[He] took direct action to free slaves by force. He was convicted of treason, conspiracy, and murder following his raid on Harpers Ferry, Va. (now W.Va.), Oct. 16-18, 1859, and was executed on December 2.
In the summer of 1859 Brown rented a farmhouse in Maryland and prepared to cross the Potomac River to capture the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va., up the river from Washington, D.C. On October 16 he and a band of 13 whites and 5 blacks seized the town. A number of persons, including a free black, died in the action. Brown had expected slaves to join his group as the “army of emancipation” moved farther into slave-holding territory, but this hope did not materialize. He permitted news of the raid to get out, and he unaccountably delayed fleeing.
Local militia cut off all escape routes, and by the night of October 17, federal troops under the command of Col. Robert E. Lee and Lt. J. E. B. Stuart were at the scene. Brown refused to surrender, and on the following morning the troops assaulted the fire engine house in which the rebels had holed themselves up. Two of Brown's sons died in the fighting, and he himself was seriously wounded. In all, 10 raiders and 7 federal marines were killed. On October 19, Brown was taken to prison at Charles Town, Va. (now W.Va.). There he was tried on October 27–31 and convicted. He was hanged on December 2. Brown was buried on his farm at North Elba, N.Y., near Lake Placid.
Although Northerners generally sympathized with Brown's motives, many of them sought a peaceful settlement of the slavery issue and were eager to help prove him insane. But Gov. Henry A. Wise of Virginia, and the South as a whole, insisted on regarding the prisoner as sane. Brown's dignified deportment in prison and at his trial moved the North emotionally.
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For Pontiac, see the next article on Pontiac's Rebellion or Pontiac's Conspiracy in The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia:
1763-66, Native American uprising against the British at the end of the French and Indian Wars, so called after one of its leaders, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa. Angry at the British for fortifying and settling Native American lands, the Ottawa and allied tribes terrorized white settlers in western Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia but failed to seize British forts at Detroit and Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh). After some of his strongest allies sued for peace, Pontiac signed a peace treaty and was pardoned.
Copyright (c) 1995 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
A region of Yukon Territory, Canada, just east of Alaska and traversed by the Klondike River, about 145 km (90 mi) long. Gold was discovered here in August 1896, leading to the gold rush of 1897-1898 in which more than 25,000 people sought their fortune in the frozen north. Small quantities of gold are still mined in the area.
Copyright (c) 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Updated: 13 November, 1996