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August Bondi Letter

Salina Herald
January 24, 1884, and February 28, 1884


Since Mr. Utter's charge against John Brown, in the North American Review, a small army of writers have rallied in defense of the noble old hero, the most conspicuous among whom is Hon. John J. Ingalls, in the February number of the same magazine in which Mr. Utter's article originally appeared.

The Kansas City Times, altho' it copies Mr. Ingalls' answer in full--commenting editorially, in its full characteristic manner of anything that pertains to the distinguished Senator,--says that Mr. Ingalls had no better means than Mr. Utter of knowing anything about John Brown--that both had to depend upon hearsay for their evidence. But Mr. Bondi, of our own town, for whom we, and all of Salina and Saline County will vouch, corroborates all that Mr. Ingalls has said, or rather, anticipated him, for Mr. Bondi's article appeared before Mr. Ingalls--and Mr. Bondi speaks from personal knowledge--ex cathedra--for he was one of the actors in those troublous times.

So Mr. Ingalls' article is truth, while Mr. Utter's is history perverted to serve his own ends.


For the Herald, by August Bondi.

On the 26th of May, '56, at an early hour in the morning, our little crowd rode on to the claim of John Brown Jr. on Vine Branch, one mile and a half from Middle Creek bottom. About five o'clock in the afternoon of that day--Carpenter, from near Prairie City, joined us and reported that he had come--at the instance of his neighbors, to request Captain Brown's assistance against the border ruffians, who in spite of all proclamations continued to harass the settlers. Col. Sumner, of the 2nd U. S. dragoons, was the only Northern army officer in Kansas, all others were from the South, and while taking good care to carry out the dead letter of their instructions, lacked the good will to do more. The orders were, to disperse all armed crowds. Whenever they received news of any devilment committed by the border ruffians they started after them in slow marches but never reached anywhere in time to prevent mischief, and if once in a while they caught up with a band of southerners, the officers in command, of the U. S. detachment halted the ruffians and read them the proclamation. The boss galoot, entitled "Cap" by his crowd, then stepped in front of his band, and with a few words admonished them to go home, which they seemed to do at once, by striking promiscuously for the next timber, where they at once reorganized for another raid. To complete the utter ruin of the Free State people, Gov. Shannon had also issued a call for the enlistment of a State Militia "to maintain law and order" and Buford, Titus[,] Pate and others of like ilk had recruited the same from the hundreds of southerners, who had been pardoned from the penitentiaries of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina on condition to emigrate to Kansas. It was Carpenter's mission to beg Capt. Brown's assistance in behalf of the settlers of the southern part of Douglass County, against these marauders organizing under territorial laws, and armed with guns furnished by the Government. Capt. Brown declared to Carpenter, his readiness to start at once;--one of his sons went to Mrs. Jason Brown, to inform her to send any enquiring friend, who wished to join us, to Carpenter, near Prairie City. We started after dark, eleven in number, viz; Capt. John Brown, Watson Brown, Oliver Brown, Salmon Brown, Henry Thompson, (Capt. Brown's son in law) Theodore Weiner, James Townsley. Carpenter and myself.

Capt. Brown carried a sabre and a largest size revolver. His sons and Thompson, had a revolver, cutlass and a squirrel rifle each. Townsley an old musket, Weiner a double barrelled shotgun, Carpenter one revolver, myself a flint lock musket of 1812 pattern. Watson, Oliver Brown and myself rode bareback, Fred Brown rode ahead, then Owen Brown and Carpenter about ten steps behind, then followed Capt. Brown and the rest, two by two. Going from Middle creek to Taway Creek, we had to follow part of the way, the old military road from St. Louis to Ft. Leavenworth.

Arriving near the Marais des Cygnes crossing of the same road, we discovered right ahead several camp fires and by their light about 100 yards before us a sentinel in the U. S. uniform. Fred Brown continued to advance and Carpenter informed the old man that he supposed we had struck a detachment of the U. S. troops, acting as a posse of a Deputy U. S. Marshal. Capt. Brown exchanged a few words with Carpenter, then ordered us to ride ahead, not to betray any anxiety and to strictly obey his orders.

