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friends falling on all sides. Our leader would not surrender
and there seemed to be no other resort than to fight, though I
am happy to say that no one fell by my hand, and am sorry to
say that I was ever induced to raise a gun. I was not looking
for such a thing. I am sorry, very sorry, that such has been
the case. Never did I suppose that my hand would be guilty of
raising a gun against my fellow men. After our capture, which
was on the morning of the i8th, we were kept there until the
Vol. XXX— 27

418 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

evening of the 19th when we were removed to this place, where
we have been ever since. We are well cared for. The jailer
seems to do all he can to make us comfortable.

"Nov. 6th. — I have just finished a letter to Mr. Painter,
which I expect to send out tomorrow with this. I sent one yes-
terday to Dr. Gill, stating to him that it was not worth while
for any of you to come, but on thinking more about it, I con-
cluded that I would like to see some one from there, so tomorrow
I intend to telegraph for the Doctor to come.

'T have written J. Painter and told him wdiat to do with my
land, but whatever money is spent by anyone coming here, I wish
to have it replaced out of the land.

"The captain has had some apple pies and preserves sent
him from Ohio, by some friends. 1 presume they do not go bad
though I have not had a taste.

"If the Doctor has not started when this gets there, and you
have any sweet cakes or other nick-nacks, just send them along.
They will go very good here between the iron bars. We get
plenty to eat here, but it is not from home. It is not baked by
the hands of. those we love at home, or by those whom I never
expect to see.

"I don't feel like writing more. I hope and trust the Doctor
will come, and if anything is in the way so he cannot come, I
hope some one else will come in his stead. I believe I have
nothing more to say. This may be the last letter you may get
from me. If it is, think of me as one who thought he was
doing right.

"Give my love to Brigss' and Maxsons' folks and to all in-
quiring friends for [of] such I feel I have a large circle, and I
trust that what I have done will not make them enemies. My
love to all the family.

No more,

Edwin Coppoc."^

In prison and condemned to die, Coppoc was yet
jealous of the honorable reputation he had borne in the
communities where he had lived. An anonymous writer
had sent to the New York Tribune a letter which had
been published in that paper, derogatory of his charac-
ter. This was copied in many papers including the
Virginia Free Press, published in Charlestown. To this
letter Edwin Coppoc replied through the same paper in

Edwin Coppoc 419

a communication bearing date of November 14, 1859, as
follows :

"Mr. Editor : I see in your last issue, a letter purporting to
come from Salem, Ohio, which was published in the New York
Tribune. In regard to the statements which are made in that
letter, which place my character in an unenviable light before
the public, I will only say, that they are fake from beginning to
end. Any person, who under the circumstances in which I am
placed, would stoop so low as to circulate such a libel about a
doomed man, places himself below the level of the brute. And
then the base and cowardly manner in which it has been
done bears at once the mark of fakehood on its front. No name
has been signed, but simply the letter S. at the conclusion. If
he was a man ; if he was telling the truth, why was he afraid to
sign his name to it? It is true, my Father died when I but six
years of age, when I went to live with John Butler four miles
from Salem. Ohio, and with whom I lived nine years, and might
have remained until the present time, had not my mother wished
me to go with her and the other members of our family to Spring-
dale, Cedar County, Iowa, where I remained till the spring of
1858, when I went to Kansas for the express purpose of pur-
chasing some land. I took no part in the difficulties of Kansas,
and never, while there, had any association or acquaintance wnth
Capt. Brown or any of his company. I remained in Kansas till
the following autumn, when I returned to Iowa. I had no ac-
quaintance with Capt. Brown until last winter, and last spring
agreed to join him, while he was at Springfield [Springdale].
In regard to the truth of my statement I will refer you to Mr. John
Butler, my former guardian, Amos Fossit, and David Parker,
William Fisher, Jacob Heaton, Isaac Carr, and William Mead,
all of Salem, Ohio, and its neighborhood. In Springdale, Cedar
County, Iowa I would refer [to] Messrs. Thomas Winn, P. M.,
Dr. H. C. Gill, Thomas James, Emmor Rood, Jesse Bowersock,
John Parynive, Moses Varney, Nathan Tabor, James Schooler,
Ebenezer Gray, Steven Dean and William Madison, all of
Springdale and its vicinity. In Pedee, of the same county and
state, I would refer to William Street, P. M., Samuel Moore,
John Moore, Preston Roberts, and Burton Gifford. In Pardee,
Atchison County, Kansas Territory, I would refer to Dr. Moore,
P. M., James Booth, Amos D. Taylor, Mahlon Oliphant, Ben-
jamin Ball, William Cummings and Richard Allen. If these
are not references enough I can give you ten for every one I
have here named, who will testify to the falsity of the statements
of the cowardly calumniator, who has written from Salem, Ohio.

