle of Black Jack.) Pate and twenty-two of his men were taken prisoner (Reynolds pp. 180–181, 186). After capture, they were taken to Brown's camp, and received all the food that Brown could find. Brown forced Pate to sign a treaty, exchanging the freedom of Pate and his men for the promised release of Brown's two captured sons. Brown released Pate to Colonel Edwin Sumner, but was furious to discover that the release of his sons was delayed until September.
In August, a company of over three hundred Missourians under the command of Major General John W. Reid crossed into Kansas and headed towards Osawatomie, Kansas, intending to destroy the Free State settlements there, and then march on Topeka and Lawrence.
On the morning of August 30, 1856, they shot and killed Brown's son Frederick and his neighbor David Garrison on the outskirts of Osawatomie. Brown, outnumbered more than seven to one, arranged his 38 men behind natural defenses along the road. Firing from cover, they managed to kill at least 20 of Reid's men and wounded 40 more. Reid regrouped, ordering his men to dismount and charge into the woods. Brown's small group scattered and fled across the Marais des Cygnes River. One of Brown's men was killed during the retreat and four were captured. While Brown and his surviving men hid in the woods nearby, the Missourians plundered and burned Osawatomie. Despite being defeated, Brown's bravery and military shrewdness in the face of overwhelming odds brought him national attention and made him a hero to many Northern abolitionists, who gave him the nickname "Osawatomie Brown". This incident was dramatized in the play Osawatomie Brown.
On September 7, Brown entered Lawrence to meet with Free State leaders and help fortify against a feared assault. At least 2,700 pro-slavery Missourians were once again invading Kansas. On September 14 they skirmished near Lawrence. Brown prepared for battle, but serious violence was averted when the new governor of Kansas, John W. Geary, ordered the warring parties to disarm and disband, and offered clemency to former fighters on both sides. Brown, taking advantage of the fragile peace, left Kansas with three of his sons to raise money from supporters in the north.
By November 1856, Brown had returned to the East, and spent the next two years in New England raising funds. Initially, Brown returned to Springfield, where he received contributions, and also a letter of recommendation from a prominent and wealthy merchant, Mr. George Walker. George Walker was the brother-in-law of Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, the secretary for the Massachusetts State Kansas Committee, who later introduced Brown to several influential abolitionists in the Boston area in January 1857.Amos Adams Lawrence, a prominent Boston merchant, secretly gave a large amount of cash. William Lloyd Garrison, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Theodore Parker and George Luther Stearns, and Samuel Gridley Howe also supported Brown. A group of six wealthy abolitionists – Sanborn, Higginson, Parker, Stearns, Howe, and Gerrit Smith – agreed to offer Brown financial support for his antislavery activities; they would eventually provide most of the financial backing for the raid on Harpers Ferry, and would come to be known as the Secret Six and the Committee of Six. Brown often requested help from them with "no questions asked" and it remains unclear of how much of Brown's scheme the Secret Six were aware.
On January 7, 1858, the Massachusetts Committee pledged to provide 200 Sharps Rifles and ammunition, which was being stored at Tabor, Iowa. In March, Brown contracted Charles Blair of Collinsville, Connecticut for 1,000 pikes.
In the following months, Brown continued to raise funds, visiting Worcester, Springfield, New Haven, Syracuse and Boston. In Boston, he met Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He received many pledges but little cash. In March, while in New York City, he was introduced to Hugh Forbes, an English mercenary, who had experience as a military tactician gained while fighting with Giuseppe Garibaldi in Italy in 1848. Brown hired him to be the drillmaster for his men and to write their tactical handbook. They agreed to meet in Tabor that summer.
Using the alias Nelson Hawkins, Brown traveled through the Northeast and then went to visit his family in Hudson, Ohio. On August 7, he arrived in Tabor. Forbes arrived two days later. Over several weeks, the two men put together a "Well-Matured Plan" for fighting slavery in the South. The men quarreled over many of the details. In November, their troops left for Kansas. Forbes had not received his salary and was still feuding with Brown, so he returned to the East instead of venturing into Kansas. He would soon threaten to expose the plot to the government.
Because the October elections saw a free-state victory, Kansas was quiet. Brown made his men return to Iowa, where he fed them tidbits of his Virginia scheme. In January 1858, Brown left his men in Springdale, Iowa, and set off to visit Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York. There he discussed his plans with Douglass, and reconsidered Forbes' criticisms. Brown wrote a Provisional Constitution that would create a government for a new state in the region of his invasion. Brown then traveled to Peterboro, New York and Boston to discuss matters with the Secret Six. In letters to them, he indicated that, along with recruits, he would go into the South equipped with weapons to do "Kansas work".
