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Excerpt from The Life, Trial and Execution of John Brown
New York: Robert M. De Witt, 1859.

Pp. 29-49


On the night here mentioned, John Brown, with twenty one men, took possession of the United States Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Va., and held it against the forces of Maryland and Virginia, until Tuesday morning, when it was stormed by United States marines. His object was not quite clear; it is said that he made his first appearance in Harper's Ferry more than a year ago, accompanied by his two sons - all three assuming the name of Smith. He inquired about land in the vicinity, and made investigations as to the probability of finding ores there, and for some time boarded at Sandy Point, a mile east of the Ferry. After an absence of some months the elder Brown reappeared in the vicinity, and rented or leased a farm on the Maryland side, about four miles from the Ferry. They bought a large number of picks and spades, and this confirmed the belief that they intended to mine for ores. They were frequently seen in and about Harper's Ferry, but no suspicion seems to have existed that "Bill Smith" was Capt. Brown, or that he intended embarking in any movement so desperate or extraordinary.

Brown's chief aid was John E. Cook, a comparatively young man, who has resided in and near the Ferry some years. He was first employed in tending locks on the canal, and afterward taught school on the Maryland side of the river; and after a brief residence in Kansas, where, it is supposed, he became acquainted with Brown, returned to the Ferry and married there. These two men, with Brown's two sons, were the only white men connected with the insurrection that had been seen about the Ferry. All the rest were brought by Brown from a distance, and nearly all had been with him in Kansas. The whole party numbered seventeen white men and five negroes. Among them were Edwin Coppie, white, and Shields Green, colored, from Iowa, who were unhurt; Aaron Stephens, from Connecticut, Stuart Taylor and J.A. Anderson, a fine looking man with a flowing white beard.

Anderson was for some time supposed to be the leader of the insurrection. He made his appearance at the Ferry the first of the week, with a very heavy trunk. Watson Brown, son of old Brown, leaves a wife in Essex County, New York. Elbert Haslett, who was killed, had in his pocket an empty pocket-book and a lock of woman's hair. Lewis Leary, a negro, said before he died that he enlisted with Capt. Brown for the insurrection at a fair held in Lorraine County, Ohio, and received the money to pay his expenses. They all came down to Chambersburg, Pa., and from there they travelled across the country to Brown's farm.


The first active movement in the insurrection was made about a half past ten o'clock on Sunday night. William Williamson, the watchman at Harper's Ferry bridge, while walking across toward the Maryland side, was seized by a number of men who said he was their prisoner, and must come with them. He recognized Brown and Cook among the men, and knowing them, treated the matter as a joke; but enforcing silence, they conducted him to the Armory, which he found already in their possession. He was detained till after daylight, and then discharged. The watchman who was to relieve Williamson at midnight found the bridge lights all out, and was immediately seized. Supposing it an attempt at robbery, he broke away, and his pursuers stumbling over him, he escaped.


The next appearance of the insurrectionists was at the house of Colonel Lewis Washington, a large farmer and slave-owner, living about four miles from the Ferry. A party, headed by Cook, proceeded there, and rousing Colonel Washington, told him he was their prisoner. They also seized all the slaves near the house, took a carriage horse, and a large wagon with two horses. When Colonel Washington saw Cook he immediately recognized him as the man who had called upon him some months previous, to whom he had exhibited some valuable arms in his possession, including an antique sword presented by Frederick the Great to George Washington, and a pair of pistols presented by Lafayette to Washington, both being heirlooms in the family. Before leaving, Cook wanted Colonel Washington to engage in a trial of skill at shooting, and exhibited considerable skill as a marksman. When he made the visit on Sunday night he alluded to his previous visit, and the courtesy with which he had been treated, and regretted the necessity which made it his duty to arrest Colonel Washington. He, however, took advantage of the knowledge he had obtained by his former visit to carry off the valuable arms, which the Colonel did not reobtain till after the final defeat of the insurrection.

From Colonel Washington's he proceeded with him as a prisoner in the carriage, and twelve of his negroes in the wagon, to the house of Mr. Allstadt, another large farmer, on the same road. Mr. Allstadt and his son, a lad of sixteen, were taken prisoners, and all their negroes within reach forced to join the movement. He then returned to the Armory at the Ferry.


At the upper end of the town the mail train arrived at the usual hour, when a colored man, who acted as assistant to the baggage-master, was shot, receiving a mortal wound, and the conductor, Mr. Phelps, was threatened with violence if he attempted to proceed with the train. Feeling uncertain as to the condition of affairs, the conductor waited until after daylight before he ventured to proceed, thus delaying the train six hours.

Luther Simpson, baggage-master of the mail-train, gives the following particulars: I walked up the bridge; was stopped, but was afterwards permitted to go up and see the captain of the insurrectionists; I was taken to the Armory, and saw the captain, whose name is Bill Smith; I was kept prisoner for more than an hour, and saw from five to six hundred negroes, having arms: there were two or three hundred white men with them; all the houses were closed. I went into a tavern kept by Mr. Chambers; thirty of the inhabitants were collected there with arms. They said most of the inhabitants had left, but they declined, preferring to protect themselves. It was reported that five or six persons had been shot.

Mr. Simpson was escorted back over the bridge by six negroes.


It was not till the town thoroughly waked up, and found the bridge guarded by armed men, and guards stationed at all the avenues, that the people saw that they were prisoners. A panic appears to have immediately ensued, and the number of insurrectionists was at once largely magnified. In the mean time a number of workmen, not knowing anything of what had occurred, entered the Armory, and were successively taken prisoners, until at one time they had not less than sixty men confined in the Armory. These were the imprisoned in the engine-house, which afterward became the chief fortress of the insurgents, and were not released until after the final assault. The workmen were imprisoned in a large building further down the yard.


A colored man, named Hayward, a railroad porter, was shot early in the morning, it is said for refusing to join the movement.

The next man shot was Joseph Boerley [sic], at citizen of Perry [sic]. He was standing in his own door. The insurrectionists by this time, finding a disposition to resist them, had nearly all withdrawn within the armory grounds, leaving only a guard on the bridge.

About this time, also, Samuel P. Young, was shot. He was coming into town on horseback, carrying a gun, when he was fired at from the Armory, receiving a wound of which he died during the day. He was a graduate of West Point.


At about noon, the Charlestown troops, under command of Colonel Robert W. Baylor, crossed the Susquehanna River [sic] some distance up, and marched down the Maryland side to the mouth of the bridge. Firing a volley, they made a gallant dash across the bridge, clearing it of the insurrectionists, who retreated rapidly down toward the armory. In this movement of the insurrectionists a man named William Thompson was taken prisoner.