The sentinel allowed Fred Brown and Carpenter to advance to within about 25 steps and then halted them with the usual "who goes there" and clear through the still night air rang Fred's answer "Free State." The sentinel called the Corporal of the guard. We others by our Captain's order continued to ride on to within about five steps of Fred and Carpenter, and formed like a very disorderly crowd. Carpenter explained to the corporal that we were farmers at home near Prairie City and had ridden to Osawatomie at the request of the settlers there, to protect them against a raid from Missouri. We had been there two days, no Missourian to see or hear from, our provisions had run out and so we had concluded to go home. The commanding officer Lt. McIntosh Co F 2nd dragoons now came up and Carpenter repeated his tale, none of the others mixed in the conversation. The Deputy U. S. Marshal made his appearance and insisted that the Lieutenant should hold us until daylight but McIntosh replied to him that he had his orders and could not detain peaceable travellers and called out to us "pass on" and so we went on in slow gait till we had reached the hills on the other side.

About four o'clock on the morning, of the 27th day of May, we reached the hiding-place on Taway Creek, which Carpenter had picked out for us; it was in a bend of the creek in the midst of virgin forest about one half of a mile thick, we made our camp near a large, old oak log, and tied our horses in the bushes. Captain Brown inspected the surroundings, put out guards and appointed reliefs. After a while Carpenter brought in some corn for our horses and a small sack of some coarse flour (wheat ground in an iron corn mill), and Capt. Brown commenced to prepare breakfast. We staid here up to the morning of Sunday, the 1st of June, and during these few days I fully succeeded in understanding the exalted character of my old friend. He exhibited at all times the most affectionate care for each of us. He also attended to cooking--we had two meals daily, consisting of bread made up of the flour above mentioned baked in skillets; this was washed down with creek water, mixed with a little ginger and a spoon of molasses to each pint. Nevertheless we kept in excellent spirits; we considered ourselves as one family allied to one another by the consciousness that it was our duty to undergo all these privations to further the good cause; had determined to share any danger with one another, that victory or death might find us together; we were united as a band of brothers by the love and affection towards the man who with tender words and wise counsel in the depth of the wilderness of Taway Creek prepared a handful of young men for the work of laying the foundation of a free commonwealth. His words have ever remained firmly engraved in my mind. Many and various were the instructions he gave during the days of our compulsory leisure in this camp. He expressed himself to us that we should never allow ourselves to be tempted by any consideration to acknowledge laws and institutions, to exist as of right if, our conscience and reason condemned them.

He admonished us not to care whether a majority, no matter how large, opposed our principles and opinions, the largest majorities were sometimes only organized mobs, whose howlings never changed black into white or night into day. A minority, conscious of its rights, based on moral principles would, under a Republican government, sooner or later becomes the majority regarding the curse and crimes of the institution of slavery. He declared that the outrages committed in Kansas to further its extension had directed the attention of all intelligent citizens of the United States and the world to the necessity of its abolishment as a stumbling block in the path of 19th century civilization--that while it was true that the pro slavery people and their aiders and abetters had the upper hand at present, and the free-state organization had dwindled to a handful hid in the brush, nevertheless we ought to be of good cheer and start the ball to rolling at the first opportunity, no matter whether its starting motion would even crush us to death. We were under the protection of a wise providence which might use our feeble efforts.

Salina Herald, February 28, 1884.

For the Herald by August Bondi.

