Today is the 154th anniversary of abolitionist John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry.
Brown aimed to capture guns at the federal arsenal and then spark an armed slave rebellion. News of his failed raid and subsequent treason trial in Charles Town expanded the gap between North and South, making any further compromise on the slavery issue impossible.
Among the hostages captured by Brown and his small band of raiders: Col. Lewis Washington, the great-grandnephew of George Washington. Among Brown’s victims: a Baltimore & Ohio baggage master, Hayward Shepherd, a free black man who lived in Winchester, Va. Brown’s sons Watson and Oliver also died in the effort.
Found guilty of treason, Brown would be executed less than two months after the raid. A note handed to a guard as Brown headed to the gallows read: “I, John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”
It’s been said that no other single person played a bigger role in setting off the Civil War.