Brown and twelve of his followers, including his son Owen, traveled to Chatham, Ontario where he convened on May 8 a Constitutional Convention. The convention was put together with the help of Dr. Martin Delany. One-third of Chatham's 6,000 residents were fugitive slaves, and it was here that Brown was introduced to Harriet Tubman. The convention assembled 34 blacks and 12 whites to adopt Brown's Provisional Constitution. According to Delany, during the convention, Brown illuminated his plans to make Kansas rather than Canada the end of the Underground Railroad. This would be the Subterranean Pass Way. He never mentioned or hinted at the idea of Harpers Ferry. But Delany's reflections are not entirely trustworthy. Brown was no longer looking toward Kansas and was entirely focused on Virginia. Other testimony from the Chatham meeting suggests Brown did speak of going South. Brown had long used the terminology of the Subterranean Pass Way from the late 1840s, so it is possible that Delany conflated Brown's statements over the years. Regardless, Brown was elected commander-in-chief and he named John Henrie Kagi as his "Secretary of War". Richard Realf was named "Secretary of State". Elder Monroe, a black minister, was to act as president until another was chosen. A.M. Chapman was the acting vice president; Delany, the corresponding secretary. In 1859, "A Declaration of Liberty by the Representatives of the Slave Population of the United States of America" was written.
Although nearly all of the delegates signed the constitution, very few delegates volunteered to join Brown's forces, although it will never be clear how many Canadian expatriates actually intended to join Brown because of a subsequent "security leak" that threw off plans for the raid, creating a hiatus in which Brown lost contact with many of the Canadian leaders. This crisis occurred when Hugh Forbes, Brown's mercenary, tried to expose the plans to Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson and others. The Secret Six feared their names would be made public. Howe and Higginson wanted no delays in Brown's progress, while Parker, Stearns, Smith and Sanborn insisted on postponement. Stearns and Smith were the major sources of funds, and their words carried more weight.
To throw Forbes off the trail and to invalidate his assertions, Brown returned to Kansas in June, and he remained in that vicinity for six months. There he joined forces with James Montgomery, who was leading raids into Missouri. On December 20, Brown led his own raid, in which he liberated eleven slaves, took captive two white men, and stole horses and wagons. On January 20, 1859, he embarked on a lengthy journey to take the eleven liberated slaves to Detroit and then on a ferry to Canada. While passing through Chicago, Brown met with Allan Pinkerton who arranged and raised the fare for the passage to Detroit.
Over the course of the next few months he traveled again through Ohio, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts to draw up more support for the cause. On May 9, he delivered a lecture in Concord, Massachusetts. In attendance were Bronson Alcott, Rockwell Hoar, Emerson and Thoreau. Brown also reconnoitered with the Secret Six. In June he paid his last visit to his family in North Elba, before he departed for Harpers Ferry. He stayed one night enroute in Hagerstown, Maryland at the Washington House, on West Washington Street. On June 30, 1859 the hotel had at least 25 guests, including I. Smith and Sons, Oliver Smith and Owen Smith and Jeremiah Anderson, all from New York. From papers found in the Kennedy Farmhouse after the raid, it is known that Brown wrote to Kagi that he would sign into a hotel as I. Smith and Sons.
Brown arrived in Harpers Ferry on July 3, 1859. A few days later, under the name Isaac Smith, he rented a farmhouse in nearby Maryland. He awaited the arrival of his recruits. They never materialized in the numbers he expected. In late August he met with Douglass in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where he revealed the Harpers Ferry plan. Douglass expressed severe reservations, rebuffing Brown's pleas to join the mission. Douglass had actually known about Brown's plans from early in 1859 and had made a number of efforts to discourage blacks from enlisting.
In late September, the 950 pikes arrived from Charles Blair. Kagi's draft plan called for a brigade of 4,500 men, but Brown had only 21 men (16 white and 5 black: three free blacks, one freed slave, and a fugitive slave). They ranged in age from 21 to 49. Twelve of them had been with Brown in Kansas raids.
On October 16, 1859, Brown (leaving three men behind as a rear guard) led 18 men in an attack on the Harpers Ferry Armory. He had received 200 Beecher's Bibles—breechloading .52 caliber Sharps rifles—and pikes from northern abolitionist societies in preparation for the raid. The armory was a large complex of buildings that contained 100,000 muskets and rifles, which Brown planned to seize and use to arm local slaves. They would then head south, drawing off more and more slaves from plantations, and fighting only in self-defense. As Frederick Douglass and Brown's family testified, his strategy was essentially to deplete Virginia of its slaves, causing the institution to collapse in one county after another, until the movement spread into the South, essentially wreaking havoc on the economic viability of the pro-slavery states. Thus, while violence was essential to self-defense and advancement of the movement, Brown's hope was to limit and minimize bloodshed, not ignite a slave insurrection as many have charged. From the Southern point of view, of course, any effort to arm the enslaved was perceived as a definitive threat.
Initially, the raid went well, and they met no resistance entering the town. They cut the telegraph wires and easily captured the armory, which was being defended by a single watchman. They next rounded up hostages from nearby farms, including Colonel Lewis Washington, great-grandnephew of George Washington. They also spread the news to the local slaves that their liberation was at hand . Things started to go wrong when an eastbound Baltimore & Ohio train approached the town. The train's baggage master tried to warn the passengers. Brown's men yelled for him to halt and then opened fire. The baggage master, Hayward Shepherd, became the first casualty of John Brown's war against slavery. Ironically, Shepherd was a free black man. Two of the hostages' slaves also died in the raid. For some reason, after the shooting of Shepherd, Brown allowed the train to continue on its way.
A. J. Phelps, the Through Express passenger train conductor, sent a telegram to W. P. Smith, Master of Transportation of the B. & O. R. R., Baltimore:
Monocacy, 7.05 A. M., October 17, 1859.
