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.”
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry abolish Verb
to wipe out or get rid of.
person who opposes slavery.
storage space for arms and other military equipment.
to take or control.
Civil War Noun
(1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).
promise or legal duty to perform a task.
group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.
Confederate States of America, states which broke from the United States to form a new government during the Civil War.
to interact with.
to prepare or provide the right equipment.
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.
person who studies events and ideas of the past.
person held as security until certain terms and conditions (such as payment of a ransom) are met.
established organization or set of organizing principles.
enthusiastic and emotional.
long, sharply pointed spike used as a weapon.
before or ahead of.
to get rid of something unwanted or burdensome.
to consider or pay attention to.
rebellion or uprising.
process and condition of owning another human being or being owned by another human being.
to enclose or encircle.
acts that cause physical harm to another person.
enthusiasm or passion.