{ subscribe_url: '/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/law.php' }

Anniversary of John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry – Pic of the Week

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 view of Harpers Ferry from the Maryland Heights Trail. John Brown's Fort can be seen in the lower left of the town.

The view of Harpers Ferry from the Maryland Heights Trail. John Brown’s Fort can be seen in the lower left of the town. / Photograph by Andrew Weber

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.

Harpers Ferry, W. Va. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pan.6a13009

Harpers Ferry, W. Va. c1912. (Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-121039).

Harpers Ferry, W. Va. todday / Photograph by Andrew Weber

Harpers Ferry, W. Va. today / Photograph by Andrew Weber

If you interested in learning more about Harpers Ferry, the Civil War Trust details Ten Facts about Harpers Ferry (including many pictures from the Library of Congress collection).


  1. Jacinda Gill
    October 16, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I enjoyed this blog article with all of its helpful links. Well done.

  2. Obasi Chidi
    October 16, 2015 at 11:03 am

    What a story? You wonder where are the accusers? Well done

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.