Monday, September 5, 2011

The Ghost of John Brown

Today many people believe that John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859 was a fanatic’s folly, a failed attempt to free the slaves. Even John Brown’s friends at the time felt the raid was doomed to fail. 

After the raid, the South saw him as a treasonous madman, and murderer who threatened their way of life. The North saw him as an impractical martyr who had fought for a righteous cause. He didn't live to see that his "folly" placed America on a different course.
John Brown was a passionate abolitionist who disagreed with the United States government policy at a time when the U.S. was walking a tightrope in an effort to accommodate both slavery and expansion. 

Brown regarded the humanity of Africans a given; it was the humanity of the white race that was in question. Brown felt that war was the only way to get rid of slavery.

So in October of 1859 he confidently raided the arsenal at Harpers Ferry in Virginia in order to inspire other wavering abolitionists in the area and to embolden and arm the slaves in the area to rebel and fight with him—this did not happen. 

His small band of 16 white men, 3 black men, 1 black slave, and 1 fugitive slave initially succeeded. But by the fourth day their efforts left them wounded, captured and dying. His hopes of others joining his “war” dashed, Brown watched as two of his sons died.

Colonel Robert E. Lee’s Marines and Harpers Ferry townsfolk prevailed in the end. John Brown was tried and found guilty of treason against the commonwealth of Virginia and was hanged on December 2nd

On the day he was executed Brown wrote his last prophecy, which said, “I, John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood.”

Historians agree today that John Brown’s raid was the true beginning of the Civil War. 

He was the first white man to use violence in an attempt to end slavery. His effort scared the south, which led them to prepare for a northern invasion. His raid escalated tensions and revealed the deep division that existed between the North and South.

Harper's Ferry was still a part of Virginia when the Civil War began in 1861. But when Virginia seceded and joined the Confederacy the residents in Harpers Ferry were not pleased. This led to the formation of a new state, West Virginia, which immediately joined the Union. 

During the war Harper's Ferry changed hands several times. It was here, in my own family, that a brother I am descended from, fought for the Union against his own brother, who was a Confederate soldier.

Many of the ghosts at Harpers Ferry today are related to the Civil War-era. 

John Browns’ tall, thin ghost is seen at the site of his raid, sometimes accompanied by a large black dog. They have been seen vanishing through a closed firehouse door. 

Through the years, a man who resembles John Brown has been seen walking about town during the day. Locals and tourists alike have taken his photograph; they have even posed with him for photos, only to have no image of him show up in these pictures.

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