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

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

Tony Horwitz / Jan 20, 2020

Midnight Rising John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War A New York Times Notable Book for A Library Journal Top Ten Best Books of A Boston Globe Best Nonfiction Book of Bestselling author Tony Horwitz tells the electrifying tale of the darin

  • Title: Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War
  • Author: Tony Horwitz
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 261
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • A New York Times Notable Book for 2011 A Library Journal Top Ten Best Books of 2011 A Boston Globe Best Nonfiction Book of 2011 Bestselling author Tony Horwitz tells the electrifying tale of the daring insurrection that put America on the path to bloody war Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown s raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S history BA New York Times Notable Book for 2011A Library Journal Top Ten Best Books of 2011A Boston Globe Best Nonfiction Book of 2011Bestselling author Tony Horwitz tells the electrifying tale of the daring insurrection that put America on the path to bloody warPlotted 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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    About "Tony Horwitz"

      • Tony Horwitz

        Date of Birth 1958Tony Horwitz is an American journalist and writer His works include Blue Latitudes, One for the Road, Confederates In The Attic and Baghdad Without A Map His most recent work, published in April 2008, is A Voyage Long and Strange Rediscovering the New World, a history and travelogue dealing with the early European exploration of North America.


    822 Comments

    1. Let me begin by saying that John Brown's mission to end slavery was noble (that's right, I'm taking a stance against slavery– controversial, I know). However, author Tony Horwitz' treatment of the John Brown story offers a more complicated narrative that begs questions that have been easy enough to dismiss in hindsight (especially since the beatification of Brown is passed down through such a catchy tune). The task at hand for Horowitz was, in many ways, similar to that confronted by Eric Meta [...]


    2. Having grown up in eastern Kansas, I've been fascinated by John Brown ever since I saw, as a school child, the stunning mural of him in the Kansas State Capitol building. (The painting is "Tragic Prelude" by Kansas artist John Steuart Curry.) When I learned that Horwitz, one of my favorite historians, had taken up Brown's story, I knew I had to read it, and what better time than on the anniversary of the Harpers Ferry raid Oct. 16? Horwitz does thorough and impeccable research, gives his readers [...]


    3. Well, light summer reading this is not, but if you're looking for an affecting portrait of John Brown, this is the book for you. Even if you don't think you want that kind of book you might want to give this one a go. Tony Horwitz is a masterful writer and his straightforward style is perfect for this story. I found myself near tears upon several occasions while reading this book, and that is in part because Horwitz knows how to tell it. His background as a journalist keeps him from getting flow [...]


    4. ”In firing his gun, John Brown has merely told what time of day it is. It is high noon, thank god.” – William Lloyd GarrisonJohn Brown and his famous Harper’s Ferry raid were two major catalysts of the American Civil War. A fervent abolitionist, Brown believed he was appointed by God to help end the institution of slavery. But unlike other abolitionists of his day, Brown rejected the pacifist approach and turned to violence to achieve his aims. He became a national name during the Kansas [...]


    5. This is well done, and it's interesting to see Horwitz write a straight-up historical narrative. People expecting a lot of material on historical memory ala Confederates in the Attic will be disappointed. The structure and pacing are good and for the most part Horwitz provides the right amount of context on issues and places for a popular history. I don't know, however, that I really understand John Brown's personality better for having read it. Except for near the end, when Horwitz makes a good [...]


    6. Where is the John Brown biopic that we deserve? I think it's best found in this telling, which goes deep into his background, motivations, flaws and strengths with unflinching honesty. So deep, that sometimes in the lead-up and wind-down from the cataclysmic attack, it gets a little dry, but the faithfulness to detail is appropriate. There is nothing more American than the concept of blood redemption, so it's worth exploring this with eyes wide open, lest the wrong people get the wrong lessons. [...]


    7. The title of Tony Horwitz’s work--Midnight Rising:John Brown and the Raid the Sparked the Civil War--is misleading. Excluding the Notes at the end, my Advance Reader’s Copy is 292 pages long; of that 292 pages, only 60 pages (Chapters 8 and 9 out of 13, a Prologue and an Epilogue) are devoted to the raid itself. Chapters 10 through 12 describe, in great detail, the trials of the captured invaders and, for those who need to know every single last disposition, the hangings themselves. We learn [...]


    8. In modern history textbooks, John Brown's Raid merits a few scant paragraphs. This seems to downplay the impact of the event, which was a direct contributor to the Civil War. Pulitzer winning journalist Tony Horwitz takes on this historical event in his second foray into the Civil War. Unlike Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, this is a straight history book, and so lacks the humorous and thought provoking personal views of the author, but it is an excellent boo [...]