420 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

"By giving the above an insertion in your paper you will
greatly oblige, — Yours truly,

Edw^in Coppoc/'-

In contradiction to the anonymous letter, John But-
ler made a statement which appeared in the Salem
(Ohio) Republican of November 29, 1859. The follow-
ing excerpt is here reproduced :

"* * * In the spring of 1842 his mother applied to me
to take Edwin into my family and have the care of him, he then
being, as we supposed, near seven years old, his father having
died a few months previous to that time. He accordingly came
without any time being fixed then how long he should remain
and stayed with us until the spring of 1850, during which time
there was nothing particular to remark in point of character,
except that he gave evidences of an unusually strong will in
trying to carry out his own views and also that he was very
fearless, never manifesting anything like cowardice in times of
danger or by night. He was a very industrious and careful boy,
more careful and particular that everything was kept in its
proper place on the farm and about the buildings and to have
his work done well and prompt to have it done in a given time,
than is common for boys of his age. * * *"

In the meantime strenuous efforts were made to save
Edwin's life. His previous good record, his deportment
in prison, his courage and frankness, together with the
large number of highly respectable Quaker friends who
interceded in his behalf, appealed very strongly to the
Virginia authorities, including Prosecutor Hunter,
Judge Parker and Governor Wise. Thomas Winn, a
Quaker friend of the Coppoc family from Springdale,
took the lead in the effort to have the sentence com-
muted to life imprisonment. And most adroitly and
effectively he pressed the plea for mercy. In reading
the papers he presented, one cannot fail to be impressed
with the pursuasive power that he brought to bear to
accomplish his great desire. Himself a consistent

Edwin Coppoc 421

Quaker who was opposed to the settlement of any ques-
tion by the arbitrament of war, he was in a position to
disclaim all sympathy with the armed invasion of Vir-
ginia. The following- extract from his letter to Gov-
ernor Wise, dated "Springdale, Cedar County, Iowa,
11th mo. 4th, 1859," indicates the line of his plea:

"Edwin Coppoc is a Quaker by birth and education although
not strictly a member of that body of Christians. He has mingled
almost daily in the society of those who in relation to the vexed
question of slavery and other questions of public interest, are
known by all the world to believe in and pray for a peaceful
solution of surrounding difficulties as alone desirable and most
truly calculated to secure the Divine favor Knowing this I
cannot but believe that his being found at Harper's Ferry in a
course of conduct so totally repugnant to all his previous modes
of thought and action must have been the result of a temporary
alienation of mind, something akin to insanity, if not insanity
itself. I have no sort of sympathy whatever for the leaders in
this movement. In my opinion all such proceedings involve a
grievous wrong, and result in serious and widespread mischief
to both sections of our common country. They must be con-
demned by all right-thinking persons.

"In the case of Edwin Coppoc, however, there are mitigating
circumstances which I have endeavored to bring into view and
I beg the Governor to take these calmly into consideration. I
feel encouraged to invoke thy friendly offices in his behalf, on
the score of his youth and inexperience, and because having
known him from his boyhood I am constrained to believe that
in embarking on the enterprise he was not in his right mind and
had no adequate conception of its character. * * * j ^g.
lieve Edwin to be incapable of doing, intentionally, a mean or
unworthy action. Indeed there is a native nobility of char-
acter about him which I think must have been observed by those
who have been brought into contact with him since the sad
event which we all deplore. I fervently hope, therefore, that
his life may not be taken. * * * Surely in a case like this
the 'Old Dominion' can well afford to be magnanimous. * * *
In the consciousness of her strength, let her pity this child's
weakness. Spare the fatherless boy to his poor, broken-hearted
mother now fast passing into the evening of her days — then
shall the language be truly applicable, 'The blessing of him that

422 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

was ready to perish came upon me and I caused the widow's
heart to sing with joy.'

