Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

by Tony Horwitz
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Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz

Bestselling author Tony Horwitz tells the electrifying tale of the daring insurrection that put America on the path to bloody war

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict.

Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale."

Tony Horwitz's riveting book travels antebellum America to deliver both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a nation divided—a time that still resonates in ours.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805091533
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/25/2011
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 748,631
Product dimensions: 6.46(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.27(d)
Lexile: 1200L (what's this?)

About the Author

Tony Horwitz is the bestselling author of Confederates in the Attic, A Voyage Long and Strange, Blue Latitudes, and Baghdad without a Map. He is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. He lives in Martha's Vineyard with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their two sons.


Waterford, Virginia

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A., Brown University; M.A., Columbia University School of Journalism

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Midnight Rising 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For someone who has grown up in Pennsylvania, close to Gettysburg, and has visited numerous Civil War battlefields, a visit to Harper's Ferry seemed like a waste of time. Wow was I wrong. After having visited the small yet historically important town a number of times, I was drawn toward this book as soon as it was released. How did the stars align for this one man with some family and friends to take over the U.S. Armory and thus stoke the fire that would shortly thereafter lead to the Civil War? John Brown does not get much attention in the history books and when he does, he is portrayed as an eccentric and lunatic. Yet what is rarely spoken of is that in the end of the day, he realized what America would come to realize. There would be no bloodless cease to slavery like in Britain, only a great struggle amongst brothers could ultimately destroy this wicked institution. No one really took the time to dig deep into his life and plot the points that led to his ultimate demise in 1859...until now. Mr. Horwitz does a phenomenal job of painting the picture of this deeply spiritual (Puritan and Calvinist leaning) man who ultimately become possessed by a mission, a mission to bring about the end of the great evil of American slavery. While misguided in implementation, his anger and cause were just. Having read this book, you will gain a new appreciation for what happened that fateful night in 1859 and how it was the impetus for southern succession and the Civil War which followed in 1861. Thank you Mr. Horwitz for reclaiming an oft forgotten, under-appreciated and misunderstand piece of American history. With it, we can now better understand this vitally significant time period in our nation's history.
civiwarlibrarian More than 1 year ago
A noted black historian looked back on the historiography concerning John Brown's life, his murders, his kidnappings, his armed insurrection and his execution for treason against the state of Virginia. He noted that many historians concluded that Brown was insane and an impractical, if not a stupid, terrorist. What makes Brown impossible to understand, the historian noted, is also what makes Brown understandable to blacks. Brown was willing to risk his life and was willing to die to set blacks free from slavery. For John Brown, slavery was a war against blacks and it was a war that started along time before Brown himself was born. Since the 1980s John Brown has become understandable. Stephen Oates' To Purge This Land With Blood and David S. Reynolds' John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights have reignited interest in Brown's life of violence. Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising: John Brown And The Raid That Sparked The Civil War describes John Brown as expanding his sense of self from childhood through his execution and his death. Indeed, Horwitz finds suspense in Brown's wrestling, and at times failing, to become a successful family man, a prosperous businessman, an industrious community member and an accepted authority in a faith community. John Brown cannot be understood without the context of America from 1800 to 1860, an era when multiple American revolutions were happening: political, industrial, transportation, religious, agricultural and economic. Brown was caught up in them all. Horwitz concisely acknowledges the state of the Union during these decades and recognizes the national trends that are causing havoc in Brown's life. During the morning of Decemeber 2 1859John Brown wrote the following message: 'I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had as I now think, vainly flattered myself, that without very much bloodshed, it might be done.' Brown was hanged that day and a year later, South Carolina was in the midst of seceding from the Union. Much like the December 2 note, Horwitz shows Brown evolving into the role of a public martyr. Smoothly written, well paced and at times dramatic, Horwitz takes Brown seriously as a man who wrestles with his own failures and the failures of his nation. The author does not over dramatize the story. The characters around Brown are unique and engaging without a writer's help. Thankfully Horowitz avoids bringing forth into his John Brown story such currents events as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Such remarks have marred the Emory Thomas¿ 'Dogs of War' and have already dated Louis P. Masur's 'A Concise History of the Civil War'. Readers of David Reynolds¿ 'John Brown' and Stephen Oates' 'To Purge This Land With Blood' are encouraged to return to Horwitz¿s John Brown. Like Reynolds and Oates, Horwitz offers an engaging, multi-dimensional and compelling biography of a puzzling character who makes trouble for nearly all readers. Those familiar with Horwitz's 'Confederates in the Attic' will find a character who would not have believed that the Civil War started on April 12 1861, but had started many decades before.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
Painstakingly researched, Midnight Rising is Tony Horowitz's account of John Brown and the raid at Harper's Ferry. Militarily, this was a small operation, but most people have heard of it. What makes it so important? Horowitz explains the country's environment and ambiance at the time which made this such an explosive event. Tensions ran high in the country. The Abolitionists were convinced that slavery was an abomination; one that there was no action too desperate to try to eradicate. Those who owned slaves were convinced that without slavery their entire economic world would collapse. As always, when there are two such diametrically opposed viewpoints, tensions ran high and extremists on both sides were willing to take drastic actions to further their beliefs. Horowitz examines the life and philosophy of John Brown, a figure that most recognize but few know much about. He covers Brown's early life and his start as an Abolitionist vigilant in Kansas, the place that gave him his reputation as a bloody yet effective leader. A staunch Abolitionist, he was willing to sacrifice his livelihood, his family and the lives of others as well as his own to further his beliefs. The result of Harper's Ferry, which stunned the nation, was to move the country even closer to the brink of the Civil War. Tony Horowitz has had a fascination with the Civil War. His earlier book, Confederates in the Attic, explored this topic, and Midnight Rising continues this exploration. His writing style is fluid and entertaining and the reader is educated without feeling that he is lectured to. This book is recommended for history readers and those interested in the Civil War and the events leading up to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! What a read. Extremely well written. I could not put it down. Each page carried me through this history that I never new anything about. Mr. Horwitz is a fine author and made this part of our American history very interesting and exciting. John Brown definately had an agenda and the entire story was a really great read. This one is a keeper and to be read again. I read it to my husband and he was very enthralled with the book.
Zor-El More than 1 year ago
Most people that have a decent knowledge of American History have heard of John Brown but most don't know the real John Brown. This was a great book which I highly recommend to anyone that has a passing interest in the civil war era. Very readable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I attended an event in Lawrence, KS about this book. Tony spoke about it and really got me excited to read it. After purchasing I quickly read and enjoyed it. Great research, a well thought-out book, and has raised my interest in other Civil War books. Highly recommend. Cheers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A thorough and fascinating look at the catalyst for the Civil War
Mister26-2 More than 1 year ago
Very informative and well written. 2 thumbs up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh my, I am so excited about this read, I am going to read every thing I can find about Mr Brown and Harpers Ferry
pk868 More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed reading this book and was impressed with the research by the author. I recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in the details of what occurred and the impact on this country
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Sorry guys, book two is actually at 'time winter'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Recommend for serious civil war buffs only. skillfully recounts the events but unfortunately, casts John Brown in a heroic manner. It is especially upsetting when he compares Brown's violent treason with the peaceful succession of southern states. Perhaps, the author is now writing a book extolling the noble heroism of Osama Bin Laden.