Source Analysis

John Brown Song

Civil War Era

Scholar Analysis

Chandra ManningListen to Georgetown University Professor Chandra Manning discuss the song “John Brown’s Body,” popular during the Civil War. An Assistant Professor in the History Department at Georgetown University, Chandra Manning’s work focuses on 19th century United States History, with particular emphasis on sectionalism, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. She is author of What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War.

Teacher Analysis

Heather CoffeyListen to 4th grade teacher Heather Coffey discuss her 50-minute lesson on the song “John Brown’s Body.”

Classroom Practice

John Brown ClassroomWatch fourth grade teacher Heather Coffey teach “John Brown Song” to her classroom.

Lesson Plan

“John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry and ‘John Brown’s Body’ (Song)”
Students will listen to the song “John Brown’s Body” by William W. Patton and will use the lyrics to analyze the feelings of Northerners towards John Brown shortly after his raid on Harpers Ferry.

Get the Songs

Download the original lyrics and transcripts of the songs.


Access transcripts of the scholar analysis and teacher analysis videos.


Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following institutions and individuals for the use of images from their collections:

  • Chicago Historical Society
  • Edwin Jackson, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia
  • Eric F. Long
  • The Granger Collection, New York
  • Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, Historic Photo Collection
  • Kansas State Historical Society/Kansas Museum of History
  • Library Company of Philadelphia
  • Library of Congress
  • Louisiana Digital Library
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • National Archives and Records Administration
  • National Park Service
  • New York Historical Society
  • New York Public Library
  • New York State Archives
  • Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association
  • University of Virginia Library, Special Collections Department
  • Virginia Commonwealth University Special Collections and Archives
  • Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries
  • Virginia Tech University Libraries
  • Western Reserve Historical Society