Though it was the scheme of a madman, Brown can hardly be charged with insanity; as some of the ardent antislavery men to whom he confided his plan seemed to have had faith in its success. In the autumn of 1859 he seized the national arsenal at Harper's Ferry and began to free the slaves in the area.
However troops were quick to overpower the ragtag guerrilla group along with Brown, and several others. Once captured, they were speedily brought to trial, convicted, and hanged. The whole country was stirred by this event. The South believed, as never before, in the wickedness of the North and some believe his execution set off a chain of events that led to the Civil War. His readiness to die in the cause of freedom won the attention of many and gave a certain amount of dignity to abolitionism.