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Senate Select Committee Report on the Harper’s Ferry Invasion
Testimony of George W. Chambers

Pp. 28-29

January 6, 1860.

George W. Chambers sworn and examined.

By the Chairman:

Question. Will you be good enough to state your age, where you reside, and your occupation?
Answer. My age is thirty-one years; I reside in Harper's Ferry, Virginia; I am a liquor merchant, and have a restaurant in connection with my establishment.

Question. Will you state whether you were at Harper's Ferry at the time or Brown's invasion?
Answer. I was.

Question. Please to state when you were first aware that Brown and a party of men were there, and what made you aware of it, and what you first saw in relation to it?
Answer. The first I knew of it was between one and two o'clock on Sunday night or Monday morning. The shooting of the negro on the bridge first aroused me, and, inquiring about it, I heard that a party of armed men had possession of the bridge, and had killed this negro man. I had no idea who the party were. They stopped the train due for Baltimore, and a great many passengers were concentrated in the depot. They were giving their views very generally upon the matter, and the general impression seemed to be that it was a railroad strike. I then went home, and did not know anything of it until next morning. I saw armed negroes walking about the street, and I saw Cook just about daylight. They drove Colonel Washington's four-horse wagon out of the armory yard, and I saw Cook and another white man in advance of it, and two negroes in the wagon.

Question. Did you see any of the citizens of Harper's Ferry killed?
Answer. I did not. I left Mr. Beckham a few moments before he was killed, not over five minutes I am sure.

Question. Did you see Mr. Turner when he was killed?
Answer. I did not; I did not see him at all.

Question. Nor Boerley?
Answer. No, sir; I did not see Boerley; he was killed in the morning, early, between seven and eight o'clock.

Question. Did you see the dead bodies of either of those men?
Answer. I saw Mr. Beckham after he was dead; I went and moved his head; I came over the trussel-work a few minutes after he was shot, and he seemed to be lying on his head, his neck twisted. I thought perhaps he was not dead, and ran up and laid him straight on the railroad track, and then came off. I believe his son-in-law, Mr. Hough, afterwards took him down to his house. He lived just about fifteen steps from where he was killed.

Question. Did you see any of the armed party that night?
Answer. No, sir; the first I knew of it was between one and two o'clock.

Question. And, thinking it was a railroad strike, you went back home?
Answer. Yes, sir; I went back to my house. I live on the point at the junction of the two railroads, just opposite the depot. I saw Mr. Beckham just before he was killed and just after he was killed; he attempted to go up the trusseling and I tried to hold him back; saying he had no arms. I could see none. He might have had a pistol in his pocket, but I could not tell; he had no visible arms. When I came back, a few minutes afterwards, he was lying there as stated.

By Mr. Collamer:

Question. What was the object of his going there?
Answer. I do not know; I believe he was very much excited; I told him it was very foolish for him to go that way.

By the Chairman:

Question. Will you state whereabouts Beckham was killed?
Answer. He was killed on the trusseling just above the hotel and near the water station; he was shot from the engine-house in the armory-yard. There is trusseling-work that runs along the river, and the engine-house is situated in the yard, perhaps thirty yards from the trusseling-work. The bridge runs in front of the armory-yard.

By Mr. Collamer:

Question. Were Brown's folks in possession of the engine-house at that time, and firing from it?
Answer. Yes, sir.

By the Chairman:

Question. Were many shots fired in the direction of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad trussel-work from the engine-house?
Answer. Yes, sir; a great many.

Question. Did any pass on the houses fronting on the railroad?
Answer. Yes, sir. The water station I speak of has the marks of ten or a dozen bullets in ti. Mr. Beckham was killed just above it.

Question. What was Mr. Beckham's probable age, and what was his occupation?
Answer. I judge he must have been at his death sixty years old. He was agent of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company at Harper's Ferry, and had the general superintendence of their business there. He was the mayor of the town also.

G.W. Chambers.


Chapter Ten: The Raid

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History