Skip to Main Content

Harpers Ferry: Topics in Chronicling America

A guide for researching the topic of abolitionist John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


Map of Harper's Ferry. October 20, 1859. The Daily Exchange (Baltimore, Maryland), Image 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

John Brown and his “army” raided the Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry in an attempt to create a slave uprising. Instead they were defeated, many of Brown’s followers were killed, and Brown and six of his men were captured. Brown would hang for treason, becoming a martyr figure for the abolition movement. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


October 16-18, 1859 John Brown and his "army" take control of the U.S. Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry.
October 18, 1859 Marines led by Robert E. Lee storm the Armory and capture Brown and 6 of his men.
November 2, 1859 Brown is found guilty of murder and treason and is sentenced to death.
December 2, 1859 Brown is executed by hanging.