John Brown: Violent Abolitionist

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John Brown was born on May 9, 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut. When he was about five years old, his father moved the family to Hudson, Ohio. There, John was filled with the heavy anti-slavery sentiment that was present in that area. This, combined with personal observations of the maltreatment of blacks and the influence of Calvinism, started John Brown on his crusade to abolish slavery. In 1855, Brown and several of his sons moved to Kansas, a territory deeply divided over the slavery issue. Brown was captured after the raid, sentenced to death, and was hung on December 2, 1859 in a field near town.

On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown and several followers seized the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The actions of Brown's men brought national attention to the emotional divisions relating to slavery

On Pottawotamie Creek, on the night of May 24, 1856, Brown and his sons murdered three men who supported slavery, although none actually owned slaves. Brown and his sons escaped. Brown spent the next three years collecting money from wealthy abolitionists in order to establish a colony for runaway slaves. To accomplish this, Brown needed weapons and so decided to capture the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. In 1794, President George Washington had selected Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and Springfield, Massachusetts, as the sites of the new national armories. In choosing Harpers Ferry, he noted the benefit of great waterpower provided by both the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Producing of weapons began in 1796. In 1817, the federal government contracted with John H. Hall to manufacture his patented rifles at Harpers Ferry. The armory and arsenal continued producing weapons until its destruction at the outbreak of the Civil War. In the summer of 1859, John Brown, using the alias Isaac Smith, took up residence near Harpers Ferry on a farm in Maryland. He trained a group of twenty-two men, including his sons Oliver, Owen, and Watson, in military training. On the night of Sunday, October 16, Brown and all but three of the men marched into Harpers Ferry, capturing several watchmen. The first victim of the raid was an African-American railroad baggage handler named Hayward Shepherd, who was shot and killed after confronting the raiders. During the night, Brown captured several other prisoners, including Lewis Washington, the great-grand-nephew of George Washington. There were two keys to the success of the raid.
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