John Brown was an effective guerilla fighter partially due to the support of his abolitionist allies in Kansas Territory.

Realistically, a guerilla fighter needs all of the material and intelligence support that a regular military force requires, and guerilla fighters depend on a network of allies that provide them with material and intelligence support to succeed in combating their enemies.

John Brown, like all successful guerilla fighters, had a strong and extensive network of abolitionist supporters in Kansas Territory that provided him with supplies and military intelligence, enabling him to successfully prosecute his militant guerilla warfare against pro-slavery guerillas and their network of supporters in Kansas Territory.

An example of one of John Brown’s network of supporters in Kansas Territory was the intelligence and material support given to John Brown by a Linn County abolitionist named Augustus Wattles.

William Cutler’s “History of Kansas,” published in 1883, stated: “In the fall of 1858, Old John Brown appeared upon the scene in Linn County. He had been invited into the county by Augustus Wattles to assist in fighting the proslavery men.”

Augustus Wattles vouched for John Brown’s effectiveness as a guerilla fighter to militant abolitionists and their supporters in Linn County, lending his political and material support to John Brown in Linn County in 1858.

William Cutler’s “History of Kansas” stated: “Mr. Wattles introduced Brown to his friends and others as ‘Shubel Morgan’ and it was by that name that Brown was generally known while he was operating against proslavery men, with Linn County as his base of operations.”

Wattles’ support and the support of other militant abolitionists provided Brown with the material supplies and intelligence he needed to fight pro-slavery guerillas and their supporters in Linn County, a necessity for Brown’s successful attacks on pro-slavery guerillas in Linn County.

Indeed, in one incident, Augustus Wattles literally saved John Brown’s life. Wattles had moved to Linn County from Douglas County, where he had earlier saved John Brown from certain capture in an incident described in William Cutler’s “History of Kansas.”

It stated: “On one of Brown’s visit to Wattles house in Douglas County, He was overtaken by a squad of troops under Lieutenant Carr, although the Lieutenant did not know he was so close on Brown’s heels, otherwise the sequence would have doubtless been different. After the troops had encamped for the night, Lieutenant Carr had approached Mr. Wattles house and engaged in conversation with Mr. Wattles. During the conversation he informed Mr. W. of the object of his expedition, and told him how great would be his satisfaction if he could capture the old man, etc. During the interview, Brown was secreted in the loft of Wattles’ house, and could thus hear and see all that was going on, and his men were secreted in the bushes not far away.”

John Brown and his men escaped capture and certain execution that day due to the intervention and support of Augustus Wattles, an example of the necessity of the material and intelligence support of allies for not only John Brown, but any guerilla fighter.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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