America in the 1850s

John Brown and Harpers Ferry

What was so important about Harpers Ferry?

In the first few years of the nation’s history, President George Washington spoke with Secretary of War Henry Knox about the need for an independent arms establishment. To that point, all of America’s rifles and muskets had either been made by private contractors or had been imported from overseas. Determined to change this state of affairs, Washington and Knox decided upon Springfield, Massachusetts, and Harpers Ferry, Virginia, as the places for the new federal arsenals.

U.S. Marines surround Brown and his men at Harpers Ferry in this illustration from Harper’s Weekly magazine.


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