Express train bound east, under my charge, was stopped this morning at Harper's Ferry by armed abolitionists. They have possession of the bridge and the arms and armory of the United States. Myself and Baggage Master have been fired at, and Hayward, the colored porter, is wounded very severely, being shot through the body, the ball entering the body below the left shoulder blade and coming out under the left side. 
News of the raid reached Baltimore early that morning and then on to Washington by late morning.
In the meantime, local farmers, shopkeepers, and militia pinned down the raiders in the armory by firing from the heights behind the town. Some of the local men were shot by Brown's men. At noon, a company of militia seized the bridge, blocking the only escape route. Brown then moved his prisoners and remaining raiders into the engine house, a small brick building at the entrance to the armory. He had the doors and windows barred and loopholes were cut through the brick walls. The surrounding forces barraged the engine house, and the men inside fired back with occasional fury. Brown sent his son Watson and another supporter out under a white flag, but the angry crowd shot them. Intermittent shooting then broke out, and Brown's son Oliver was wounded. His son begged his father to kill him and end his suffering, but Brown said "If you must die, die like a man." A few minutes later he was dead. The exchanges lasted throughout the day.
By the morning of October 18 the engine house, later known as John Brown's Fort, was surrounded by a company of U.S. Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee of the United States Army. A young Army lieutenant, J.E.B. Stuart, approached under a white flag and told the raiders that their lives would be spared if they surrendered. Brown refused, saying, "No, I prefer to die here." Stuart then gave a signal. The Marines used sledge hammers and a make-shift battering-ram to break down the engine room door. Lieutenant Israel Greene cornered Brown and struck him several times, wounding his head. In three minutes Brown and the survivors were captives. Altogether Brown's men killed four people, and wounded nine. Ten of Brown's men were killed (including his sons Watson and Oliver). Five of Brown's men escaped (including his son Owen), and seven were captured along with Brown. Among the killed raiders were John Henry Kagi; Lewis Sheridan Leary and Dangerfield Newby; those hanged besides Brown were John Anthony Copeland, Jr. and Shields Green John Brown raiders :
Jeremiah Goldsmith Anderson (killed during the storming of John Brown's Fort)
John Henry Kagi
Stewart Taylor (died of wounds)
Dauphin Thompson (killed during the storming of John Brown's Fort)
William Thompson captured and killed by militia. For an account of his capture, see "Seven Marstellers and their lineal descendants" by Rev.John Andrew Thompson Marsteller (1938)
- Hanged in 1859 following the raid
John E. Cook
John A. Copeland, Jr.
- Hanged in 1860
Aaron D. Stevens
- Died during US Civil War
Charles Plummer Tidd
Osborne Perry Anderson
Francis Jackson Meriam
Imprisonment and trial
Brown and the others captured were held in the office of the armory. On October 18, 1859, Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise, Virginia Senator James M. Mason, and Representative Clement Vallandigham of Ohio arrived in Harpers Ferry. Mason led the three-hour questioning session of Brown.
Although the attack had taken place on Federal property, Wise ordered that Brown and his men should be tried in Virginia in Charles Town, the nearby county seat capital of Jefferson County just seven miles west of Harpers Ferry (perhaps to avert Northern political pressure on the Federal government, or in the unlikely event of a presidential pardon). The trial began October 27, after a doctor pronounced the still-wounded Brown fit for trial. Brown was charged with murdering four whites and a black, with conspiring with slaves to rebel, and with treason against Virginia. A series of lawyers were assigned to Brown, who included Lawson Botts, Thomas C. Green, Samuel Chilton, a lawyer from Washington D.C., and George Hoyt, but it was Hiram Griswold, a lawyer from Cleveland, Ohio who concluded the defense on October 31. In his closing statement, Griswold argued that Brown could not be found guilty of treason against a state to which he owed no loyalty and was not a resident of, and that Brown had not personally killed anyone himself, and also that the failure of the raid indicated that Brown had not conspired with slaves. Andrew Hunter, the local district attorney, presented the closing arguments for the prosecution.
On November 2, after a week-long trial and 45 minutes of deliberation, the Charles Town jury found Brown guilty on all three counts. Brown was sentenced to be hanged in public on December 2. In response to the sentence, Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked that "[John Brown] will make the gallows glorious like the Cross." Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute under the leadership of General Francis H. Smith and Major Thomas J. Jackson (who would earn the nickname "Stonewall" less than two years later) were called into service as a security detail in the event Brown's supporters attempted a rescue.
“ Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proved (for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case), had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.
This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to "remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them." I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done!"
”— Excerpt from a speech given by John Brown in court after his conviction, John Brown's Last Speech, November 2, 1859
During his month in jail, Brown was allowed to send and receive correspondence. He refused to be rescued by Silas Soule, a friend from Kansas who had somehow infiltrated the Jefferson County Jail offering to break him out during the night and flee northward. Brown supposedly told Silas that, being 59-years-old, he was too old to live a life on the run from the Federal authorities, and he was ready to die as a martyr. Silas left him behind to be executed. More importantly, many of Brown's letters exuded high tones of spirituality and conviction and, when picked up by the northern press, won increasing numbers of supporters in the North as they simultaneously infuriated many white people in the South. On December 1, his wife arrived by train in Charles Town where she joined him at the county jail for his last meal. She was denied permission to stay for the night, prompting Brown to lose his composure for the only time through the ordeal.
