John Brown left an indelible mark on American history. His so-called raid at Harpers Ferry resulted in both reverence and revulsion. When Brown and his small, integrated army of twenty-one men invaded Harpers Ferry and took over the federal armory, arsenal, and rifle factory, it was the fulfillment of a pledge to God to increase hostility toward slavery. It was an attempt to disrupt the security of investing in slaves as property. It was treason, murder, and insurrection. John Brown's raid was also a turning point in American history, away from compromise and toward war.
Far more than a small fight on the border of Virginia (now West Virginia) and Maryland, John Brown's raid covered many miles and involved more than a thousand people. Today, a complete tour of key sites in this story would span several hundred miles in four states and the District of Columbia. The reaction of individuals, local, state, and national governments played out on horseback, train, and telegraph, from family firesides to the office of the President of the United States.