Franklin Benjamin Sanborn.

John Brown, liberator of Kansas and martyr of Virginia online

. (page 36 of 67)
Online LibraryFranklin Benjamin SanbornJohn Brown, liberator of Kansas and martyr of Virginia → online text (page 36 of 67)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


336 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856.

cover of the dusk some approached nearer ; but the dis-
charge of a few Sharpe's riiies and the coming of a brass
cannon, which had been ordered up to suppjrt the riiies,
caused the enemy (who may have been only a reconnoitring
party) to turn and retreat; and no further attack was
made. The stone building which Dunlop mentions was a
stone church, still standing, on the southwest side of Law-
rence ; and John Brown, Jr., was one of thirty or forty
men sent out to hold that position. He is my authority
for the statement that Brown placed men armed with
pitchforks (for want of better weapons) in places of defence
where they could be useful with such arms. He heai'd his
father make the speech above cited, and says it was longer
than reported, but the substance of it was caught and
printed. Colonel Walker, of Lawrence, told me in 1882
that on the 14th of September, 1856, Brown was not in
command, " but went about with his I'ifle on his shoulder."
In Lane's absence on an expedition the chief command fell
to Captain Abbott, the rescuer of Branson, who was " officer
of the day." There was little fighting, but much firing on
both sides at long range. Walker himself went out toward
Franklin with ten or fifteen mounted men, to reconnoitre ;
saw tlie enemy, — two or three thousand in number, as he
judged, — and fell back toward Lawrence, followed by two
hundred or more of them. When these men came near
Lawrence they were fired at by the few men who were
there, but there was no engagement. If the main body had
come up then, they might have captured Lawrence, in
Colonel Walker's opinion.

During his excursion northward, early in August, we get
a glimpse of John Brown as he appeared to the armed
emigrants from Massachusetts and New York. A brother
of Brown's wounded son-in-law, on learning of the casual-
ties at Black Jack, at once left North Elba, and joined the
second Massachusetts company of emigrants at Buffalo.
Brown rode into tlieir camp in Nebraska, inquiring if
William Thompson was there, found him, and they left the
camp together. " The Captain was riding a splendid horse,
and was dressed in plain white summer clothing. He wore
a large straw hat, and was closely shaven: everything



1856. J THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 337

about him was scrupulously clean." He made a great im-
pression on several of the company, who, without knowing
him, at once declared that he must be a distinguished man
in disguise. Brown and his party then proceeded to Tabor,
in Iowa, left the wounded man and his brother there, and
went back to Kansas in company with General Lane and
Colonel Walker.

Let me make a digression here, in order to introduce
some anecdotes which I heard from Colonel Walker con-
cerning Captain Brown and General Lane, the two Kansas
men Avho were always ready for lighting. Colonel Walker
was a Pennsylvania Democrat when he settled in Kansas, a
little earlier than John Brown went there. He has always
lived there, except when in the military service ; and no
man's character for truth and courage stands higher. He
told me that he first saw Brown when he came with his sons
in a wagon from Osawatomie to Lawrence, to help defend
it from the Missourians in the " Wakarusa War " of ISoo.
They were then the best-armed men he had seen in Kansas.
There was no fighting then, but earthworks were thrown up
near Governor Robinson's old house on Mount Oread, where
now the State University stands ; and these old lines are
still visible. Walker was sent by Robinson in August,
1856, to meet General Lane, then coming on with a party
of emigrants who had crossed Iowa and Nebraska, and to
prevent him from being intercepted by General Richardson
and the Missourians or the United States troops, on his
way into Kansas with his company of armed emigrants.
AValker rode up to the ISTemaha River, and found what he '
supposed was a camp of Missourians, but which turned out
to be John Brown, with his sick son Owen and a few men,
working their way along northward to where he was to
leave Owen at Tabor, in Iowa. Brown and Walker then
we-nt northward together until they came near where Lane
was. When Walker told Lane that he must not come into
Kansas with his emigrants, for if he did he would certainly
be arrested by the United States troops. Lane said : " Then
I will shoot myself to-night ; for I have told the Kansas
people that I am coming back, and I have told these emi-

22



338 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856.

grants that I am going in \vk.h. them ; if I give it up now it
will be said that I deserted them, and there Avill be no way
of disproving it. I must go back into Kansas."