An eye-witness describes the first fighting as follows:

"The first attack was made by a detachment of the Charlestown Guards, which crossed the Potomac River above Harper's Ferry, and reached a building where the insurgents were posted by the canal, on the Maryland side. Smart firing occurred, and the rioters were driven from the bridge. One man was killed here, and another was arrested. A man ran out, and tried to escape by swimming the river; a dozen shots were fired after him; he partially fell, but rose again, threw his gun away, and drew his pistols, but both snapped; he drew his bowie-knife and cut his heavy accoutrements off, and plunged into the river; one of the soldiers was about ten feet behind; the man turned round, threw up his hands, and said, "Don't shoot!" The soldier fired, and the man fell into the water, with his face blown away. His coat-skirts were cut from his person, and in his pockets was found a captain's commission, to Captain E.H. Leeman, from the Provisional Government. The commission was dated Oct. 15, 1859, and signed by A.W. Brown, Commander-in-Chief of the army of the Provisional Government of the United States. A party of five of the insurrectionists, armed with Minie rifles and posted in the rifle Armory, were expelled by the Charlestown guards. They all ran for the river, and one, who was unable to swim, was drowned. The other four swam out to the rocks in the middle of the Shenandoah, and fired upon the citizens and troops upon both banks. This drew upon them the muskets of between 200 and 300 men, and not less than 400 shots were fired at them from Harper's Ferry, about 200 yards distant. One was finally shot dead; the second, a negro, attempting to jump over the dam, but fell shot, and was not seen afterward; the third was badly wounded, and the remaining one was taken unharmed. The white insurgent, wounded and captured, died in a few moments after, in the arms of our informant; he was shot through the breast and stomach. He declared that there were only nineteen whites engaged in the insurrection. For nearly an hour a running and random firing was kept up by the troops against the rioters. Several were shot down, and many managed to limp away wounded. During the firing the women and children ran shrieking in every direction, but when they learned that the soldiers were their protectors they took courage, and did good service in the way of preparing refreshments and attending the wounded. Our informant, who was on the hill where the firing was going on, says all the terrible scenes of a battle passed in reality before his eyes. Soldiers could be seen pursuing, singly and in couples, and the crack of a musket or rifle was generally followed by one or more of the insurgents biting the dust. The dead lay in the streets where they fell. The wounded were cared for.

The Shepherdstown troops next arrived, marching down the Shenandoah side, and joining the Charlestown forces at the bridge. A desultory exchange of shots followed, one of which struck Mr. Fontaine Beckham, mayor of the town, and agent of the railroad company, entering his breast and passing entirely through his body. The ball was a large elongated slug, and made a dreadful wound. Mr. Beckham died almost immediately. He was without fire-arms, and was exposed for only a moment while approaching a water-station. His assailant, one of Brown's sons, was shot almost immediately, but managed to get back into the engine-house, where his body was found the next day.

The death of Mr. Beckham greatly excited the populace, who immediately raised a cry to bring out the prisoner, Thompson. He was brought out on the bridge, and there shot down. He fell into the water, and some appearance of life still remaining, he was riddled with balls.


While this was going on, the Martinsburg levies arrived at the upper end of the town, and entering the Armory grounds by the rear, made an attack from that side. This force was largely composed of railroad employees, gathered from the tonnage train at Martinsburg, and their attack was generally spoken of as showing the greatest amount of fighting pluck exhibited during the day. Dashing on, firing and cheering, and led by Captain Alburtis, they carried the building in which the Armory men were imprisoned, and released the whole of them. They were, however, but poorly armed, some with pistols and others with shot-guns; and when they came within range of the engine-house, where the elite of the insurrectionists were gathered, and were exposed to the rapid and dexterous use of Sharpe's rifles, they were forced to fall back, suffering pretty severely. Conductor Evans Dorsey, of Baltimore, was killed instantly, and Conductor George Richardson received a wound from which he died during the day. Several others were wounded, among them a son of Dr. Hammond of Martinsburg.


A guerrilla warfare was maintained during the rest of the day, resulting in the killing of two of the insurrectionists and the wounding of a third. One crawled out through a culvert leading into the Potomac, and attempted to cross to the Maryland side. He was shot while crossing the river, and fell dead on the rocks. A light mulatto was shot just outside the Armory gate. The ball cut through the throat, tearing away the principal arteries, and killing him instantly. His name is not known, but he is one of the free negroes who came with Brown. His body was left in the street until noon yesterday, exposed to every indignity that could be heaped upon it by the excited populace.

At this time a tall, powerful man, named Aaron Stephens, came out from the Armory, conducting some prisoners, it was said. He was twice shot - once in the side, once in the breast. He was then captured and taken to a tavern, and after the insurrection was quelled was turned over to the United States authorities in a precarious condition. During the afternoon a sharp little affair took place on the Shenandoah side of the town. The insurrectionists had also seized Hall's rifle works, and a party of their assailants found their way in through a mill-race and dislodged them.

In this encounter, it was said, three insurrectionists were killed, but only one dead body was found, that of a negro, on that side of the town. Night by this time set in, and operations ceased. Guards were placed around the Armory, and every precaution was taken to prevent escape.


At 11 o'clock the Monday night train, with Baltimore military and marines, arrived at Sandy Hook, where they waited for the arrival of Colonel Lee, deputized by the War Department to take the command. The night passed without any serious alarms, but not without excitement. The marines were marched over immediately after their arrival, when Colonel Lee stationed them within the Armory grounds, so as to completely surround the engine-house. Occasionally shots were fired by country volunteers, but what for was not ascertained. There was only one return fire from the insurgents.


Early next morning a door was opened in the building occupied by the insurgents, and one of the men came out with a flag of truce, and delivered what was supposed to be terms of capitulation. The continued preparations for assault showed they were not accepted. Shortly after 7 o'clock, Lieutenant E.B. Stuart, of the 1st Cavalry, who was acting as aid for Colonel Lee, advanced to parley with the besieged, Samuel Strider, Esq., old and respectable citizen, bearing a flag of truce. They were received at the door by Capt. Cook. Lieutenant Stuart demanded an unconditional surrender, only promising them protection from immediate violence and a trial by law. Captain Brown refused all terms but those previously demanded, which were substantially, "That they should be permitted to march out with their men and arms, taking their prisoners with them; that they should proceed unpursued to the second toll-gate, when they would free their prisoners; the soldiers would then be permitted to pursue them, and they would fight if they could not escape." Of course, this was refused, and Lieutenant Stuart pressed upon Brown his desperate condition, and urged a surrender. The expostulation, though beyond ear-shot, was evidently very earnest. At this moment the interest of the scene was very intense. The volunteers were ranged all around the building, cutting off escape in every direction. The marines, divided in two squads, were ready for a dash at the door.


Finally, Lieutenant Stuart, having failed to arrange terms with the determined Captain Brown, walked slowly from the door.

Immediately the signal for attack was given, and the marines, headed by Colonel Harris and Lieutenant Green, advanced in two lines on each side of the door. Two powerful fellows sprung between the lines, and with heavy sledge-hammers attempted to batter down the door. The door swung and swayed, but appeared to be secured with a rope, the spring of which deadened the effect of the blows. Failing thus, they took hold of a ladder, some forty feet long, and advancing at a run, brought it with tremendous effect against the door. At the second blow it gave way, one leaf falling inward in a slanting position. The marines immediately advanced to the breach, Major Russell and Lieutenant Green leading. A marine in front fell.

The firing from the interior was rapid and sharp. They fired with deliberate aim, and for a moment the resistance was serious, and desperate enough to excite the spectators to something like a pitch of frenzy. The next moment the marines poured in, the firing ceased, and the work was done; in the assault private Ruppert of the marines received a ball in the stomach, and was believed to be fatally wounded. Another received a slight flesh wound.


When the insurgents were brought out, some dead and others wounded, they were greeted with execrations, and only the precautions that had been taken, saved them from immediate execution. The crowd, nearly every man of which carried a gun, swayed with tremendous excitement, and cries of "Shoot them! Shoot them!" rang from every side. The appearance of the liberated prisoners, all of whom, through the steadfastness of the marines, escaped injury, changed the current of feeling, and prolonged cheers took the place of howls and excitement.

