After a quick trip to Harpers Ferry, I was curious to learn more about its history. At a recent blog team meeting, Betty mentioned that it was almost the anniversary of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. This felt like a perfect opportunity for me to do some research. The event took place on October 16, 1859. 156 years ago today.
The Library of Congress has a terrific Today in History page on John Brown. There are a lot of links and the page provides background including the following:
Late on the night of October 16, 1859, John Brown and twenty-one armed followers stole into the town of Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, (now West Virginia) as most of its residents slept. The men–among them three free blacks, one freed slave, and one fugitive slave–hoped to spark a rebellion of freed slaves and to lead an “army of emancipation” to overturn the institution of slavery by force. To these ends the insurgents took some sixty prominent locals including Colonel Lewis Washington (great-grand nephew of George Washington) as hostages and seized the town’s United States arsenal and its rifle works.
Robert has an excellent resource in his post, The Jefferson County, West Virginia Historic Courthouse – Pic of the Week. He included a variety of great links and provided an overview of what happened after the raid on October 16:
Brown was transported to Charles Town, where he was tried for murder, inciting slaves to rebel, and treason. Despite a spirited defense, Brown and several of his co-conspirators were convicted and sentenced to death. Brown was executed only a few blocks from the courthouse. John Wilkes Booth, the actor who would later assassinate President Lincoln, attended the execution. Many of the records from the trial, which were held by the Jefferson County Clerk, have been digitized.
Somehow a relative of George Washington, John Wilkes Booth, and Robert E. Lee play into this story.