Victor Hugo's reaction
Victor Hugo, from exile on Guernsey, tried to obtain pardon for John Brown: he sent an open letter that was published by the press on both sides of the Atlantic (cf. Actes et paroles). This text, written at Hauteville-House on December 2, 1859, warned of a possible civil war:"[...] Politically speaking, the murder of John Brown would be an uncorrectable sin. It would create in the Union a latent fissure that would in the long run dislocate it. Brown's agony might perhaps consolidate slavery in Virginia, but it would certainly shake the whole American democracy. You save your shame, but you kill your glory. Morally speaking, it seems a part of the human light would put itself out, that the very notion of justice and injustice would hide itself in darkness, on that day where one would see the assassination of Emancipation by Liberty itself. [...]
Let America know and ponder on this: there is something more frightening than Cain killing Abel, and that is Washington killing Spartacus."
Death and aftermath
On the morning of December 2, Brown wrote "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done." He read his Bible and wrote a final letter to his wife, which included his will. At 11:00 he was escorted from the county jail through a crowd of 2,000 soldiers a few blocks away to a small field where the gallows were. Among the soldiers in the crowd were future Confederate general Stonewall Jackson and John Wilkes Booth, who borrowed a militia uniform to gain admission to the execution. The poet Walt Whitman, in "Year of Meteors," described viewing the execution.
Brown was accompanied by the sheriff and his assistants, but no minister since he had consistently rejected the ministrations of pro-slavery clergy. Since the region was in the grips of virtual hysteria, most northerners, including journalists, were run out of town, and it is unlikely any anti-slavery clergyman would have been safe, even if one were to have sought to visit Brown. He elected to receive no religious services in the jail or at the scaffold. He was hanged at 11:15 a.m. and pronounced dead at 11:50 a.m. His body was placed in a wooden coffin with the noose still around his neck. In the North, large memorial meetings took place, church bells rang, minute guns were fired, and famous writers such as Emerson and Thoreau joined many Northerners in praising Brown.
John Brown is buried on the John Brown Farm in North Elba, New York, on the outskirts of Lake Placid. The farm and grave are located near Old Military Road. Also buried near Brown are his sons Oliver Brown and Watson Brown. The tombstone of Captain John Brown (1728–1776) is on the grave of his grandson John Brown.
On December 14, 1859, the U.S. Senate appointed a bipartisan committee to investigate the Harpers Ferry raid and to determine whether any citizens contributed arms, ammunition or money . The Democrats attempted to implicate the Republicans in the raid; the Republicans tried to disassociate themselves from Brown and his acts.
The Senate committee heard testimony from 32 witnesses, including Liam Dodson, one of the surviving abolitionists. The report, authored by chairman James M. Mason, a pro-slavery politician from Virginia, was published in June, 1860. It found no direct evidence of a conspiracy, but implied that the raid was a result of Republican doctrines. The two committee Republicans published a minority report, but were apparently more concerned about denying Northern culpability than clarifying the nature of Brown's efforts. Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln rejected any connection with the raid. Lincoln called Brown "insane."
Aftermath of the raid
The raid on Harpers Ferry is generally thought to have done much to set the nation on a course toward civil war. Southern slaveowners, hearing initial reports that hundreds of abolitionists were involved, were relieved the effort was so small. Yet they feared other abolitionists would emulate Brown and attempt to lead slave rebellions. Therefore the South reorganized the decrepit militia system. These militias, well-established by 1861, became a ready-made Confederate army, making the South better prepared for war.
Southern Democrats charged that Brown's raid was an inevitable consequence of the Republican Party's political platform, which they associated with Abolitionism. In light of the upcoming elections in November 1860, the Republican political and editorial response to John Brown tried to distance themselves as much as possible from Brown, condemning the raid and dismissing Brown as an insane fanatic. As one historian explains, Brown was successful in polarizing politics:
- "Brown's raid succeeded brilliantly. It drove a wedge through the already tentative and fragile Opposition-Republican coalition and helped to intensify the sectional polarization that soon tore the Democratic party and the Union apart."
Many abolitionists in the North viewed John Brown as a martyr who had been sacrificed for the sins of the nation. Immediately after the raid, William Lloyd Garrison published a column in The Liberator, judging Brown's raid as "well-intended but sadly misguided" and "an enterprise so wild and futile as this". However, he defended Brown's character from detractors in the Northern and Southern press, and argued that those who supported the principles of the American Revolution could not consistently oppose Brown's raid. (Garrison reiterated the point, adding that "whenever commenced, I cannot but wish success to all slave insurrections", in a speech in Boston on the day Brown was hanged).
On December 22, 1859, John Greenleaf Whittier published a poem praising him, "Brown of Ossawatomie".
After the Civil War, Black leader Frederick Douglass wrote, "His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine—it was as the burning sun to my taper light—mine was bounded by time, his stretched away to the boundless shores of eternity. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him."
Viewpoints of historians
As the United States distanced itself from the cause of slavery and "bayonet rule" in the South, the historical view of Brown declined in a manner parallel with the demise of Reconstruction. In the 1880s, Brown's detractors – some of them contemporaries embarrassed by their fervent abolitionism – began to produce virulent exposés, particularly emphasizing the Pottawatomie killings of 1856.
