His despised poor ; A full fountain of bedlam ; So let it be done! Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.
But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, this work portrays Brown's uprising revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict.
Tony Horwitz on John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War
Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a spy. The raid on Harpers Ferry took considerable planning and secrecy, although curiously it is uncertain what result Brown expected.
Did he really expect it to spark a nation-wide uprising, or did he intend a blood sacrifice?
Similarly, his changes in tactics during the raid itself contradict the planning. What's interesting is that while the raid was widely condemned, even by ardent abolitionists, Brown's real influence came in his words and letters while in jail and on trial. Even people who despised Brown and all he stood for came to admire his bravery and determination.
Horwitz's book is an interesting account on this key event in American history and the ripples it would have throughout the country. In a small group of men, white and black some of them former slaves, set in motion a series of events that culminated in the Civil War.
That's one way to look at it, anyway. In the radio interviews Tony Horwitz did last year for his latest book, Midnight Rising, he made the claim that the raid on Hapers Ferry, Virginia led by John Brown could be seen as the first battle in America's Civil War.
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An interesting proposition, I thought. While his book is a very good read, it's much more of a straightforward account of John Brown's later life and the raid on Harpers Ferry than it is an argument in favor of a new interpretation of those events. You'll gain a much deeper understanding of these men and of the consequences of the raid on Harpers Ferry from reading Midnight Rising, but Mr.
Horwitz does not go as far in print as I recall him going in his radio interviews. He does make the case that the period of America's Civil War can be seen as book-ended by two violent events, the raid at Harpers Ferry and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in the days following the close of the war, but he does not argue that John Brown started the Civil War as I was expecting him to do.
It's become a standard practice in non-fiction to divide a history text into three parts, before the event, the event and after the event. Horwitz follows this form in Midnight Rising. John Brown's life before the raid on Harpers Ferry is not what will draws most readers to his story, but it is interesting. John Brown was an extremist in defense of liberty, as Senator Barry Goldwater famously once put it. His early life included participation in the struggle known as "Bloody Kansas" where he most likely got actual blood on his hands.
A hardscrabble farmer, he married several times, buried many children and raised many more. A staunch abolitionist, he stood out as extreme for his belief that blacks were the equals of whites--they were welcome at his dinner table as his intellectual equals, something no other substantial abolitionist of his day believed.
But even with that in mind, he does not strike one as a heroic character until the raid on Harpers Ferry.
Even the raid revealed his own flaws as much as it did his strengths. The raid was badly planned, badly executed, a disaster.
No one, northerner let alone southerner, approved or supported the raid once word of it spread. It wasn't until John Brown's trial began that public opinion began to create the folk hero celebrated in "John Brown's Body" which became "The Battle Hymn of the Republic. John Brown predicted this in a letter he wrote in , almost ten years earlier: "Nothing so charms the American people as personal bravery.
The trial for life of one bold and to some extent successful man, for defending his rights in good earnest, would arouse more sympathy throughout the nation that the accumulated wrongs and suffering of more than three millions of our submissive colored population.
Horwitz's detailed account of what happened makes very clear. The story was a media sensation by the end of the day. People throughout the country hungered for information, for any detail or rumor they could find. His trial was closely followed throughout the north and the south, one growing increasingly fearful for their homes and property, the other increasingly ashamed at their own lack of bravery, their own inability to do much more than politely object to what they considered a great moral wrong.
Howritz explains that while John Brown was not much of an orator, his words worked wonderfully well in print, moving the reading public much more than they ever did those who could hear his courtroom defense. His words to the court after sentencing are particularly moving: " Had I interfered in the manner which I admit, and which I admit has been fairly proven, had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either father, mother, brother, sister, wife or children or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.
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I see a book kissed here, which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the new Testament. That teaches me that all things 'whatsoever I would men should do to me I should do ever so to them. Now if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country, whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust enactments, I submit.
So let it be done! Apparently, he did not know that he would be given the chance to speak in court the day he was sentenced. None of the officers of the court paid much attention to him. The court reporter did not bother to enter his speech into the court transcripts. It was only the newspaper reporters in the audience who bothered to write it down.
In the end, this speech would awaken an anti-slavery movement as well as a pro-slavery south.
These were fighting words. The fight would soon follow. Which is as close as Mr. Horwitz comes to saying out-right that Harpers Ferry was the first battle in the Civil War. While this is not the conclusion I came to after reading Midnight's Rising it is clear to me that this was a moment when the country appeared to recognize that something had to be done, and that whatever was done, a fight was probably coming. Here at Walmart. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason.
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Midnight Rising | Tony Horwitz | Macmillan
There was a problem with saving your item s for later. You can go to cart and save for later there. Average rating: 4. Tony Horwitz. Walmart Tell us if something is incorrect. Book Format: Choose an option. Add to Cart. Product Highlights Bestselling author Horwitz tells the electrifying tale of the daring insurrection that put America on the path to bloody war. Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.
But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South.