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* In the school house.



John Brown 253

ument are elsewhere available to interested readers.
The preamble only is here reproduced:

"Whereas, Slavery, throughout its entire existence in the
United States is none other than a most barbarous, unprovoked,
and unjustifiable War of one portion of its citizens upon another
portion ; the only conditions of which are perpetual imprisonment,
and hopeless servitude or absolute extermination ; in utter disre-
gard and violation of those eternal and self-evident truths set
forth in our Declaration of Independence:

Therefore, we CITIZENS of the UNITED STATES, and
the OPPRESSED PEOPLE, who, by a RECENT DECISION
of the SUPREME COURT ARE DECLARED to have NO
RIGHTS WHICH the WHITE MAN is BOUND to RE-
SPECT; TOGETHER WITH ALL OTHER PEOPLE DE-
GRADED by the LAWS THEREOF, DO, for the TIME BE-
ING ORDAIN and ESTABLISH for OURSELVES the FOL-
LOWING PROVISIONAL CONSTITUTION and ORDI-
NANCES, the BETTER to PROTECT our PERSONS. PROP-
ERTY, LIVES, and LIBERTIES: and to GOVERN our
ACTIONS."

Whatever may be the opinion of this constitution as a
whole, it must be admitted that the preamble sets forth
pretty clearly Brown's view of slavery and the Dred
Scott decision. The former he considered "most bar-
barous, unprovoked and unjustifiable war." The latter
stripped one portion of our population of all rights and
reduced them to a condition of "perpetual imprisonment
and hopeless servitude." Against both he and his fol-
lowers took up the gage of battle.

John Brown was fast maturing plans for "carrying
the war into Africa," for making a descent upon the in-
stitution of slavery in Virginia. These plans, however,
for a time were frustrated by Hugh Forbes, a soldier
of fortune who had served under Garibaldi, the liber-
ator of Italy, and now attached himself to the payroll
of Brown and his financial supporters. He at first en-



254 OJiio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

tered with enthusiasm upon the service, with dreams
of becoming the Garibaldi of the colored race in
America. When the term of his employment ended and
no additional funds for his pay were in sight, he made
all sorts of trouble for Brown. Whenever he could get
an influential hearing he revealed the arrangements for
the intended attack. This caused a temporary aban-
donment of plans and the return of Brown to Kansas
for his spectacular invasion of Missouri.

In the latter part of June, 1858, John Brown re-
entered Kansas. He returned in the disguise of a patri-
archal beard, almost white, which he wore for the re-
mainder of his days, and under the assumed name of
Shubel Morgan. From Lawrence he proceeded to
southeastern Kansas where there had been considerable
excitement as the result of the brutal killing of five
inoffensive Free State settlers who had been captured
by the Pro-Slavery leader, Charles A. Hamilton, after-
ward a Confederate colonel, who "had boasted that if
Pro-Slavery men could not make headway in the Terri-
tory, abolitionists should not live there."

In the vicinity of Fort Scott, Brown and his men
remained for a time and kept in close touch with James
Montgomery, a militant Free State leader, who after-
ward rose to the rank of colonel in the Union army.
It was while Brown, or "Shubel Morgan," was here
that he wrote to his son John in Ohio of an anti-slavery
lecture that he gave a pro-slavery settler who came to
his camp. It was here also that he began a sketch of
his life, "as connected with Kansas; by one who knows."
It was never finished.

In the latter part of this summer with some of his
followers he made a short trip over the line into Mis-



John Brozvn 255

souri, taking with him his surveying instruments to
avoid suspicion. When they came within sight of the
house of Rev. Martin White, who had killed his son
Frederick, he was asked to look through a field glass
at a man sitting in a distant yard under a shade tree.
"'I declare, that is Martin White," said Brown. At the
suggestion that they go and talk to the old man he said,
"No, no, I can't do that." When others proposed to go,
he said, "Go if you wish, but don't you hurt a hair of his
head." In speaking of White, he is reported to have
said to James Hanway:

"People mistake my objects. I would not hurt one hair
of his head. I would not go an inch to take his life ; I do not
harbor the feeling of revenge. / act from principle. My aim and
object is to restore human rights."

