In 1800, on this day the "the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans" John Brown was born in Torrington, Connecticut. Branded a "misguided fanatic" by Abraham Lincoln, he advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to end all slavery, leading the Pottawatomie Massacre in Bleeding Kansas and also the raid at Harpers Ferry.
Birth of a Misguided FanaticIn 1859, Brown conceived a master plan to end slavery. From a base in the Appalachian Mountains, raids would be launched into Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama, causing black uprisings to spread thoughout the South. But first the raiders had to seize the thousands of rifles and muskets in the stores of the the United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in Virginia.
On October 17th, a small force of sixteen whites and five blacks stormed the armoury. Stopping a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad train that passing was through, the raiders made good their escape, along with a huge cache of weapons. In pursuit was a company of US Marines, led by Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. The clash of forces is considered by many to be the first blow of the Civil War.