Last night I did a presentation on John Brown for the Rocky Mountain Civil War Roundtable as part of our series on the causes of the war. I was a little nervous at first that it wouldn't go as smoothly as I'd want. Unlike other presentations I just didn't feel like a Brown expert. I've read some books and hit the internet but I didn't feel 100% confident that I knew it all. But it turned out well. I thought it was a little short, just under an hour when other presentations lately seem to hit 90 minutes, but the few people I talked to about that issue were kinda glad that it was an hour long. Later I realized there was one fact I left out of the presentation but it was a minor piece of the battle of Black Jack so it was not a big deal.
My presentation focused on Bleeding Kansas and Harper's Ferry. For Bleeding Kansas it boiled down to Pottawatomie and Black Jack. I also did brief segments on his life before 1855 and the Secret Six who gave him the financial backing to do what he did those last 4 years of his life. I was a little disappointed in the resources in general because there were questions that were never really answered. I could never get a good number of how many men Brown fought against at Black Jack. One source said he faced 29 to 750 odds, others just said he was outnumbered. How could he win a battle facing those odds, plus capture 25 men? I think he faced odds of 29 to 40-50 and a dozen or so deserted during the fighting. I could never get a handle on whether he was a good business man with bad luck or a bad business man. Some said he was a failure at everything he tried, but others said he suffered as much as others from the various financial panics that hit the country, but that when the country went well so did Brown. It seemed that Brown gets a new biography every year or so, I bet he ranks up there with Lee and Lincoln as the most written about Civil War era personalities. That's a help and a hindrance because some of those books are pure garbage, or offer very little new to the topic.
And because I can't do a post without sharing some pictures, here are some pictures of Harper's Ferry. I have not been to Black Jack (add it to my to do list) so this is all I can share right now. If you click on the first picture you will be able to read the labels I have added to the picture. It points out where John Brown's Fort was in 1859 and where it is now. Unless you have really great vision you probably cannot read it on this page but if you click on it a larger version will load and you should have no problem.