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It appears that neither Cook nor Coppoc left any
written statement in regard to the letter, and in the
absence of the original manuscript discussion as to its
authorship would probably leave the reader in doubt.
It must be admitted, however, that the language is much
like that of Coppoc and does not resemble the style of
Cook's letters. If Cook wrote it, the motive for not sign-
ing it himself, of course, would be that he thought Mrs.
Brown would appreciate the letter more if it were not
signed by him, but it expresses sentiment and relates
experiences that were Coppoc's, not Cook's.

After all it is much more than probable that the

Edzi'in Coppoc 429

letter had little weight in determining Edwin's fate.
The speech of Isbell in any event would have swept
away all pleas for mercy. It made Coppoc the chief
offender in the raid, and the result would doubtless have
been, the same regardless of the letter. Virginia at this
time was determined to go to the limit in dealing with
''invaders and traitors," and to hang "as high as
Haman" those who came with arms in their hands to
liberate the slave. From the beginning, there was small
reason to expect clemency from the Legislature of Vir-
ginia. That hope went out when it became known that
Governor Wise did not have the power to commute the
sentence of Edwin Coppoc*

The time for his execution was rapidly approaching.
On December 13, 1859, he wrote to his uncle, Joshua
Coppock, the remarkable letter that deserves to rank
among the poignant and prophetic utterances called
forth by the long anti-slavery struggle preceding the
Civil War. If at other times what he wrote had the
tone of regret to be expected from a farmer boy caught
in the net of circumstance, this letter reveals the man,
mindful still of his impending fate, but sustained by de-
votion to a cause and faith in the speedy coming of that
''glorious day" which he could see in vision almost from
the platform of the scaffold. Following is the letter:

Charlestown, Dec. 13th, 1859.
"My Dear Uncle :

"I seat myself by the stand, to write for the first; and last
time, to thee and thy family. Though far from home and over-
taken by misfortune, I have not forgotten you. Your generous

* Hazlett and Stevens were not executed until March 16, 1860. The
part of the former in the raid was slight and the latter was shot down
while bearing a flag of truce, but no mercy was shown to either. Virginia
was determined to have the life of each of these condemned men.


OJiio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

hospitality towards me, during my short stay with you last
spring, is stamped indelibly upon my heart; and also the gen-
erosity bestowed upon my poor brother, who now wanders an
outcast from his native land. But thank God he is free. I am
thankful that it is I, who has to suffer, instead of him.

"The time may come when he will remember me, and the
time may come when he will still further remember the cause in
which I die. Thank God, the principles of the cause in which

Joshua Coppock and Wife

we were engaged ivill not die zvith me and my brave comrades
They will spread wider and wider, and gather strength with
each hour that passes. The voice of truth will echo through
our land, bringing conviction to the erring, and adding numbers
to that glorious army zvho will follozv its banner. The cause of
everlasting truth and justice zuill go on conquering, to conquer,
until our broad and beautiful land shall rest beneath the banner
of freedom.

"I had hoped to live to see the dawn of that glorious day.
I had hoped to live to see the principles of the Declaration of
our Independence fully realized. I had hoped to see the dark-
stain of slavery blotted from our land, and the libel of our boasted

Edwin Coppoc 431

freedom erased, when we can say in truth, that our beloved
country is the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

"But this cannot be. I have heard my sentence passed. My
doom is sealed. But two more short days remain for me to ful-
fill my earthly destiny. But two brief days between me and
eternity. At the expiration of those two days, I shall stand
upon the scafifold to take my last look of earthly scenes, but
that scaffold has but little dread for me; for I honestly believe
that I am innocent of any crime justifying such punishment.
But by the taking of my life, and the lives of my comrades, Vir-
ginia is but hastening on that glorious day, when the slave shall
rejoice in his freedom. When he can say, "/ too am a man, and
am groaning no more under the yoke of oppression."

"But I must now close. Accept this short scrawl as a re-
membrance of me. Give my love to all the family. Kiss little
Josey for me. Remember me to all my relatives and friends.
And now farewell for the last time.

"From thy Nephew,

"Edwin Coppoc.

"P. S. Thee wished to know who was here with me from

"Thomas Winn is here and expects to stay until after the
execution ; and then will convey my body, to Springdale. It is
my wish to be buried there.

"I would of [have] been glad to see thee or any of my other
relatives : but it is now too late.

"I did not like to send for any of you, as I did not know
whether any of you would be willing to come.

"I zvill say, for I knozv that it zvill he a satisfaction to all of
you, that zve are all kindly treated and I hope that the North zvill
not fail to give Sheriff Campbell and Captain Avis due acknozvl-
edgnieiit for their kind and noble actions. "E."^

"While there is life there is hope," — so runs the
trite adage. When Edwin Coppoc wrote the foregoing
letter he did not expect to escape execution, but he was
even then working out with his fellow prisoner, John E.
Cook, a plan devised by them to regain their liberty.
Along one side of the cell in which they were confined
was a heavy plank, held in place by screws. With the
aid of two knives and a long heavy screw taken from

432 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

their bedstead they loosened the plank and under the
shadow of darkness took out some of the bricks from
the jail wall. A few of these were concealed in the bed;
others were left loose in the aperture that was forming
back of the single outer layer of brick that remained to
be removed on the night chosen to make the final effort
for freedom.

And a faithful friend was ready to assist, just out-
side of the prison walls, — an active Free State partisan
from Kansas, who had arrived at the Ferry too late to
join the followers of John Brown in the attack. His
name was Charles Lenhart. In the hope that he might
in some way aid his old leader and the other prisoners
he took on the disguise of a pro-slavery sympathizer, de-
nounced the raiders, enlisted in the Virginia militia, was
present at the execution of John Brown and had re-
mained in Charlestown in the hope that he might be of
service to his friends. On the night chosen by Cook
and Coppoc for the escape, Lenhart was sentinel at the
angle of the jail where they had planned to scale the
wall. He of course was not to see them, they were to
flee to the mountains — and liberty.*

Thus far fortune had favored their efforts. On the
evening of December 14, Lenhart was at the post out-
side of the prison wall. The shadows of night fell on
the valley and over the mountains. The sentry paced

* Colonel Richard J. Hinton, in his John Brozcn and His Men, states
that Charles Lenhart was in all probability in the same file of Virginia
militiamen with John Wilkes Booth at the execution of John Brown. In
his account of the attempted escape of Coppoc and Cook he says: "In the
town was a Kansas man, Charles Lenhart, who under disguise was striv-
ing to be of service. On the night of the 14th of December, Lenhart was
on guard at the angle of the jail wall where, the next night, the spectacle
of their heads above its edge created the alarm of a faithful pro-slavery

Lenhart enlisted in the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War,
was commissioned lieutenant, and died in the service in 18G3.

Edxvin Coppoc


-I r


A Main entrance; jti Space between walls, JVvis's house, and the
jail building; C Point of wall which Cook and Coppoc reached
on the night of Dec. 15th in their attempt to escape; D Jail yard
d d d d d, cell doors; ^Reception-room; /"Cell occupied by
.Brown and Stevens, afterwards by the latter and Hazlett; G Cell
of Green and Copeland; /^ Cell of Coppoc and Cook; / Cell
first occupied by Albert Hazlett, w w w, w w, windows, those of
cells look into the jail yard; cc cots of Brown and Stevens.


This plan and the explanation are taken from John Brown and His
Men, by Colonel Richard J. Hinton, and are here reproduced by special
permission of the publishers, Funk and Wagnalls Company.

Vol. XXX— 28

434 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

back and forth eagerly looking through the darkness for
the appearance of his friends on top of the wall back
of the jail. Anxiously he watched and listened. Mid-
night, and no sign from the gloomy prison. Slowly and
silently passed the hours until a new day faintly dawned
over the mountains, — and the imprisoned men did not
come forth.

In the meantime Cook and Coppoc were in serious
whispered conference in their cell. On the very day pre-
ceding this night. Cook's brother-in-law, Governor
Ashbel P. Willard, of Indiana, Mrs. Willard, his sister,
and a lady friend of the family had called for their final
farewell. The parting was very affecting, for Mrs. Wil-
lard was strongly attached to her brother. She was so
overcome that she and her husband did not leave
Charlestown that evening as they had planned.