The lawn in front of the engine-house, after the assault presented a dreadful sight. Lying on it were two bodies of men killed on the previous day, and found inside the house; three wounded men, one of them just at the last gasp of life, and two others groaning in pain. One of the dead was Brown's son, Oliver. The wounded father and his son Watson, were lying on the grass, the old man presenting a gory spectacle. He had a severe bayonet wound in his side, and his face and hair were clotted with blood.


A short time after Captain Brown was brought out he revived and talked earnestly to those about him, defending his course and avowing that he had done only what was right. He replied to questions substantially as follows: "Are you Captain Brown, of Kansas?" "I am sometimes called so." "Are you Ossawatomie Brown?" "I tried to do my duty there." "What was your present object?" "To free the slaves from bondage." "Were any other persons but those with you now, connected with the movement?" "No; there was no one connected with the movement but those who came with me." "Did you expect to kill people in order to carry your point?" "I did not wish to do so, but you force us to do it." Various questions of this kind were put to Captain Brown, which he answered clearly and freely, with seeming anxiety to vindicate himself.

He urged that he had the town at his mercy; that he could have burned it and murdered the inhabitants, but did not; he had treated the prisoners with courtesy, and complained that he was hunted down like a beast. He spoke of the killing of his son, which he alleged was done while bearing a flag of truce, and seemed very anxious for the safety of his wounded son. His conversation bore the impression of a conviction that whatever he had done to free slaves was right, and that in the warfare in which he was engaged he was entitled to be treated with all the respect of a prisoner of war.

He seemed fully convinced that he was badly treated, and had a right to complain. Although at first considered dying, an examination of his wounds proved that they were not necessarily fatal. He expressed a desire to live and to be tried by his country. In his pockets nearly $300 were found in gold. Several important papers, found in his possession, were taken charge of by Col. Lee, on behalf of the Government. To another, Brown said it was no part of his purpose to seize the public arms. He had arms and ammunition enough reshipped from Kansas. He only intended to make the first demonstration at this point, when he expected to receive a rapid increase of the allies from Abolitionists everywhere settled through Maryland and Virginia, sufficient to take possession of both States, with all of the negroes they could capture. He did not expect to encounter the Federal troops. He had only a general idea as to his course; it was to be a general southwest course through Virginia, varying as circumstances dictated or required. Mr. Washington reports that Brown was remarkably cool during the assault. He fell under two bayonet wounds - one in the groin, and one in the breast, and four sabre cuts on the head. During the fight he was supposed to be dead, or doubtless he would have been shot. He was not touched by a ball. The prisoners also state that Brown was courteous to them, and did not ill-use them, and made no abolition speech to them. Coppie, one of the prisoners, said he did not want to join the expedition, but added: "Ah, you gentlemen don't know Capt. Brown; when he calls for us we never think of refusing to come."


During Tuesday morning, one of Washington's negroes came in and reported that Captain Cook was on the mountain, only three miles off; about the same time some shots were said to have been fired from the Maryland hills, and a rapid fusillade was returned from Harper's Ferry. The Independent Grays, of Baltimore, immediately started in a scouting expedition, and in two hours returned with two wagons loaded with arms and ammunition, found at Captain Brown's house. The arms consisted of boxes filled with Sharpe's rifles, pistols, etc., all bearing the stamp of the Massachusetts Manufacturing Company, Chicopee, Mass. There were also found a quantity of United States ammunition, a large quantity of spears, sharp iron bowie knives fixed upon poles, a terrible looking weapon, intended for the use of the negroes, with spades, pickaxes, shovels, and everything else that might be needed: thus proving that the expedition was well provided for, that a large party of men were expected to be armed, and that abundant means had been provided to pay all expenses.

How all these supplies were got up to this farm without attracting observation is very strange. They are supposed to have been brought through [page 37] Pennsylvania. The Grays pursued Cook so fast that they secured part of his arms, but with his more perfect knowledge of localities he was enabled to evade them.


The prisoners imprisoned by the insurrectionists all testify to their lenient treatment. They were neither tied nor insulted, and beyond the outrage of restricting their liberty were not ill-used. Captain Brown was always courteous to them, and at all times assured them that they would not be injured. He explained his purposes to them, and while he had them (the workmen) in confinement, made no abolition speech to them. Colonel Washington speaks of his as a man of extraordinary nerve. He never blanched during the assault, although he admitted in the night that escape was impossible, and that he would have to die. When the door was broken down, one of his men exclaimed, "I surrender." The captain immediately cried out, "There's one surrenders - give him quarter;" and at the same moment fired his own rifle at the door.

During the previous night he spoke freely with Colonel Washington, and referred to his sons. He said he had lost one in Kansas and two here. He had not pressed them to join him in the expedition, but he did not regret their loss - they had died in a glorious cause.


In the 18th, a detachment of marines and some volunteers made a visit to Brown's house. They found a large quantity of blankets, boots, shoes, clothes, tents, and fifteen hundred pikes, with large blades. They also discovered a carpet-bag, containing documents throwing much light on the affair, printed constitutions and by-laws of an organization, showing or indicating ramifications in various State of the Union. They also found letters from various individuals at the North - one from Fred Douglass, containing ten dollars from a lady for the cause; also a letter from Gerrit Smith, about money matters, and a check or draft by him for $100, indorsed by a cashier of a New York bank, name not recollected. All these were taken by Governor Wise. The Governor issued a proclamation offering $1,000 reward for Cook.


The names of all the parties engaged on Sunday night, except three white men whom he admits were sent away on an errand, are as follows, with their proper titles under the Provisional Government:



General JOHN BROWN, Commander-in-Chief, wounded but will recover.
Captain OLIVER BROWN, dead.
Captain WATSON BROWN, dead.
Captain AARON C. STEPHENS, of Connecticut, wounded badly. He has three balls, and cannot possibly recover.
Lieutenant EDWIN COPPIE, of Iowa, unhurt.
Lieutenant ALBERT HAZLETT, of Pennsylvania, dead.
Lieutenant WILLIAM LEEMAN, of Maine, dead.
Captain JOHN E. COOK, of Connecticut, escaped.


STEWART TAYLOR, of Canada, dead.
CHARLES P. TIDD, of Maine, dead.
WILLIAM THOMPSON, of New York, dead.
ADOLPH THOMPSON, of New York, dead.
Captain JOHN KAGI, of Ohio, raised in Virginia, dead.
Lieutenant JEREMIAH ANDERSON, of Indiana, dead.
With three whites previously sent off, making seventeen whites.


DANGERFIELD, newly of Ohio, raised in Virginia, dead.
EMPEROR, of New York, raised in South Carolina, not wounded, but a prisoner. He was elected a member of the Provisional Government some time since.
LEWIS LEARY, of Ohio, raised in Virginia, dead.
COPLAND, of Ohio, raised in Virginia, not wounded, a prisoner at Charlestown.

The insurrectionists did not attempt to rob the paymaster's department at the Armory. A large amount of money was there, but it was not disturbed.

Perfect order having been restored, the military, with the exception of the United States marines, who remained in charge of the prisoners, left on Tuesday in various trains for home.

The prisoners were taken to Charlestown jail for safe keeping.

For two or three days the country in the vicinity of the outbreak was in constant excitement, and the wildest rumors were rife of the terrible doings of Cook and other more imaginary insurgents; but the stories all proved false, and before the dawn of the Sabbath, all was quiet.

The whole number of killed and wounded was counted up as follows: - Killed, six citizens and fifteen insurgents; wounded, three insurgents; prisoners, five.

