John Brown Raids Harper Ferry

By | October 16, 2020

[October 16, 2020]   Abolitionist John Brown raided the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) on this date, October 16, 1859.  A company of U. S. Marines, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart, overran Brown and his followers.  Brown was convicted of treason on November 2, 1859, and hanged on December 2, 1859.

Growing up in the Deep South during the 1960s, I learned in school that the man called John Brown hated U.S. democracy and was a madman.  Accused of treason, murder, and trying to start an insurrection, we were taught, he was the embodiment of someone who should have been put to death.  And, so he was executed in early December.  Yet, despite my education, there were important lessons I did not get and would only learn later in life.

“I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood. I had as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed, it might be done.” – John Brown, abolitionist

We can learn lessons from the events leading up to and during one of the most infamous raids in U.S. history.

  1. The abolitionist, anti-slavery movement in the United States was powerful. John Brown happened to be the most famous because of his association with Christians, those who believed “all men are created equal,” and his high-profile use of violence.
  2. Brown planned to use guns from the seizure of Harpers Ferry to arm an insurrection of slaves and other abolitionists, driving slavery out of the Southern states. He increasingly saw violence as necessary to end slavery.  In the use of violence, he failed dramatically.
  3. John Brown’s plan was also disastrous. In carrying out his plan, Brown drove a greater wedge between the free North and the pro-slavery South.  Many believe his raids were one of the matchsticks that led to the U.S. Civil War.
  4. Brown’s actions as an abolitionist and the tactics he used to make him a controversial figure, even today. He is both memorialized as a heroic martyr and visionary, compared to Moses or Christ and yet also vilified as a madman and terrorist.

 “When you study history in American schools, very rarely is the name John Brown mentioned. We know who Kanye West is or Twyla Tharp or Shania Twain.” – James McBride, black American musician

Today, they no longer teach the real history of the United States.  The raid at Harper Ferry, 161 years ago, is now relegated to the dustbin of irrelevance because it doesn’t advance the cause of current political ideology.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “John Brown Raids Harper Ferry

  1. Karl J.

    We all can learn a great deal from history, in particular, the history that is accurate. Nothing like learning the wrong lesson.

    Reply
    1. Edward Kennedy III

      Appreciate the reference Tracey. Unlike many anti-slavery activists, John Brown was not a pacifist and believed in aggressive action against slaveholders and any government officials who enabled them.

      Reply
  2. Willie Shrumburger

    I esp. like the James McBride quote. This tells us a lot about the “education” of our youth. THey are not getting what is required to be a valuable citizen but are getting PC stuff which also fills their minds with small, irrelevent info. I too had a poor education but figured out early enough to go and get what I needed to perform well in college and then later at my job.

    Reply
    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      It shouldn’t have to be that way but our so-called higher education system has failed us miserably. Go get your own education. The internet is full of valuable information from which to learn. It also makes it easy to compare various sources and reject those that are simply propaganda pieces.

      Reply
  3. Yusaf from Texas

    I highly recommend reading more about Captain John Brown, his faith, and his philosophy.

    Reply
  4. Mr. T.J. Asper

    Excellent article and thanks for both the history lesson and what we can learn from it. You know what they say about those who do not study history? You will repeat it and get hard between the eyes. I added that last part.

    Reply
    1. Roger Yellowmule

      Yes, and another reason I keep coming back to this blog is that the articles have plenty of good commentery as well.

      Reply
  5. Forrest Gump

    Yes we can learn from history. But, the history has to be what happened and not some rose-colored, hippie, commie, socialist, PC history that we are forced to memorize. Why? Because ‘stupid is as stupid does.’ I know you get tired of hearing this but it is true. Our schools have become propaganda centers for neo-Marxists and we aren’t doing anything about it.

    Reply
    1. the ace

      Spot-on analysis, Forrest. Well written too. Thanks for hitting the PC crowd in the gut where it hurts. I personally prefer hitting them in the balls by pointing our that their “men” are not real men but sissy men. Oh, I stole that from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

      Reply
    2. Max Foster

      Wow, kick them in the balls next time, will ya! Got my blood pumping this morning just thinking about the stupidity we teach today in school. Kids spend more time learning how to put on a condom than what American history is about. How nuts can you be to tolerate it. Thank God my kids are out of school and can actually think. Somebody needs a kick in the butt. I hope Donald Trump wins the election because our terrible school system is next in his sights.

      Reply
      1. Linux Man

        So very true. Max, once again you are on target with your comments. Thanks.

        Reply

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