THE RAID by Laurence Greene


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In this fairly unorthodox historical account of Harpers Ferry and John Brown, Mr. Greene is at times impertinent and scolding- but always interesting. Like Steinbeck, he conceives of a town as a human being with a nervous system, head, shoulders and feet. This is his approach to Harpers Ferry, a town with a propensity for violence. He pays some attention to the town's history; its Indians, its Dutch and German antecedents, its founder in 1747- a Tory architect named Robert Harper, its water, its iron. When the federal government established an armory and arsenal there, when it became a ferrying point on the highway to the West, when a railroad was built there in 1834, an impetus was given to trouble. Harpers Ferry was made and destroyed by the same thing- its physical location. Soon the messianic, intrepid abolitionist John Brown arrived with his plan for a mad raid- to hit the arsenal at night, arouse the Negroes, arm them and then retreat into the hills. It was, in effect, a plan to attack the federal government, but to Brown, a Jehovah, slavery was an evil and this was his way of meeting the problem. Chaos and many deaths resulted. Brown was charged with treason, conspiracy and murder, and was hung... A well-documented, and unusual treatment of the man and the place- and of the dreadful effects of violence.

Publisher: Henry Holt