Attack on the Insurgents at the Bridge by the Railroad Men.



Col. John A. Washington, a distant relative of George Washington, and who was taken prisoner by Capt. Brown, makes the following interesting statement:

Between one and two o'clock on Sunday night, I was in my bed at my house, five or six miles from Harper's Ferry; I was awakened by hearing my name called in the hall; I supposed it was some friends arrived, who, being acquainted with the house, had come in through the kitchen without making any noise; I got up and opened the door into the hall, and before me stood four men, three armed with Sharpe's rifles, levelled and cocked, and the fourth - this man Stephens - with a revolver in his right hand, and in his left a lighted flambeau, made of pine whittlings. As I opened the door, one of the men said: "Is your name Washington?" Said I, "That is my name." Perhaps also Cook, who was of the crowd, also identified me, as he told me afterward he was taken there for that purpose. I was then told that I was a prisoner, and one of them said, "Don't be frightened." I replied, "Do you see anything that looks like fright about me?" "No," he said, "I only want to say, that if you surrender and come with us freely, you are safe." I told them I understood that sufficiently, and there was no necessity for further explanation; but I was struck by the number of men sent against me, and asked what need there was of so many, as there was no danger of an unarmed man in his night-shirt resisting an armed force. I was told to put on my clothes, and of course complied. "Perhaps," said I, "while I am dressing, you will be so good as to tell me what all this means?" I inquired what the weather was outside, and one of them advised me to put on an overcoat, as it was rather chilly. Another said they wanted my arms, and I opened the gun-closet for them to help themselves. They then explained their mission, which they represented to be purely philanthropic, to wit, the emancipation of all the slaves in the country. After I was dressed, Stephens said to me, "Have you got any money?" I replied, "I wish I had a great deal." "Be careful, sir," said he. I told him if I had money I knew how to take care of it, and he could not get it. Said he, "Have you a watch?" My reply was, "I have, but you cannot have it. You have set yourselves up as great moralists and liberators of slaves; now it appears you are robbers as well." "Be careful, sir," said he again. I told them I was dressed and ready to go. They bade me wait a short time and my carriage would be at the door. They had ordered my carriage for me, and pryed open the stable door to get it out. They had harnessed the horses on the wrong side of each other, and I tried to induce them to correct the mistake, which they did after driving a short distance, but still, being harnessed wrong, and rather spirited animals, they would not work well.

My servant, whom they forced along, was driving. I suspected they were only robbers, and was expecting all along that they would turn off at some point, but they drove directly to the armory. Brown came out and invited me in, saying there was a comfortable fire, and I shortly afterward met with Mr. Allstadt, whom they had arrested on the way and brought along in my buggy wagon. While coming along, the horses being restive, I got out and walked up a hill with one of the men, who took occasion to ask my views on the subject of Slavery in the abstract. I denied an argument on the subject, but he still pressed it upon me, and I was obliged to refuse a second time.

Brown told us to make ourselves comfortable, and added, "By and by I shall require each of you, gentlemen, to write to some of your friends to send a stout negro man in your place." This was by way of ransom. He told us that he must see the letter before it was sent, and he thought after this was effected they could make an arrangement by which we could return home. I determined in my own mind not to make the requisition but he never made application for it, having other matters, before the day expired, attracting his attention.

My sword, which had been presented by Frederick the Great to General Washington, was taken from my house, with other arms. This man Cook had been at my house some time before and seen the arms, and at the time I beat him at shooting, and he told me I was the best shot he had ever met. On the way to Harper's Ferry he asked me if I had shot any since, and made an apology for being with this party after being so well treated by me. I told him it was of no consequence about the apology, but I would ask one favor of him, which was to use his influence to have returned to me the old sword and an old pistol, which, in the present improved state of arms, were only valuable in consideration of their history. He promised to attend to it, and shortly after reaching the armory I found the sword in Old Brown's hands. Said Brown, "I will take special care of it, and I shall endeavor to return it to you after you are released." He carried the sword in his hands all day on Monday, until after the arrival of the military.

Upon the first announcement of the arrival of the militia, Brown came into the room and picked out ten of us, whom he supposed to be the most prominent men. He told us we might be assured of good treatment, because, in case he got the worst of it in the fight, the possession of us would be of service in procuring good terms; we could exercise great influence with out fellow-citizens; and as for me, he knew if I was out I should do my duty, and, in my position as aid to the Governor I should be a most dangerous foe. Then we were taken into the engine-house and closely confined. Two of our number went backward and forward repeatedly to confer with citizens during the negotiations, and finally remained out altogether, leaving the eight who were inside when the building was assaulted and captured by the marines. During Monday various terms of capitulation were proposed and refused, and at night we requested our friends to cease fire during the night, as, if the place should be stormed in the dark, friends and foes would have to share alike. In the morning, Capt. Simms, of Frederick, announced the arrival of the United States Marines. During the night he had brought in Dr. Taylor, of Frederick, to look at the wounds of old Brown's son. The surgeon looked at the man, and promised to attend him again in the morning if practicable, but about the time he was expected hostilities had commenced.

Col. Lee, who commanded the United States forces, sent up Lieut. Stuart to announce to Brown that the only terms he would offer for surrender were, that he and his men should be taken to a place of safety and kept unmolested until the will of the President could be ascertained. Brown's reply was to the effect that he could expect no leniency, and he would sell his life as dearly as possible. A few minutes later the place was assaulted and taken. In justice to Brown, I will say that he advised the prisoners to keep well under shelter during the firing, and at no time did he threaten to massacre us or place us in front in case of assault. It was evident he did not expect the attack so soon. There was no cry of "surrender" by his party except from one young man, and then Brown said, "Only one surrenders." This fellow, after he saw the marines, said he would prefer to take his chance of a trial at Washington. He had taken his position, and fired one or two shots, when he cried "surrender." There were four of Brown's party able to fight when the marines attacked, besides a negro, making five in all. The negro was very bold at first, but when the assault was made, he took off his accoutrements, and tried to mingle with the prisoners, and pass himself off as one of them. I handed him over to the marines at once, saying he was a prisoner at all events.


Col. Robert W. Baylor, the officer in command of the Virginia troops engaged in the capture of Brown and his men, made the following official report to Governor Wise:

HARPER'S FERRY, Oct. 18, 1859.
HENRY A. WISE, Governor of Virginia:
Sir - Your order, per telegram, dated Richmond, Va., the 17th instant, calling my attention to section 1st, chapter 29th, of the Code, and to the fact that the Arsenal and government property at Harper's Ferry were in possession of a band of rioters, was not received till about 11 o'clock A.M. to-day, in consequence of the telegraphic posts round about here having been cut down by an audacious band of insurgents and robbers.

On the morning of the 17th inst., I received information at Charlestown that a band of abolitionists from the North had taken possession of the Arsenal and workshops of the government located here; that they had killed several of our citizens, taken others and held them as prisoners, and that they had in possession a large number of slaves, who, on the night of the 16th inst., were forcibly taken from their masters.