"Very respectfully and truly thy friend,

Thomas Winn,
Postmaster of Springdale."-

Mr. Winn afterward went to Harper's Ferry, Char-
lestown and Richmond, Virginia. On his arrival in the
last named city he at once addressed a letter to Governor
Wise in a friendly and grateful vein, expressing the
hope that his mission might be successful. He wrote in

"On my arrival in Charlestown, 30th ult. I immediately
reported myself to Andrew Hunter, Esq., and was most cor-
dially received by him and his excellent family. I frankly stated
to them the object of my visit to Virginia, and my hopes were
greatly strengthened at finding that their sympathies were al-
ready kindly enlisted on behalf of Edwin. The fact of his
youth, and having been undoubtedly deluded into John Brown's
wicked schemes without a full appreciation of their true nature
and extent ; his uniformly good conduct since his confinement
in jail, and the unexceptionable character of his correspondence,
had already produced a favorable impression. 'He is the best
of all our prisoners,' said Mr. Hunter to me. T give him all
the letters that come for him. I find them so entirely unex-
ceptionable.' It was also very gratifying to learn that Judge
Parker was inclined to a merciful viezv of this case, and that the
feeling of sympathy is general and the desire freely expressed
by influential persons that Edwin's sentence might be commuted.

"At Harper's Ferry I found the same sentiment existed.
Armistead Ball and some other gentlemen to whom I was intro-
duced stating very clearly their belief that no one fell by Edwin's
hand, and that his conduct throughout was very different from
that of those with whom he had (although but for a brief period)
most unfortunately connected himself, and concluded by ex-
pressing the hope and belief that Governor Wise would commute
his punishment."'

That these letters and petitions had much weight
with the Governor is evidenced by the remarks of Hon.
A. H. H. Stuart, who on December 12, 1859, presented
to the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates the

Edzviii Coppoc , 423

memorial of Thomas Winn, asking for commutation of
the death sentence of Edwin Coppoc. Mr. Stuart said
in part:

"I called to see the Governor, and he authorized me to say
that, from his personal knowledge, and from information
gathered by him during his stay in Charlestown, the case of this
man stands upon a very different footing from that of the other
individuals who have been sentenced. He informs me that he
is a youth of about 23 years of age and that he has borne an un-
exceptionable character up to the time of the difficulty. There
are present here in our lobby several members of the Society
of Friends, who have an intimate knowledge of this man since
he was seven years of age. * * * These gentlemen inform
me that he was their trusted agent in the transaction of business,
and frequently in the collection of money, and that in all cir-
cumstances he acquitted himself with fidelity and truthfulness.
They express the deepest sympathy for him and the Governor
informs me, moreover, that this young man, while he was in the
engine house at Harper's Ferry, was the means of saving the
lives of the prisoners * * * that he frequently remonstrated
with them about the exposure of their persons and pointed out
places of safety which he insisted they should occupy, while he
remonstrated against the murder of others on the street by some
of his associates. I know nothing of the facts myself, * * *
I give them to you as they have been communicated to me."®

Mr. Thomas of Fairfax, in discussing the report of
the legislative committee on the memorial of Thomas
Winn, made an even more explicit statement of the
favorable attitude of Governor Wise :

"The Governor of Virginia appeared before the committee
and enlightened that body very much in reference to the action
and extent of Coppoc's guilt in the Harper's Ferry affair so far
as it was known to him. He said, moreover, that from his
knowledge of Coppoc's relation to the whole movement, and
particularly his course with reference to the prisoners whom
Brown had captured, he would have taken upon himself the
responsibility of commuting his sentence to imprisonment for
life, though in that act he should not have the approval or sanc-
tion of a single individual in the State. And this he said he
would do because he believed the act to be just and right."®

424 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

Among the papers of Governor Wise is the petition
of Thomas Winn endorsed by the governor as follows :

"This man's plea for Coppoc coincides with my own view
of the case, from his confession to me in this: — that he is the
only one entitled to the least mercy. Whether he is, is question-

No^m. 15, 1859. H. A. WiSE.''-

This was written before Winn's visit to Virginia.
Later the Governor was confirmed in his view and rec-
ommended the commutation of Coppoc's sentence as in-
dicated in the address of Mr. Thomas.

