Marines storming the Engine House (Harper's Weekly, Nov. 1859)
May 1800 John Brown is born in Torrington, Connecticut.
1812 While in Michigan, John Brown lodges with a slave-owning man. Brown's memory of seeing the man beat his slave with a shovel inspires his hatred of slavery.
June 21, 1820 Brown marries Dianthe Lusk. His wife will bear five children, but the birth of the last child causes her death in 1832.
August 31, 1831 Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Virginia that results in the deaths of fifty-five white plantation residents and hundreds of blacks. (Turner is captured and hanged with sixteen of his cohorts two months later.) Turner's rebellion shocks the South and influences Brown's planning for his later attack at Harper's Ferry.
June 14, 1833 Brown weds the stable and stoical Mary Day, who is only sixteen at the time. Mary will give Brown thirteen more children. Only four of Mary's children will outlive her.
January 1836 Brown moves to central Ohio. Although beset with economic difficulties, Brown establishes important connections in Ohio's abolitionist network. His life's work begins to come into focus as he becomes a stationmaster of the Underground Railroad and gives speeches in support of repeal of state laws discriminating against blacks.
Summer 1837 Brown is expelled from his church for escorting blacks to pews reserved for white parishioners.
November 7, 1837 Anti-slavery minister and editor Elijah Lovejoy, who editorialized against the lynching of a black, is killed when a mob of angry whites storm his printing press in Alton, Illinois. The murder of Lovejoy further radicalizes John Brown, and he vows during a memorial service to end slavery.
Summer 1839 Brown begins to consider a plan to lead a slave revolt.
September 28, 1842 Brown is adjudged bankrupt by a federal court. He and his family is left only with the bare essentials necessary to survive.
March 1846 John Brown and two of his sons move to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he runs a wool distribution center.
November 1847 Black abolitionist leader Frederick Douglas visits the Brown home, where Brown lays out his plan to lead a group of men on raids of slave-holding southern plantations, followed by retreats into the mountains.
Spring 1849 Brown moves to a farm in North Elba, N. Y., near Lake Placid. North Elba is perhaps the first American community where blacks and whites live together on generally equal terms.
1849-1851 Brown begins to focus on Harper's Ferry as the site of his attack, drawing sketches of log forts that he intended to build in the mountains surrounding the town.
1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act puts the decision of whether or not to allow slavery in the new territories into the hands of the settlers in those terrorities.
June 28, 1855 At a convention of Radical Political Abolitionists, including Frederick Douglas, Gerrit Smith, and Lewis Tappan, Brown held raise money for the Free State settlers of Kansas.
October 7, 1855 John Brown and his party arrive in Brown's Station, Kansas. A state of near anarchy exists in Kansas, after border ruffians from Missouri perpetuate voter fraud and organize a bogus legislature in Shawnee Mission that enacts draconian pro-slavery laws. A competing Free State constitution is presented in Topeka and ratified by settlers opposed to slavery.
January 24, 1856 President Franklin Pierce declares the proslavery legislature legitimate.
February 22, 1856 A Northern antislavery party, the Republican Party, is formed in Pittsburgh, largely in response to news of fraud and violence of proslavery forces in Kansas.
May 21, 1856 Proslavery forces storm the antislavery center of Lawrence, Kansas, ransacking Free State printing presses and looting homes.
May 22, 1856 After delivering an antislavery speech on the floor of the United States Senate, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts is severely beaten with a cane by proslavery Senator Preston Brooke of South Carolina.
May 23, 1856 Enraged by news of the storming of Lawrence and the caning of Senator Sumner, John Brown and six other radical abolitionists arm themselves with guns and swords and leave Ottawa Creek, heading in the direction of a proslavery settlement.
May 26, 1856 Brown directs the murder of five proslavery settlers in Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas. The massacre causes southerners to misread Brown's extremism as typical of the feelings of most northern abolitionists, greatly affecting the course of subsequent events on the national stage.