I immediately ordered out the "Jefferson Guard" and the citizens of Charlestown, which order was quickly responded to, and by ten o'clock A.M. they were armed and en route for this place. We left Charlestown with about one hundred men, and on reaching Halltown (midway between Charlestown and Harper's Ferry), we learned that the insurgents were in large numbers, and we at once dispatched orders to Col. L.F. Moore, of Frederick County, and to the "Hamtramck Guards" and "Shepherdstown Troop" to reinforce immediately. We reached Harper's Ferry about half-past eleven o'clock, A.M., and took our position on Camp Hill. We immediately dispatched the "Jefferson Guards," commanded by Captain J.W. Rowan and Lieutenants H.B. Davenport, E.H. Campbell and W.B. Gallaher, to cross the Potomac River about a mile west of the Ferry, and march down on the Maryland side and take possession of the Potomac bridge; and a company of citizens to Charlestown and vicinity, commanded by Capt. L. Botts and Lieut. F. Lackland, to cross the Winchester and Potomac railroad by way of Jefferson's Rock, to take possession of the Galt House, in the rear of the Arsenal, and commanding the entrance to the Armory yard. Capt. John Avis and R.B. Washington, Esq., with a handful of men, were ordered to take possession of the houses commanding the yard of the Arsenal. All these orders were promptly and successfully executed.

The bridge across the Shenandoah River and that of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, at the west end of the trestle work, and the street leading from the rifle factory, were guarded by small detachments of men.

Between three and four o'clock P.M., the Hamtramck Guards, Shepherdstown Troop, and a company from Martinsburg, commanded by Capt. E. Alburtis, arrived on the ground. The company from Winchester, commanded by Capt. R.B. Washington, did not arrive til late in the evening.

All the insurgents, save those who were killed and wounded through the day, retired with their prisoners into the guard-house and engine-room, just inside the gate of the armory yard, which was firmly locked. About three o'clock P.M., the enemy, with the most prominent of their prisoners, concentrated in the engine-house, leaving a large number of their prisoners fastened up in the guard- house. At this point, and after the arrival of the reinforcements from Shepherdstown and Martinsburg, Col. R.W. Baylor assumed the command, and will furnish you with the details of what followed.

The avowed and confessed object of the insurgents was to free the slaves of the South. They had at their head-quarters, near Harper's Ferry, 200 Sharpe's rifles, 200 revolvers, 1,000 pikes, a large number of picks and shovels, and a great quantity of ammunition and other things used in war. All these were taken and are in possession of the federal government.
Com'dt 55th Regiment

CHARLESTOWN, Oct. 22, 1859.
HON. HENRY A. WISE, Governor of Virginia:
Sir -- Having received intelligence from Harper's Ferry on the morning of the 17th instant that the abolitionists had invaded our State, taken possession of the town, government property and arms, I immediately proceeded to the scene of action. In passing through Charlestown, I met Colonel Gibson, with the Jefferson Guards, under arms. We proceeded to Halltown in the cars, where the citizens of that place informed me I could proceed no further with the train, as not only the Winchester but also the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad track had been taken up. At this place I learned they had taken seventy-five or one hundred of our citizens prisoners, and had carried off many of our slaves. Thereupon I issued the following order to Col. L.T. Moore, of the Thirty-first regiment of Virginia militia:

"October 17, 1859.
"COL. L.T. MOORE: Sir -- You are ordered to muster all the volunteer forces under your command, fully armed and equipped, and report to me forthwith at Harper's Ferry.
"Col. Third regiment Cavalry."

I placed this above order in charge of Capt. Bailey, the conductor on the Winchester road and directed him to return with his train to Winchester, and deliver the order to Col. Moore. I proceeded on, with the few troops we had under arms, on foot to Harper's Ferry, where we arrived about 12 o'clock. I found the citizens in very great excitement. By this time the insurgents occupied all the lower part of the town, had their sentinels posted on all the different streets, and had shot one of our citizens and a negro man who had charge of the depot on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. I here formed two companies of citizens, and placed them under the command of Captain Lawson Botts and Captain John Avis. Their forces were variously estimated from 300 to 500 strong, armed with Sharpe's rifles and revolvers.

I detached the Jefferson Guards, under the command of Capt. Rowan, and ordered them to cross the Potomac River in boats, about two miles above Harper's Ferry, and march down on the Maryland side, and take possession of the bridge, and permit no one to pass. This order was strictly executed. The command under Capt. Botts was ordered to pass down the hill below Jefferson's Rock and take possession of the Shenandoah bridge, to leave a strong guard at that point, and to march down to the Galt House, in rear of the Arsenal building, in which was supposed their men were lodged. Captain Avis' command was ordered to take possession of the houses directly in front of the Arsenal. Both of the above commands were promptly executed. By this movement we prevented any escape. Shortly after this, a report reached me that Geo. W. Turner and Fontaine Beckham, two of our most esteemed citizens, had been shot. About four o'clock we were reinforced by the arrival of the Hamtramck Guards, under the command of Captain Butler; the Shepherdstown troop, under the command of Captain Reinhart, and some thirty citizens of Martinsburg, under the command of Captain Alburtis. I ordered Captain Alburtis to march down Potomac street through the Armory yard to the Arsenal. The Hamtramck Guards and the Shepherdstown Troop (dismounted and armed with muskets), under my command, proceed down High street to the centre of the town, in front of the Arsenal. During the march, the insurgents, having secreted themselves in the engine-house in the Armory yard, opened a brisk fire on Captain Alburtis's company. The fire was quickly returned by Captain Alburtis' company, who behaved very bravely. The different companies near at hand rallied to Captain Alburtis' rescue.

The firing at this time was heavy, and the insurgents could not have retained their position many minutes, when they presented at the door a white flag. The firing thereupon ceased, and I ordered the troops to draw up in a line in front of the Arsenal. During this engagement and the previous skirmishes, we had ten men wounded, two I fear mortally. The insurgents had eleven killed, one mortally wounded, and two taken prisoner, leaving only five in the engine-house, and one of them seriously wounded.

In this engagement, we rescued about thirty of our citizens, whom they held as prisoners in the guard-house; they still held the engine-house, ten citizens and five slaves.

Immediately after the troops were withdrawn, Capt. Brown sent to me, through Isaac Russell, one of their prisoners, a verbal communication, stating if I would permit him to cross the bridge with his prisoners to some point beyond he would set them at liberty. I sent him the following reply in writing:

"Sir - Upon consultation with Mr. Isaac Russell, one of your prisoners, who has come to me on terms of capitulation, I say to you, if you will set at liberty our citizens, we will leave the government to deal with you concerning the property as it may think most advisable.
"Col. Commandant."

In reply, I received the following answer in writing:

"CAPT. JOHN BROWN, answers:
"In consideration of all my men, whether living or dead, or wounded, being soon safely in, and delivered up to me at this point, with all their arms and ammunition, we will then take our prisoners and cross the Potomac bridge, a little beyond which we will set them at liberty; after which we can negotiate about the government property as may be best. Also, we require the delivery of our horse and harness at the hotel

To the above, I returned the following answer:

"Sir - The terms you proposed I cannot accept. Under no consideration will I consent to a removal of our citizens across the river. The only negotiations upon which I will consent to treat are those which have been previously proposed to you.
Col. Commandant."

These terms he declined.

