John Brown’s Raid in Tony Horwitz’s “Midnight Rising”

Table of Contents


Tony Horwitz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, vividly presents faith, violence, race, social justice, and individualism as central themes in his book entitled the Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War. The book surveys the events that led to the Civil War in America. In this masterpiece, Horwitz begins by presenting the John Brown’s biography. John Brown was military abolitionist who held radical ideologies. Brown was radicalized by the existence of slavery and widespread abolitionism. The climax of the book captures Brown’s actions of rescuing slaves by arming them after his raid on US armory. The raid on the US armory sparked huge fights in the streets. The street fight compelled the US troops to counterattack to restore peace in the streets. The paper elucidates that John Brown’s raid sparked the civil war.

John Brown’s Life

John Brown was a Yankee boy who worked on farms (Horwitz 23). Brown attempted to run a business, but failed. He detested slavery and was a vocal militant abolitionist. Notably, Brown championed for the end of slavery and was ready to offer assistance to the mistreated minorities in the United States. Horwitz argues that the “US constitution safeguarded the slavery” (14). Brown believed that the struggle to end the slavery was a fulfillment of the destiny of his forebears who advocated for Puritan, as well as the Revolutionary War (Horwitz 16). Horwitz presents Brown as a person who embraced radical ideologies during the slavery era. Brown’s quest to end the slavery in the United States was complemented by key persons such as Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and the Transcendentalists (Horwitz 119). In essence, Brown’s dissatisfaction with the slavery prompted him to raid the US armory and arm the slaves to fight for their freedom. However, John Brown did not succeed in his revolt.

Author’s Use of Resources

Tony Horwitz has used resources comprehensively to present events that instigated the Civil War. Notably, the author has incorporated episodes of the events surrounding Brown’s family and foot soldiers during the war. In addition, Horwitz has included sketches of the financiers of the war, admirers, as well as prosecutors in detailed book. Horwitz argues that prosecutors presided over the cases of insurgents (202). Through reading the book, the audience realizes that the author has presented a vivid account of the events that unfolded during the war. Consequently, the readers can connect Brown’s involvement in the conflict that ensued in the United States by reading this well-researched book. Authors such as Earle and Field have echoed Horwitz sentiments. Earle Jonathan acknowledges that John Brown was responsible for sparking the civil war after raiding Harpers Ferry in his book entitled John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry: A Brief History with Documents. Earle observes that Brown embraced abolitionist’s ideologies (45). Similarly, Field argues that the raid on the US armory was futile in his book Avenging Angel-John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry 1859. Field asserts that Brown was a martyr who intended to rescue the African-Americans from the slavery (31). Thus, Field and Earle support Horwitz’s argument of John Brown’s involvement in sparking the Civil War.


Horwitz has succeeded in showing that John Brown raid on the US armory sparked the Civil War. Horwitz has presented vivid information regarding the radical ideologies that Brown embraced together with Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and the Transcendentalists (3). The events in the book confirm that Brown instigated a failed revolt that compelled US military to counterattack. The events that followed plunged the United States into chaos. Therefore, Horwitz has presented comprehensive information to associate John Brown with the commencement of the Civil War.


Horwitz has managed to convince the audience that John Brown played a key role in organizing a failed revolt that intended to rescue African-Americans from the slavery. Through vivid description of the unfolding of events, the author has shown that Brown attacked US armory to obtain arms to empower the slaves. However, the revolt did not succeed. The reading of the monogram gives insight into the historical events of the Civil War. The audience who intend to understand the events that happened during the Civil War and slavery era should read this book.

Works Cited

Earle, Jonathan. John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry: A Brief History with Documents, London: Bedford, 2008. Print.

Field, Ron. Avenging Angel John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry 1859, New York: Osprey Publishing, 2012. Print.

Horwitz, Tony. Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War, New York: Large Print Press, 2012. Print.

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