    9. Reading “Midnight Rising” is like being shown how your favorite uncle was actually a mass murderer in his younger days. It’s that kind of jarring. Here, the subject is John Brown, whose body lies a-moldering in the grave, as you recall. Having not really thought about John Brown, my conception was that he was an abolitionist prior to the Civil War that lead an armed raid that helped start the war. I think that’s a reasonable synopsis of the synopsis we were taught in our 10th grade US hi [...]


    10. Having lived in Ohio for my entire life I've come to appreciate the states roots in the Civil War. I knew who John Brown was and could tell you that his raid on Harpers Ferry was what helped cause the Civil War, and also vaguely mention that he had killed some pro-slavery border ruffians in Kansas. But I had no idea that he was from Cleveland or that the city and Case Western Reserve played a role in his life and his plans to lead a slave revolt in the South. Horowitz writes in a narrative manne [...]


    11. I knew about John Brown and the raid at Harper's Ferry and that he had been a long term abolitionist but really had no idea of his engagement in the Kansas-Missouri Border wars and also didn't realize that Robert E Lee led the troops that captured him at Harper's Ferry. The book is a great fleshing out of John Brown's life and also a bit eye opening when you think of his commitment to his cause on one hand (a number of his children died with him in Kanas and at Harper's Ferry) and then the sheer [...]


    12. John Brown is one of the most vexing figures in American history. Is he hero or villain? Traitor or martyr? Visionary or maniac? By all definitions of the word, he has to be considered a terrorist, but of course that depends on your point of view. As Tony Horwitz writes in Midnight Rising, his excellent book about Brown and the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859: "Viewed through the lens of 9/11, Harpers Ferry seems an al-Qaeda prequel: a long-bearded fundamentalist, consumed by hatred of the U.S. go [...]


    13. A thrilling novel that goes deep on a topic that the author admits has unfortunately become a footnote in history. I liked the morally-ambiguous approach that the author takes towards John Brown. He was an abolitionist and was willing to go to any length to end slavery, but the author is sure to mention Brown's overzealous moments as well. I thought the overall impression was fair and (quite refreshingly) steered away from hagiography.


    14. Midnight Rising carves a new path for Horwitz; unlike his previous books, this is not a travelogue interspersed with witty observations and funny interactions as Tony plots his way through the modern jungles of history. Instead, he has set out to write history.Unfortunately, the casual reader expecting what has become Horwitz's tantalizing trope will instead be disappointed, as will those picking it up for a 'history' of John Brown's life. While Hortwitz has done research with Brown's extensive [...]


    15. John Brown might be the most underrated person in US History. In school, his raid on Harpers Ferry was cast aside as a footnote ( Bleeding Kansas usually wasn't even mentioned). I see why. To examine John Brown carefully requires one to question the very foundations of our society. To study John Brown requires one to answer the question: When is an act of violence Terrorism and when is it a righteous act of Revolution? Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Is it possible that an individual may be right an [...]


    16. Years before the South seceded from the Union, John Brown attempted to hold Harper’s Ferry in the slave state of Virginia. What did he want from the raid? He wanted to spark a revolution and the war to come. He wanted to arm the slaves in that town, empty the armory and begin making his way down South freeing the slaves. John Brown was an abolitionist who completely believed that slaves should be free and that the institution of slavery should not exist. Brown was willing to take lives and di [...]


    17. The first straight popular history written by Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic, and a very good one for me as I was coming in cold to John Brown's story. A book in 3 parts: an exceedingly short biography of John Brown leading up to his ill-fated but ultimately, years after his death, successful raid on Harpers Ferry (almost 60 years, and about 100 pages); a military history of his ragtag band's seizure, and the subsequent siege by local fighters and the U.S. army, of the armory [...]


    18. This is just a great book about a fascinating period in American history. What struck me as I read was how different the country was in 1859 (total lack of national security state, for one), as well as how similar it was (the everpresence of white supremacy). This is a page turner for sure - a brief overview of John Brown's background, his self-ascribed messianic mission, and then a blow-by-blow account of the raid on Harper's Ferry, as well as its aftermath and impact upon kick-starting the Civ [...]


    19. A very good book about a very complicated, confusing, and controversial event in American history.Harper's Ferry, as Horwitz points out, is an incredibly beautiful place, and walking along the railroad trestle or just surveying the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in silence while imagining what unfolded there can be a pretty intense experience not entirely unlike the emotion of walking the mile of Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, or staring out at Puget Sound where the Medicine Cr [...]