Night by this time had set in, and the weather being very inclement, I thought it best, for the safety of our citizens whom they held as prisoners, to cease operations for the night. Should I have ordered an attack at that hour, and in total darkness, our troops would have been as likely to have murdered our own citizens as the insurgents, all being in the same apartment. Having concluded to postpone another attack until morning, guards were posted around the Armory, and every precaution taken to prevent escape. Our troops by this time required some refreshment, having been on active duty and exposed to a heavy fall of rain all day. A little after night we were reinforced by Colonel L.T. Moore, of the Thirty-first regiment, having under his command the Continental Guards, commanded by Captain Washington, and the Rifles, commanded by Captain Clarke; also, three companies from Frederick, Maryland, under the command of Colonel Shiver. About twelve o'clock, Colonel Lee arrived, having under his command eighty-five marines from Washington. The government troops took possession of the government property and formed inside of the Armory yard, in close proximity to the engine-house. In this position Colonel Lee thought it best to remain until morning. The night passed without serious alarm, but not without intense excitement. It was agreed between Colonel Lee and myself that the volunteer forces should form around on the outside of the government property, and clear the streets of all citizens and spectators, to prevent them firing random shots, to the great danger of our soldiers, and to remain in that position whilst he would attack the engine-house with his marines. As soon as the day dawned, the troops were drawn up in accordance with the above arrangement. After which Colonel Lee demanded of the insurgents to surrender upon the terms I had before proposed to them, which they still declined. The marines were then ordered to force the doors. The attempt was made with heavy sledges, but proved ineffectual. They were then ordered to attack the doors with a heavy ladder which was lying a short distance off. After two powerful efforts, the door was shattered sufficiently to obtain an entrance. Immediately a heavy volley was fired in by the marines, and an entrance effected, which soon terminated the conflict. In this engagement, the marines had one killed and one slightly wounded. The insurgents had two killed and three taken prisoners. After the firing ceased, the imprisoned citizens walked out unhurt. Ascertaining that the whole party within the town were either killed or taken prisoners, I disbanded all the troops, with the exception of the Jefferson Guard, whom I retained on duty to prevent any further disturbances should they arise.

About twelve o'clock on Tuesday, information having been received that a large number of arms were secreted in a house in the mountain, the Independent Grays, of Baltimore, were dispatched to search for them. They returned about six o'clock, having found two hundred Sharpe's rifles, two hundred revolvers, twenty-three thousand percussion caps, one hundred percussion pistol caps, ten kegs of gunpowder, thirteen thousand ball cartridges for Sharpe's rifles, one major-general's sword, fifteen hundred pikes, and a large assortment of blankets and clothing of every description. On Wednesday the prisoners were placed in the custody of the sheriff of our county, and safely lodged in jail. Disturbances still occurring on the Maryland side of the river, I marched the Jefferson Guard over and made a thorough examination of their rendezvous; found it deserted and everything quiet. We returned about six o'clock to the Ferry; shortly after there was another general alarm, which caused great excitement.

The alarm was occasioned by a gentleman, residing in Pleasant Valley, riding into town in great haste, stating that he saw firing and heard the screams of the people, and that a large number of insurgents had collected and were murdering all before them. Forthwith, Col. Lee, with thirty marines, proceeded to the spot, and the Jefferson Guards took possession of the bridge. In about three hours Col. Lee returned, the alarm having proved to have been false.

Nothing further having occurred during the night to disturb the quiet of the town, on the following morning I disbanded the company and returned home.

I feel it my duty, before closing this report, to state that the arms in possession of the volunteer companies in this section of the State are almost worthless. I do not think we have 100 muskets in the county of Jefferson, a border county, and one of the most exposed of all others. With such arms as we have, it is butchery to require our troops to face an enemy much better equipped. Colonel Moore, of the Thirty-first regiment, informs me in his report, that, out of one hundred and thirty-five men on duty, he had not thirty pieces that would fire with any effect. If the State expects her volunteers to protect her, she must arm them better.

Knowing the great interest that will be felt throughout the State, and to vindicate the honor and valor of the troops under my command, I have been more than necessarily minute in this report. I am pleased to inform you, that they obeyed every order with alacrity, and with a full determination to do their duty.

The prisoners are doing well, and I do not fear any attempt will be made to rescue them, or that any further disturbances will occur.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Col. Commanding the Va. Troops at Harper's Ferry.


One of the ubiquitous class of persevering inquirers known as Reporters visited Harper's Ferry on the 18th and 19th of October, and was present at an interview between Senator Mason, Congressman Vallandigham, and the prisoner, Brown. The Reporter writes as follows:

HARPER'S FERRY, Oct. 19, 1859.
"Old Brown," or "Ossawatomie Brown," as he is often called, the hero of a dozen fights or so with the "border ruffians" of Missouri, in the days of "bleeding Kansas," is the head and front of this offending -- the commander of the filibuster army. His wounds, which at first were supposed to be mortal, turn out to be mere flesh-wounds and scratches, not dangerous in their character. He has been removed, together with Stephens, the other wounded prisoner, from the engine-house to the office of the Armory, and they now lie on the floor, upon miserable shake-downs, covered with some old bedding.

Brown is fifty-five years of age, rather small-sized, with keen and restless grey eyes, and a grizzly beard and hair. He is a wiry, active man, and, should the slightest chance for an escape be afforded, there is no doubt he will yet give his captors much trouble. His hair is matted and tangled, and his face, hands, and clothes, all smouched and smeared with blood. Colonel Lee stated that he would exclude all visitors from the room if the wounded men were annoyed or pained by them, but Brown said he was by no means annoyed; on the contrary, he was glad to be able to make himself and his motives clearly understood. He converses freely, fluently and cheerfully, without the slightest manifestation of fear or uneasiness, evidently weighing well his words, and possessing a good command of language. His manner is courteous and affable, and he appears to make a favorable impression upon his auditory, which, during most of the day yesterday, averaged about ten or a dozen men.

When I arrived in the Armory, shortly after two o'clock in the afternoon, Brown was answering questions put to him by Senator Mason, who had just arrived from his residence at Winchester, thirty miles distant, Col. Faulkner, member of Congress, who lives but a few miles off, Mr. Vallandigham, member of Congress of Ohio, and several other distinguished gentlemen. The following is a verbatim report of the conversation:

Mr. Mason - Can you tell us, at least, who furnished money for your expedition?
Mr. Brown - I furnished most of it myself. I cannot implicate others. It is by my own folly that I have been taken. I could easily have saved myself from it had I exercised my own better judgment, rather than yielded to my feelings.

Mr. Mason - You mean if you had escaped immediately?
Mr. Brown - No; I had the means to make myself secure without any escape, but I allowed myself to be surrounded by a force by being too tardy.

Mr. Mason - Tardy in getting away?
Mr. Brown - I should have gone away, but I had thirty odd prisoners, whose wives and daughters were in tears for their safety, and I felt for them. Besides, I wanted to allay the fears of those who believed we came here to burn and kill. For this reason I allowed the train to cross the bridge, and gave them full liberty to pass on. I did it only to spare the feelings of those passengers and their families, and to allay the apprehensions that you had got here in your vicinity a band of men who had no regard for life and property, nor any feeling of humanity.

Mr. Mason - But you killed some people passing along the streets quietly.
Mr. Brown - Well, sir, if there was anything of that kind done, it was without my knowledge. Your own citizens, who were my prisoners, will tell you that every possible means were taken to prevent it. I did not allow my men to fire, nor even to return a fire, when there was danger of killing those we regarded as innocent persons, if I could help it. They will tell you that we allowed ourselves to be fired at repeatedly and did not return it.

A Bystander - That is not so. You killed an unarmed man at the corner of the house over there (at the water tank) and another besides.
Mr. Brown - See here, my friend, it is useless to dispute or contradict the report of your own neighbors who were my prisoners.

Mr. Mason - If you would tell us who sent you here -- who provided the means -- that would be information of some value.
Mr. Brown - I will answer freely and faithfully about what concerns myself -- I will answer anything I can with honor, but not about others.

