Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, Tony Horwitz, Henry Holt and Company, 384 pp, notes, illustrations, appendices, bibliography, index, $29.00. Release date: October 25, 2011.
Others have noted that John Brown and his raiders are the stone in the shoe of historians. On October 18, 1859,thirty-six hours after launching 'the great work of of my life' he sat with two dead sons and a saber slash on his skull. Captured in the fire engine house of the U.S. Arsenal at Harpers Ferry Virginia, Brown was interogated by future CSA general Governor Henry Wise. "He is a fanatic, but firm, and truthful, and intelligent," Wise told a newspaper correspondent. Virginian and ardent secessionist Edmund Ruffin described Brown as he stood for 15 minutes on his gallows' trapdoor, hooded and a noose around his neck. "He seems to me to have had few equals." Thomas Jackson saw Brown behave "with unflinching firmness." In the past 150 years, in the eyes of others Brown has been viewed as inept, unrealistic, insane, saintly and a willing martyr.
Regarding Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising: John Brown Ant the Raid That Sparked The Civil War, Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts states "There’s a brilliance to this book that put me in mind of Truman Capote'sIn Cold Blood, only Horwitz’s Midnight Rising is set deeper in America’s dark past. With stunning, vivid detail, he has captured the sheer drama and tragedy of John Brown and that bloody raid at Harpers Ferry that helped propel America toward civil war."
Other notable historians are enthusiastic about Midnight Rising. "Tony Horwitz's gifts as a vivid narrator of dramatic events are on full display in this story of John Brown's wars in Kansas and his climactic Harpers Ferry raid in 1859. Brown's family and the men who joined him in these fights against slavery receive a more fully rounded treatment than in any other account. Of special note is the discussion of Brown's self-conscious emulation of Samson by pulling down the temple of bondage and dying a martyr in its ruins" states James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom.
"With his customary blend of rich archival research, on-location color, and lyrical prose, Tony Horwitz has delivered a John Brown book for our time. Part biography, part historical narrative, Midnight Rising is a riveting re-creation of the Harpers Ferry raid, told with an unblinking sense of Brown's tragic place in American history. Writing with enveloping detail and a storyteller's verve, Horwitz shows why Brown was—and still is—so troubling and important to our culture" recommends David W. Blight, author of American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era.
"Beautifully written and sparkling with fresh insights, Midnight Rising resurrects the multiple faces of John Brown: avenging angel or murderous terrorist; slavery's nemesis or deluded fanatic; abolitionist hero or subversive insurrectionist. In this thrilling, magnificent and essential book, Tony Horwitz shows how one man and a single event set the nation on a doomed course where the crimes of a guilty land could only be purged by blood" reports James L. Swanson, author of Manhunt and Bloody Crimes