An Eyewitness Describes The Hanging Of John Brown

Harper’s Weekly refused to print the story “Porte Crayon” wrote at the scene. Brought to light 95 years later, it is presented here.

John Brown of Osawatomie, the guerrilla captain of Bleeding Kansas and leader of the abortive raid on Harpers Ferry to free the slaves, was hanged on the bright balmy morning of December 2, 1859. The scene of the execution of the old abolition raider was at Charlestown, then in Virginia, but soon to become Charlestown, West Virginia, through the agency of a war which Brown’s Harpers Ferry foray hastened.Read more »

The Secret Six

Without the material support of a half-dozen prominent northerners known as the Secret Six, John Brown’s attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry 150 years ago may well never have occurred

ON OCTOBER 17, 1909, a small group of former abolitionists quietly gathered in an imposing brick house in Concord, Massachusetts, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John Brown’s historic raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, then a part of Virginia. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Franklin B. Sanborn, and Julia Ward Howe, widow of Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, did not want their meeting to attract attention despite the fact that Brown and his compatriots were being celebrated across the country.Read more »

Abolitionist John Doy

Tempers flare and violence reigns in the pre–Civil War battleground of Kansas

On January 25, 1859, a small wagon expedition of three whites and 13 blacks stole away from Lawrence, Kansas, on the first leg of a journey that would take the African Americans to the free state of Iowa, far from Kansas and the ever-present threat of kidnapping by slave traders. For the three white abolitionists it was a protest against those who would deny their deepest beliefs about freedom and human rights. Read more »

The Civil War 1861 To 1865

No one has ever come up with a satisfactory count of the books dealing with the Civil War. Estimates range from 50,000 to more than 70,000, with new titles added every day. All that can be said for certain is that the Civil War is easily the most written-about era of the nation’s history. Consequently, to describe this 10-best list as subjective is to stretch that word almost out of shape. Indeed my association with 2 of the 10 may be regarded as suspect. My reply is that this association made me only more aware of the merits of these titles. Read more »

The Father of American Terrorism

Two hundred years after his birth, Americans still revere him as a martyr and loathe him as a fanatical murderer. What was he?

 

On December 2, 1859, a tall old man in a black coat, black pants, black vest, and black slouch hat climbed into a wagon and sat down on a black walnut box. The pants and coat were stained with blood; the box was his coffin; the old man was going to his execution.

 
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Nat Turner Revisited

On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the most controversial historical novel in memory, the author of The Confessions of Nat Turner speaks of a novelist’s duty to history and fiction’s strange power not only to astonish but to enrage

Twenty-five years ago this November, I found myself in Ohio, where I was being awarded an honorary degree at Wilberforce University. The university, one of the few all-Negro institutions in the North, was named after William Wilberforce, the great British abolitionist of slavery, and so I marked the special appropriateness of this honor when I accepted the invitation a few weeks earlier.Read more »

Benét And The Ensign From Alabama

THE BOOK reached me in Argentia, Newfoundland, where my squadron, VP-84, was on antisubmarine patrol. The inscription, “To Ev—this incontestable evidence of performance,” had a special impact, as my brother knew it would. Aircraft performance, along with flying ability and luck, are what a pilot lives by in war. But it was a different performance, the kind evident on every page of Stephen Vincent Benét’s John Brown’s Body , that my brother was referring to in his gift marking my twenty-sixth birthday.Read more »

Exit Lines

About to die at the untimely age of forty-four in 1883, Dr. George Miller Beard, a Connecticut physician and pioneer in neurology, remarked: “I should like to record the thoughts of a dying man for the benefit of science, but it is impossible.” And with those words, Dr. Beard passed beyond further speech. Regardless of their inner thoughts, we do at least know what many individuals uttered before giving up the ghost.Read more »

The Trial Of John Brown

Verdicts Of History: III -- Even his abolitionist friends thought his attack on Harpers Ferry insane, but the old Kansas raider sensed that his death would ignite the nation’s conscience.

“Judicial Circuit Court of Virginia, Jefferson County, to wit: The Jurors of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in find for the body of the County of Jefferson, duly impaneled, and attending upon the Circuit Court of said county, upon their oaths do present that John Brown, Aaron C.Read more »