In December occurred his famous "foray" into Mis-
souri. The historian, William E. Connelley, thus sum-
marizes it:

"On Sunday, December 19, 1858, a negro man came from
Missouri to Brown's camp and begged that his wife and family
be rescued from slavery before they were sold to be carried
South. The following Monday night Brown, with a number of
men from his company, made a foray into Missouri, and secured
these slaves, eleven in number, and carried them into Kansas.
They were carried to the Pottawatomie and kept in a cabin on
the open prairie for more than a month, while every ravine and
thicket swarmed with people searching for them. No one thought
of their being concealed in the deserted old cabin in plain view
o-f a number of houses, and they escaped without detection."

This raid created much commotion in Kansas and
Missouri. The governor of the latter offered a reward
of $3000 for the capture of Brown, to which President
Buchanan added $250. To show his contempt for their
efforts, Brown, according to Connelley, "immediately had
printed a small handbill in which he publicly proclaimed



256 OJiio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

that he thereby offered a reward for Buchanan, de-
claring- that if any lover of his country would deliver
that august personage to him, well tied, at Trading
Post, he would willingly pay such patriot the sum of
two dollars and fifty cents. It is said that reflection
upon the matter afterwards convinced him that this
sum was more than the President was actually worth
for any purpose."

The eleven slaves were now free and temporarily
concealed in Kansas, but the enterprise that John Brown
had on his hands was about as unpromising and vi-
sionary as any that he had ever conceived. These slaves
were to be provisioned and conveyed through the dead
of winter over one thousand miles to freedom under
the British flag. He started with a plodding ox team,
almost alone, poorly clothed and confronted at every
town on the way with premium notices posted for his
arrest. Many dangers confronted him and the diffi-
culties to be overcome seemed almost insurmountable;
but the stern old Puritan did not falter. Over frozen
roads and through blinding blizzards the wagons moved
slowly toward the goal of freedom.

Samuel Medary,* from Ohio, had been appointed
governor of Kansas by President Buchanan and was
now striving to arrest Brown as he moved northward
with his liberated slaves. The sudden rising of a stream
halted Brown and his charges and Medary gleefully
notified Buchanan that the capture of Brown was
assured. On January 31, 1859, the men sent to make



* Samuel Medary was born in Pennsylvania, February 25, 1801, and
moved to Clermont county, Ohio, in 1825. He served in both branches
of the legislature of Ohio, and by appointment was governor of the
Territory of Minnesota and the Territory of Kansas. He was editor
of the Ohio Statesman and the Crisis, both published in Columbus.



John Brown 257

the arrest were suddenly fired upon by Brown and some
reinforcements sent to his aid from Topeka. At the
first volley the posse sent by Medary were panic stricken
and fled in confusion to escape "the old terror," some
leaping on behind their mounted comrades and others
clinging to the horses' tails in their wild scramble to
get away. Brown captured three of the men sent to
arrest him, four horses and abandoned arms, while
Medary and Buchanan were left empty-handed. Col-
onel Richard J. Hinton facetiously called this final fight
of John Brown's on Kansas soil the "Battle of the
Spurs," and it has ever since been so known in the his-
tory of that Territory.

Brown proceeded on his journey by way of Nebraska
City, Tabor, Aurora, Des Moines, Grinnell, Iowa City
and Springdale to West Liberty, where he boarded a
train with his colored cargo for Chicago. Then they
proceeded to Detroit and crossed to Windsor, Canada,
where the slaves were finally delivered from the land of
bondage. They had come in eighty-two days a distance
of 1100 miles, 600 of which had been covered in wagons
through the rigors of a northwestern midwinter.

From Canada Brown went to Cleveland, Ohio, where
he sold the horses that he had captured at the "Battle of
the Spurs." In ofifering them for sale he explained that
"the title might be a little defective" but that they were
''abolition horses." Asked how he knew this, he an-
swered that he was certain of it because he had "con-
verted" them. They brought a good price, however, as
there were purchasers in Cleveland who were eager to
get Buchanan horses from Kansas that had been "con-
verted" by John Brown.

Vol. XXX — 17.



