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Anti-Slavery Crusader John Brown

John Brown was an anti-slavery crusader who became an important symbol during the Civil War. In October, 1859, he led an attempted raid on the armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Brown's intention was to gather arms for his small band of soldiers. Following that, he intended to lead an insurrection for the purpose of freeing black slaves throughout the South. However, Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry was unsuccessful, and he was executed on charges of treason on December 2, 1859. Despite the failure of his raid, John Brown became a symbol of the Civil War for both the North and the South. The North saw him as a martyr to the cause of emancipation. The South, on the other hand, saw him as a threat to the plantation system which depended upon slave labor for its profits.

John Brown was born in Connecticut in the year 1800. As a child, his family moved to Ohio. In 1820, Brown married his first wife, Dianthe Lusk. After bearing seven children, Dianthe died in 1832. Less than a year later, Brown married a sixteen year old girl named Mary Anne Day, who provided him with thirteen more children (Longacre, 1986, p. 82). As a young man, Brown tried to run a variety of business; however, for the most part he was unsuccessful in all of his attempts (Sifakis, 1988, p. 48). He became a tanner, a postmaster, a land speculator, a sheep farmer, and a wool merchant. None of these occupations gave him financial success. In fact, in 1842, he was forced to declare bankruptcy when his sheep farming business went under.

Longacre has claimed that Brown failed in all his business ventures because "he was too much a visionary, not enough a businessman" (Longacre, 1986, p. 82). During the 1840's, he became increasingly obsessed with his vision of leading a crusade against the institution of slavery. Brown was convinced that God had chosen him for this particular mission in life. He was a deeply religious man, and his biblical beliefs caus...

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