Who Was John Brown?

John Brown (1800-1859) was a radical abolitionist. He led a group which murdered innocent Kansan settlers in 1856. With funding from six secret backers-including two clergymen who rejected Christianity in favor of Unitarianism-he and 21 others stormed the federal armory at Harper's Ferry, VA (now WV) and took several hostages. His intention was to incite a slave insurrection, which would have led to the murder of many Southerners. The first person killed in the incident was a free black man, shot by Brown's troupe. Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee was in charge of the soldiers which re-took the arsenal and captured Brown. [Probably the best book on John Brown is Volume Three in Otto Scott's The Sacred Fool Quartet, The Secret Six: The Fool as Martyr (New York: Times Books, 1979; rpt. Columbia, SC: Foundation for American Education, 1987)-Ed.]