One misty afternoon a few Friday's ago, I took a detour in search of a martyr's shrine. These Litchfield Hills, whose colonial-era furnaces helped forge a nation, also produced two great incendiaries that would break it asunder in hopes of "a new birth of freedom." For "the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war" was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, and nearby in Torrington the firebrand who lit the fuse.
I drove into the hills on a peaceful lane with nothing ablaze but the colored leaves to the home site of the family of John Brown and the place where he spent the first five years of his volatile life.
It is all woodland here, now, and nothing but foundation stones remain of the old Brown house which burned long ago. Brown and Stowe belong to the ages, not just these plots of native ground, but something must still abide to have drawn me off the traveled path that day and out into the autumn woods. It was achingly lovely, a refuge of quiet contemplation, but what a comet once streaked from this place, and what thunderclaps echo still!