Page images

the cry of tar and feathers, from the application of which, it is said, that nothing saved him but a precipitate flight and the speed of his horse.

Harper's Ferry is distant 173 miles from Richmond, 81 from Baltimore, 57 from Washington. This thriving manufacturing village is situated at the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, and on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Its name is derived from a ferry long since established across the Potomac, where the river breaks through the Blue Ridgeat this point about 1,200 feet in hight. The name of the place was originally Shenandoah Falls. The village is compactly though irregularly built


North-western View of Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Showing the appearance of the village as it is entered upon the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from the west. The rocky cliff on the left, the bridge over the Potomac, and the railroad track and bridge in front, are in Maryland. Part of the U. S. Armory buildings (the scene of the recent raid of John Brown) appear on the right. The Odd Fellows' Hall, the Methodist Church, and the spire of the Catholic Church, are seen on the rocky elevation above. The Cumberland and Alexandria Canal passes at the foot of the cliff on the extreme left. Shenandoah River unites with the Potomac at the bridge.

It con

around the base of a hill, and is the center of considerable trade. tains several manufactories and flouring mills, and the U. S. Armory, in which several hundred hands are employed. In the National Arsenal here are stored from 100,000 to 200,000 stand of arms. Population about 5,000.

The mountain scenery at Harper's Ferry has long been celebrated as perhaps the most singularly picturesque in America, and “worth,” said Jefferson, “a voyage across the Atlantic to witness." To obtain a full idea of its magnificence it is necessary to climb the Blue Ridge, where the view from its lofty summit amply repays the fatigue incurred by its ascent. The junction of the two rivers—Shenandoah and Potomac—is immediately below the spectator's feet, and his delighted eye, resting upon the beautiful and thriving town of Harper's Ferry, wanders over the wide and woody plains extending to the Alleghany mountains.

Harper's Ferry has become noted as the scene of what has been termed the raid of John Brown," Oct. 16, 1859. The details of this event so unprecedented in our annals we give in an abridged form, mainly from the account published in Harper's Weekly, for which it was prepared by D.

H. Strother, Esq., the well known author and artist of Virginia. The opening paragraph, however, is from Harper's Monthly:

"The usual quiet of our domestic affairs has been interrupted by a singular attempt to excite a servile insurrection in Virginia. Among those who bore a prominent part in the disturbances in Kansas, on the anti-slavery side, were John Brown and his seven sons. Two of the sons lost their lives, and the remainder of the family appear to have imbibed a monomaniacal hatred against slavery and slaveholders. The father was the leader of his party in several of the later contests in Kansas, and from his part in one which took place at Ossawatomie he received the sobriquet of "Ossawatomie Brown.” After the pacification of Kansas he visited various parts of the country for the purpose of organizing a scheme to aid in the escape of fugitive slaves. He appears to have come in contact with many prominent abolitionists, who regarded him as a harmless monomaniac, and gave little attention to his projects. In May, 1858, a meeting of himself and his confederates was held at Chatham, a settlement in Canada mainly of runaway slaves, where a plan for a Provisional Government of the United States was formed. All residents of the country, whether slave or free, might become members of the association by promising allegiance to the “Provisional Constitution." Brown was named Commander-in-Chief, with almost dictatorial powers. Shortly afterward Brown, with two of his sons, appeared in the vicinity of Harper's Ferry, in Virginia, and, under the assumed name of Smith, rented a small farm in Maryland, a few miles from the Ferry. Here were gradually collected a considerable quantity of arms and ammunition-rifles, pistols, pikes, cartridges and the like-and a body of 22 men, of whom 17 where whites and 5 colored, joined him from various parts of the

country. With these, on the night of Sunday, October 16, he made a descent upon the town of Harper's Ferry, where is situated a United States arsenal, in which more than 100,000 stand of arms are usually stored. The arsenal was left wholly unguarded. The insurgents took possession of the buildings without opposition."

*The first overt act of hostility committed by them was the seizure of the watchman on the Potomac Bridge, who was carried prisoner to the armory buildings, of which they had already quietly taken possession. At an hour

after midnight Col. Lewis Washington, SCHOOL HOUSE IN THE MOUNTAINS.

living four miles from the town, was

aroused from his sleep by a loud knockUsed by John Brown as an Arsenal.

ing at his door, and a voice calling him

by name. Supposing it to be some friend come to claim hospitality, he lighted a lamp and went to the door, where, to his amazement, he found himself in the presence of six men armed with Sharp's rifles, knives and revolvers. The leader, J. E. Cooke, told him he was a prisoner, but that he need feel no alarm, as no harm was intended to his person. The colonel took the matter as coolly as could have been desired, assuring him that he not only was not frightened, but appreciated the honor they had donc him in supposing it required six men, armed to the teeth, to capture a single man in his night-shirt. While he dressed himself the outlaws arrested all the negro men on the premises, attached horses to the colonel's carriage and two wagons, and thus drove off toward Harper's Ferry. On their way they captured a Mr. John Alstadt, his son and men-servants, in like manner. Cooke, who had previously visited Col. Washington's house, and had been courteously entertained by him, took advantage of the knowledge thereby gained of the premises to steal a number of treasured family relics, among which was the sword presented by Frederick the Great to General George Washington. Some of these articles have been since recovered.

“It was not until four o'clock on Monday morning that the citizens of Harper's Ferry began to suspect that some mischief was afoot. The regular watchman at the bridge was missing, and an armed stranger stood guard in his place. As this fact was reported to Heywood, the well-known negro porter at the depot, he went down to see about it. When he got there he was approached by several armed men, one of whom handed him a ritle, and ordered him to stand guard in the cause of freedom. Heywood expostulated with them, and resolutely refused to take the rifle. Their motives were hastily explained, and he was threatened with instant death if he did not join them. With heroic firmness the negro answered that they might kill him, but he would never join in their murderous


schemes. Seeing an opportunity he attempted to escape, and was shot dead. Thus the first life sacrificed by these philanthropic liberators was that of a faithful negro. Shortly after the workmen began to go to their shops. Among the first, a Mr. Kelly, on seeing an armed guard at the gate, asked by what authority they had taken possession of the public premises. The guard replied, “By the authority of God Almighty.” He was ordered to enter as prisoner, but, instead of obeying, turned and made his escape, receiving a bullet through his hat as he ran. Mr. Boerly, a grocer, witnessing this

scene as he was about opening his shop, and running out with his gun fired at the guard. The next moment he was shot dead.

In the mean time the rumor of these murders began to spread, and as the town was aroused from sleep it was ascertained that the telegraph wires had been cut above and below the town, the morning train stopped and detained for a time, and then permitted to proceed, and also that several leading citizens had been taken from their beds, and were held prisoners by a band of unknown persons in the armory grounds. The number of these prisoners was increased to twenty-five or thirty by the capture of officers or employees who went to the works to attend to their duties or from curiosity.

As the sun rose upon the scene, the reported outrages and the bodies of the murdered men showed that from whatever source the movement came it was of a serious character. Sentinels, armed with riles and pistols, were seen guarding all the public buildings, threatening death or firing at all who questioned or interfered with them; and the savage audacity with which they issued their orders gave assurance that the buildings were occupied by large bodies of men. Messengers were dispatched to all the neighboring towns for military assistance, while panic-stricken citizens seized such arms as they could find, and gathered in small bodies on the outskirts of the town, and at points remote from the works. All was confusion and mystery. Even the sight of several armed negroes among the strangers did not at once excite suspicion that it was an anti-slavery movement, and the report of one of the captured slaves confirmatory of that fact was received with doubt and incredulity. Indeed so averse was the public mind to the acceptance of this belief that the suggestion was every where received with derision, and every and any other explanation adopted in preference. Some supposed it was a strike among the discontented armorers, or the laborers on a government dam, who had taken this means to obtain redress for real or imaginary grievances. Others argued that it was a band of robbers organized in some of the cities for the purpose of robbing the paymaster's strong box, known to contain some thousands of public money; that the armed negroes were whites in disguise; that the idea of inciting a servile insurrection was a ruse, put forth to distract the public mind and enable them to escape with their booty.

Still aroused, as much by curiosity and love of excitement as by the idea of real danger, the people of the neighboring towns and farm houses armed themselves with such weapons as they could find, and trooped toward the scene of action by tens and by hundreds. In the mean time a guerilla fight had been commenced by the citizens of Harper's Ferry. A man named George Chambers, whose house commanded the public grounds, shot the negro sentinel that guarded the arsenal, and a dropping fire was heard in different quarters. Hall's rifle-works on the Shenandoah were assailed by the Jefferson Volunteers, supposing it to be strongly occupied. It was taken without great difficulty, and to the astonishment of all, its garrison was ascertained to have consisted of but five men. These attempted to escape by wading and swimming the Shenandoah, but four of them were shot while in the water, and one was taken unhurt. A wretch, mortally wounded, was dragged from the river by a citizen, and laid upon the bank shivering with cold and loss of blood. He begged to be taken to a fire, promising to confess everything. The bystanders carried him to an old cooper's shop hard by, where a hasty blaze was kindled. He told that his name was Lewis Leary; that he had been enlisted in Oberlin, Ohio, to serve in the great war of lib. eration to commence at Harper's Ferry. He left a wife and three children, and entreated some one to write to them to inform them of the manner of his death. He was a good looking mulatto, quite young, and nearly white. After lingering in great agony for twelve hours he died.

