The opportunity came in mid-December when [John Brown's] Free State friend George B. Gill told him he had just been visited by a black man, Jim Daniels, who was held in slavery by a Missourian named Harvey G. Hicklan (or Hicklin). Daniels, disguised as a broom salesman, had snuck across the state line and reported to Gill that he, his pregnant wife, and their two children were on the verge of being sold to a Texas slave-owner. Brown assured Gill he would help Daniels…On the night of December 20-21, he rode with twenty men into Vernon County, Missouri. As he approached the Little Ossage River, he divided his party. Twelve went with him to the area north of the river and the rest with Aaron Stevens to the south side. The goal was to liberate slaves, and if necessary, take whites as hostages.
David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights, rev. ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 2005), 278.