Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

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Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

Author: Tony Horwitz
Publisher: Henry Holt
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 384
Cover Price: $ 20.00

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Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South.

Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict. Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy.

On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.

Tony Horwitz's riveting book travels antebellum America to deliver both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a nation divided—a time that still resonates in ours.

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Background Information

John Brown was an abolitionist who believed that violence against slavery was justified, as he showed in the assault at Harpers Ferry in 1860. Harper's Ferry, at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, was the scene of John Brown's raid in 1860. The Puritans were highly religious people who dissented from the Church of England and sought freedom of worship in the New World. Abolitionism was the movement, centered in the North, that abolition of slavery even in those states that had practiced it since the founding of the country. Maryland was founded as a colony based on religious tolerance, with particular focus on Catholics. Robert E. Lee was served in the United States Army in Mexico and led the Confederate Army in the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery in the rebellious states in 1863. The South "ante bellum," that is "before the war," was a place of great prosperity and grandeur, along with great suffering for the slaves working in the fields.