To Purge This Land with Blood: A Biography of John Brown

To Purge This Land with Blood: A Biography of John Brown

by Stephen B. Oates

One hundred thirty-five years after his epochal Harpers Ferry raid to free the slaves, John Brown is still one of the most controversial figures in American history.

The book is now back in print in an updated edition with a new prologue by the author.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 4.01
  • Pages: 448
  • Publish Date: September 17th 1984 by University of Massachusetts Press
  • Isbn10: 0870234587
  • Isbn13: 9780870234583

Read the Book "To Purge This Land with Blood: A Biography of John Brown" Online

I recently became interested in John Brown, the man, after doing a section hike of the Appalachian trail, and passing through Harper's Ferry - site of his raid which helped to precipitate the Civil War. I wanted a thorough, yet balanced biography, one that does more than simply uphold commonly held caricatures.

U.S. Highway 75 runs from just south of Winnipeg all the way to Dallas, bisecting the continental United States at the eastern emerald edge of the Great Plains. Five men, angry Southerners, "Border Ruffians" committed to the cause of slavery in these United States, men who were committed to violence themselves were hacked to death by abolitionists armed with machetes. His commands were the ones that mattered in what became known as "the Pottawatomie murders." I knew nothing of that story and nothing of John Brown ever having been in Kansas, nothing of "Bleeding Kansas," a series of conflicts many mark as the real beginning of the War between the States. What I also knew from talking with her is that she was herself greatly taken with the abolitionists, most of whom, like John Brown, were profoundly religious. But the nature of the conflict in the heart and soul of the story of John Brown remains the heart and soul of the conflicts in this country today, a country, most say, as divided in spirit and temper and character as it has been any time since the Civil War. Religion not only continues to play a role in our lives, it often still determines behavior. Was John Brown hideously insane or, as he himself determined, someone identifiably chosen by God to destroy the sinful, hideous American institution of slavery? The life and times of John Brown is a story I'm glad to know better--righteous anger creating bloody violence. If you'd like to know more about John Brown, start with Stephen Oates' nearly fifty-year old abundantly researched biography.

At a time when even most abolitionists were strident racists, wanting nothing so much as to send blacks "back" to Africa, John Brown took seriously the biblical injunction that all men are brothers, as well as the language of the Declaration that "all men are created equal." To Brown slavery was indefensible, not just because it denied the freedom which is the right of every man, each equally created an image of God, but also because the institution corrupted the soul of both the slave and the slaveholder. Oates biography does not gloss over Brown's failings or his megalomania, but still conveys the powerful presence of a man who was able to convince twenty others to join him on a doomed assault to liberate slaves.

Oates also looks at the Harpers Ferry raid, concluding that, while it was not the most immediate cause of the Civil War (which was Lincolns election) it did lead to widespread fears of slave uprisings in the South and to supposed northern efforts to stir them up.

I first read about John Brown in 5th grade. John Brown knew it too.

Interesting bio on John Brown, perhaps the igniter of the Civil War. This book goes into great depth about his network of supporters. Brown sought out key leaders across the board in the North.

He was accused of plagiarism in his biography of Abraham Lincoln, but may have been later cleared by the University of Massachusetts and the American Historical Association.