Walker then told Laae that he must disguise himself.
" So we tried nitrate of silver on his face, but it would not
change him ; and then we tried putting old clothes on him ;
but the worse clothes we put on, the more like Jim Lane
he looked." Then Walker said he would take him back
under escort, with Brown's helj) ; and they started so, with
twenty or thirty men, and Brown among them. When
they camped for the night, Brown, according to his custom,
went away to sleep by himself ; and Walker describes him
as sitting bolt upright on his saddle, with his back against
a tree, his horse " lariated " to the saddle-peak, and Brown
asleep with his rifle across his knees. At early dawn
Walker went up to waken Brown, and as he touched him
on the shoulder Brown sprang up "quick as a cat," lev-
elled, cocked, and discharged his piece, which Walker
threw up with his hand in time to escape death ; but the
bullet grazed his shoulder. "That shows how quick he
was ; but he was frightened ^afterward, when he saw it was
I he had fired at." Then, said Walker, "As we rode along
together. Brown was in a sort of study ; and I said to him,
' Captain Brown, I would n't have your thoughts for any-
thing in the world.' Brown said, 'I suppose you are think-
ing about the Pottawatomie affair.' Said I, 'Yes.' Then
he stopped and looked at me, and said, ' Captain Walker, I
saw that whole thing, but I did not strike a blow, I take
the responsibility of it : but there were men who advised
doing it, and afterward failed to justify it,' " — meaning,
as Walker supposed. Lane and Robinson. Walker now
believes Brown, and cannot think that Townsley's state-
ment about Brown's shooting Doyle through the head is
correct ; " for Brown would never tell me what was not
true, and would not deny to me anything he had really
done."

In respect to Governor Geary's friendly feeling toward
Brown, Walker said that one morning, after a deed of Brown
which had made much noise, Geary sent a note to Walker,
as he was drilling his men out on the field, telling him to get



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 339

word to Brown that a warrant was out against liim, which
nmst be served, and that Brown must get away. Walker saw
a man looking on whom he had before seen in Brown's camp ;
he took him one side, showed him Geary's note, and told him
to find and warn Brown. Not long after came an orderly
from Governor Geary with a warrant against Brown, which
Walker must serve with his posse. " Take him dead or
alive ; and for this I shall hold you, Captain Walkei", per-
sonally responsible," was the order. Walker took the war-
rant and made search for Brown ; but of course he had
gone. At that time Brown's camp was on the Wakarusa,
eight or ten miles from Lawrence. The man who warned
Brown, Walker afterwards found, was James Montgomery,
who succeeded to the reijutation of Brown as a good fighter
in southern Kansas.

Soon after Governor Geary came to Kansas, he persuaded
Walker to become a deputy marshal of the United States,
and to summon jurymen, serve processes, and make arrests.
At first Walker refused, saying there were thirty-Seven in-
dictments against himself found by the prosjavery grand-
jury ; and he feared he should be arrested if he undertook
to serve warrants on other men. It was finally agreed tliat
the District Attorney should refuse to prosecute {nol. jjros.)
these indictments, and then Walker should be sworn in as
a deputy mai'shal of the United States, and should use his
armed band of Free-State men as his posse in making arrests.
Before the matter was thus settled, Governor Geary came
bo Lawrence from Lecompton one day, and sent word that
he would dine at Walker's house ; but, as it happened, that
very day the other United States Marshal with a posse of
mounted proslavery men came into Lawrence to arrest
Walker, went to his house, and was fired upon there by the
people inside, — Walker being on the street with Governor
Geary at the time. His little boy came running up to him in
the street, and said before the Governor, " Mother says the
Marshal and his men are surrounding the house and firing;
and you must not come home." Geary turned white with
anger, and said, " You 're mistaken, boy ; they are firing at
birds." But he found it was the Marshal, and went back at
once to Lecompton and put a stop to such proceedings. Soon



340 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856.

after, Walker was sworn in ; and his first act was to svim-
mon a jury of Free-State men. He had his pocket full of
warrants against Free-State men, some of which he served
and some he would not serve. Several were against John
Eitchie, with whom Walker often spent the night ; when
Ritchie, who was a brave Free-State soldier, would say to
him: "Walker, I like you as well as any man in Kansas;
but if you try to serve your warrants on me, by God, I '11
kill you ! " "I never did try," said Walker ; " but by and
by another deputy — a Free-State man — had the warrants
given him to serve, and thought he must try it ; he did so,
and Eitchie shot him."

