“The Blood of Millions”: John Brown’s Body, Public Violence, and Political Community

  • Franny Nudelman


Accustomed to the overnight successes, unexpected comebacks, and sudden reversals of celebrity culture, we might still find cause to wonder at the course of John Brown’s fame. At the time of his capture in October 1859, Brown was a pariah, a fanatic, a blunderer of enormous proportions. By the summer of 1861 he was a mascot of sorts for the Union army—his death commemorated time and again as soldiers prepared to fight, his name synonymous with bravery, self-sacrifice, and patriotism. No one was more aggrieved by this transformation than John Wilkes Booth. Writing to his brother-in-law in 1864 he lamented, “what was a crime in poor John Brown is now considered (by themselves) as the greatest and only virtue of the whole Republican Party. Strange transmigration!”1


National Identity Political Community Wounded Soldier Union Army Biracial Identity 
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Copyright information

© Andrew Taylor and Eldrid Herrington 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franny Nudelman

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