Mr. Vallandigham - (member of Congress from Ohio, who had just entered) -- Mr. Brown, who sent you here?
Mr. Brown - No man sent me here; it was my own prompting and that of my Maker, or that of the devil, whichever you choose to ascribe it to. I acknowledge no man in human form.

Mr. Vallandigham - Did you get up the expedition yourself?
Mr. Brown - I did.

Mr. Vallandigham - Did you get up this document that is called a constitution?
Mr. Brown - I did. They are a constitution and ordinances of my own contriving and getting up.

Mr. Vallandigham - How long have you been engaged in this business?
Mr. Brown - From the breaking of the difficulties in Kansas. Four of my sons had gone there to settle, and they induced me to go. I did not go there to settle, but because of the difficulties.

Mr. Mason - How many are engaged with you in this movement? I ask those questions for our own safety.
Mr. Brown - Any questions that I can honorably answer I will, not otherwise. So far as I am myself concerned I have told everything truthfully. I value my word, sir.

Mr. Mason - What was your object in coming?
Mr. Brown - We can to free the slaves, and only that.

A Young Man (in the uniform of a volunteer company) - How many men in all had you?
Mr. Brown - I came to Virginia with eighteen men only, besides myself.

Volunteer - What in the world did you suppose you could do here in Virginia with that amount of men?
Mr. Brown - Young man, I don't wish to discuss that question here.

Volunteer - You could not do anything.
Mr. Brown - Well, perhaps your ideas and mine on military subjects would differ materially.

Mr. Mason - How do you justify your acts?
Mr. Brown - I think, my friend, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity -- I say that without wishing to be offensive -- and it would be perfectly right in any one to interfere with you so far as to free those you willfully and wickedly hold in bondage. I do not say this insultingly.

Mr. Mason - I understand that.
Mr. Brown - I think I did right, and that others will do right who interfere with you at any time and all times. I hold that the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you," applies to all who would help others gain their liberty.

Lieut, Stuart - But you don't believe in the Bible.
Mr. Brown - Certainly I do.

Mr. Vallandigham -- Where did you men come from? Did some of them come from Ohio?
Mr. Brown - Some of them.

Mr. Vallandigham - From the Western Reserve? None came from Southern Ohio?
Mr. Brown - Yes, I believe one came from below Steubenville, down not far from Wheeling.

Mr. Vallandigham - Have you been in Ohio this summer?
Mr. Brown - Yes, sir.

Mr. Vallandigham - How lately?
Mr. Brown - I passed through Pittsburg on my way in June.

Mr. Vallandigham - Were you at any county or State fair there?
Mr. Brown - I was not - not since June.

Mr. Mason - Did you consider this a military organization, in this paper (the Constitution)? I have not yet read it.
Mr. Brown - I did in some sense. I wish you would give that paper close attention.

Mr. Mason - You considered yourself the Commander-in-Chief of these "provisional" military forces.
Mr. Brown - I was chosen agreeably to the ordinance of a certain document, commander-in-chief of that force.

Mr. Mason - What wages did you offer?
Mr. Brown - None.

Lieut. Stuart - "The wages of sin is death."
Mr. Brown - I would not have made such a remark to you, if you had been a prisoner and wounded in my hands.

A Bystander - Did you not promise a negro in Gettysburg, twenty dollars a month?
Mr. Brown - I did not.
Bystander - He says you did.

Mr. Vallandigham - Were you ever in Dayton, Ohio?
Mr. Brown - Yes, I must have been.

Mr. Vallandigham - This summer?
Mr. Brown - No; a year or two since.

Mr. Mason - Does this talking annoy you?
Mr. Brown - Not the least.

Mr. Vallandigham - Have you lived long in Ohio?
Mr. Brown - I went there in 1850; I lived in Summit County, which was then Trumbull County; my native place is in New York State; my father lived there till his death, in 1805.

Mr. Vallandigham - Do you recollect a man in Ohio named Brown, a noted counterfeiter?
Mr. Brown - I do; I knew him from a boy; his father was Henry Brown; they were of Irish or Scotch descent, and he had a brother also engaged in that business; when the boys could not read nor write; they were of a very low family.

Mr. Vallandigham - Have you been to Portage County lately?
Mr. Brown - I was there in June last.

Mr. Vallandigham - When in Cleveland, did you attend the Fugitive Slave Law Convention there?
Mr. Brown - No. I was there about the time of the sitting of the court to try the Oberlin rescuers. I spoke there publicly on that subject. I spoke on the Fugitive Slave law and my own rescue. Of course, so far as I had any influence at all, I was disposed to justify the Oberlin people for rescuing the slave, because I have myself forcibly taken slaves from bondage. I was concerned in taking eleven slaves from Missouri to Canada last winter. I think I spoke in Cleveland before the Convention. I do not know that I had any conversation with any of the Oberlin rescuers. I was sick part of the time I was in Ohio, with the ague. I was part of the time in Ashtabula County.

Mr. Vallandigham - Did you see anything of Joshua R. Giddings there?
Mr. Brown - I did meet him.

Mr. Vallandigham - Did you converse with him?
Mr. Brown - I did. I would not tell you, of course, anything that would implicate Mr. Giddings; but I certainly met with him and had conversations with him.

Mr. Vallandigham - About that rescue case?
Mr. Brown - Yes, I did; I heard him express his opinions upon it very freely and frankly.

Mr. Vallandigham - Justifying it?
Mr. Brown - Yes, sir; I do not compromise him certainly in saying that.

A Bystander - Did you go out to Kansas under the auspices of the Emigrant Aid Society?
Mr. Brown - No, sir; I went out under the auspices of John Brown and nobody else.

Mr. Vallandigham - Will you answer this: Did you talk with Giddings about your expedition here?
Mr. Brown - No, I won't answer that; because a denial of it I would not make, and to make any affirmation of it I should be a great dunce.

Mr. Vallandigham - Have you had any correspondence with the parties at the North on the subject of this movement?
Mr. Brown - I have had correspondence.

A Bystander - Do you consider this a religious movement?
Mr. Brown - It is, in my opinion, the greatest service a man can render to God.

Bystander - Do you consider yourself an instrument in the hands of providence?
Mr. Brown - I do.

Bystander - Upon what principle do you justify your acts?
Mr. Brown - Upon the golden rule. I pity the poor in bondage that have none to help them; that is why I am here; not to gratify any personal animosity, revenge or vindictive spirit. It is my sympathy with the oppressed and the wronged, that are as good as you and as precious in the sight of God.

Bystander - Certainly. But why take the slaves against their will?
Mr. Brown - I never did.

Bystander - You did in one instance, at least.
Stephens, the other wounded prisoner, here said in a firm, clear voice - "You are right. In one case, I know the negroes wanted to go back."

A Bystander - Where did you come from?
Mr. Stephens - I lived in Astabula county, Ohio.

Mr. Vallandigham - How recently did you leave Astabula county?
Mr. Stephens - Some months ago. I never resided there any length of time; have been through there.

Mr. Vallandigham - How far did you live from Jefferson?
Mr. Brown - Be cautious, Stephens, about any answers that would commit any friend. I would not answer that.
Stephens turned partially over with a groan of pain, and was silent.

Mr. Vallandigham (to Mr. Brown) - Who are your advisors in this movement?
Mr. Brown - I cannot answer that. I have numerous sympathizers throughout the entire North.

