My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Yes, most of us know that John Brown’s body is a-mouldering the grave, and that he besieged the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry and died for his abolitionist activism. But I, for one, knew little else about him until reading Midnight Rising. Tony Horwitz takes his readers through Brown’s life, passing quickly through his early phases before concentrating on his life as a freedom fighter. John Brown was a truly extraordinary man. He told people that he didn’t ever experience fear, and I believe that, but that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that he performed some amazingly courageous acts. Horwitz covers Brown’s enterprises in detail, beginning with his work in Kansas during the fight over whether the territory should become a slave or free slate, and ending with his ultimate execution several years later. The aftermath of his raid and his execution is also thoroughly examined.
What was most surprising was learning that Brown was capable of cold-blooded murder if he believed that it would further his cause. He was willing to sacrifice not just his own life, but those of his followers and even his own sons. Was he psychologically disordered, as many of his contemporaries believed? Possibly, perhaps even probably. Whether or not he was sane, read this book and you’ll never doubt the significance of his life and death. John Brown truly mattered, and made an inestimable contribution to the cause of human freedom.