John Brown was one of the more controversial anti-slavery campaigners of the period before the US Civil War. He took part in the fighting in Kansas between free state and slave state supporters, and made plans for a slave uprising. His plan was to steal modern guns from the US Armoury at Harper's Ferry, free local slaves and then escape into nearby mountains, from where he would run a guerrilla war.
The impression one gets here is of a badly bodged raid - Brown's plans for a quick raid on the US Armoury followed by a retreat into the mountains and the start of a widespread slave uprising quickly turned into a short-lived and rather one-sided siege. The alternative view is that Brown intended to be captured and martyred for his cause in an attempt to gain publicity and public support across the free states.
John Brown's raiding force was small enough for the author to be able to include information on just about every member. The raid itself was short and limited in scope, and so there is space here to give quite a detailed account of the fighting at Harper's Ferry as well providing good background on John Brown's career and the fighting in Kansas. The account is supported by excellent maps, contemporary photographs and good modern illustrations. The result is a good short history of this pivotal event in the build-up to Southern secession and the American Civil War.
Author: Ron Field