About this time Capt. George Turner, who had come down with the Jefferson military, went to reconnoiter the position of the outlaws in the armory enclosure, and while so doing was shot dead. Capt. Turner was a graduate of West Point, and for some years an officer in the United States army. He was a gentleman of fortune, and one of the most esteemed citizens of the county.

Brown gathering together the remnant of bis desperate band, with a few frightened negroes and the elite of his prisoners, retired into the fire-engine house, within the public grounds. A short time after two of his party came out, each leading a citizen prisonerwhether to parley or to escape was not understood. When they appeared in the street one of the outlaws was immediately shot down, and the other captured, the citizen prisoners thus rejoining their friends. The outlaw who was thus shot was Aaron C. Stephens, who


still lives a prisoner, although at the time supposed to be mortally wounded. After this incident, Mr. Fontaine Beckham, Mayor of Harper's Ferry, and one of its most beloved citizens, exposed himself on the railroad track within range of the fire from the enginehouse, and was shot dead. As the spot where he fell was commanded completely by the fire of the outlaws, his body lay there for several hours before it was removed. The spot is still marked by stains of blood mingled with gray hairs. At this sight the outlaw pris

oner Thompson, who had just been taken, was told to prepare for death. He begged hard, but was immediately shot and thrown into the river. Although two balls had been fired into his body, and he fell forty feet into the water, he had vitality enough left to swim to the base of the next pier and crawl up upon its edge, where twenty rifle bullets soon ended his miserable existence. At three o'clock a party of a hundred men from Martinsburg arrived in the passenger train which had been turned back in the morning. This party was only partially armed, and without organization, many having come as much from curiosity as other motives. When they arrived at the upper end of the armory

buildings on the Potomac, some twenty Stormed by the U.S. Marines..

or more of daring spirits, headed by

George Wollet, one of the railroad men, made a rash but gallant assault upon the stronghold of the outlaws. Wollet broke open the door, and nearly succeeded in forcing himself in, but was shot through the left arm by a rifle ball. The attack was repulsed, with a loss of seven wounded, three of them dangerously. The fruit of this assault was the liberation of eighteen of the Harper's Ferry pris oners and the death of two of the outlaws. The wounded of the Martinsburg men deserve honorable mention: George Wollett, severely wounded; Evan Dorsey, dangerously wounded; Kirk Hammond, dangerously wounded; Richardson, severely wounded; George H. Murphy, slightly wounded; N. Hooper, severely wounded; another, not reported.

One of the outlaws escaped from the armory inclosure by creeping through a culvert which led to the Potomac River. He threw away his rifle and attempted to swim, but was hindered by the weight of his accouterments. Under the fire of twenty rifles, he crept behind a rock, and drawing a knife attempted to cut away his belts. George Schoppart, of Martinsburg, waded out until within ten paces of him and shot him dead. In his pocket was found a captain's commission, which reads as follows:


Near Harper's Ferry, Maryland. Whereas W. H. Leeman has been nominated a captain in the army established under the Provisional Constitution; now therefore, in pursuance of the authority vested in me by said Constitution, we do hereby appoint and commission the said W. H. Leeman captain. Given at the office of the Secretary of War this day, 15th of October, 1859.

John Brown, Commander-in-Chief. H. Keys, Secretary of War.

At eleven o'clock on Monday night the United States Marines, under Col. Robert Lee, arrived, and were posted so as to command the engine-house, which was closely invested during the night. Early in the morning Brown sent out a flag of truce, proposing terms of capitulation. He demanded that his men should be allowed to march out, with their prisoners, unmolested, to a certain point, when the prisoners were to be liberated, and his men should then shift for themselves as they best could. The terms were refused, and preparations were made to storm the engine-house. Cannon could not be used without endangering the safety of the prisoners, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to break down the doors with sledge-hammers. A heavy ladder was then brought up and used as a batteringram; the door gave way, and the marines rushed in in the face of a heavy fire. Private Quinn, one of the first who entered, received a mortal wound. Turning back, he dropped his musket and staggered to the rear, where he fell, preserving to the last his quiet, soldierly · bearing. Private Rupert received an ugly wound in the cheek. Col. Washington, who through all these trying scenes had borne himself with an intrepid coolness that excited the admiration of the brigand chief himself, now did important service. The moment the marines entered he sprung upon one of the engines, told his fellow prisoners to hold up their


hands, that they might be recognized as non-combatants, and then rapidly pointed out the outlaws to the vengeance of the soldiers. Having discharged their pieces in the faces of the soldiers, several of these threw down their arms and begged for quarter. Untamable to the last, old Brown sat in a corner loading his rifle, a breech-loader, and in this position received a sabre-stroke from Lieutenant Green which threw him forward on his hands and knees. Two or three bayonet stabs finished him, it was then supposed. Ottawa Brown, his son, was shot down and bayoneted.

