The Significance of John Brown's Raid

The Significance of John Brown's Raid

The Meteor of the War

On the night of October 16, 1859, 21 men (including five African Americans), led by abolitionist John Brown, made their way across the covered B&O Railroad bridge leading into Harper's Ferry. Their target was the United States arsenal and armory at Harper's Ferry. Brown hoped that slaves would join him, and he could arm them with the captured guns and the 1,000 pikes. Unfortunately for Brown, slaves did not join him. In fact, the first man killed during the raid was Heyward Sheperd, an employee of the B&O and a former slave. The first raider killed was Dangerfield Newby, a former slave who wanted to free his wife and kids. Militia men trapped Brown's men at the arsenal's engine house and Hall's Rifle Factory on October 17. By October 18, 90 U.S. Marines, led by Robert E. Lee and accompanied by J.E.B. Stuart, arrived from Washington. Lee offered the militia the chance to storm the engine house, but they believed that the paid soldiers should risk their lives. Lieutenant Israel Greene gathered 12 marines for the storming party. After a failed negotiation attempt by Stuart, Greene and his men attacked. They broke through the door with sledge hammers and a ladder used as a battering ram. Greene was the first one in, followed by Private Luke Quinn who was killed immediately. The next Marine, Private Matthew Rupert, was shot in the face. Greene beat Brown with his sword and the Marines overwhelmed the remaining raiders. The final confrontation lasted only three minutes, and John Brown's raid was over.

The raid ended with ten raiders, five townspeople, and one marine killed. Brown and five other men were captured, tried, and executed for the charges of treason against the state of Virginia, murder, and attempting to incite a slave insurrection (five others escaped and were never captured). With 22 killed and very little building damage, John Brown's raid may not look like a significant event, however some historians consider it to be one of the most important forces that resulted in the Civil War.

The only charge against Brown and his conspirators that required the death penalty was attempting to incite a slave insurrection. Slave insurrections had happened in Virginia before; in fact, Nat Turner's Rebellion was much deadlier with 100-200 rebels killed and 55-65 whites killed, so why didn't Herman Melville call them meteors of the war? For one, John Brown's raid was unlike the other insurrections. Although five African Americans, including two former slaves, participated in the raid, the majority of the participants were northern abolitionists. Southerners didn't only see the raid as a slave insurrection, they also saw it as a northern invasion. To make matters worse, it was discovered that six prominent northerners had funded Brown's men. The South was not only fearful of future slave rebellions, but also future northern invasions. As a result, southern states began to militarize, which was the beginning of the Confederate Army.

John Brown's raid also effected the election of 1860. On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln gave his Cooper Union Address in New York. In this address, Lincoln referenced Brown's raid in his moderate stance against slavery. Following the speech, the Republican Party believed they had found their nominee, and ten months later, he was elected president of the United States. Without John Brown's raid, it is unlikely that the one-time Congressman from Illinois would have been considered for the nomination, and without Lincoln's election, the onset of the war and the end of slavery would have been prolonged.

Although many northerners, including Lincoln, did not agree with the methods John Brown used in 1859, they all agreed that the peculiar institution of slavery needed to end. Without Brown, the war to end slavery may have begun much later than 1861, and slavery in America would have persisted. Today, the engine house, now called John Brown's Fort, is considered to be one of the most important buildings in the United States by Howard University. Northern politicians may not have believed that Brown's violence was the right way to end slavery, but ultimately it was the driving force behind its end.

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.

Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school. I’ll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted. Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I’m 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?” A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?”, I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week.” I let it roll off of my back, I’ve spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back”… but I think it’s time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister. She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn’t have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her. I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn’t though. I didn’t let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization. Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn’t directed to what we, in today’s society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one’s self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 ‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 ‘You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so. This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God’s creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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To Fathers Acting like Parents, Not Strangers

You are a rare breed.


Thank you for everything that you are; for knowing that it is better to try to be there than to be absent entirely; for loving your children instead of teaching them not to love themselves.

"Father": there are many that vacate this title. Either they don't know what it means or they do and simply do not want to take on the role. It's "too much" for them. Tell me, is a father's presence too much for him or is his absence too much for the children? Who hurts more? The fathers at least had something to let go of, but a child never had anything to hold onto. Perhaps now their small hands only grasp the notion of a family, but even then, the concept is too big for them to wrap their fingers around.

So thank you for not letting your children's childhood lay as a corpse in a casket. Thank you for showing them that they are not some part-time job. Thank you for letting them know that they weren't a job to begin with; that loving them iseasy and difficult— but never impossible. Thank you for staying and making your presence worth it.

Thank you.

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Derek Thomson

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