It was probably upon the hint which Walker gave through
Montgomery, that John Brown left Kansas in 1856, pursued
by the United States troops. He started for northern Kan-
sas before the 20th of September, journeying with his four
sons and with a fugitive slave, whom he picked up on the
way. The old hero was sick, as he often was, and travelled
slowly: appearing to be a land-surveyor on a journey. He
had a light w-agon in which he rode, with his surve^'or's in-
struments ostentatiously in sight ; and inside, covered up in
a blanket, was the fugitive slave. Sometimes he pitched
his camp at night near the dragoons who were ordered to
arrest him, but who little suspected that the formidable
fighter was so near them in the guise of a feeble old man.
A spy had notified the dragoons that Brown was on the road,
and they were on the watch for him, — five hundred mounted
men, as one of his sons told me, with four cannon. Early
in the morning two of the sons, John and Jason, rose early
and made a long circuit round the camp, while their father,
ill and weak, followed on later in the day. It was proposed
to carry him along this dangerous part of his journey con-
cealed in the wagon, as his fugitive slave was. "Xo," said
Brown, who scorned to hide himself ; " I may as well die by
the enemy as be jolted to death in the wagon." At Ply-
mouth, not far from the Nebraska border, Eedpath, in one
of his journeys through the Territory, found him lying ill
in a log hut, while his four sons were camped near by. A
few hours after, the dragoons, hearing he was so near them,
came up to arrest him ; but he had crossed the border into



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED, 341

i^Tebraska, and was out of their reach. He went forward
till he came to Tabor in Iowa, not far northeast of Nebraska
City, and there remained among friends for two weeks in
early October. In the latter part of that month he reached
Chicago, and made himself known to the National Kansas
Committee, which then had headquarters in that city.^ Af-
terward he travelled eastward, to Ohio, to Peterboro', N. Y.,
where he visited his friend Gerrit Smith ; to Albany and
Springfield, and finally to Boston, where I first saw him in
the early part of January, 1857.

That Brown was in Chicago as early as October 25 will
be seen by the two following letters, — the first by General
J. D. Webster, then a member of the National Kansas Com-
mittee, and the other by jNIr. Horace White, its assistant
secretary : —

National Kansas Committee Eooms,
Chicago, Oct. 25, 1856.

Dear Sir, — We have requested Captain Brown to join you and
give you the benefit of his counsel in reference to the safe transporta-
tion of your freight.^ Colonel Dickey will also be al)le to assist you.
We hope every precaution will be taken. Captain Brown says the
immediate introduction of the supplies is not of much consequence
compared to the danger of losing them. We trust your foresiglit and

1 On his way from Kansas to Chicago he passed one of his sons, who
was going to join his father in Kansas, as appears by this letter : —

St. Charles, Iowa, Oct. 30, 1856.
Dear Mother, Brothers, and Sisters, — I sent j'ou a draft for thirty dollars a few
days ago in a sheet of paper with a very few words on it, — they being all I had time to
write tlien. We are well and in fine spirits, besides being in good companj'. We are in
the company of a train of Kansas teams loaded with Sharpe's rifles and cannon. I heard
a report that father had gone East. We travel very slow ; you can write to us at Tabor.
On our way we saw Gerrit Smith, F. Douglass, and other old friends. We have each a
Sharpe's rifle. Oliver, your watch was all that saved us. 1 want you to write and let
us know how you get along. No more now.

Yours truly, Watson Brown.

From this it would seem that Oliver Brown, the youngest son, had gone
back to North Elba in advance of his father. Watson also turned hack
and joined his father at Chicago, and then returned home to the Adiron-
dacs, where I .saw him in the summer of 1857.

2 This "freight" included the two hundred rifles sent forward in Sep-f
tember by the Massachusetts Kansas Committee, and afterward carried by
Brown to Virginia when he attacked Harper's Ferry.



342 LITE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1856.

discretion will prevent any loss, and bo of essential aid to tlie good
cause.

Yours tiuly, J. D. Webster.

Dk. J. P. Root.

Office National Kansas Committee,
Chicago, Oct. 26, 1856.
Captain Brown, — We expect Mr. Arny, our general agent, just
from Kansas, to be in to-morrow morning. He has been in the
Territory particularly to ascertain tlie condition of certain aflairs for
our information. I know lie M'ill very much regret not liaving seen
you. If it is not absolutely essential for you to go on to-niglit, I
would recommend ycju to wait and see him. I siiall confer witli
Colonel Dicl^ey on this point. Kev. Theodore Parker, of Boston, is
at the Briggs House, and wishes very much to see you.
Yours truly,

Horace White, Assist. Sec, etc.
P. S. If you wish one or two of tliose rilles,^ please call at our
office between three and live this afternoon, or between seven and
eight this evening.

