While in Harpers Ferry, the raiders killed a railroad baggage handler, who ironically was a free black, when he refused their orders to halt. In a firefight they killed a few townsmen, including the mayor. At one point Brown stopped a passenger train, held it for a while, and then released it. The train continued on to Washington, D.C., where the crew dutifully reported to officials that Brown had seized Harpers Ferry. The next day, October 18, U.S. marines, under the command of Army Brevet Col. Robert E. Lee, captured Brown in the engine house on the armory grounds. By this time, most of the raiders were either dead or wounded. |
A year after Brown's bicentennial, the United States was faced with multiple terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The meaning of terrorism had changed. It was no longer the result of random attacks by an individual or two. Now it was tied to a worldwide conspiracy, coordinated overseas and meticulously planned. The American response was a "war on terror." In an age of rising incidents of terrorism, numerous scholars, and more important, much of the general public, have again asked if John Brown was America's "first terrorist." |
"die for the slave.""I am worth inconceivably more to hang than for any other purpose." |
Brown's actions in Kansas and at Harpers Ferry were clearly violent. He killed people or at least supervised their death. But was he a terrorist? At neither place do his actions comport with what we know about modern terrorists. |
Larger Version * In 1858 Brown wrote a constitution for the revolutionary state he hoped to create. (Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's—1917) |
The Harpers Ferry raid was his most famous act. Brown held Harpers Ferry from late Sunday night, October 16, until he was captured on the 18th. He was in possession of almost unlimited amounts of gunpowder and weapons. He had captured prominent citizens,... [continues]
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