Place: Harper's Ferry, Virginia
John Brown's Raid on Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry
On this date, 19 heavily armed men stole down mist-shrouded bluffs along the Potomac River where it joins the Shenandoah River. Their leader, was a 59 year-old man named John Brown. The raid would be the most daring instance on record of white men entering a Southern state to incite a slave rebellion. According to Fergus M. Bordewich, in military terms, it was barely a skirmish, but the incident electrified the nation.
John Stauffer, Harvard historian states the impact of Harpers Ferry quite literally transformed the nation. The tide of anger that flowed from Harpers Ferry traunmatized Americans of all persuasions, terrorizing Southerners with the fear of massive slave rebellions, and radicalizing countless Northerners, who had hoped that a violent confrontation over slavery could be indefinitely postponed.
Brown and his captured men were charged with treason, first-degree murder and "conspiring with Negroes to produce insurrection." Brown was sentenced on November 2, 1859. Escorted by six companies of infantry, he was transported to a scaffold where, at 11:15, a sack was placed over his head and a rope fitted around his neck. Brown told his guard, "Don't keep me waiting longer than necessary. Be quick."