The citizen captives, released from their long and trying confinement, hurried out to meet their friends with every demonstration of joy, while the bloody carcasses of the dead and dying outlaws were dragged into the lawn amidst the howls and execrations of the people. It was a hideous and ghastly'spectacle. Some stark and stiff, with staring eyes and fallen jaws, were the dead of yesterday; while others, struck with death wounds, writhed and wallowed in their blood. Two only were brought out unhurt-Coppick and Green the negro—and they only escaped immediate death by accident, the soldiers not at once distinguishing them from the captive citizens and slaves.

The mid-day train brought Governor Wise, accompanied by several hundred men from Richmond, Alexandria, Baltimore, and elsewhere. There was real disappointment to find that the fight was over, and when the governor was informed of the mere handful of men who had created all this bobbery he boiled over. In his wrath he said some good things. Indeed it was universally seen and felt that Governor Wise was just the man for such an occasion.

Four men had been sent away the previous day with the slaves who had been seized by the insurgents. Two of these, Cooke and Hazlett, were subsequently taken in Pennsylvania, and surrendered to the authorities of Virginia. The citizens whom they had taken prisoners were released unharmed; they had suffered no ill-treatment beyond their forced detention. The following list contains the names and fate of the persons engaged in this mad undertaking:

1. John Brown, of Essex county, New York, wounded and prisoner; 2. Ottawa Brown, his son, of New York, killed; 3. Watson Brown, his son, of New York, killed; 4. Aaron C. Stevens, of Connecticut, wounded; 5. Edwin Coppic, of lowa, prisoner; 6. Albert Hazlett, of Pennsylvania, killed; 7. William H. Leeman, of Maine, killed; 8. Stewart Taylor, of Canada, killed; 9. Charles P. Tidd, of Maine, killed; 10. William Thompson, of New York, killed; 11. Dolph Thompson, of New York, killed; 12. John H. Kage, of Ohio, killed; 13. Jerry Anderson, of Indiana, killed; 14. Dangerfield Newby, negro, of Ohio, killed; 15. 0. P. Anderson, negro, of Pennsylvania, killed; 16. Lewis Leary, negro, of Ohio, killed; 17. Shields Green, alias Emperor, negro, of Pennsylvania, prisoner; 18. Copeland, negro, of Ohio, prisoner; 19. J. E. Cooke, white man, of Connecticut, prisoner; 20. William Hazlett, alias Harrison, prisoner; 21, 22. Two men, names unknown, escaped. Of the citizens and soldiers, seven were killed and a number wounded.”

“The Grand Jury of Jefferson county being in session, bills of indictment were found against the prisoners, charging them with inciting slaves to insurrection, with treason and murder. They demanded to be tried separately, and the Commonwealth elected to try Brown first. He asked for a delay, on account of his severe wounds; this was refused by the Court, and the trial commenced on the 26th of October. The prisoner, who was unable to sit, lay upon a mattress. The trial lasted three days, and Brown was found guilty upon all the counts in the indictments. The clerk then asked whether he had anything to say why sentence should not be pronounced upon him.

BROWN'S SPEECH. Mr. Brown immediately rose, and in a clear, distinct voice, said: 'I have, may it please the court, a few words to say. In the first place, I deny every thing but what I have all along admitted, of a design on my part to free slaves. I intended, certainly, to have made a clean thing of that matter, as I did last winter, when I went into Missouri, and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side, moving them through the country, and finally leaving them in Canada. I designed to have done the same thing again on a larger scale. That was all I intended. I never did intend murder or treason, or the destruction of property, or to excite or incite slaves to rebellion, or to make insurrection. I have another objection, and that is that it is unjust that I should suffer such a penalty. Had I interfered in the manner in which I admit, and which I admit had been fairly proved--for I admire the truthfulness and candor of the greater portion of the witnesses who have testified in this case-had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the socalled great, or in behalf of any of their friends, either, father, mother, brother, sister, wife or children, or any of that class, and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment. "This court acknowledges, too, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book

« PreviousContinue »