'John Brown’s Blood Oath' by Tony Horwitz shows that before The Harpers Ferry Raid, the abolitionist promised a campaign of violence. It began with a gruesome midnight massacre in Kansas in 1856. ‘A Moment Full of Peril’ by Noah Andre Trudeau discusses the fear in the Buchanan administration that John Brown might touch off a national insurrection at Harper's Ferry and the decision by Washington officials to turn to Robert E. Lee to assess the situation and capture the rebels.
Readers may be familiar with Horwitz's and Trudeau's previous works. Horwitz wrote the informative and entertaining Confederates In the Attic and Trudeau wrote Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage.