John Brown once said, "Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery." Who was John Brown? A lunatic? A madman? An "Angel of Light" as Henry David Thoreau called him? A passionate patriot and abolitionist?
Historians have said that "John Brown's war became the nation's war." Brown was born in Connecticut in 1800, moved to Ohio as a child, and then moved about the country working odd jobs and fathering twenty children! Through good times and bad, Brown was a fervent abolitionist who worked with the Underground Railroad and protected runaway slaves whenever possible. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass said that Brown was "in sympathy a black man and as deeply interested in our cause ... as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery."
John Brown became a national figure when he first tried to defend the town of Osawatomie, Kansas against pro-slavery forces. Next, a group of abolitionists known as the "Secret Six" helped Brown raise money to lead twenty-one men on an attack at the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The attack failed. Brown's men were killed or wounded under troops led by then Colonel Robert E. Lee. Brown was captured and hanged. His last words were, "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with Blood." It was a terrible and true prophecy.