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
Arrested and convicted of treason, he became a
martyr for the cause when he was hanged in 1859.
A Chronology of His
Life and "Career"
|May 9, 1800
||Born in Torrington,
|Nov 7, 1837
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
||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
|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
|May 24, 1856
||In retaliation for the
attack on Lawrence, and for the beating
of Massachusetts Senator Charles
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 Pottawatomie Massacre).
||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
|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 Governor John
W. Geary is able to negotiate a cease
fire and convince the Missourians to
|Oct 5, 1856
||Brown heads east to
conduct fund-raising for his anti-slavery
|Jan 23, 1857
||Brown attends a meeting
of the National Kansas Committee in New
|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 County, Kansas.
||Brown acquires the
property around the site of the Marais
des Cygnes Massacre and erects a fort.
|Aug 15-Sep 15,
||Brown stays at the cabin
of his half-sister Florella Adair and her
husband, near Osawatomie, Kansas.
|Dec 16, 1858
||Brown helps defend Free
State stronghold Fort Scott from Missouri
|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
|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
|Oct 25-Nov 2,
||Brown is tried, and
ultimately convicted, for treason in
|Dec 2, 1859
||Brown is hanged for
"crimes of murder, treason and slave
insurrection against the State of
Virginia" in Charlestown.
of Black Jack
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