Jewish immigrant August Bondi didn’t find America to be much of a ‘Christian nation.’ So he helped make it better. 

In 1848, a 15-year-old freedom fighter named Anschl August Bondi sailed for America’s shores with his family. They were fleeing battle-torn Austria. August had been at the front lines in the fight for democratic rule. The prince’s soldiers had shot his best friend as he stood next to August. 

As the immigrant ship arrived at the mouth of the Mississippi, it made a stop near a sugar mill. August stepped off to take a tour. And what was the first thing he saw in the “land of the free”?


John Brown depicted in “Tragic Prelude,” Kansas Statehouse mural by John Steuart Curry

John Brown depicted in “Tragic Prelude,” Kansas Statehouse mural by John Steuart Curry

Moving to Kansas to oppose the slave interests, August joined forces with a mighty Christian warrior named John Brown. They fought together at a Kansas prairie known as Black Jack. It was the first-ever battle on American soil over slavery.

August believed in the ballot, not just the bullet. But John Brown didn’t have time for peaceful political action. The old man saw himself as a tool of the Lord’s vengeance.

John Brown was a hard man to say “no” to. What would August do?

For his historical novel Firebrand, Aaron Barnhart relied heavily on Bondi’s Autobiography, which vividly described the fight over slavery in Kansas. Suitable for readers 12 and up, Firebrand adheres to a strict retelling of the events of August Bondi’s life using a fast-paced storyline inspired by Newberry Medal-winning author Lloyd Alexander.

About the author

Aaron Barnhart writes and speaks throughout the region on history. His company Quindaro Press publishes and promotes people’s history through books and digital content. Before turning to history, he was a critic and columnist for the Kansas City Star. With his wife Diane Eickhoff he presents programs for the Kansas Humanities and Missouri Humanities councils and the Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning at the University of Kansas.