Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Midnight Rising:

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 on Midnight Rising:

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 and also severely mentally ill. He was a murderer who killed some very bad people.

Brown 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. I knew vaguely of the attack on Harper’s Ferry and by the time the book completed I felt like I knew almost everything. The book never becomes a slog, though. Horwitz 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. You don’t need to be a full on history nerd to enjoy a book like this.


A great book for everyone. Buy it here!

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