On October 17th, 1859, John Brown was barricaded inside the federal armory at Harpers Ferry with his hostages and his remaining followers. His attempt to lead an antislavery insurrection had failed. A detachment of U.S. Marines led by Colonel Robert E. Lee had the armory surrounded. For the radical abolitionist, it was his last stand.
But after he was captured and sentenced to death, Northern abolitionists rallied to Brown’s cause. By the time he ascended the scaffold and prepared to meet the hangman’s rope, Brown had become a martyr and folk hero. His bold, violent actions polarized Americans on both sides of the slavery debate, and hurtled the nation closer to the brink of the Civil War.
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