Although Oswald Garrison Villard's 1910 biography of Brown was thought to be friendly, Villard being the grandson of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, he also added fuel to the anti-Brown fire by criticizing him as a murderer de facto. Villard himself was a pacifist and admired Brown in many respects, but his interpretation of the facts provided a paradigm for later anti-Brown writers. By the mid-20th century, some scholars were fairly convinced that John Brown was a fanatic and killer, while some African Americans sustained a positive view of the man. Even as late as the mid-20th century, some Southerners used his name as a substitute for profanity and used the eponym as a curse.
Recent biographers accounts vary, although several works that have been published on Brown since the opening of the 21st century have marked a significant shift away from the hostility of writers on Brown. Toledo (2002), Peterson (2002), DeCaro (2002, 2007), Reynolds (2005), and Carton (2006) are critically appreciative of Brown's history, far from the opinions of earlier writers. A division of opinion is evident in two recent works of historical fiction: Bruce Olds's 1995 "Raising Holy Hell", which portrays Brown as a religious zealot tortured by delusions of godly violence; and the more unapologetically sympathetic fictional portrayal of Brown found in Russell Banks's 1998 "Cloudsplitter". The shift to an appreciative perspective on Brown moves many white historians toward the view long held by black scholars such as W. E. B. DuBois, Benjamin Quarles, and Lerone Bennett Jr.
Writing in the 1970s, Albert Fried, a biographer and historiographer of Brown, concluded that historians who portrayed Brown as a dysfunctional figure are "really informing me of their predilections, their judgment of the historical event, their identification with the moderates and opposition to the 'extremists.'" Unfortunately it is this less studied, highly interpretive view of Brown that has prevailed in academic writing as well as in journalism; as biographer Louis DeCaro Jr. has recently written, "there is no consensus of fairness with respect to Brown in either the academy or the media." The current trend among some writers to portray Brown as another Timothy Mc Veigh or Osama bin Laden may still reflect the same bias that Fried discussed a generation ago. DeCaro likewise complains of writers taking "unstudied liberties" and concludes that in the 20th century alone, "poisonous portrayals [of Brown were] so prevalent as virtually to have formed one long screed of hyperbole and sarcasm in the name of historical narrative."
- Biographer Richard Owen Boyer has called him "an American who gave his life that millions of other Americans might be free";
- Biographer Stephen B. Oates has described him as "maligned as a demented dreamer... (but) in fact one of the most perceptive human beings of his generation";
- Biographer David S. Reynolds gives Brown credit for starting the civil war or "killing slavery", and cautions others against identifying Brown with terrorism. Reynolds sees him as the inspiration for the Civil Rights Movement a century later, arguing "it is misleading to identify Brown with modern terrorists."
- Historian and Brown researcher Paul Finkelman calls him "simply part of a very violent world" and states that Brown "is a bad tactician, a bad strategist, he's a bad planner, he's not a very good general-but he's not crazy"
- Biographer Louis A. DeCaro Jr., who has debunked many historical allegations about Brown's early life and public career, concludes that although he "was hardly the only abolitionist to equate slavery with sin, his struggle against slavery was far more personal and religious than it was for many abolitionists, just as his respect and affection for black people was far more personal and religious than it was for most enemies of slavery."
- Historian and Brown documentary scholar Louis Ruchames wrote: "Brown's action was one of great idealism and placed him in the company of the great liberators of mankind.";
- Biographer Otto Scott introduces his work on Brown by writing: "In the late 1850s a new type of political assassin appeared in the United States. He did not murder the mighty—but the obscure. . . . his purposes were the same as those of his classic predecessors: to force the nation into a new political pattern by creating terror."
- Criminologist James N. Gilbert writes: "Brown's deeds conform to contemporary definitions of terrorism, and his psychological predispositions are consistent with the terrorist model."
- Novelist Bruce Olds calls him "fanatical, ... monomaniacal, ... a zealot, and ... psychologically unbalanced";
- Journalist Ken Chowder states he is "stubborn ... egoistical, self-righteous, and sometimes deceitful; yet ... at certain times, a great man"; Chowder argues that Brown has been adopted by both left and right wing, and his actions "spun" to fit the world view of the spinner at various times in American history. "
- Malcolm X said that white people could not join his black nationalist Organization of Afro-American Unity, but "if John Brown were still alive, we might accept him."
- There was also the John Brown Revolutionary League organized in 1969 in Houston, Texas and worked along The People's Party II and MAYO as the Rainbow Coalition. Radical young groups from black, white and Chicano backgrounds working to better their communities. Both the People's Party II and John Brown Revolutionary League participated in an armed stand off against Houston police on July 26, 1970. Carl Hampton, Chairman of the People's Party II (later Black Panther Party) was killed in the battle. Bartee Haile, leader of the JBRL was also wounded. 400 mostly black supporters were arrested moments after the battle ended.
The two most noted screen portrayals of Brown have both been given by actor Raymond Massey. The 1940 film Santa Fe Trail, starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, depicted Brown completely unsympathetically as an out-and-out villainous madman, and Massey added to that impression by playing him with a constant, wild-eyed stare. The film gave the impression that it did not oppose African-American slavery, even to the point of having a black "mammy" character say, after an especially fierce battle, "Mr. Brown done promised us freedom, but... if this is freedom, I don't want no part of it". Massey portrayed Brown again in the little-known, low-budget Seven Angry Men, in which he was not only unquestionably the main character, but was depicted and acted in a much more restrained, sympathetic way.