258 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

Arrangements had been made in Cleveland for a
lecture in Chapin's Hall. This was well advertised in
an announcement published in the Cleveland Leader of
March 18, 1859. The meeting was to be held on the
evening of that day. A violent storm prevented the
attendance of many people and the lecture was post-
poned to March 21. The Leader again published a lib-
eral and attractive notice. The meeting, however, was
poorly attended. Representatives from the Leader and
the Plain Dealer published rather full accounts of it.
Artemus Ward reported this meeting for the Plain
Dealer. The following characteristic excerpt is quoted
from the account of "Ward" who had not at that time
achieved great fame as a humorist but who was earn-
ing $12 a week as a reporter:

"He is a medium-sized, compactly-built and wiry man, and
as quick as a cat in his movements. His hair is of a salt and
pepper hue and as stiff as bristles; he has a long, waving, milk-
white goatee, which gives him a somewhat patriarchal appear-
ance ; his eyes are gray and sharp. A man of pluck is Brown.
You may bet on that. He shows it in his walk, talk, and actions.
He must be rising sixty, and yet we believe he could lick a yard
full of wild cats iDefore breakfast and without taking ofif his coat.
Turn him into a ring with nine Border Ruffians, four bears, six.
Injuns and a brace of bull pups, and we opine that 'the eagles of
victory would perch on his banner.' We don't mean by this that
he looks like a professional bruiser, who hits from the shoulder,
but he looks like a man of iron and one that few men would like
to 'sail into'."

The report of the Leader is devoted about equally to
the addresses of Kagi and Brown. It is complimentary,
and somewhat extended. The following is a brief
excerpt :

"Mr. Brown remarked that he was an outlaw, the governor
of Missouri having offered a reward of $3000 for him and the
president $250 more for him. He should never submit to an



John Brozvn 259

arrest, as he had nothing to gain from submission, but he should
settle all questions on the spot if an attempt was made to take
him. The liberation of those slaves was meant as a direct blow
to slavery and he laid down his platform that he considered it his
duty to break the fetters from any slave when he had the oppor-
tunity. He was a thoroughgoing abolitionist. He stated many
incidents in Kansas affairs and conveyed much information on
territorial affairs.

"Mr. Brown is a man apparently sixty years old, and full of
nerve and boldness. His narrative was highly interesting and
instructive."

While the people of Cleveland did not flock out to
hear Brown neither did his most rabid opponents in
that city make any efTort to have him arrested. He and
Kagi here saw posted up in numerous places the ofTer
of the rewards by the governor of Missouri and by Pres-
ident Buchanan for the arrest and detention of Brown.
The opportunity to earn this reward, however, was not
sufficiently tempting to lead any patriot to make the
attempt. The fact was well understood that any effort
in this direction would arouse the people of Cleveland
in the defense of Brown.

At West Andover, Ashtabula County, while visiting
at the home of his son, Brown received from Joshua R.
Giddings, the eminent opponent of the slave power and
congressman from the Western Reserve, an invitation
to speak in the Congregational Church at Jefferson, the
county seat. On Sunday, May 27, Brown was present
in answer to this invitation and spoke after the church
exercises.

After the raid at Harper's Ferry Giddings . was
accused of complicity in that affair and much was made
of his previous entertainment of Brown at Jefferson.
In a speech delivered in Philadelphia October 28, 1859,



260 OJiio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

Giddings stated his own attitude on the question of
slavery as follows :

"Wnile serving in Congress, Mr. Haskell, a slaveholder, in-
quired of me publicly whether I believed it morally right for
slaves to leave their masters. I felt bound to speak frankly. I
answered that I not only believed they could do so, but that it
was morally wrong and wicked for them to remain in slavery
an hour when they had the power to escape, even by slaying those
who opposed their freedom ; that were I a slave I would escape,
if in my power, though compelled to walk upon the dead bodies
of slaveholders from Mississippi to Maiden."

Proceeding to the charge of association with Brown,
he said:

"I am of opinion that he came to Jefferson on Saturday
afternoon, and that so far as I am informed, his object was to
make arrangements for the lecture.

"On Sabbath, after the regular services, he spoke in our
church. The ministers of the church and of other churches, 1
think, attended the lecture. Ladies and gentlemen were present.
Republicans and Democrats all listened to his story with attention.
It is impossible for me at this time to give an abstract of the
lecture. If anyone desires knowledge on this point, I would refer
him to the Hon. Jonathan Warner, a Democratic leader of that
county. He was present and one or two of his sons, and being
very Pro-Slavery, he would be more likely to recollect particulars
than myself. He spoke of the Kansas troubles, of his expedi-
tion into Missouri and bringing off some twelve or twenty slaves,
and he urged it as a solemn Christian duty to assist slaves to ob-
tain their freedom. He gave us clearly to understand that he held
to the doctrines of the Christian religion as they were enunciated
by the Savior. I am not aware that he spoke of going into slave
states to aid slaves in escaping from bondage, but I had the im-
pression that he would do so if opportunity should present. I
think, however, that I inferred this from the fact that he had
done it in ]\Iissouri, rather than from what he said. After he
closed I addressed a few words to the audience in favor of a
contribution, referring to his condition, to the death of his son
and the fact that in his situation he had no business which he
could follow for his support. I believe that every Democrat as
well as Republican present gave something.

