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More about the Raid on Harpers Ferry

More about John Brown



The Road to the Harpers Ferry Raid

Nick at Harpers Ferry West Virginia
Imagine being born in Connecticut in 1800. You have friends that are both white and black. You're about five years old. One day you're playing tag in the woods with one of your friends. Your friend happens to be black. After not finding your friend for a while you just start calling out his name. You hear somebody crying so you run to find him. You slowly creep around a corner of a fence and see your friend being whipped over and over. You cannot believe your eyes. It is almost like you are being whipped from seeing your friend in such a painful state. You don't jump out and try to save your friend because you're too scared. Instead you run home and tell your parents.


Native Americans:
What the heck are tee pees doing in Washington?

When you get home to tell them what happened, they respond that the boy was a son of a slave and he got in trouble. They are mad as well and teach you that slavery is one of the greatest evils on earth. The visual image of your best friend being whipped is imbedded in you head. That image will later be one your driving forces in putting slavery to an end.

John Brown watching his good friend being beaten
Your name is John Brown and you were born in Torrington, Connecticut on May 9th 1800. You grew up with both of your parents and they were very religious. They practiced the Calvinist faith. Growing up in that atmosphere you were taught to fear God and care for the less fortunate. Your parents were against slavery because they believed that it was very cruel and that all men and women were equal. So slavery was a direct violation of their beliefs and yours. As you got older and older the issue of slavery was getting to be more and more of an issue in the country and in the U.S. You had a lot of anger inside of you from watching your friend being beaten and watching the whole country thrive off slavery. You just couldn't believe that anyone could treat another human being with such disrespect. You decide to go to school to get an education. You end up attending a school in Massachusetts and in Ohio at the age of nineteen. You need money so you work as a tanner in Ohio, tanning hides and different animal furs.

portrait of John Brown
At the age of 29 in 1829 you read that William Lloyd Garrison calls for immediate emancipation of all slaves. This fills you with the hope of slavery coming to an end. Then in 1831 Nat Turner leads a slave insurrection in Virginia, which inspires you to help with the emancipation of the slaves. Then in the summer of 1833 you fall deeply in love with a woman named Marry Anne Day and get married. You are happy with your new wife but still not happy about the slavery issue that is going on in the country. Then in 1837 you are suffering financial losses and going through really hard times. Also, abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy is murdered by an angry mob. This is it. You can't take it any more. You want slavery to come to a final end and you feel that you had to take the matter into your own hands. At this point you decide to dedicate the rest of your life to abolish slavery completely. You have many plans in order to free the slaves by force. The month that you start planning how you want to help, four of your children get sick and die of dysentery. You realize that you have to go forward with your plans despite your sadness. In 1847 you reveal your plan to abolitionist Fredrick Douglass to get his support. You want to take over Harpers Ferryin West Virginia by force. He doesn't support your plan because he thinks it's impossible and that it's a death trap. You decide that you need money in order to fight this battle against pro-slavery supporters. So you travel to England to sell wool. Your wool business fails horribly so you come back to the U.S and move to a farm in North Elba, New York.

Teddy at the John Brown Museum in Harpers Ferry
The issue of slavery is on the front of every newspaper you see. You still have many plans but just don't know how to act them out. You lack money and organization. Then in 1850 a new fugitive slave law passes that denies protection to slaves who have escaped to the North. This newly enacted law infuriates you. You found the Black Abolitionist "League Of Gileadites" to resist the fugitive slave law by force. Not long after that, in 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska act is passed. It opens up the western territories to slavery. This enrages you and many other abolitionists and as a result your five sons move to Kansas. Things are going in the opposite direction than you had hoped for. You attend the convention of Abolitionists in Syracuse, New York and get support for your ideas at the convention. Right after the convention you go to Kansas where your sons are and help them defend Lawrence, Kansas against pro-slavery forces. A clash in Kansas between abolitionist and pro-slavery forces breaks out. You kill five pro-slavery settlers and lead a guerilla band as Kansas explodes into a very violent scene. After Kansas you raid Missouri and free 11 slaves. Because of your actions in Kansas and Missouri you gain support from abolitionists all over the country. You continue to dream of freeing all the slaves and find your self in Harpers Ferry Virginia- now present day West Virginia.

Your have ended up in Harpers Ferry because it has an armory that contains 100,000 guns and tons of ammunition. You gather a group of 21 whites and black supporters to help you take Harpers Ferry. At 10:30 p.m on October 16th, you and your raiders take the armory and attack some surrounding houses for hostages. The next day people escape from Harpers Ferry and tell the surrounding towns what has happened. The local towns people form a militia and cut off all escape routes so neither your men or you could possibly escape. Then on October 18th your son Oliver Brown dies from a gunshot wound. Immediately after he gets shot, General Robert E. Lee and the U.S marines take the Armory by storm and arrest you and all others who were involved. Your raid at Harpers Ferry comes to a quick end.

John Brown at the Harpers Ferry raid!
Following Harpers Ferry you go to court on October 25th 1859. The trial takes less than five days. On Nov. 2 the jurors take less than 45 minutes to reach a verdict. You are charged guilty of murder, conspiring with slaves to rebel and treason against the State Of Virginia. The punishment is death by hanging after fighting for so many years to abolish slavery. Your dream is never accomplished in your lifetime. You're hung on December 2nd 1859. You are buried at your farm in North Elba, New York on December 8th. You do not accomplish your goal while living, but what you did was play a very important role in the Freeing of Slaves.

Less than a year and a half after your death, the United States broke into the Civil War, which ultimately put an end to slavery. Your role at Harpers Ferry was one of the many actions that put an end to slavery. For that John Brown I say, "thank you. Thank you for contributing to the freeing of the slaves and changing our nation."


Please email me at: nick@ustrek.org


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