Cook felt that his escape that night in accordance
with the carefully laid plans would mvolve his brother-
in-law and his sister in charges of complicity, and he
refused to leave the jail.* He urged Edwin Coppoc to
go, but he would not desert his comrade in the crisis.
They decided to wait until the next night and take their
chances when a stranger was on guard outside.

* In these times political excitement ran high in Indiana. Governor
Willard, the brother-in-law of Cook, had been attacked by an influential
Republican paper of Indianapolis as a confidant in the Harper's Ferry
raid. Democratic papers very generally were charging that Republicans
were responsible for this and the Republican press in Indiana could not
forego the opportunity to retaliate by ascribing all sorts of motives to
Governor Willard, who was a Democrat and who did all he could, with
the aid of Daniel W. Voorhees and Joseph E. McDonald, both afterward
United States senators, to save Cook's life. Governor Willard was wholly
innocent of the charges brought against him by the politicians and his
course throughout this trying experience was highly honorable. He died
in 18G0, before the expiration of his term of office. It was because of
this unjust criticism that Cook was resolved to do nothing to make his
brother-in-law still further an object of suspicion.

Edwin Coppoc 435

Early in the night of December 15, they removed
the thin layer of brick and without difficulty reached the
open space in the jail yard. The scaffold on which John
Brown had been executed was there. Up this Coppoc
climbed to the top of the outer wall and lay there at full
length. Cook followed, but before mounting the wall
held up his hat on a stick to learn whether the guard
outside was on the w^atch. The prisoners were detected,
the alarm given and the chance to escape was gone.
Had the attempt been made the night before with
Charles Lenhart on guard it is needless to say that there
would have been a very different record to write. On
the morning of the execution, Cook wrote an account
of the attempt to escape which was signed by him and
Coppoc. It is as follows:

"Having been called upon to make a fair statement in regard
to the ways and means of our breaking jail, I have agreed to
do so from a sense of duty to the sheriff of the county, our
jailer, and the jail guard. We do not wish that any one should
be unjustly censured on our account. The principal implements
with which we opened a passage through the wall of the jail
were a barlow knife and a screw which we took out of the bed-

"The knife was borrowed from one of the jail guards to
cut a lemon with. We did not return it to him. He had.no
idea of any intention on our part to break out, neither did the
sheriff, jailer, or any of the guard, have any knowledge of our

"We received no aid from any person or persons whatever.
We had, as we supposed, removed all the brick except the last
tier, several days ago, but on the evening previous to our break-
ing out, we found our mistake in regard to that matter.

"We had intended to go out on the evening that my sister
and brother-in-law were here, but I knew that it would reflect
on them, and we postponed it — but I urged Coppoc to go and
I would remain, but he refused. We then concluded to wait.

"I got a knife blade from Shields Green, and with that made
some teeth in the barlow knife, with which we sawed oiT our
shackles. We had them all off the night previous to our getting

436 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

out. Coppoc went out first and I followed. We then got up on
the wall, when I was discovered and shot at. The guard outside
the wall immediately came up to the wall.

"We saw there was no chance to escape, and as it was dis-
covered that we had broken jail, we walked in deliberately and
gave ourselves up to the sheriff, Captain Avis, and the jail guard.
There was no person or persons who aided us in our escape.
This is true, so help us God.

"John E. Cook,
"Edwin Coppoc."*

Intense excitement followed the attempt of the pris-
oners to escape. The people flocked in from the sur-
rounding country to witness the executions. These
were times when a legal hanging was still regarded as
something of a holiday. The exhibition had not yet
been driven by public opinion from the light of day to
the darkness of midnight and the seclusion of the dun-
geon. It is claimed that four or five times as many
were present as at the execution of John Brown. The
place and scaffold were the same. Newspaper reports
differ in detail, even in the statements in regard to the
weather. From the Associated Press we learn that "the
weather was bright and cheerful and much milder than
for several preceding days," while the correspondent of
the Cincinnati Gazette reports that "the heavens were
overcast, the air rav/ and bitter and the ground covered
with a slight snow."

