I became briefly fascinated with John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry a couple days ago. Here are the two major facts that I pulled from my 24 hours of intense research:
1. John Brown was using a magic sword. No joke. The first thing he did was kidnap George Washington’s great-grandnephew and steal a sword that Frederick the Great had given to Washington. He wore the sword all through the attack and nobody knows where it is today. Also, though they all had gunpowder, basically none of the people on either side of the fight had bullets. Most of the wounds were inflicted with swords or muskets loaded with nails. So it was a useful sword, is what I’m saying.
2. Everybody always wonders if protest actions work. Well, let me point you to this map:
As you can see, Harper’s Ferry marks the exact point where Virginia turned to West Virginia.
I’ll restate that for you if you are no student of history: Virginia was a slave state. It split in half, into slave and free. At this exact point. If you look at the wiki page, you’ll see that the split happened about a year and a half after John Brown’s raid.
Politics is some complicated stuff, and history is like trying to understand all of politics at the same time. But if a man plants a seed, and you come back in a year or two and a tree is growing there, you can be reasonably sure that man made a difference.