American abolitionist John Brown (1800-1859) planned to liberate the slaves by arming them and by establishing a base in the southern mountains to which blacks could flee and from which they could incite uprisings. As a first step, Brown and his band of 21 followers, which included his three sons and five blacks, assaulted and took control of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now in West Virginia), on the night of October 16, 1859. The next day, Brown's band took possession of the town and held some citizens as hostages. Instead of retreating to the mountains with a large stock of arms, Brown and his men fortified themselves in the arsenal's engine room and battled the local militia. A company of US Marines under Colonel Robert E. Lee (1807-70) arrived from Washington, DC, and, on the morning of October 18, 1859, regained possession of the arsenal after a short but stubborn fight, in which Brown was wounded. Seventeen of Brown's men died in the raid. Brown was tried, found guilty of treason and murder, and handed on December 2, 1859.