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Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown's Army

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Late on the evening of October 16, 1859, John Brown and his band of 18 raiders descended on Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. In an ill-fated attempt to incite a slave insurrection, they seized the federal arsenal, took hostages and retreated to a fire engine house where they barricaded themselves until a contingent of US Marines battere Late on the evening of October 16, 1859, John Brown and his band of 18 raiders descended on Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. In an ill-fated attempt to incite a slave insurrection, they seized the federal arsenal, took hostages and retreated to a fire engine house where they barricaded themselves until a contingent of US Marines battered their way in on October 18. The raiders were routed, and several were captured. Soon after, they were tried, convicted and hanged. Among Brown’s raiders were five African Americans whose lives and deaths have long been overshadowed by their martyred leader and, even today, are little remembered. Two—John Copeland and Shields Green—were executed. Two others—Dangerfield Newby and Lewis Leary—died at the scene. Newby, the first to go, was shot in the neck, then dismembered by townspeople and left for the hogs. He was trying to liberate his enslaved wife and children. Of the five, only Osborne Perry Anderson escaped and lived to publish the lone insider account of the event that, most historians agree, was a catalyst to the catastrophic Civil War that followed over the country’s original sin of slavery. Five for Freedom is the story of these five brave men, the circumstances in which they were born and how they came together at this time and place, grew to manhood and died. Their lives and deaths affected future generations, not just of their descendants, but of us all. It is a story that continues to resonate in the present.


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Late on the evening of October 16, 1859, John Brown and his band of 18 raiders descended on Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. In an ill-fated attempt to incite a slave insurrection, they seized the federal arsenal, took hostages and retreated to a fire engine house where they barricaded themselves until a contingent of US Marines battere Late on the evening of October 16, 1859, John Brown and his band of 18 raiders descended on Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. In an ill-fated attempt to incite a slave insurrection, they seized the federal arsenal, took hostages and retreated to a fire engine house where they barricaded themselves until a contingent of US Marines battered their way in on October 18. The raiders were routed, and several were captured. Soon after, they were tried, convicted and hanged. Among Brown’s raiders were five African Americans whose lives and deaths have long been overshadowed by their martyred leader and, even today, are little remembered. Two—John Copeland and Shields Green—were executed. Two others—Dangerfield Newby and Lewis Leary—died at the scene. Newby, the first to go, was shot in the neck, then dismembered by townspeople and left for the hogs. He was trying to liberate his enslaved wife and children. Of the five, only Osborne Perry Anderson escaped and lived to publish the lone insider account of the event that, most historians agree, was a catalyst to the catastrophic Civil War that followed over the country’s original sin of slavery. Five for Freedom is the story of these five brave men, the circumstances in which they were born and how they came together at this time and place, grew to manhood and died. Their lives and deaths affected future generations, not just of their descendants, but of us all. It is a story that continues to resonate in the present.

50 review for Five for Freedom: The African American Soldiers in John Brown's Army

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rick Hollis

    I lived near Harper's Ferry for a good part of my life. I can see the shape of the mountains where the Potomac and the Shenandoah cut through, when I close my eyes. I have even read good bit about the Civil War and the events leading up to. The fact that there were 5 free African American men who accompanied Brown on his raid. It will not give anything away to mention that 2 died during the raid, 2 were hung, and one escaped. The second half of this book follows these men's families and the history I lived near Harper's Ferry for a good part of my life. I can see the shape of the mountains where the Potomac and the Shenandoah cut through, when I close my eyes. I have even read good bit about the Civil War and the events leading up to. The fact that there were 5 free African American men who accompanied Brown on his raid. It will not give anything away to mention that 2 died during the raid, 2 were hung, and one escaped. The second half of this book follows these men's families and the history of the raid up until the present time. This part drags. There was another African American man, an employee of the railroad, who was the first person killed during the raid. The South considered him a hero.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Stoddard

    Generally presented as the work of a madman gone off half-cocked, John Brown's Raid had far more depth and breadth. Eugene Meyer is a seasoned researcher and expert story-teller, and he uncovers a richness to a portion of the little band of emancipators not even presented when the press of the time was fascinated by the attack. Meyer puts flesh and bones on five of the raiders who were ignored at the time and then covered over by history. These were men with families, with wives and children yea Generally presented as the work of a madman gone off half-cocked, John Brown's Raid had far more depth and breadth. Eugene Meyer is a seasoned researcher and expert story-teller, and he uncovers a richness to a portion of the little band of emancipators not even presented when the press of the time was fascinated by the attack. Meyer puts flesh and bones on five of the raiders who were ignored at the time and then covered over by history. These were men with families, with wives and children yearning to breathe free. Could any of us have done less for persons we loved? And, as Meyer also rightly explains, Brown's Raid was more than a mere swoop down from the surrounding hills. Rather it fermented in Northeast Ohio – generally around Oberlin College – and Ontario. You'll never think of John Brown's Raid the same way again.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erica Brody

    Compelling account of five men who deserve to be remembered in the fight for civil rights.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Akpojivi

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nhat Doan

  6. 4 out of 5

    Khadar

  7. 5 out of 5

    Iman Bluhm

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan Rosenblum

    A new look at John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, the parts of history that are often overlooked, such as the disastrous story of the the Kansas-Nebraska act and the Bloody Wars as people in favor of extending slavery to Kansas fought with those who opposed it. John Brown was supported by five African Americans who each had a different reason for supporting his almost futile battle, which survived as a symbol of courage and determination to end slavery by war if not by peaceful means. Meyer had A new look at John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, the parts of history that are often overlooked, such as the disastrous story of the the Kansas-Nebraska act and the Bloody Wars as people in favor of extending slavery to Kansas fought with those who opposed it. John Brown was supported by five African Americans who each had a different reason for supporting his almost futile battle, which survived as a symbol of courage and determination to end slavery by war if not by peaceful means. Meyer had done a beautiful job of reporting on their individual stories in the context of the other events which transpired during the pre-Civil War struggle.

  9. 5 out of 5

    gnarlyhiker

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary Donovan

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alan Mauerman

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chris Munster

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lissa

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  15. 5 out of 5

    Shvan M. Sharif

  16. 4 out of 5

    Natalia HA

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stacie C

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vilia

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  20. 5 out of 5

    Asim Wakash

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

  22. 5 out of 5

    BMR, MSW, LSW

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

  25. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fleet Sparrow

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Heare Watts

  29. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

  31. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Buxton

  32. 4 out of 5

    Melly Mel

  33. 4 out of 5

    Debee Sue

  34. 5 out of 5

    Kara Lauren

  35. 4 out of 5

    Tenesha

  36. 4 out of 5

    Korie Beth

  37. 4 out of 5

    Sonia

  38. 5 out of 5

    Becky Lynn

  39. 5 out of 5

    Douglass Abramson

  40. 5 out of 5

    Alexandria

  41. 4 out of 5

    Wanda C

  42. 5 out of 5

    Haris Mohammad

  43. 4 out of 5

    Taintedrose76 Christina

  44. 5 out of 5

    Kim Myers

  45. 4 out of 5

    Rita Dickinson

  46. 4 out of 5

    Brooke

  47. 5 out of 5

    Charissa Rate

  48. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Nixon

  49. 5 out of 5

    C

  50. 5 out of 5

    Carla

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