Ill his testimoii}^ before Senator Mason's investigating
committee in January, 1860, Mr. White thus explained the
alhisiou to rifles in the letter just cited : " Our coinniitteo
sent John Brown twenty-live navy revolvers of Colt's manu-
facture, in August, 1856, by Mr. Arny, our agent ; but they
never reached him. They were sent to Lawrence and stored
there for a time, subject to Brown's order ; but he did not
come forward to claim them, and they -were loaned to a mili-
tary compan}^ in Lawrence called the 'Stubs;' but Brown
never afterward appeared to claim them. He told rae that
the reason was, he had had so much trouble and fuss and
difficulty with the people of Lawrence, that he never would
go there again to claim anything. I gave no other arms to
Brown himself, but gave rifles to two of his sons. After all
the arms of the committee had been distributed in Kansas,
or all but two or three, Mr. Brown made his appearance at
the committee-rooms with two of his sons in October, 1856.
One of them was "Watson, and the other, I think, was Owen
Brown. We had three or four rifles left, and I gave one to

1 These wore perhaps from the Mnssaehusetts stock of rifles, hnt most
likclv beloii''ed to another lot which was tlien on its wav to Kansas.



1856.] THE KANSAS STRUGGLE CONTINUED. 343

each of those sous ; and, as they were very poorly clad, I
went down to a fur store in Chicago and purchased each of
them a pair of fur gloves and fur overshoes and caps." Mr.
White also fitted out Captain Brown with a new suit of
clothes, in which he made his visits that winter to his New
England friends, who had begun to take a strong interest in
his course, as the following note from the Emigrant Aid
Office in Boston sufficiently indicates : —

BusTON, Sept. 22, 1856.

No. 3 Winter Street.
John Bkown, Esq.

Dear Sir, — The Messrs. Chapiu, who keep the Massasoit House
in Spriugfield, in this State, wish to give you fifty or one hundred
dollars, as a testimonial of their admiration of your brave conduct
during the war. Will you write to them, stating how they can
send you the money? Call upon Mr. S. N. Simpson, of Lawrence.
He vvih tell you who I am.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Branscomb.

Indeed, at this time Brown had the confidence of all
lovers of liberty.

Note. — While these events were occurring in Kansas, Congress was
in session at Wasliington, adjourning Aug. 30, 1856. The Senate was
controlled by Senator Mason and his slaveholding associates, wlio were
obediently followed by Cass, Douglass, and the other Northern " dough-
faces," as John Randolph called such persons. The House, under the lead
of the Sjieaker, — General Banks, of Massachusetts, — was on the side of
freedom, and voted that the Territorial laws of Kansas were oppressive ;
it also refused for some weeks to pass the Army Bill, except with a clause
forbidding the "dough-face" President Pierce to use the army against
the freemen of Kansas. Finally, a few Northern men yielded, and the bill
passed the House as Mason and Douglass forced it through the Senate (Aug.
30, 1856). The American news from Kansas and Washington, " through
some certain strainers well refined," reached London in a damaged state ;
for Lord JLalmesbury wrote in his diar}', Sept. 6, 1856: " Civil war has
broken out in the United States between the Abolitionists and the proslav-
ery party, and a gi-eat deal of blood has been already shed. The Govern-
ment refused to take part with either side, upon which the slave-party in
Congress would not vote the supplies for the army, which accordingly must
be disbanded." As this peer bad been Foreign Secretary, he might have
been supposed to know something about America ; but he wi-ites in 1865,
after the fighting around Richmond, that Grant and Sheridan "drove Lee
into Pittsburg." Such is English material for American liistoiT I



'344 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1854.



CHAPTER XI.

JOHN BROWN AND THE KANSAS COMMITTEES.

'T^HE committees appointed from 1854 to 1859 to attend
-*- to Kansas and its affairs were legion, and as various in
kind as possible. The Boston Emigrant Aid Company was
the first of these committees ; next the Free-State men of
Lawrence formed a singular secret committee in 1855, to
protect themselves from the Border Ruffians ; and of this
the chief members were General Lane and Charles Robin-
son. A penitent or treacherous member, who had been
admitted to this secret committee, disclosed what he said
were its oaths and signs ; but there was much exaggeration
in what Dr. Francis swore to before the next Kansas com-
mittee, — that of Congress, sent out in the spring of 1856.
Some parts of his testimony may here be cited to show what
he wished to have us believe : —

