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Midnight Rising : John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War
by Tony Horwitz


Overview -

A "New York Times" Notable Book for 2011
A "Library Journal "Top Ten Best Books of 2011
A "Boston Globe" Best Nonfiction Book of 2011

Bestselling author Tony Horwitz tells the electrifying tale of the daring insurrection that put America on the path to bloody war

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S.  Read more...


 
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More About Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz
 
 
 
Overview

A "New York Times" Notable Book for 2011
A "Library Journal "Top Ten Best Books of 2011
A "Boston Globe" Best Nonfiction Book of 2011

Bestselling author Tony Horwitz tells the electrifying tale of the daring insurrection that put America on the path to bloody war

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, "Midnight Rising "portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict.

Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale."

Tony Horwitz's riveting book travels antebellum America to deliver both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a nation divided a time that still resonates in ours."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780805091533
  • ISBN-10: 080509153X
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
  • Publish Date: October 2011
  • Page Count: 365
  • Dimensions: 1.25 x 6.25 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.45 pounds


Related Categories

Books > History > United States - Civil War

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2011-08-08
  • Reviewer: Staff

In this engrossing history of John Brown’s 1859 slave-liberation raid on the Harper’s Ferry, Va., arsenal, bestselling author Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic) concentrates on action set against deftly sketched historical background and compelling characters rendered without overdone psychologizing. His vivid biographical portrait of Brown gives us an American original: a failed businessman and harsh Calvinist with a soft spot for the oppressed and a murderous animus against oppressors (even if sometimes, as at Pottawatomie Creek in Kansas, his victims were unarmed). Brown’s raiders—a motley crew of his sons and various idealists, adventurers, freedmen, and fugitive slaves—come alive as a romantic, appealing bunch; their agonizing deaths give Horwitz’s excellent narrative of the raid and shootout a deep pathos. The author’s shrewd interpretation of Brown (similar to that of other scholars) makes him America’s great propagandist of his deed; after the raid ended in fiasco, he used his eloquent trial statements to transform himself in the public eye from madman and desperado to martyr and prophet—and a symbol who hardened both Northern and Southern militancy. But Horwitz smartly gives priority to the deeds themselves in this dramatic saga of an American white man who acted, rather than just talked, as if ending slavery mattered. 35 illus.; 2 maps. (Oct.)

 
BookPage Reviews

The conscience of a nation

In the service of economy, student texts on Civil War history usually sum up John Brown’s famous October 16, 1859, abolitionist raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry by noting that Robert E. Lee, then a colonel commanding a modest squad of U.S. soldiers, was responsible for bringing Brown and his associates to bay. Yet as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz describes in his engrossingly detailed Midnight Rising, Brown and his ill-fated, motley band of insurrectionists were in fact thwarted thoroughly enough by the local citizenry and hastily organized militia. Lee, later to head up the Confederate Army once war broke out, did eventually arrest Brown and his surviving associates, delivering them to the Virginia authorities, who shortly thereafter tried them for treason and hanged them for their deeds.

Horwitz’s potent prose delivers the facts of this bellwether incident in riveting fashion. He also chronicles the New England-born Brown’s peripatetic existence as the nation’s leading activist freedom fighter in the cause of ending slavery, including his exploits combating pro-slavery forces in “Bleeding Kansas” on the heels of the passage of the incendiary Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The Harpers Ferry episode is center stage here in all its complexity, yet Horwitz further offers a mini-biography of the fanatical Brown, with insight into his brooding religious beliefs, his penchant for fathering children, his failures as a conventional businessman and his Spartan, gypsy-like lifestyle. It is an absorbing portrait of the often frustrated but passionately driven firebrand who successfully convinced a country of the shame of slavery and, to the South’s great regret, earned martyr status in the aftermath of his execution.

Brown qualifies as America’s first important post-revolution terrorist—marshaling resources from many places, expecting unquestioning allegiance from his followers, successfully maintaining an underground existence—yet his legally ignoble actions, while responsible for death and destruction, also pointed the inevitable way for a conflicted nation destined to tread the path of hard-won righteousness and morality. Horwitz brings events to life with almost cinematic clarity, and for American history and Civil War aficionados, Midnight Rising is required reading.

 
BAM Customer Reviews