John Brown

Antislavery Activist

Born: 9 May 1800
Died: 2 December 1859 (execution by hanging)
Birthplace: Torrington, Connecticut
Best known as: The anti-slavery militant who raided Harper's Ferry in 1859
John Brown is a famous figure in the fight over slavery that led up to the American Civil War. Raised in Ohio, Brown moved to Kansas in 1855. The next year, claiming he was an instrument of God, Brown led a raid that killed five pro-slavery men on the banks of the Pottawatomie River. On 16 October 1859, Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harper's Ferry in Virginia, with a plan to arm the region's slaves and lead them in rebellion. Brown and his men seized the armory but were soon captured. Brown was hanged. His death became a rallying point for anti-slavery forces and then for Union soldiers in the Civil War, who sang a marching tune called "John Brown's Body." ("John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave. His soul is marching on!")
Extra credit: An "armory" is a stockpile of guns and ammunition... The tune of "John Brown's Body" is the same as the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Julia Ward Howe wrote the "Battle Hymn" lyrics in 1861 after hearing "John Brown's Body"... Author Stephen Vincent Benet also published a famous poem, titled John Brown's Body, about the raid... The federal troops who captured Brown were led by Robert E. Lee, later head of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

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