September 1856 Brown leaves Kansas for the East, the month after his badly outnumbered men won a battle against proslavery forces at Osawatomie, Kansas. Brown is henceforth often referred to as "Osawatomie Brown."
January-March 1857 In Boston, Brown is introduced to important abolitionists who will provide financial and moral support for his antislavery activities. This group becomes known as the "Secret Six." Brown collects arms and hires Hugh Forbes, an experienced English military tactician, to be the drillmaster for the forces he is mustering for his planned attack at Harper's Ferry and elsewhere.
August 7, 1857 Brown arrives in Tabor, Iowa, where he and Forbes, for a period of weeks, refine the plans for an assault on slavery. He travels later to Kansas, where he finds the situation moving towards peaceful resolution, as antislavery voters become a substantial majority in the territory.
November 1857 Brown seeks recruits in Kansas for what by now is a clearly emerging plan to lead an attack on the federal arsenel in Harper's Ferry, Virginia.
February 1858 Concerned about possible arrest for his activities, Brown hides out for three weeks in the Rochester, New York home of his friend, Frederick Douglas.
April 1858 Brown proposes a new (rather utopian) constitution, based on complete equality of the races, at a convention in Chatham, Ontario. The convention elects Brown commander-in-chief, John Kagi as Secretary of War, and Richard Realf as Secretary of State.
June 1858 Brown, with Forbes now leaking information to key congressmen about Brown's plans to attack slaveholders, travels to Kansas.
December 1858 Brown and his followers invade Missouri and appropriate property and liberate slaves from two farms. Brown begins leading the slaves on an 82-day one-thousand-mile journey to freedom in Canada.
Spring 1859 Brown travels through the northeast raising money and increasing support for his cause.
June 1859 Brown leaves his home in North Elba for the last time.
July 3, 1859 Brown and three of his soldiers arrive in Harper's Ferry, Virginia to scout out the federal arsenal for his planned attack.
July 1859 Brown rents a Maryland farmhouse near Harper's Ferry from Dr. Booth Kennedy. He and various of his forces will stay at the Kennedy farm until their attack.
August 16, 1859 Brown meets secretly with Frederick Douglas at a rock quarry in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where Brown unsuccessfully tries to convince Douglas to join him at Harper's Ferry.
October 16, 1859 Brown leads 21 men on an attack on the armory at Harper's Ferry. They meet little early resistance and capture the armory. Hostages are rounded up from nearby farms. In an effort to prevent news of the attack from reaching Washington, the baggage master of an eastbound train is shot, but then the train is allowed to proceed.
October 17, 1859 With the arrival of the Baltimore & Ohio train in Washington, news of the attack at Harper's Ferry reaches officials. Local citizens begin to fire on the arsenal, effectively pinning down Brown and his men. The bridge is seized cutting off Brown's escape route, and he is forced to move with his hostages into the engine house, a small brick building in the armory.
October 18, 1859 U. S. marines, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, surround the engine house. Brown refuses to surrender and the marines storm the building. Brown and six of his men are captured. Ten of his men (including two of his sons) are killed. Brown is questioned for three hours.
October 27, 1859 After being declared fit for trial by a doctor, John Brown faces the first day of trial for murder, conspiracy, and treason in Charlestown.
October 31, 1859 The defense concludes its case, having argued that Brown killed no one and he owed no duty of loyalty to Virginia, and thus could not be guilty of treason against the state.
November 2, 1859 After 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury finds Brown guilty of conspiracy, murder, and treason. Brown in sentenced to be hanged in public on December 2.
December 1, 1859 After declining rescue attempts, Brown has a last meal with his wife.
December 2, 1859 Brown writes a final letter to his wife. Around 11:00 he is led through a crowd of 2,000 spectators and soldiers to the scaffold. He is pronounced dead at 11:50 AM. His body is later taken to North Elba for burial at the family farm.
April 12, 1861 Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumter and the Civil War begins.
December 6, 1865 The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, is ratified.