John Brown's Raid
by: Tyler Hahn
Born in Torrington, Connecticut, John Brown belonged to a devout family with extreme anti-slavery views. Brown declared bankrupted in 1842. Still, he was able to support the abolitionist cause by becoming a conductor on the Underground Railroad and by establishing the League of Gileadites, an organization established to help runaway slaves escape to Canada. At the age of 55, Brown moved with his sons to Kansas Territory. In response to the sacking of Lawrence, Kansas, John Brown led a small band of men to Pottawatomie Creek on May 24, 1856. The men dragged five unarmed men and boys, believed to be slavery proponents, from their homes and brutally murdered them. Afterwards, Brown raided Missouri – freeing eleven slaves and killing the slave owner. Brown spent two and a half years traveling throughout New England, raising money to bring his anti-slavery war to the South.
In 1859, John Brown, under the alias Isaac Smith, rented the Kennedy Farmhouse, four miles north of Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). At the farm Brown trained his 21 man army and planned their capture of the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Brown believed that these armed slaves would then join his army and free even more slaves as they fanned southward along the Appalachian Mountains. If the plan worked it would strike terror in the hearts of slave owners.
On October 16, 1859, John Brown and his men raided the Federal Arsenal. This did not go as planned. Slaves living in the area did not join the raid, local militia and the United States Marines, under Robert E. Lee, put down the raid, and most of John Brown’s men were either killed or captured, including two of his sons.
“…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!”
John Brown said this before he was sentenced,