John Brown, a radical abolitionist from Ohio who during the early 1850’s led a group against proslavery settlers in Kansas, led another interracial army (2 of his soldiers were his own sons) in an attempt to capture a federal arsenal with the hopes of inspiring slaves to rebellion. Brown spent three years planning his revolt and believed his “army” could take enough weapons to arm slaves and establish mountain bases for a black revolutionary republic which would serve as a place of refuge and a rallying point for subsequent slave insurgencies in the South.
The raid took place on October 16, 1859. Among those initially killed was free black, Heyward Shepard who was shot in the back when he tried to warn the town. Brown’s men took 40 hostages. No slaves joined them. Five innocent civilians among them, black, were killed; 10 of Brown’s men dead including Brown’s sons. Robert E. Lee and 90 marines from Virginia and Maryland stormed them, and the attack ended. John Brown was subsequently tried and found guilty for murder, treason and planning an insurrection and was executed by hanging. Although seen as a traitor to his race in the eyes of white southerners, John Brown was seen as a martyr in the eyes of the enslaved and their abolitionist partners. One “fan” was William Lloyd Garrison, who later gave a famous speech about him. Read about the speech and discuss what John Brown wanted to accomplish with his army in1859?