. "After the close of the meeting I cordially invited him to take
tea at my home. While there at the fireside, I inquired as to



John Brown 261

the particulars of his Missouri expedition. Mrs. Giddings also
put questions. I fully expressed my own opinions as to the crime
of slavery, the right of the slave to his liberty at all times and
under all circumstances."

Brown was in Kingsville, Ohio, April 7. He left
for Peterboro, New York, on the 10th of that month.
While he confided his plans only to trusted friends, he
was now bending all his energies to preparation for the
invasion of Virginia. He was busily engaged raising
money and collecting arms and men for that enterprise.
On May 7 he was with his ardent young friend, F. B.
Sanborn, in historic Concord, Massachusetts, where he
spoke in the town hall on the day following. He then
went to Boston where he spent about three weeks visiting
friends and supporters in that city. The week ending
June 16 he spent with his family in their home at North
Elba, New York. This was his last visit. On June 18
he was again with his son John at West Andover, Ohio.
This entry in his journal of that date is of interest:

"Borrowed John's old compass and left my own* together
with Gurley's book, with him at West Andover ; also borrowed
his small Jacob staff; also gave him for expenses $15.00. Write
him under cover to Horace Lindsley, West Andover."

From Akron, June 2?i, he wrote to his wife and fam-
ily. This seems to have been the last letter addressed to
them from this state. He wrote in part :

"We start for the Ohio River today. Write me under cover
to John at West Andover, for the present. The frost has been
far more destructive in western New York and in Ohio than
it was in Essex County. Farmers here are mowing the finest
looking wheat I ever saw, for fodder only. Jason has been
quite a sufferer. May God abundantly bless and keep you all."

*This compass is now in the Museum of the Ohio State Archaeo-
logical and Historical Society.



262 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

The reference in the above, of course, is to the great
frost in June of that year which is still recalled by those
living at that time. While in Ohio Brown visited for the
last time Hudson, his old home town. On this trip he
was also in Cherry Valley, Ohio. On June 23 he went
to Pennsylvania, proceeding by easy stages from Pitts-
burg, by way of Bedford Springs, to Chambersburg.
On July 3 he reached Harper's Ferry, the end of his
restless wanderings, the goal of all his striving. Re-
turning to Chambersburg, he spent some time with
Frederick Douglas, the colored orator, who opposed the
plan as soon as he learned that it contemplated an at-
tack on the United States arsenal at the Ferry. He felt
that the anti-slavery cause would be injured by the con-
templated attack on the federal government.

Arms and men were gradually assembled at the Ken-
nedy farm not far from Harper's Ferry, for the pro-
posed attack. The purpose of the movement was care-
fully concealed and the people of Harper's Ferry and
the adjacent country were led to believe that these
strangers were making a geological inspection of the
surrounding mountains in search of mineral wealth.
Brown himself, however, stated in conversation with
farmers in this region that he was looking for a home to
which he might move his family. He spoke of the de-
structive frost of that summer and said that he be-
lieved he would be better satisfied with a farm in Vir-
ginia. It is remarkable that his secret should have been
kept so well by the assembling company for more than
three months. In that time John Brown and his men
became thoroughly acquainted with the government
works at Harper's Ferry and the lay of the country sur-
rounding the town.



John Brown 263

The government at Washington knew nothing of the
threatened raid, and yet there was in the office of the
Secretary of War a letter bearing date of August 20,
1859, and warning the government of the contemplated
attack. It gave in considerable detail Brown's plan, but
was unsigned. The Secretary of War paid little atten-
tion to it and the warning was unheeded. After the raid
Richard Raelf and Charles W. Moffet, two of John
Brown's men who failed to come to Harper's Ferry,
were suspected of having written this letter. Redpath
in his Life of John Brown violently assails Raelf for
this betrayal of the cause. In this conclusion he was
wholly mistaken as he afterward acknowledged. It was
not until long years afterward that David J. Gue, of
Iowa, became publicly known as the real author. He
with other Quaker friends resorted to this means to
prevent the clash of arms at Harper's Ferry — to save
John Brown and his men from the fate that would cer-
tainly overtake them. The anonymous letter was sent
to the postmaster at Cincinnati to be remailed there.
From that city it went to the Secretary of War.

