his passion for
the abolitionist cause often led to murder, and
ultimately to treason
John Brown was born into a deeply
religious family in Torrington, Connecticut. During his
first fifty years, he moved around the country, living at
various times in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, and Kansas, working as a
farmer, wool merchant, tanner, and land speculator.
Despite numerous financial setbacks, he always found a
way to support the abolitionist cause. His ultimate act
was an attempt to seize the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Arrested and convicted of treason,
he became a martyr for the cause when he was hanged in
A Chronology of His Life and
|May 9, 1800
||Born in Torrington, Connecticut.
|Nov 7, 1837
||Abolitionist newspaperman Elijah
Lovejoy is murdered by a proslavery mob in
Illinois. Brown vows to "consecrate his life
to the destruction of slavery."
||Moves to the black community of
North Elba, New York.
||Helps establish the League of
Gileadites, an organization that works to protect
escaped slaves from slave catchers.
||Five of Brown's sons -- John
Jr., Jason, Owen, Frederick and Salmon -- move to
Kansas Territory and settle near Osawatomie.
|Oct 6-7, 1855
||Brown arrives at Osawatomie.
|Dec 7, 1855
||Brown and four of his sons help
defend the Free-State stronghold of Lawrence,
Kansas, during the Wakarusa War.
|May 21, 1856
||Lawrence is sacked by
pro-slavery forces from Missouri.
Brown sets out to assist the residents but the
Missourians left before he could reach Lawrence.
|May 24, 1856
||In retaliation for the attack on
Lawrence, and for the beating of Massachusetts
Sumner on the Senate floor by Congressman
Preston Brooks of South Carolina, Brown, four of
his sons, and two other settlers massacre five
pro-slavery settlers at Pottawatomie, Kansas (the
||Despite having had no role in
the Pottawatomie Massacre and being personally
abhored by his father's actions, John Brown, Jr.,
is imprisoned at Camp Sackett.
|June 2, 1856
of Black Jack takes place in southeastern
Douglas County, Kansas. The battle between John
Brown's men and those of Henry Clay Pate is
considered the first regular battle between Free
State and Pro-Slavery forces. Brown's men capture
Pate and most of his men.
|June 5, 1856
||Colonel Edwin V. Summer and
Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart disband Brown's camp and
release Pate and his men.
|Aug 30, 1856
||General John W. Reid and 250 men
attempt to destroy the abolitionist stronghold of
Osawatomie, Kansas, in the Battle of Osawatomie.
Brown's son Frederick is the first man killed.
The abolitionists are forced to retreat, and the
town of Osawatomie is burned by Reid's forces.
|Sep 7, 1856
||Brown arrives back in Lawrence
to lend support to abolitionist forces being
beseiged by 2,700 pro-slavers from Missouri.
Armed conflict is averted when Territorial
W. Geary is able to negotiate a cease fire
and convince the Missourians to withdraw.
|Oct 5, 1856
||Brown heads east to conduct
fund-raising for his anti-slavery campaign.
|Jan 23, 1857
||Brown attends a meeting of the
National Kansas Committee in New York.
|Nov 5, 1857
||Brown returns to Kansas
Territory to recruit men for a planned raid on a
federal arsenal in Virginia.
|May 19, 1858
||Five Free State men are
massacred on the Marais des Cygnes River in Linn
||Brown acquires the property
around the site of the Marais des Cygnes Massacre
and erects a fort.
|Aug 15-Sep 15, 1858
||Brown stays at the cabin of his
half-sister Florella Adair and her husband, near
|Dec 16, 1858
||Brown helps defend Free State
stronghold Fort Scott from Missouri raiders.
|Dec 20, 1858
||Brown leads a daring raid into
Missouri to free eleven slaves. He then spends
more than a month escorting them along the
Underground Railroad and into Canada. A child
born during the escape was named Captain John
|Jan 31, 1859
||Brown's party encounters a force
sent out to recapture the slaves, near Holton,
Kansas. The two parties are separated by a
swollen river, however, and by the time the
slavers are able to cross Brown and his party are
gone. The encounter becomes known as the Battle
of the Spurs because the only weapons brandished
were the spurs used on the horses.
|Oct 16-18, 1859
||Brown leads a raid on the
federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Two
of Brown's sons, Oliver and Watson, are killed
during the raid. The raid and occupation are
ended by Colonel Robert E.
|Oct 25-Nov 2, 1859
||Brown is tried, and ultimately
convicted, for treason in Charlestown, Virginia.
|Dec 2, 1859
||Brown is hanged for "crimes
of murder, treason and slave insurrection against
the State of Virginia" in Charlestown.
of Black Jack
Robert E. Lee
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