Raymond Massey would also portray Brown on the Broadway stage, one of three characters he played in the acclaimed 1953 dramatic reading of Stephen Vincent Benet's epic poem John Brown's Body. Tyrone Power and Judith Anderson also starred in the production. In Book I of his epic poem, Benet called him a stone, "to batter into bits an actual wall and change the actual scheme of things."
Brown was also portrayed on film by John Cromwell in the 1940 Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Cromwell was the director of the film and was not credited in the role. Lincoln was played by Raymond Massey.
Singer Johnny Cash portrayed John Brown in Book I, Episode Five of the 1985 TV miniseries North and South. He is revered by character Virgilia Hazard (Kirstie Alley). During the Harpers Ferry episode, he exchanges brief words with character Orry Main (Patrick Swayze) and appears noble in his aims, but unrealistic.
The progressive rock band Kansas uses the portrait of John Brown as the cover of their first album, 'Kansas', released in 1974.
Sterling Hayden also portrayed John Brown in the 1982 miniseries The Blue and the Gray.
In 1938–1940, American painter John Steuart Curry created Tragic Prelude, a mural of John Brown holding a gun and a Bible, in the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka, Kansas. In 1941, Jacob Lawrence illustrated the life of John Brown in The Legend of John Brown, a series of twenty-two gouache paintings. By 1977, the original paintings were in such fragile condition they could not be displayed, and the Detroit Institute of Arts commissioned Lawrence to recreate the series as a portfolio of silkscreen prints. The result was a limited edition portfolio of twenty-two hand-screened prints. The works were printed and published with a poem, John Brown, by Robert Hayden, which was commissioned specifically for the project. Though John Brown had been a popular topic for many painters, The Legend of John Brown was the first to explore the topic from an African American perspective.
- The 1998 biographical novel about John Brown, Cloudsplitter, by Russell Banks was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. It is narrated from the point of view of Brown's surviving son, Owen.
- The 1994 novel, Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, by George MacDonald Fraser. The central character, Harry Paget Flashman becomes involved in the Harpers Ferry Raid; the novel includes both a description of the raid and a study of the character of John Brown.
- The 1921 dramatic monologue "John Brown" by Edwin Arlington Robinson. In which, Brown speaks to his wife on the night before his execution.
- In Langston Hughes Selected Poems, on page 10 is a poem called October 16. In the poem Hughes celebrates John Browns actions.
- ^ Frederick J. Blue in American Historical Review (April 2006) v. 111 p 481-2.
- ^ Ken Chowder, "The Father of American Terrorism," American Heritage, (Feb. 2000) vol. 51#1 pp 81-91 says yes; Paul Finkelman, "John Brown America's First Terrorist?" Prologue, Spring 2011, Vol. 43 Issue 1, pp 16-27, says no
- ^ Rhodes, James Fork (1892). History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850. Original from Harvard University: Harper & Brothers. pp. 385.
- ^ David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (2005) p. 6
- ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pages 356–384
- ^ David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (2005); Ken Chowder, "The Father of American Terrorism." American Heritage (2000) 51(1): 81+ online at  and Stephen Oates quoted at 
- ^ a b There has been some speculation that the grandfather was the same John Brown who was a Loyalist during the American Revolution and spent time in jail with the notorious Claudius Smith (1736–1779) allegedly for stealing cattle, which he and Smith used to feed to the starving British troops. However this runs against the grain of the Brown family history as well as the record of the Humphrey family, to which the Browns were directly related (abolitionist John Brown's maternal grandmother was a Humphrey). Brown himself wrote in his 1857 autobiographical letter that both his and his first wife's grandfather were soldiers in the Continental Army [which he established in his, The Humphreys Family in America (1883)], which notes that abolitionist John Brown's grandfather, Capt. John Brown (born November 4, 1728) was a militia captain who died early in the American Revolution. His son, Owen Brown, the father of abolitionist John Brown, was a tanner and strict evangelical who hated slavery and taught his trade to his son.
- ^ Ulysses S Grant, Memoirs and Selected Letters, (The Library of America, 1990) ISBN 978-0-940450-58-5
- ^ John Brown
- ^ Cowan, Wes (2007-12-06). "Cowan's Auctions". Archived from the original on 2010-11-30. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.cowanauctions.com/department_view_item.asp%3FItemId%3D55248. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- ^ a b c d e f http://www.masslive.com/history/index.ssf/2010/04/abolitionist_john_browns_transformation_years_in_springfield_ma.html
- ^ a b c d http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/1872apr/sanborn.htm
- ^ http://ourpluralhistory.stcc.edu/resistingslavery/stjohns.html
- ^ http://sjkb.org/discover_stjohns/history.html
- ^ a b http://www.zikibay.com/brown/prelude.html
- ^ abolitionism
- ^ John Brown's Farm
- ^ Tennessee historical magazine, Volume 7 By Tennessee. Dept. of Education, Tennessee Historical Society
- ^ Reynolds, David S. (2005). John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 199. ISBN 978-0-375-72615-6.
- ^ Reynolds, David S. (2005). John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 200–201. ISBN 978-0-375-72615-6.