After a short ride we arrived at Prairie City. We there found about a dozen settlers gathered around the principal building of the village, a hewed log house eighteen by twenty-four; the same was afterwards occupied by Dr. Caniff and then in conjunction with two small cabins represented the town. After picketing our horses we joined those present and were informed that a number were expected as the circuit preacher had made an appointment for the day. Shortly after large numbers commenced to arrive from all directions, some afoot, some horse back, some with their families in all sorts of vehicles generally with ox-teams; the men armed with all sorts of guns. All respectfully saluted old Brown, who never tired to walk up and down the different groups, and with words of cheer, encouraging the crowd to shake off the Border Ruffian yoke. Divine service commenced at noon. So many were assembled that only women were admitted inside the house. Never have I met with a more attentive or devout congregation, and when the minister prayed for peace for the sorely tried people of Kansas, unanimous responses were felt as well as spoken. The prayer was hardly finished, when three men with guns across their saddles were seen galloping towards the village. They came within about fifty yards and halted. The two brothers Moore, who alone were armed with carbines, and four or five others, mounted and went out to meet the strangers, when they turned put spurs to their horses, but racing down the first hill, one of their horses fell, when they surrendered to their pursurers [sic]. The prisoners brought before Captain Brown acknowledged that they were from the camp of the Kansas Militia at Black Jack, on the Santa Fe road, commanded by H. Clay Pate, from Westport, that their company numbered about eighty, all armed, as they were, with good rifles and revolvers; one of the prisoners owned up that he was one of the three who had raided Palmyra the evening before and as they had been ignorant of the Free State meeting they had come to Prairie City for a like purpose. These prisoners and their arms were turned over to Captain Shore, who detailed seven of his men as guard. These Border Ruffians were free to talk and among other things they informed us that they had several Free State prisoners in their camp, one of them an old man, a preacher named Moore, whom they had "picked up near Westport and taken along for their special fun." The two Moore's at once knew this to be their father, and begged us to start at once, but Captain Brown declared that we should not start before night had set in and attack the enemy at day-break, to which proposition all agreed. Captain Brown then requested the women to prepare supper, teams were then started to bring in provisions, which soon returned with sufficient quantities of flour and meat gathered in the neighborhood; about half an hour before sundown supper was finished and Captain Brown began to organize the crowd. About forty men, "Prairie City Rifles," put themselves under the leadership of their Captain--Shore. Carpenter, the two Moore's and Dr. Westfall asked Captain Brown for permission to face next day's dangers in his company, which was freely granted. On unanimous request Captain Brown accepted the command in chief. After sundown, the order to saddle up was given, but it was already night when our force of sixty men started from Prairie City. Captain Brown's company formed the advance guard, ahead Captain Brown with Carpenter and Westfall as pilots. About midnight we halted in a post-oak grove some two miles from the enemy. All hands rested as well as they could near their horses. During this rest Captain Shore agreed to Captain Brown's plan of attack in all of its details; it was agreed to leave the horses with a small guard, to move on foot up to within a mile of the enemy, then Captain Brown's company in advance and center, Captain Shore's men thrown out as skirmishers on each flank, and all together without firing a shot, to charge upon the Border Ruffian camp.

Captain Shore detailed five men as guard with the horses; Captain Brown prevailed upon his son Fred to stay with them; at first streak of day we started, Brown's company ahead, consisting of Captain Brown, Owen Brown, Watson Brown, Salmon Brown, Oliver Brown, Henry Thompson, Charles Kaiser, Theo. Weiner, Carpenter, the two Moore's, Dr. Westfall, Benj. Cochrane, August Bondi and James Townsley. After a march of a mile and a half we reached the summit of a hill, and before us about a mile distant the hostile camp, in the midst of a small grove. Captain Brown called out: "Now follow me" and down hill he and his company started in a run. We had not yet come down half of the hill, when we were greeted with the shots of the Missouri pickets and at the same time we heard the guns of Shore's men replying behind us. Soon the Missourians sent whole volleys against us, but on charged Brown's company; when we arrived at the foot of the hill we saw before us the old Santa Fe road, with its oldest wagon trail which in many places had been washed out some two or three feet wide and some two feet deep. Beyond within about two hundred yards the Missouri camp.

Captain Brown jumped into the old washed out trail and commanded ''halt" "down." His companions followed his example; now we saw that not a man of Captain Shore's company, except Captain Shore himself had followed down hill. Most of them had already disappeared, a few were yet on the brow of the hill wasting ammunition, and very soon those also retired in the direction of their comrades. So right in the beginning of the fight Brown's forces had been reduced to his own men. He scattered them all along that old trail and using it as a rifle pit we opened fire to which the enemy replied with continuous volleys. Weiner and myself were posted on the extreme left flank. Captain Brown passed continually up and down the line, sometimes using his spy glass to inspect the enemy's position and repeatedly cautioning his men against wasting ammunition. About a quarter of an hour after we had reached the old trail Henry Thompson was shot through the lungs and was led away by Dr. Westfall, shortly after Carpenter was shot through the right arm and had to retire. Then Captain Shore squatted himself on the ground and said to Captain Brown, I am very "hungry." Brown never answered and went his way to see that the gaps caused by the absence of Thompson, Carpenter and Westfall were filled as well as possible.

