John Brown’s Raid: Harpers Ferry and the Coming of the Civil War, October 16-18, 1859


By Jon-Erik M. Gilot and Kevin R. Pawlak

John Brown’s Raid tells the story of the first shots that led to disunion. Richly filled with maps and images, it includes a driving and walking tour of sites related to Brown’s Raid so visitors today can follow the path of America’s meteor.
Paperback: 192 Pages
ISBN-10: 1611215978
ISBN-13:‎ 978-1611215977
Publisher: Savas Beatie, March 2023

In stock


The first shot of the American Civil War was not fired on April 12, 1861, in Charleston, South Carolina, but instead came on October 16, 1859, in Harpers Ferry, Virginia—or so claimed former slave turned abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

The shot came like a meteor in the dark.

John Brown, the infamous fighter on the Kansas plains and detester of slavery, led a band of nineteen men on a desperate nighttime raid that targeted the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. There, they planned to begin a war to end slavery in the United States.

But after 36 tumultuous hours, John Brown’s Raid failed, and Brown himself became a prisoner of the state of Virginia.

Brown’s subsequent trial further divided north and south on the issue of slavery as Brown justified his violent actions to a national audience forced to choose sides. Ultimately, Southerners cheered Brown’s death at the gallows while Northerners observed it with reverence. The nation’s dividing line had been drawn.

Herman Melville and Walt Whitman extolled Brown as a “meteor” of the war. Roughly one year after Brown and his men attacked slavery in Virginia, the nation split apart, fueled by Brown’s fiery actions.

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Dimensions 5.8 × .5 × 8.8 in