- ^ Reynolds, David S. (2005). John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-0-375-72615-6.
- ^ Reynolds, David S. (2005). John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 203–204. ISBN 978-0-375-72615-6.
- ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=bcKAHEF-H-wC&pg=PA44&dq=wiki+mr.+george+walker+%22john+brown%22+springfield&hl=en&ei=s9k2TsemI-yu0AHYnfyiDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
- ^ Jason Emerson "The Secret Six," American Heritage, Fall 2009.
- ^ Jones, Louis Thomas (1914). The Quakers of Iowa. Iowa City: The State Historical Society of Iowa. p. 193: "A little over a year after his first visit to the Springdale neighborhood, Brown reappeared late in December, 1857—this time with some ten companions and for purposes which he seemed not anxious to have known. The men were lodged with a Quaker, William Maxon, about three miles northeast of the village of Springdale, Brown agreeing to give in exchange for their keep such of his teams or wagons as might seem just and fair. Brown himself was taken into the home of John H. Painter, about a half-mile away; and all were welcomed with that unfeigned hospitality for which the Friends have always been known.
- ^ Morel, Lucas E. "In Pursuit of Freedom." Teachinghistory.org. Accessed 30 June 2011.
- ^ The History of Johnson County, Iowa, 1883, pp.475–477
- ^  John Brown in Washington County
- ^ John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid
- ^ Senate of Maryland, 1860, Correspondence relating to the Insurrection at Harper’s Ferry, 17th October, 1859 The Insurrection at Harper’s Ferry, 17th October, 1859
- ^ Both Coppock photos from A topical history of Cedar County, Iowa, Volume 1 (1910) Clarence Ray Aurner, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company
- ^ Evan Carton, Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America (2006), pp.332–333.
- ^ Walt Whitman Archive: "Year of Meteors", accessed March 13, 2011
- ^ David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pages 378–379
- ^ David Donald, Lincoln (1995) p 239
- ^ a b Daniel W. Crofts, Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis (1989), pp.70 ff.
- ^ See "The Tragedy at Harper's Ferry"
- ^ See opposed any use of violence on principle
- ^ John Brown and the Principle of Nonresistance December 16, 1859
- ^ Frederick Douglass, John Brown. An Address at the Fourteenth Anniversary of Storer College, May 30, 1881; online at Project Gutenberg 
- ^ For more information, see John Brown Statue and Memorial Plaza.
- ^ Louis A. DeCaro Jr., "Black People's Ally, White People's Bogeyman: A John Brown Story" in Andrew Taylor and Eldrid Herrington (editors), The Afterlife of John Brown (New York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005), pp.11–26.
- ^ Albert Fried, John Brown's Journey: Notes & Reflections on His America & Mine (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday, 1978), 272.
- ^ Louis A. DeCaro Jr., John Brown – The Cost of Freedom: Selections from His Life & Letters (New York: International Publishers, 2007), p.16.
- ^ DeCaro, John Brown – The Cost of Freedom, 16, 17.
- ^ Ken Chowder, The Father of American Terrorism American Heritage (2000) 51(1): 81+
- ^ Historian Stephen B.Oates on John Brown
- ^ David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (2005).
- ^ Reynolds, (2005); for historiography see Merrill D. Peterson, John Brown: The Legend Revisited (2002) and review by Aimee Lee Cheek, Journal of Southern History 70:2 (2004) pp 435–6.
- ^ a b Ken Chowder, "The Father of American Terrorism." American Heritage (2000) 51(1): 81+ online at 
- ^ Louis A. DeCaro Jr., "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown (New York: NYU Press, 2002), 6
- ^ Louis Ruchames, A John Brown Reader (New York: Abelard & Schuman, 1959), 12
- ^ Otto Scott, The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement (Murphys, Calif.: Uncommon Books, 1979, 1983), 3.
- ^ James N. Gilbert, "A Behavioral Analysis of John Brown: Martyr or Terrorist?" Terrible Swift Sword: The Legacy of John Brown, edited by Peggy A. Russo and Paul Finkelman (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2005), 112.
- ^ Massaquoi, Hans J. (September 1964). Mystery of Malcolm X. p. 40. http://books.google.com/books?id=JaT6tBKGK3sC&pg=PA40. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
- ^ Banks, Russell Cloudsplitter New York: Harper Flamingo, 1988.
- Barney, William L. "Brown, John." The Civil War and Reconstruction: A Student Companion. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2001.
- Ken Chowder, "The Father of American Terrorism." American Heritage (2000) 51(1): pp 81+; online version
- DeCaro, Louis A. Jr. "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown (2002)
- W. E. B. Du Bois John Brown (ISBN 0-679-78353-9) (1909).
- Finkelman, Paul, ed. His Soul Goes Marching On: Responses to John Brown and the Harpers Ferry Raid (1995)
- Goodrich, Thomas War to the Knife: Bleeding Kansas, 1854–1861 (1998).
- Hotchkiss, Jed. "John Brown's Raid." The Confederate Military History. Oct. 27 2009.John Brown's Raid
- Malin, James. John Brown & the Legend of Fifty-Six (1942), the most influential scholarly attack on Brown (ISBN 0-8383-1021-4)
- McGlone, Robert E. John Brown's War against Slavery. Cambridge, CUP, 2009.
- Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union. 2 vols. (1947), in depth scholarly history.
- Nichols, Roy F. "The Kansas-Nebraska Act: A Century of Historiography." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 43 (September 1956): 187–212. in JSTOR
- Nudelman, Franny, John Brown's Body: Slavery, Violence, and the Culture of War (2004).
- Oates, Stephen B. To Purge This Land With Blood: A Biography of John Brown (1970).
- Oates, Stephen B. Our Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and the Civil War Era (1979)
- Peterson, Merrill D. (2002): John Brown: The Legend Revisited (ISBN 0-8139-2132-5), how history has treated Brown
- Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861 (1976), Pulitzer prize; scholarly national history
- Renehan, Edward J. The Secret Six: The True Tale of the Men Who Conspired with John Brown. 1995.
- Reynolds, David S. (2005): John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (2005) a favorable biography; says (p. 8): "My stand on some key issues is: (a) Brown was not insane; instead, he was a deeply religious, flawed, yet ultimately noble reformer; (b) the Pottawatomie affair was indeed a crime, but it was a war crime committed against proslavery settlers by a man who saw slavery as an unprovoked war of one race against another; and (c) neither Brown's provisional constitution nor the Harpers Ferry raid were wild-eyed, erratic schemes doomed to failure; instead, they reflect Brown's overconfidence in whites' ability to rise above racism and in blacks' willingness to rise up in armed insurrection against their masters."
- Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006.
- Otto Scott, The Secret Six: John Brown and The Abolitionist Movement (1979).
- SenGupta, Gunja. “Bleeding Kansas: A Review Essay.” Kansas History 24 (Winter 2001/2002): 318–341.
- Villard, Oswald Garrison, John Brown 1800–1859: A Biography Fifty Years After (1910). full text online
- Louis Ruchames, ed. A John Brown Reader: The Story of John Brown in His Own Words, in the Words of Those who Knew Him (1959)
- Franklin Sanborn (ed.) (1891): The Life and Letters of John Brown
- DeCaro, Louis A. Jr. John Brown—The Cost of Freedom: Selections from His Life & Letters (New York: International Publishers, 2007)
- Henry David Thoreau (1859): A Plea for Captain John Brown
- Andrew Johnson (1859): What John Brown Did in Kansas (December 12, 1859): a speech to the United States House of Representatives, December 12, 1859. Originally published in The Congressional Globe, The Official Proceedings of Congress, Published by John C. Rives, Washington, D. C. Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1st Session, New Series...No. 7, Tuesday, December 13, 1859, pages 105–106. Retrieved May 16, 2005.
- "John Brown, the good 'fanatic'" by Clinton Cox (2009)
- "John Brown's body and blood" by Ari Kelman: a review in the TLS, February 14, 2007.
- John Brown Museum State Historic Site Osawatomie, Kansas
- What John Brown Did In Kansas Battle of Osawatomie, 1856
- John Brown, Abolitionist, by David Reynolds, 2005
- West Virginia Archives and History
- Project Gutenberg: John Brown's Body (1928) (full text)
- John Brown, by Edwin Arlington Robinson, 1921
- Olds, Bruce. Raising Holy Hell (1995).
- Banks, Russell. Cloudsplitter (1998).
- Ehrlich, Leonard. God's Angry Man (1932).
- Bisson,Terry Fire on the Mountain (1988)
- George Macdonald Fraser "Flashman and the Angel of the Lord" (1994)
- Rinaldi, Ann. Mine Eyes Have Seen. (1997)
- Cliff, Michelle. Free Enterprise. (1993)
- Brooks, Geraldine. March: A Love Story in a Time of War (2006)
- Flint, Eric. "1824: The Arkansas War" (2006)
- Santa Fe Trail (film). (1940)
- Summers, Kevin G. "His Soul Goes Marching On" in Tales of Moreauvia, Issue One (2008).
- Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1929: Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown's Body
- John Brown's Body (originally known as "John Brown's Song"), Union marching song of the American Civil War.
- Robinson, Edwin Arlington. John Brown. (1921)
- Johnson, Mary. "'His Soul Goes Marching On':The Life and Legacy of John Brown." West Virginia Division of Culture and History.<http://www.wvculture.org/history/jbexhibit/jbintroduction.html>
- New York History Net, John Brown's Farm
- John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery by David S. Reynolds excerpt
- John Brown's pedigree
- Michael E. Ruane (October 14, 2009). "150 Years Later, John Brown's Failed Slave Revolt Marches On". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/14/AR2009101402520.html.
- John Brown Song and Battle Hymn of the Republic
- 150 years since the execution of John Brown by Fred Mazelis, World Socialist Web Site, December 2009
- Freedom's Martyr NY Times editorial by David S. Reynolds, Weds December 2, 2009
- The 9/11 of 1859 NY Times editorial by Tony Horwitz, Weds December 2, 2009
- Correspondence relating to the Insurrection at Harper’s Ferry, 17th October, 1859, Senate of Maryland, 1860. Western Maryland History Online
- John Brown Pike - Kansas Historical Society
- "John Brown and his Men, with Some Account of the Roads Traveled to Reach Harper's Ferry," poem by Jared Carter.
- John Brown Desk - Kansas Historical Society
- Harpers Ferry Revolver - Kansas Historical Society
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