Over the course of the war, certain individuals were celebrated for their actions and sacrifice. Both revered and vilified, John Brown (1800-1859), the fiery abolitionist who advocated for an armed struggle against slavery, led a raid on the Federal armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859. Many saw this act as a key precursor to the Civil War. Brown, who was later executed because of his role in the raid, was viewed by many as a martyr to the abolitionist movement.
Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth (1837-1861), the first Union officer killed in the war, and Nathaniel Lyon (1818-1861), the first Union general killed in the war, were regarded as martyrs to the Union cause. Luther C. Ladd (1843-1861), who died during the Baltimore riot in April 1861, was the first Union soldier to lose his life in action during the war.