Lincoln’s Election, Southern Secession: 1860 to April 1861

John Brown’s Failure

Was there any chance that John Brown’s raid could blow over and everyone forget about it?

Virtually none. The alarm went out so fast, and so many people were alerted, that it seemed—to the slaveholders of Virginia at least—that the day of judgment had come. When they learned that God’s wrath was really represented by a rather old man and twenty-odd accomplices—many of whom were now dead—the desire for retribution made itself felt. Newspapers of the North and the South alike sensationalized the episode; the New York Times carried “Servile Insurrection” and “General Stampede of Slaves” on its title column. The nation was thoroughly alarmed.

Brown spent the next few days in a lock-up surrounded by dozens of Virginia militiamen. There was a general fear that a rescue attempt would be made, perhaps by some misguided abolitionists.


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