On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown led an armed raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). This event is regarded by many historians as the spark that ignited the Civil War which started less than a year later. 
 
Brown hated the institution of slavery, and was willing to engage in violence to abolish it. Brown and 21 other men (five African Americans and 17 European Americans) attacked the arsenal and took white members of the local community hostage. The raiders were equipped with guns and sharpened pikes supplied by abolitionists. Brown thought that slaves would revolt and support his raid. None did.
 
Prior to the raid, Brown had asked fellow abolitionist Frederick Douglass to join him. Douglass declined, recognizing that “you will never get out alive.” Douglass respected Brown’s passionate commitment to ending slavery, however: “His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.”
 
The raiders were quickly surrounded by Army troops, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee, who would later go on to lead the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Most raiders were killed or captured. Brown himself was hung in December 1859, his last letter reading “I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood.”
abolish
Verb

to wipe out or get rid of.

abolitionist
Noun

person who opposes slavery.

armed
Adjective

having weapons.

arsenal
Noun

storage space for arms and other military equipment.

capture
Verb

to take or control.

Civil War
Noun

(1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).

commitment
Noun

promise or legal duty to perform a task.

community
Noun

group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.

Confederacy
Noun

Confederate States of America, states which broke from the United States to form a new government during the Civil War.

crime
Noun

unlawful activity.

engage
Verb

to interact with.

equip
Verb

to prepare or provide the right equipment.

federal
Adjective

having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

Frederick Douglass
Noun

(1818-1895) American civil rights pioneer and a leader in the fight to end slavery.

historian
Noun

person who studies events and ideas of the past.

hostage
Noun

person held as security until certain terms and conditions (such as payment of a ransom) are met.

institution
Noun

established organization or set of organizing principles.

passionate
Adjective

enthusiastic and emotional.

pike
Noun

long, sharply pointed spike used as a weapon.

prior
Adjective

before or ahead of.

purge
Verb

to get rid of something unwanted or burdensome.

regard
Verb

to consider or pay attention to.

revolt
Noun

rebellion or uprising.

slavery
Noun

process and condition of owning another human being or being owned by another human being.

surround
Verb

to enclose or encircle.

troop
Noun

a soldier.

violence
Noun

acts that cause physical harm to another person.

zeal
Noun

enthusiasm or passion.

More Dates in History

October
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
30 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 1 2 3