Friday, December 3, 2010

John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry

Today is the 151th anniversary of the execution of John Brown after his raid on on Harper's Ferry in October, which in many ways helped cause the Civil War. This week people are celebrating how he was a martyr who died to free the slaves. This is actually not true. Brown was a very evil man. Before the raid on Harper's Ferry, he stole what would now be about a million dollars, but he was so persuasive that he convinced the man he stole it from later to lend him money. He was also a lunatic. At one point while he was in Kansas, he took a group of people out during the night and went to all the cabins of the area and murdered in cold blood everyone who was for slavery. Also it just so happened that after that murder Brown and his sons had nice new saddles. There are many other examples which we will leave out for lack of space. My father did a great talk on our trip to the Shenandoah Valley last year, which you an buy here.

John Brown was encouraged to raid Harper's Ferry by the "Secret Six", a group of six prominent Bostonians who were abolitionists and Unitarians. The raid was not a very smart idea. He had 21 men, 16 white and 5 black. He chose Harper's Ferry because at that time it was a large arsenal and weapon factory where about 100,000 guns were stored. His plan was to get the weapons and leave, and then he excepted the slaves to flock to him from their plantations. First of all, he did not have any way to transport the 100,000 weapons. Secondly, if the slaves did come to him, it would just be a mob. Brown had never commanded more than 30 men, and the slaves probably did not know how to use the weapons. It would have been a bigger disaster than it was.

Inside the engine house

The actual raid went well to start with. He captured the arsenal, but then he made a big mistake by not leaving at once. The militia of the area gathered and attacked him. He ended up trapped in the fire engine house with only four men. The next day Col. Robert E. Lee and Lt. Jeb Stuart came up from Washington with 88 marines, and stormed the engine house at the point of the bayonet and captured it. John Brown and his men were tried for murder and slave insurrection and were convicted. They were hung on December 2nd. There is much interesting history about the raid which I studied before we went to the Shenandoah Valley.

Last year we took a tour to Harper's Ferry and it was great to see what actually happened there. Much of the town is the same as it was then, and it is a very nice location.

The Bridge which Brown used to get to Harper's Ferry
The town
The original location of John Brown's Fort (it was moved)
The Potomac River. Harper's Ferry is here the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet

Here is a short video clip from our VAlley Tour:

To view in HD click here.


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