John Brown

John BrownHe was called a “misguided fanatic” by Abraham Lincoln, a “blood-thirsty murderer” by Jefferson Davis and considered a 19th century “Christ” by intellectuals like Emerson and Thoreau. He was John Brown.

Since his early childhood in Ohio, Brown had taken to heart the doctrine that all of “God’s” creations should be free. He used his home to hide runaway slaves and often spoke openly for the abolition of slavery. He followed five of his sons to Kansas Territory in October 1855 and soon made his presence is known as a religious man and a military leader. However, it was in May 1856 that his most noted adventure in Kansas occurred. After the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces, Brown and seven of his followers set out to seek revenge and on May 24 they brutally murdered and mutilated five pro-slavery men near Dutch Henry’s Crossing on Pottawatomie Creek in Franklin County. This action was denounced by both the free-staters and pro-slavery forces. It was reported in the press in both the North and South and earned Brown national recognition as “John Brown from Osawatomie, Kansas.”

He left Kansas Territory never to return in early 1859. His plan to capture the armory at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia and ignite a slave insurrection failed. Brown was tried for treason and executed by hanging on December 2, 1859. His stirring speeches at his trial and brave composure while being executed, made Brown a martyr for the abolitionists. Poems, ballads, and songs were written in his honor and his legend grew in popularity through the Civil War.