Captain Shore then spoke up: "Boys, I have to leave you to hunt up some breakfast," and the hero of that day according to Mr. Utter got up and dusted. After the lapse of another half an hour Townsley asked Captain Brown for permission to go for ammunition. Captain Brown never answered and Townsley left. Neither he nor Captain Shore returned to us until after Tate's [Pate's] surrender, when they came to us following behind the Lawrence Stubbs.

It might have been about nine o'clock in the forenoon when Captain Brown stopped near me and Weiner, and after having looked through his spy glass at the enemy's position for quite a while, he said: "It seems the Missourians have suffered from our fire, they are leaving one by one, we must never allow this, we must try and surround them, we must compel them to surrender." He then walked down our line, spoke with some of the men and returned with the Moore boys to where Weiner and myself were posted and beckoned us to follow him. The five, Captain Brown, the two Moore's Weiner and myself, ran up a hill south of the Missouri camp. As soon as we had gained a commanding position within two hundred yards of the enemy, Captain Brown ordered the two Moore's to aim with their carbines at horses and mules exclusively, and not to shoot at any men at this time, if it could be avoided he wanted to take as many prisoners as possible. The Moore boys with four shots killed two mules and two horses which we could perceive created great consternation in the Missouri camp and we saw several leaving.

Now Captain Brown drew and cocked his revolver, and declared that he should advance some twenty yards by himself and if then he would wave his hat, we should follow Weiner and myself ahead, the Moore's to come up slower that if necessary they could cover our retreat with their carbines. According to previous agreement our comrades along the Santa Fe road would run to us as soon as they saw his signal with his hat. Captain Brown advanced some twenty steps then waved his hat, and then the Captain and we four behind him as well as the seven along the Santa Fe road charged against the Missouri camp. Captain Tate [sic] stepped out in front of his men waved a white handkerchief and called out to Captain Brown that he was ready to leave. Captain Brown kept on till within five feet of Captain Tate and then covering the hostile commander with his revolver called out "unconditional surrender." The rifles slipped the grasp of the Ruffians and Tate surrendered his sword. Twenty-four well armed cut-throats laid down their arms; some thirty had run off during the engagement, seven more or less seriously wounded, lay on the ground. The booty of the day consisted of thirty stands of U. S. rifles and accouterments, as many revolvers, thirty saddle-horses and equipments, two wagons, with their teams and a large amount of provisions, ammunition and camp equipage.

While Captain Brown was giving orders referring to the guarding of the prisoners, we discovered two riders one behind the other charging down the Santa Fe road toward us. Soon they were with us. The first was Fred Brown, who introduced the other as Mr. Phillips the correspondent of the N. Y. Tribune. They informed us that the Lawrence Stubbs were right behind them. Now the three prisoners of the Border Ruffians appeared, and words fail to describe the joy and gratitude shown by these men. Their treatment had been most barborous [sic], Mr. Moore, a methodist minister, sixty-five years old had been tied down to the ground the evening before, and been compelled with a funnel, to swallow a pint of whisky; of course Mr. Utter is ignorant of such atrocities.

Now came up the Lawrence Stubbs, with Major Abbott, Luke Parsons and Hoyt in the lead. Capt. Shore and Townsley came up behind them.

After a few minutes Capt. Brown succeeded in bringing order out of the general turmoil and with the prisoners in our midst we started for Prairie City.

With this chapter I intend for the present at least, to close my recollections of Capt. John Brown and his heroic deeds in Kansas ing [sic] 1856. Every word that I have written is true, as I reported no fact or event but what I was present at and of which I had personal knowledge without fear or favor. I neither flattered nor blamed but as genuine historical truth compelled me. Nor did I try to surround truth with a frame of romance to make it more acceptable. I wrote as I saw and felt those many years ago as I feel to day. In plainest language I tried to describe the time in Kansas, "which tried the souls of men" which brought forth that hero, John Brown; and caused him to court the martyr's death. The further time removes that struggle in the distant past, the more thorough the purity of his principles and intentions and heroic sacrifices. My old friend must appear to impartial history an equal to the most exalted characters produced by humanity and will so go down to the end of time. Truly in his behalf can we say with Hesiod: "His is the immortal reward of the labor of the great."

Source: John Brown Scrap Book, compiled by William Elsey Connelley, Vol. 4, Boyd B. Stutler Collection, West Virginia State Archives

Chapter Five: Bleeding Kansas

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History