John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was an effort by abolitionist John Brown, from October 16 to 18, 1859, to initiate a slave revolt in Southern states by taking over a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. It has been called the dress rehearsal for the Civil War.
Brown's party of 22 was defeated by a company of U.S. Marines, led by First Lieutenant Israel Greene. Several of those present at the raid would later be involved in the Civil War: Colonel Robert E. Lee was in overall command of the operation to retake the arsenal. Stonewall Jackson and Jeb Stuart were part of the troops guarding the arrested Brown, and John Wilkes Booth was a spectator at his execution. John Brown had originally asked Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, both of whom he had met in his transformative years as an abolitionist in Springfield, Massachusetts, to join him in his raid, but Tubman was prevented by illness and Douglass declined, as he believed Brown's plan would fail.
The label "raid" was not used at the time. A month after the attack, a Baltimore newspaper listed 26 terms used, including "insurrection", "rebellion", "treason", and "crusade". "Raid" was not among them.