Mr. Vallandigham - In northern Ohio?
Mr. Brown - No more there than anywhere else; in all the free States.

Mr. Vallandigham - But you are not personally acquainted with southern Ohio?
Mr. Brown - Not very much.

Mr. Vallandigham (to Stephens) - Were you with the convention last June?
Stephens - I was.

Mr. Vallandigham (to Brown) - You made a speech there?
Mr. Brown - I did.

A Bystander - Did you never live in Washington city?
Mr. Brown - I did not. I want you to understand, gentlemen - (and to the reporter of the "Herald") you may report that - I want you to understand that I respect the rights of the poorest and weakest of colored people, oppressed by the slave system, just as much as I do those of the most wealthy and powerful. That is the idea that has moved me, and that alone. We expect no reward, except the satisfaction of endeavoring to do for those in distress and greatly oppressed, as we would be done by. The cry of distress of the oppressed is my reason, and the only thing that prompted me to come here.

A Bystander - Why did you do it secretly?
Mr. Brown - Because I thought it necessary to success; no other reason.

Bystander - And you think that honorable? Have you read Gerrit Smith's last letter?
Mr. Brown - What letter do you mean?

Bystander - The "New York Herald" of yesterday, in speaking of this affair, mentions a letter in this way: - "Apropos of this exciting news, we recollect a very significant passage in one of Gerrit Smith's letters, published a month or two ago, in which he speaks of the folly of attempting to strike the shackles off the slaves by the force of moral suasion or legal agitation, and predicts that the next movement made in the direction of negro emancipation would be an insurrection in the South."

Mr. Brown - I have not seen the "New York Herald" for some days past; but I presume, from your remark about the gist of the letter, that I should concur with it. I agree with Mr. Smith that moral suasion is hopeless. I don't think the people of the slave States will ever consider the subject of slavery in its true light till some other argument is resorted to than moral suasion.

Mr. Vallandigham - Did you expect a general rising of the slaves in case of your success?
Mr. Brown - No sir; nor did I wish it. I expected to gather them up from time to time and set them free.

Mr. Vallandigham - Did you expect to hold possession here till then?
Mr. Brown - Well, probably I had a different idea. I do not know that I ought to reveal my plans. I am here a prisoner and wounded, because I foolishly allowed myself to be so. You overrate your strength in supposing that I could have been taken if I had not allowed it. I was too tardy after commencing the open attack - in delaying my movements through Monday night, and up to the time I was attacked by the government troops. It was all occasioned by my desire to spare the feelings of my prisoners and their families and the community at large. I had no knowledge of the shooting of the negro (Hayward).

Mr. Vallandigham - What time did you commence your organization in Canada?
Mr. Brown - That occurred about two years ago, if I remember right. It was, I think, in 1858.

Mr. Vallandigham - Who was the Secretary?
Mr. Brown - That I would not tell if I recollected, but I do not recollect. I think the officers were elected in May, 1858. I may answer incorrectly, but not intentionally. My head is a little confused by wounds, and my memory obscure of dates, etc.

Dr. Biggs - Were you in the party at Dr. Kennedy's house?
Mr. Brown - I was at the head of that party. I occupied the house to mature my plans. I have not been in Baltimore to purchase caps.

Dr. Biggs - What was the number of men at Kennedy's?
Mr. Brown - I decline to answer that.

Dr. Biggs - Who lanced that woman's neck on the hill?
Mr. Brown - I did. I have sometimes practised in surgery when I thought it a matter of humanity and necessity, and there was no one else to do it, but have not studied surgery.

Dr. Biggs - It was done very well and scientifically. They have been very clever to the neighbors, I have been told, and we had no reason to suspect them except that we could not understand their movements. They were represented as eight or nine persons; on Friday there were thirteen.
Mr. Brown - There were more than that.

Q. Where did you get arms to obtain possession of the Armory?
A. I bought them.

Q. In what State?
A. That I would not state.

Q. How many guns?
A. Two hundred Sharpe's rifles and two hundred revolvers -- what is called the Massachusetts Army Company's revolvers, a little under the navy size.

Q. Why did you not take that swivel you left at the house?
A. I had no occasion for it. It was given me a year or two ago.

Q. In Kansas?
A. No; I had nothing given me in Kansas.

Q. By whom; and in what State?
A. I decline to answer. It is not properly a swivel; it is a very large rifle with a pivot. The ball is larger than a musket ball; it is intended for a slug.

Reporter of the Herald - I do not wish to annoy you; but if you have anything further you would like to say I will report it.
Mr. Brown - I have nothing to say, only that I claim to be here in carrying out a measure I believe perfectly justifiable, and not to act the part of an incendiary or ruffian, but to aid those suffering great wrong. I wish to say, furthermore, that you had better - all you people at the South - prepare yourselves for a settlement of that question that must come up for settlement sooner than you are prepared for. The sooner you are prepared the better. You may dispose of me very easily; I am nearly disposed of now; but this question is still to be settled - this negro question I mean - the end of that is not yet. These wounds were inflicted upon me - both sabre cuts on my head and bayonet stabs in different parts of my body - some minutes after I had ceased firing and had consented to surrender, for the benefit of others, not for my own. (This statement was vehemently denied by all around.) I believe the major (meaning Lieut. J. B. Stuart, of the United States cavalry), would not have been alive; I could have killed him just as easy as a mosquito when he came in, but I supposed he came in only to receive our surrender. There had been long and loud calls of "surrender" from us - as loud as men could yell - but in the confusion and excitement I suppose we were not heard. I do not think the major, or any one, meant to butcher us after we had surrendered.

An Officer here stated that the order to the marines were not to shoot anybody; but when they were fired upon by Brown's men and one of them killed, they were obliged to return the compliment.

Mr. Brown insisted that the marines fired first.

An Officer - Why did not you surrender before the attack?
Mr. Brown - I did not think it was my duty or interest to do so. We assured the prisoners that we did not wish to harm them, and they should be set at liberty. I exercised my best judgment, not believing the people would wantonly sacrifice their own fellow-citizens, when we offered to let them go on condition of being allowed to change our position about a quarter of a mile. The prisoners agreed by vote among themselves to pass across the bridge with us. We wanted them only as a sort of guaranty of our own safety; that we should not be fired into. We took them in the first place as hostages and to keep them from doing any harm. We did kill some men in defending ourselves, but I saw no one fire except directly in self-defence. Our orders were strict not to harm any one not in arms against us.

Q. Brown, suppose you had every nigger in the United States, what would you do with them?
A. Set them free.

Q. Your intention was to carry them off and free them?
A. Not at all.

A Bystander - To set them free would sacrifice the life of every man in this community.
Mr. Brown - I do not think so.

Bystander - I know it. I think you are fanatical.
Mr. Brown - And I think you are fanatical. "Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad," and you are mad.

Q. Was it your only object to free the negroes?
A. Absolutely our only object.

Q. But you demanded and took Col. Washington's silver and watch?
A. Yes; we intended freely to appropriate the property of slaveholders to carry out our object. It was for that, and only that, and with no design to enrich ourselves with any plunder whatever.

Q. Did you know Sherrod in Kansas? I understand you killed him.
A. I killed no man except in fair fight; I fought at Black Jack Point and Ossawatomie, and if I killed anybody it was at one of those places.

Source: Copy in John Brown Pamphlets, Vol. 1, Boyd B. Stutler Collection, West Virginia State Archives

Chapter Ten: The Raid

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History