Dr. Brandon Beck continued his presentation to the Dragoons for their September 11, 2014 camp meeting on Robert E. Lee and John Brown's Raid at Harper's Ferry. It was on October 16, 1859 that Brown conducted his raid on Harper's Ferry situated at the juncture of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers seeking control of the musket factory and arsenals there. Brown was an abolitionist terrorist with bleeding Kansas blood on his hands and New England abolitionist money funding his actions. Brown and 21 armed men seized the arsenal, killed three townspeople, took 14 hostages and stopped the train running thru the town. Brown had grandiose plans for his raid, hoping it would initiate a widespread slave insurrection, the destruction of the U.S. Constitution and rid the country of the blight of slavery. Brown expected hoards of slaves to come to Harper's ferry from adjacent counties and sought to gather weapons to arm them. He brought a new constitution with him and wanted to start a new country of freed slaves.
The President of the Winchester and Potomac Railroad contacted U.S. President Buchanan about Brown seizing his railcars and Buchanan ordered troops to Harper's Ferry, Marines under Lt. Isaac Greene to control the militias who were rushing in to suppress the uprising. Lee was put over all command and J.E.B. Stuart assisted Lee taking orders to the field, their first association that led to Stuart serving under Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia during the WBTS. Brown barricaded himself with his men in the Engine House of the Musket Factory and militia surrounded the building. Lee took control of the operation, blocking all roads into Harper's Ferry and surrounding the Engine House. Lee waited until 2am on the morning of October 18th when he sent Stuart to the door of the Engine House with a white flag demanding an immediate surrender. If and when Stuart received word that they declined the offer to surrender, he was to remove his hat and Lee's Marines, poised to charge would storm the building. Only one marine was killed in the ensuing skirmish and in the blink of an eye it was over with all the hostages freed. One writer said that it was all over in fifteen minutes, all over but the dying (referring to the massive casualties of the ensuing War for Southern Independence). John Brown himself was badly injured and was charged with treason and after a trial he himself deemed fair, was declared guilty and on December 2nd was hung in Charleston SC.
Harper's Ferry changed Lee's life. Militias were formed all over the South, preparing for the worst as Northern newspapers made John Brown a martyr and a poster child for the radical wing of the Republican party. Lee returned to Texas still serving in the U.S. Army. Lincoln was elected on November 6, 1860 and SC seceded on November 21st followed by the states all across the Southland in 1861.