THE KANSAS REGULATORS.*

"Offers were made to me by various persons to introduce me to
a secret political organization. The only name I ever received as
a member of the lodge was Kansas Regulators. ... I went with

^ John Brown, Jr., says : I belonged to this secret organization, though
I cannot say it had this name : it seems to me the name was " Kansas
Defenders." I was initiated by Lane himself, in a room of Garvey's Hotel
at Topeka, in the spring of 1856, at the time of the first assembling of the
legislature under the Topeka Constitution. The oath, as stated by Dr.
Francis, is the same substantially as administered by Lane to me. I do
not think we were required by our oath to resist United States authorities
in attempts to enforce the bogus laws, though it was understood by us that
we might be driven to do so, when we icnuld so resist, rather tlian tamely
submit. Our badge was a nan-ow black riljbon, from six to eight inches
long, tied in tlie button-hole of tiie shirt collar.



1855.1 THE KANSAS COMMITTEES. 345

Colonel Lane to the law-office of John Hutchinson, as I afterward
found out. Governor Reeder did not go into the room where I was
initiated. Dr. Robinson was standing just before the door with a
lady, I should think. Colonel Lane asked hiin to leave the lady and
go into the office with us. Robinson rather objected at first, but
finally came in with us, and said he would explain the nature of the
organization he was about to initiate me into. The substance of
the explanation was, that Kansas was a beautiful country and well
adapted to freedom, and the best Territory in the world for the
friends of freedom to operate on, — more especially for those who were
engaged in the free white State cause. After proceeding in that
strain for a while, he asked me if I was willing to pledge my word
and honor that I would keep secret what T saw there, and whom I
saw there, provided he would pledge his word and honor that there
was noching which would interfere with my duties as a citizen, or that
was disloyal in any respect."

The oath was this : —

" I furthermore promise and swear that T will at all times and
under all circumstances bear upon my person a weapon of death ;
that I will at all times and under all circumstances keep in my house
at least one gun, with a full supply of ammunition ; that I will at
all times and under all circumstances, when 1 see the sign of distress
given, rush to the assistance of the person giving it, where there is
a greater probability of saving his life than of losing my own. I
furthermore promise and swear that I will, to the utmost of my
power, oppose the laws of the so-called Kansas Legislature ; and
tliat when I Iiear the words of danger given I will repair to the place
where the daugei- is. . . .

"... The regalia was this : The private members wore a black
ribbon tied upon their shirt- bosoms ; the colonel wore a red sash;
the lieutenant-colonel a green sash, the major a blue sash, the adju-
tant a black sash, the captains white sashes, the lieutenants yellow
sashes, the orderly sergeant a very broad black ribbon upon his
shirt-bosom. . . . Colonel Lane wore the red sash, and some one
else, but I am not certain who it was. I do not recollect seeing any
body with a green sash. Dr. Robinson had a beautiful sash on,
looking like a blue and red one jt»ined together, trimmed with gold
lace. I was tohl it denoted some higher office than colonel ; but I
. did not learn what it was. . . .

" In regard to the laws which were to be resisted, I underst<jod
fi-om Dr. Robinson and Colonel Lane that they were the laws of
the late Territorial Legislature. Colonel Lane said : ' We will not-



346 LIFE AND LETTERS OF JOHN BROWN. [1855.

submit to any laws passed by that Legislature ; aud we are mak-
ing preparations to place in the hands of every Free-State man a
Sharpe's rifle and a brace of Colt's revolvers ; and, if need be, we
will resist even the United States troops if they attempt to enforce
those laws.' He also stated at the same time that an attack had
been anticipated on the town of Lawrence the day before, and that
lie saw five hundred men there, at their business in the streets,
armed. . . . Dr. Robinson and Col. Lane told me they expected
to form lodges or councils in every county in the Territory. They
proclaimed me a Kansas Regulator; and that was all the name
I learned for a member of the organization ; and they gave me
authority to institute lodges, and conferred up(m me a sort of brevet
rank of captain. This was at the time I was initiated. During the
first Lawrence war they sent me a commission as captain, which I
never used."

A Free-State man, Mr. G. P. Lowrey, testified thus: —

"... I have no distinct recollection of all the oath, but T know
Dr. Francis testifies to matters as being in the oath wliich were not
contained in it. The oath required us to keep fire-arms and ammu-



Online LibraryFranklin Benjamin SanbornJohn Brown, liberator of Kansas and martyr of Virginia → online text (page 36 of 67)