The men of John Brown's company gradually assem-
bled at the famous Kennedy house about six miles from
Harper's Ferry. In order to avoid suspicion and make
life here more homelike, Anne, the daughter of John
Brown, and Martha, the wife of Oliver, came from
North Elba to administer household affairs at the farm.
John E. Cook had preceded the others to Harper's Ferry
and for some time had been living v/ith his young wife
in that town. Following is the list of men who wxre
finally marshalled and armed for the capture of the
Ferry: John Brown, Watson Brown, Oliver Brown,
Owen Brown, William Thompson, Dauphin Thompson,



264 OJiio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

John Henri Kagi, Aaron Dwight Stevens, John E. Cook,
Charles Plummer Tidd, William H. Leeman, Edwin
Coppoc, Barclay Coppoc, Albert Hazlett, Jeremiah G,
Anderson, Francis Jackson Merriam, Steward Taylor,
Shields Green, Dangerfield Newby, John A. Copeland,
Jr., Lewis Sherrard Leary and Osborn P. Anderson.

Kagi, the Coppoc brothers and John Brown's three
sons, Watson, Oliver and Owen, were all born in Ohio.
Leary and Copeland enlisted from Oberlin, Ohio, and
John Brown himself had grown up to manhood in this
state.

Green, Newby, Copeland, Leary and Osborn P. An-
derson were colored.

Thomas Jefferson in his Azotes on the State of Vir-
ginia, written in 1787, has described, as viewed from
Jefferson Rock, the natural scenery of the country where
the Shenandoah and the Potomac meet off' the peninsula
on which Harper's Ferry stands:

"You stand on a very high point of land ; on your right
comes up the Shenandoah, having ranged along the root of the
mountain a hundred miles to find a vent; on your left approaches
the Potomac, in quest of a passage also. In the moment of their
junction they rush together against the mountain, rend it asunder,
and pass off to the sea. The scene is worth a voyage across the
Atlantic ; . . . these monuments of a war between rivers
and mountains which must have shaken the earth itself to its
centre."

It is a coincidence that at this spot should fall the
bolt that shook a nation.

Sunday evening, October 16, 1859, was cloudy, damp
and dark. In spite of the threatening weather, the at-
tendance in the churches of the village was large.
There had been a religious revival in this mountain
region and the people came in crowds to hear the mes-



John Brown 265

sage of peace. The services over, they started for their
homes. On their way some of them were made pris-
oners and securely held in the enclosure at the old engine
house, through the remainder of that gloomy and mys-
terious night. The dawning of the next day found
Harper's Ferry, the armory, the arsenal and the rifle
works in the hands of an unknown foe.

The story of this historic raid that startled the na-
tion and terrified Virginia has been told often and well
and in varied detail. It is told on other pages of this
issue, for the first time in printed form, by an eye wit-
ness who also gives an account of Brown's trial, of his
fortitude in prison and on the scaffold. To this is added
an account of his execution, from the pen of an Ohio
journalist, Murat Halstead. These contributions to the
subject leave little room for additional portrayal or
comment.

John Brown's enduring influence and fame were won
after he became a captive at Harper's Ferry. When he
lay helpless and bleeding with his sons dead at his side,
with most of his followers captured or slain, and bore
testimony to the cause for which he had fought and
suffered and sacrificed, his message went throughout
the land, to the civilized world. With a sword of steel
and dauntless physical courage he was weak and inad-
equate; but with the "sword of the spirit" he was invin-
cible. Thus it was that he challenged the respect of even
his foes, "brought conviction to the erring" and added
"numbers to that glorious army" who were to give the
Republic "a new birth of freedom." The jail at Charles-
town* became a temple from which he preached the
gospel of universal liberty.

* Now spelled Charles Town.



266 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

Someone has said that if John Brown had been killed
at the engine house in Harper's Ferry his epitaph would
have been a score of lines in the newspapers to be for-
gotten in as many days, like the record of a desperado
who dies by the law against which he raises a violent



Online LibraryOhio State Archaeological and Historical SocietyOhio archæological and historical quarterly (Volume 30) → online text (page 18 of 43)