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At Pottowatomie Creek, Kansas in 1856, John Brown and a small group of followers, including his adult sons, captured and hacked to death five proslavery men. The attack, which was carried out in retaliation for the "sack of Lawrence" by a proslavery mob shortly before, occurred in the context of a larger struggle between proslavery and antislavery forces in Kansas, newly open to settlement, with the status of slavery to be determined by popular sovereignty. Brown became a symbol for many of the brutality of the conflict. In the South, particularly, his actions were viewed as indicative of the extent "fanatic" abolitionists would go to in order to end slavery. In the North as well, he was initially widely reviled except within among the most radical of abolitionists. His celebrity status among these ultras allowed him to solicit funding and assistance for his planned raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia with the purpose of leading a massive slave uprising. Brown symbolized the transformation of slavery from a parliamentary issue to be debated and compromised over in Congress to a moral struggle in which one side must emerge victorious.
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