Today, May 9, marks the birthday of a famous figure in American history: John Brown. John Brown’s rebellion, also known as the Harper’s Ferry raid, took place on October 16-18, 1859 when John Brown, an abolitionist, sought to end slavery by force.
Brown was born in Connecticut to an abolitionist family and was heavily influenced by his father, who thought slavery was a sin. In 1837, Brown moved to Kansas to join the fight against pro-slavery forces. He and his sons participated in several violent confrontations, including the Pottawatomie massacre.
Brown became convinced that a violent uprising was necessary to end slavery, and in 1859, he began planning an attack on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown believed that by seizing the armory, he could arm slaves and start a rebellion that would spread across the South.
On October 16, 1859, Brown and a group of 21 men arrived in Harper’s Ferry. They quickly took control of the armory, but their plan soon began to unravel. Brown had hoped that slaves would flock to his side, but few did. The local militia arrived, and after a two-day standoff, U.S. Marines, led by Robert E. Lee, stormed the armory. Ten of Brown’s men were killed, including two of his sons, and Brown himself was captured.
John Brown was tried for treason, murder, and inciting a slave insurrection. He was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death. Brown’s trial and execution became a cause célèbre in the North, where he was hailed as a martyr for the cause of abolition.
The raid also intensified the debate over slavery in the United States. Many Northerners saw Brown’s actions as heroic, and his execution only increased their determination to end slavery. Southerners, on the other hand, saw the raid as evidence of a Northern conspiracy to incite a slave rebellion, which only heightened their fears of abolition.
John Brown’s Rebellion brought the issue of slavery to the forefront of national consciousness and helped push the country closer to the brink of civil war. John Brown is remembered as a controversial figure, but one whose actions helped set in motion the events that led to the abolition of slavery in the U.S..