So far as known, the very last letter written by
Edwin Coppoc was the short note to his faithful and
resourceful friend, Thomas Winn. It was as follows:

"My Dear Friend Thomas Winn : For thy love and sym-
pathy, and for thy unwearied efforts in my behalf, accept my
warmest thanks. I have no words to tell the gratitude and love
I have for thee. And may God bless thee and thy family, for
the love and kindness thee has always shown towards my family
and me. And when life with thee is over, may we meet on that

Edwin Coppoc 437

shore where there is no parting, is the farewell prayer of thy
true Friend,

"Edwin Coppoc."*

On the morning of December 16 the prisoners were
aroused early and prepared for execution. The minis-
ters and a few others besides the officers were permitted
to meet them before they left the jail.

"It is hard to die," remarked a Quaker to Coppoc.

''It is the parting of friends, not the dread of death
that moves us," was the reply.

The two men were remarkably cheerful before leav-
ing but seated on their coffins their expressions changed.
One correspondent wrote :

"The countenance of Coppoc changed ; his face wore a set-
tled expression of despair. He looked wildly around upon the
crowd, and his large eyes lighted with an unnatural luster. Many
a heart sighed for him. Most of the community were anxious
for a commutation of his sentence."

Like John Brown, this youth in his last hours was
sustained by the faith that the cause was worthy of the
sacrifice. But he was young and the current of health
coursing through his veins made life precious and its
surrender sad.

Arriving at the scaffold, "the calm and collected
manner of both was very marked." "They both exhib-
ited the most unflinching firmness, saying nothing,
with the exception of bidding farewell to the ministers
and sheriff." "After the cap had been placed on their
heads, Coppoc turned toward Cook and stretched forth
his hand as far as possible. At the same time Cook
said, 'Stop a minute — where is Edwin's hand?' They
then shook hands cordially and Cook said, 'God bless


K 5


Edwin Coppoc 43-9

After everything was in readiness, Cook said "Be
quick — as quick as possible," which was echoed by
Coppoc, and in a few moments they departed this Hfe

After receiving a letter from his nephew, Joshua
Coppoc had gone at once to Charlestown. The day be-
fore the execution he talked over with Edwin and
Thomas Winn matters of mutual interest and the for-
mer changed the request, expressed in his letter, to a
preference for burial near his birthplace in Columbiana

Back to Salem Joshua Coppock and Thomas Winn
brought the body in a coffin provided by the state of
Virginia. Arrangements were promptly made for a
quiet funeral in accord with Quaker custom. No daily
papers then announced the latest news to the people in
the rural districts, but in spite of that fact they came in
great numbers on December 18 to attend the funeral.
Until late in the afternoon they continued to come, some
through curiosity no doubt, but very generally through
sympathy. All were seriously respectful. The number
that came, many to remain but a short time, was esti-
mated at between two and three thousand, and the last
simple rites took on the aspect of a large public funeral.
In the little room at the home of Joshua Coppock where
the body lay, a neighbor woman, Rachel Whinnery,
from an adjoining farm, rose and in fitting voice read
the following address that she had prepared only the
evening before:

"Friends: A brother lies before us, murdered by brothers'
hands ! Every heart present should swell up in deepest sympathy
for the youth, who, apparently, is taking a cahn slumber here,
to recuperate a system which looks full of health and vigor. How
can we realize that this is Death ? No. sickness has wasted his

440 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

natural form, nor has an unforeseen accident laid him low. With
the stamina of life about him to have lengthened his time to
fourscore years and ten, the cord of life is rent asunder at twenty-
four years. The violent hands of man have been laid upon him.
His own words are, T am thankful that no one fell by my hands !'
He, as one of old, fell among thieves, and though the good
Samaritans were there to bind up his bleeding, mental wounds,
his physical life was sacrificed, and he was murdered for a
principle, and that principle was Freedom ! On that broad and
expanded brow, may be traced the lineaments of Liberty.
Slavery has snatched, as it were, a birdling from our own dove-
cote, a brother from our own fireside — what can ghe more?

