My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In his most recent book, Tony Horwitz shines the historical spotlight on John Brown, giving a comprehensive and lively account of the man and his mission. While John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry is long credited as a prequel to the Civil War, it’s usually relegated to a brief paragraph or two in the history books. Here, Horwitz gives this important chapter in U.S. History its due in an entertaining book that breathes life into Brown’s character and illuminates the crucial role Brown played in forcing America to deal with the issue of slavery.
Midnight Rising differs from Horwitz’s previous work in that it lacks a thread of the present day weaving through the historical account. (In Confederates in the Attic he used Civil War battlefields as markers of contemporary manifestations of the conflict. Blue Latitudes and A Voyage Long and Strange read like historical travelogs.) Here, he presents a straight history lesson that is no less engaging. A fascinating book about an incident that gripped the nation in its day, foreshadowed the passionate beliefs and bloodshed of the Civil War to come, and is now a nearly-forgotten footnote in U.S. history.