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

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By Tony Horwitz

A New York Times remarkable booklet for 2011
A Library magazine Top Ten most sensible Books of 2011
A Boston Globe top Nonfiction booklet of 2011
Late at the evening of October sixteen, 1859, John Brown introduced a shock raid at the slaveholding South. prime a biracial band of militant idealists, he seized the big armory at Harpers Ferry, freed and armed slaves, and vowed to free up each bondsman in America.
Brown's bold strike sparked a savage highway struggle and a counterattack by means of U.S. Marines lower than Robert E. Lee. The bloodshed and court docket drama that additionally stunned a divided kingdom and propelled it towards civil warfare. Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising brings Brown and his rebellion vividly to existence and charts America's descent into explosive clash. the result's a taut and necessary background of a guy and a time that also resonate in our own.

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Even anti-abolitionist papers famous the swiftness of the court cases and the defendants’ questionable health for trial. “There is an obvious goal manifested right here to rush the trial via, and to execute the prisoners once possible,” the Baltimore American famous upon the men’s first visual appeal in court docket. Brown, manacled to Edwin Coppoc, regarded “weak and haggard, along with his eyes swollen from the results of the injuries on his head,” whereas Stevens used to be so feeble that he fainted through the preliminary testimony and needed to lie on a bed. the 1st day’s consultation involved itself with a formality: even if there has been sufficient proof to name a grand jury. Brown still seized the instant to talk past the court docket, answering an easy criminal query with a brief speech. “Virginians, i didn't ask for any sector on the time i used to be taken. i didn't ask to have myself spared,” he stated. yet, having been promised a good trial via Governor clever, he sought after no half in a criminal charade that rushed him to judgment with out time to arrange or get over his wounds. “If you search my blood, you could have it at any second, with no this mockery of a trial,” he stated. “I am prepared for my destiny. ” His phrases had no useful influence. The court docket stored up the speed, assigning attorneys, opting for jurors, and summoning witnesses inside twenty-four hours of the complaints’ graduation. yet Brown’s defiant, unflinching demeanor, inspite of his wounds and manacles, strengthened the influence he’d made whereas mendacity bloodied on the armory. He used to be “game,” to exploit Governor Wise’s cockfighting time period, a brave foe who commanded appreciate. “I have now little to ask,” Brown acknowledged that first day in court docket, “other than that I be now not publicly insulted as cowardly barbarians insult those that fall into their arms. ” Brown can have misjudged many facets of southern society, yet he intuitively grasped—and pointed out with—its chivalric code of honor. Virginians believed they have been preserving to their very own excessive criteria via undertaking a tribulation in a civilian courtroom, earlier than the eyes of the kingdom, instead of administering “drum-head justice” in a closed army tribunal. all of the felony “decencies” will be duly saw within the Charlestown courtroom. yet given the realities of antebellum society in Jefferson County and its surrounds, an neutral listening to for Brown and his males used to be very unlikely. Richard Parker, the presiding pass judgement on, was once a revered, by-the-book jurist. He used to be additionally a slave proprietor and a former paymaster on the Harpers Ferry armory, who acknowledged in his commencing directions to the jury: “I won't let myself to provide expression to these emotions which immediately spring up in each breast whilst reflecting at the enormity of the guilt” of the defendants, who had invaded “our universal kingdom” and shot down Virginians “without mercy. ” Then, having given expression to exactly these emotions, he reminded the jurors, such a lot of whom have been slaveholding farmers, that the defendants could be given “a reasonable and neutral trial.

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