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Viewed in isolation, John Brown's 1859 raid at Harper's Ferry was a small-scale operation doomed to fail. When approached about aiding Brown and his twenty recruits, Frederick Douglass adamantly refused, telling the zealot abolitionist that he was leading his men on a suicide mission. It did fail; all but a few of the anti-slavery "soldiers" were killed or captured; seven, including Brown, were executed. Even fellow abolitionists called the assault on the federal arsenal "misguided, wild, and apparently insane," but as Tony Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic; A Voyage Long and Strange) demonstrates decisively in this new book, it served as the lightning strike that insured the election of Abraham Lincoln and soon thereafter ignited the Civil War. By presenting this wrong-headed attack in the context of its time, Horwitz shows that even small events can start momentous domino falls in history. A dramatic, extensively illustrated narrative.