    20. Well written and illustrated, with a hefty section of endnotes that causing the end of the book to sneak up on you. A good introduction to the subject that relies primarily on primary sources, and tries to avoid the wild speculation that has grown up around Brown's life in the past 140+ years.I should note that John Brown does hold a special place in my heart because he is featured in a chapter of Lies my teacher told me, and that was the book that sent me down the path of becoming a history maj [...]


    21. I am not normally a reader of nonfiction, but the visit of author Tony Horwitz who spoke at a St. Louis County author event, sparked an interest in reading this one. Horwitz researched this well, and he writes well. Interestingly, his wife is also a well-known writer, Australian Geraldine Brooks, who wrote People of the Book, March, and others.As Girl Scouts sitting around campfires, we used to sing a parody of the song "John Brown's Body" (which, Horwitz writes, became a Union marching song and [...]


    22. Engrossing, moving account of radical abolitionist John Brown, driven by his righteous anger to seize a military arsenal as a means of inciting the nation to rise up and defeat the institution of slavery. Recommended on the on-going 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Some historians and writers (including Fredrick Douglas, a friend of John Brown) consider the raid on Harpers Ferry – while in itself a failure – the true start of the war. It prompted fear, paranoia and Confederate indignation [...]


    23. I was always puzzled by a historical marker in the Adirondack Mountains for John Brown's cabin. Was this for the John Brown whose body lies amoldering in the grave? What was he doing up in the woods? I knew nothing about John Brown except this line from "Glory, Glory Hallelujah". I figured he had something to do with abolitionism because that song is from the Civil War. This book is scholarly in its depth but reads like a popular book, and left me wondering why John Brown is not better remembere [...]


    24. Painstakingly researched, Midnight Rising is Tony Horowitz's account of John Brown and the raid at Harper's Ferry. Militarily, this was a small operation, but most people have heard of it. What makes it so important? Horowitz explains the country's environment and ambiance at the time which made this such an explosive event.Tensions ran high in the country. The Abolitionists were convinced that slavery was an abomination; one that there was no action too desperate to try to eradicate. Those who [...]


    25. A detailed, well written account of the October 1859 raid on the U.S. Armory at Harper’s Ferry which some believe signaled the beginning of the American Civil War 1861-1865. John Brown’s crusade against slavery culminated at the raid and led his eulogist Wendell Phillips to declare,“History will date Virginia Emancipation from Harper’s Ferry. True, the slave is still there. So, when the tempest uproots a pine on your hills, it looks green for months - a year or two. Still, it is timber, [...]


    26. This book represents a nice companion piece to Doris Kearns Goodwin's famous book on Lincoln and his cabinet--"Team of Rivals". As a native who spent a significant portion of his life in Lawrence I wanted to read a little more on the Bleeding Kansas period and Horwitz did not disappoint. I realize that the U.S. was much smaller in 1859, but I loved the way famous contemporaries--men like Lee, Jackson, Stuart, John Wilkes Booth, and Frederick Douglass--all played a part in the Harpers Ferry event [...]


    27. Yes, most of us know that John Brown's body is a-mouldering the grave, and that he besieged the arsenal at Harper's Ferry and died for his abolitionist activism. But I, for one, knew little else about him until reading Midnight Rising. Tony Horwitz takes his readers through Brown's life, passing quickly through his early phases before concentrating on his life as a freedom fighter. John Brown was a truly extraordinary man. He told people that he didn't ever experience fear, and I believe that, b [...]


    28. I've never agreed with Thomas Jefferson that the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots, but I don't think he's been wrong yet. We, as free peoples, are defined by our revolutionaries. The immense dissonance in the American psyche by trying to balance the spirit of the Revolution with the constitutionality (and moral preoccupations) of slavery ripped out fragile "bastion of liberty" asunder. John Brown really started that break which would decide the unequivocal nature of equ [...]


    29. The insurrection of John Brown and his band of early American fighters is now treated as a minor incident prior to the Civil War. It was actually a major event in its time that some historians claim precipitated the war. This is a fascinating study of John Brown that evokes the history of the abolitionist movement in illuminating details as well as the peculiarities of Brown and his large family. What makes this history worth reading now, and especially by clergy, is the similarity of Brown’s [...]


    30. I found Tony Horowitz's book 'Midnight Rising' to be a very informative and interesting account of John Brown and his raid on Harper's Ferry as well as his attacks on pro-slavers in Kansas. The author was able to dig up some important primary sources and put them together in such a fashion that we are better able to understand what Brown was thinking and why he decided to follow the path that he did. Mr. Horowitz points out that Brown's actions 'sparked the Civil War.' He explained that Brown's [...]


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