"The people of Virginia have manifested a great degree of
hospitality towards the friends of the departed, who were with
him ; but what can they give equivalent to that which they have
taken away? Can that mother, whose sight is almost obliterated,
feel that she can be thus recompensed for so sad a bereavement?
Every mother's heart that looks on the lifeless form before us,
will feel that Virginia has not only done HER, but themselves,
too, a grievous wrong. Would that I could this day summon
Governor Wise and the Legislative body of Virginia here to let
them gaze on the victim of their barbarous vengeance, and from
thence direct it to the aged grandmother, over whose head the
snows of four-score winters have passed, bowed with grief, that
one so full of life, and so young in years must cross the valley
of the shadow of Death before his time. I would have them
gaze on the saddened faces, the falling tears of other relatives
and friends, and if they were not afifected by this, need we won-
der at the infamous deed they have committed.

"Not one smiling face is here today. Sadness overhangs
us like a pall ! But this is only for the physical ; mortality has
put on immortality, and to him the physical is laid aside. He
died, as died other martyrs before him, and the good and the
true, among the present and coming generations, will feel that
for him there is a crown of glory, where dungeon walls will not
loom over him ; where manacles cannot gall his limbs, and where
that awful feature of barbarism, THE GIBBET, will not appall
his soul. With the beautified throng of angels, we leave thee,
Oh ! our Brother ! Thy physical form we consign to Mother
Earth ; thy soul to thy Father, God, who gave it."^

As evening approached the body was borne out into
the yard and permitted to rest a short time while the
silence was broken briefly by a solemn voice closing with
this appeal:




442 Ohio Arch, and Hist. Society Publications.

"Let us here over this Hfeless body and as if standing at
the altar of Christ, consecrate our Hves anew to go and battle
manfully for truth and righteousness, and for the overthrow of
the bloody system that sacrifices millions of our fellow men.''''

As the setting sun in bars of red cloud passed below
the horizon, the remains of Edwin Coppoc were lowered
into the grave in the Friends' Churchyard, among the
quiet hills and valleys of his childhood days. When the
shadows of night had fallen and the funeral crowd had
vanished, a few sturdy men entered the Friends' Church
with arms in their hands to guard the dead, for a rumor
had gone abroad that an effort would be made to rob
the new made grave.

The salutation to John Brown when he arrived at
Springdale, Iowa, among the Quakers was, "Thee is
welcome, but we have no use for thy guns." For the
first time rifles were carried into the little Ohio church
and some Quakers were beginning to have "use for

After the funeral, of course it was the one topic of
conversation about the country firesides for many miles
around, and there was much sympathy and resentment
in the town of Salem. Dissatisfaction was felt at the
quiet funeral. Fear was expressed that the body would
be removed by pro-slavery sympathizers. Someone said
in the midst of a crowd of listeners that it was little
short of a disgrace to permit the body of this young
martyr to remain in a coffin furnished by the slave state
of Virginia. This view soon found frequent expression.
There was a demand for a more public funeral in order
that the sentiment of Salem and the surrounding coun-
try might have adequate expression. Announcement
was made in the papers and in a handbill signed by

Edzinn Coppoc 443

prominent citizens of Salem, a facsimile of which ap-
pears on another page. December 30 was fixed upon as
the date for the second and final burial, in Hope Ceme-
tery, Salem, Ohio.

It occurred to one of the anti-slavery leaders of the
town that the handbill with a personal letter should go
to Governor Wise, of Virginia. A copy of the original,
which is still in the archives of the state of Virginia, is
here presented for the first time in print:

"Salem Col. Co. O. 12th Mo 28th 1859.
"To Henry A. Wise :

"It has been on my mind for some time to address a few
lines to thee but have waited until the great tragedy in which
thee has been engaged is over.

"I am satisfied that an awful doom rests over Virginia, not
only for her hugging the accursed System of Slavery so close to
her vitals, but for the wilful murder of some of the best men
that have graced the pages of history for many generations. I
mean John Brown and his most noble followers.

"Enclosed thee will find an advertisement. We expect to
have 8 or ten thousand people present on its occasion.

"Thine respectfully,

"Daniel Bonsall.

"N. B. We shall not bury Edwin Coppick in the Virginia
Coffin, but would be rejoiced if her Governor would Come, or
send for it.

"D. Bonsall."'

The appointed day brought a very large crowd of
people to Salem to attend the final obsequies. The fol-
lowing account in the main is a paraphrase of the one
published in the Salem Republican:

In the morning the people began to arrive, some of
them from a considerable distance. Long before the

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