In an interview published in the St. Louis Globe-
Democrat, as late as 1888, Andrew Hunter referring to
the persistence of an *'old gentleman," evidently Thomas
Winn, gives the following interesting reminiscence:

"When he (Coppoc) was in jail an old gentleman came all
the way from his people to see him, bringing him a pound cake
to comfort him. The old gentleman stopped at my house on
the way in, and I advised him to wait until I went down town,
but he would hurry on ahead with his pound cake, and when I
got down, sure enough, he was in the guard house, as I antici-
pated. I got him out and passed him into the jail, with the
cake for Coppoc. After he had visited the prisoner, he went
all the way to Richmond to intercede. I believe he would have
got commutation for Coppoc if I had not shown that treason
could not be pardoned."*'

Among the touching appeals for mercy is a letter
from the young man's uncle, Joshua Coppock, dated
"Salem the 11 mo. 24th 1859." After explaining his re-
lationship to the prisoner he said:

"I feel for my dear nephew. I hope thee will not have him
hung. * * * Thee will see by his advice to the prisoners in
the arsenal to keep out of danger he did not want to see them
hurt. Governor Wise, please to read this, and if thee can avoid
hanging, do, I entreat thee."^

Edwin Coppoc 425

It was left for Mr. Isbell, the member from the
county of Jefferson in the Legislature, to voice the atti-
tude of Virginia, not only toward the imprisoned Har-
per's Ferry raiders, but toward the North. Because of
the representative character of his address, a somewhat
extended extract is here presented. Mr. Isbell said:

"This is the first time that so grave an offense has been
committed against the state of Virginia, and, so far as I am in-
formed, the first proceeding under the law of treason that has
ever taken place. This proceeding sprang from an offense which
is calculated to disturb the inhabitants of our whole northern
border and it becomes us to make such examples of the marauders
now convicted and under sentence as will operate to restore
confidence to these people and deter others from similar acts
of murder and rapine. It is said, Mr. President, that this man
Coppic was deceived as to the motives of John Brown in coming
to Virginia. He could not have been deceived. He was one of
that band who had put upon his conscience the oath of fidelity
to Brown in subverting the government and exciting the slaves
to rebellion. He is as much guilty of murder as any man con-
victed before the courts — as much guilty, if not more guilty,
than John Brown himself ; for, so far as I am aware, it was not
shown in evidence that Brown shot anybody in that struggle.
This man Coppic was, moreover, fully cognizant of and partici-
pator in the military preparations set on foot at Brown's farm,
some months previous to the invasion. He stands precisely in
the same position with the other prisoners who were convicted
of murder and exciting slaves to rebellion. All of them pre-
sented the plea that they came not for the purpose of slaughter-
ing our citizens, but of carrying off their property — with the
intention not to commit any act of personal violence upon the
people of the commonwealth except when that people decided
to resist them in their unlawful course. In view of these facts,
Mr. President, I am in favor of withholding, from the executive
of this state, the power of pardoning Coppic, or any other of
the prisoners convicted at Charlestown for their connection with
the Harper's Ferry invasion. But, sir, it is said that having
upheld our laws, and enforced our authority — that having
vindicated ourselves before the whole country, and shown to the
North and to the South, and to the whole world in fact, that we
can defend ourselves, and mean to do it. and enforce our laws
against whomsoever may dare to violate them — that having
presented these vindications to the world we might temper

