ROAD TO CIVIL WAR!

 

Back to the Interactive Road to Civil War Timeline

 

 
 

       October of 1859 saw more bloodshed and a further divide between the north and the south, when a man who is often referred to as "The Meteor" streaked across the politically charged sky.  John Brown, known as the "Scourge of Kansas" after he had been involved in the fighting there, would now make an even greater contribution to the unfolding drama that would lead the nation to Civil War.

(Click here to hear Brown's last words)

     Brown gathered a group of 18 followers both white and black and attacked a federal or government arsenal near Harper's Ferry Virginia just up the Potomac River from Washington.  An arsenal is a place where guns and weapons are stored.  Brown and his men quickly seized the arsenal and took hostages.  One of these hostages was the grand-nephew of George Washington.  Brown and his men planned to use the arsenal's weapons to arm southern slaves.  They hoped to start a massive slave revolt and establish a black republic in the hills of Virginia.   

     Although Brown was able to capture the arsenal with little struggle, things would quickly turn out badly for Brown and his men.  Federal troops, lead by Robert E. Lee, soon surrounded the arsenal and trapped Brown and his men inside an engine house.  After a two day siege, the federal soldiers were able to kill ten of Brown's men and capture Brown himself.

     Brown was tried for treason, conspiracy, and murder  in the State of Virginia.  He was speedily convicted and sentenced to death.  Brown accepted his sentence and believed that his death would further the cause of abolition.  As he was being lead to the gallows he handed a guard a note that read, "I John Brown, am now quit certain that the sins of this nation can only be purged with blood."  At his execution soon to be famous men such as "Stonewall" Jackson and John Wilkes Booth were present.

     Browns actions and his ultimate death were seen very differently in the north and the south.  Some northerners saw Brown as a heroic martyr that had given his life for something just and morally right.  Southerners saw Brown very differently.  They believed that more northerners might feel and act as Brown did.  The were further paranoid that the north might try and destroy their way of life by abolishing slavery.  What they feared most however was the idea of a slave revolt.  They felt that the south needed protection against such a threat.  Now, just like their Revolutionary forefathers had, they started to form militias in the south to counter this perceived threat.  This would be that start of the Confederate Army.  John Brown's raid was the meteor that signaled the start of the bloody war to come.

Click below to hear Brown's pledge to destroy slavery:

"Here before God in the presents of these witnesses I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery."

Click below to hear Brown's last words and prediction:

"I John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land shall never be purged away but with blood!"

Click below to hear Lincoln's reaction to Brown's raid:

  "Old John Brown, has been executed for treason against a state.  We cannot object even though he agree with us in thinking slavery wrong.  That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed and treason.  It could avail him nothing that he might think himself right."

Click below to hear Fredrick Douglas' reaction to Brown's raid:

  "His zeal in the cause of freedom was infinitely superior to mine.  Mine was as the taper light, his was as the burning sun.  I could live for the slave, John Brown could die for them."