On December 19th, 1858, a white abolitionist named John Brown received news that a slave close to the Kansas-Missouri border had crossed into Kansas to plead for rescue from the impending sale of his family. Brown, an Underground Railroad agent, usually considered a raid to prevent a single sale not worthy of the dangerous risks involved. However, by the following day, a Brown organized and led a raiding party of twenty abolitionists to save Daniels, the slave in question, and neighboring slaves and their families.
Ultimately, eleven slaves were freed during the raid. Part of the group held Harvey Hicklan–the owner of Daniels, the slave in question–at gunpoint. After freeing the family, the raiding party took some of Hicklan’s possessions to help support the slaves. It was reported that the group took cash, pocket-watches, wagons, and oxen. Although one slaveowner was killed during the raid, the abolitionist claimed it was all done in self-defense.
The raiding party returned to Kansas where a twelfth African American was born to one of the rescued slave women and christened John Brown. Brown then led the freed slaves 600 miles through extreme winter weather across Nebraska and into northeastern Iowa, fighting off a pro-slavery organization three times the size of his group.
The raid did not take place without condemnation. Newspapers in both Missouri and Kansas feared an all-out war along the border. The disaffection of slaves and the potential financial repercussions of further losses compelled Missouri slaveowners to move more than twenty miles away from the border or to put all their bondspeople under heavy guard. A $3,000 reward was offered by the governor of Missouri for the capture of Brown.
Nevertheless, Brown continued east and initiated a series of events which led to the Raid at Harper’s Ferry on October 16-18, 1859. He was executed later that year on December 2.