426 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

justice with mercy and pardon these men who have been the
greatest offenders against our laws that have ever been brought
before our courts for triah I say that, in the existing relations
between the North and South, it becomes rather the duty of Vir-
ginia to give notice to the whole world — that he who dares
place his foot upon her soil, with the same hellish purpose that
actuated the prisoners now in custody at Charlestown, shall hang
as high as Haman, and that no mercy shall be accorded to him
who comes in the dead of night to murder our citizens. I be-
lieve that it is impolitic to extend this pardon to Coppic, or any
other of those prisoners. I believe that we shall best subserve
our interests by upholding our laws and executing all persons of
this class as soon after conviction as may be convenient. While
I am a law abiding man, while I have been educated to believe
that all criminals should be brought before a court of justice
and have the benefit of all the forms of trial, yet, on occasions
of this sort, on the spur and excitement of the actual transaction
itself, with all these preconceived opinions and feelings, I fear
I should almost doubt my ability to insist that the criminals
should have the benefit of a trial, should they be taken by our
own citizens. For this reason I am utterly opposed, in every
aspect in which this case can be presented, to any mercy being
shown to this man."^

"In the existing relations between the North and
South." This is the real basis of the fervid appeal of
Mr. Isbell. Governor Wise and other individual Vir-
ginians in high position might be willing to extend clem-
ency, and under all the circumstances the attitude of the
Governor was generous, chivalrous and courageous, but
no power could withstand the resolution of the chosen
representatives of the commonwealth, of Virginia. The
"irrepressible conflict" was already on, and the Legisla-
ture of Virginia was resolved from the first that no
guilty man from the North should escape.

Among those who sought other excuse for with-
holding clemency were some who found it in the publi-
cation in the New York Tribune of December 12, 1859,
of a letter of November — , purporting to have been
written from Coppoc to the wife of John Brown. As

Edwin Coppoc 427

this letter has figured somewhat prominently in the case
and was referred to in the Legislature when the memo-
rial of Thomas Winn was up for consideration, it is here
reproduced in full:

"Mrs. John Brown — Dear Madam : I was very sorry that
your request to see the rest of the prisoners was not complied
with. Mrs. Avis brought me a book, whose pages are full of
truth and beauty, entitled 'Voice of the True-Hearted,' which
she told me was a present from you. For this dear token of
remembrance, please accept my thanks.

"My comrade, J. E. Cook, and myself, deeply sympathize
with you in your sad bereavement. We were both acquainted
with Anna and Martha. They were to us as sisters, and as
brothers we sympathize with them in the dark hour of trial and

"I was with your sons when they fell. Oliver lived but
a few moments after he was shot. He spoke no word but yielded
calmly to his fate. Watson was shot at lo o'clock on Monday
morning, and died about 3 o'clock on Wednesday morning. He
suffered much. Though mortally wounded at 10 o'clock, yet at
3 o'clock Monday afternoon he fought bravely against the men
who charged on us. When the enemy were repulsed, and the ex-
citement of the charge was over, he began to sink rapidly.

"After we were taken prisoners, he w^as placed in the guard
house with me. He complained of the hardness of the bench on
which he was lying. I begged hard for a bed for him, or even
a blanket, but could obtain none for him. I took off my coat
and placed it under him, and held his head in my lap, in which
position he died without a groan or a struggle.

"I have stated these facts, thinking that they may afford
to you, and to the bereaved widows they have left, a mournful

"Give my love to Anna and Martha, with our last farewell.

'Yours truly,

"Edwin Coppoc."

Some of the members of the Virginia senate spoke
of this letter and made certain expressions in it the occa-
sion for their vote in withholding sanction of executive
clemency. Thomas Winn was convinced that the publi-
cation of this letter at the critical time when it appeared

428 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

was the chief influence that turned the scale again the
Hfe of Coppoc. In a letter to the widow of John Brown,
written January 13, 1860, he says:

"Governor Wise appeared before the committee and ably
advocated the commutation of his punishment. Many of the most
influential senators were also in favor of it. Unfortunately,
however, while the subject was before the Legislature the New
York Tribmte made its appearance, containing a letter signed
Edwin Coppic, addressed to thyself, which was used success-
fully to defeat the application for mercy. Senators objected to
the tone of the letter and particularly to the paragraph which
speaks of the Virginians as 'enemies' and refused to show him
any mercy."^°

Winn states further that Edwin denied writing- the
letter and said that it had been written by Cook, his
fellow prisoner. It is said to have been sent by Mrs.
Brown to Winn and soon afterward to have disap-

It should be explained in this connection that the
letter got into the Tribune in an account of the funeral
of John Brown at North Elba, New York. Rev. J. M.
McKim, in delivering the funeral sermon, read the letter.

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