Brendan’s Alternate Tagline: John Brown was a nutjob. A well meaning nutjob, but a nutjob.
Quick synopsis: The story of John Brown’s Raid on the Harper’s Ferry Arsenal before the Civil War. It went poorly.
Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like: John Wilkes Booth was at John Brown’s execution.
Fun Fact for History Nerds: Robert E. Lee was in charge of the mission to retake the arsenal. Stonewall Jackson and Jeb Stuart were also part of the mission.
My Take: When you look at John Brown through the lens of history, you have to be willing to see the dichotomy of the man. He was a powerful abolitionist. He was severely mentally ill. He was a murderer. He killed some very bad people.
He staged an audacious and brave attack on a US military arsenal. It was intended to signal for the slaves of America to rise up. That is very uplifting. It was also incredibly dumb as it had basically no chance of actually working.
History looks on John Brown somewhat fondly because he ended up on the side of the angels. He was no angel, though.
Horwitz tells a great story. He gives you all the details of the planning and does not hide from the contradictions of John Brown. When the raid starts, Horwitz tells a great action story from there.
Verdict: A great book for everyone.
If You Liked This Try:
- Charles Bracelen Flood, Grant and Sherman
- Jamie Malanowski, Commander Will Cushing
- Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals
- Timothy Egan, The Immortal Irishman