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Shepherdstown Register Articles
on Executions

December 24, 1859

EXECUTION OF
Cook, Coppic, Green and Copeland,
AT CHARLESTOWN

We clip the following from the Spirit of Jefferson, of Saturday last:

Yesterday, the last of the condemned conspirators against the Commonwealth of Virginia, paid for their folly upon the scaffold. In the morning between 11 and 12 o’clock, the two negroes Green and Copeland, were taken from the jail, and under a strong military guard, were marched to the field of execution.

They ascended the gallows accompanied by Sheriff Campbell, Jailor Avis, several of the jail Guards and the Rev. Messrs. Waugh, Leech and North. They had nothing to say, and the noose was adjusted to their necks. Rev. Mr. North offered up a fervent prayer. All the ministers exhorted the criminals to trust in Christ, as the only hope. Both the negroes were apparently calm and collected.

At ten minutes past 11 o’clock, every thing being ready, the drop fell, and John Copeland and Shields Green were launched into eternity. With Green the drop seemed to be instant death; scarcely a struggle was perceptible. Copeland died much harder, and his struggles indicated much suffering. They were permitted to hang for thirty-five minutes, when life being pronounced extinct by the surgeons, they were cut down and placed in their coffins.

As soon as the execution of the negroes was over, and their bodies properly disposed of, the Sheriff and Jailor, with a number of the military, returned to town after the remaining prisoners, John E. Cook and Edwin Coppoc. We are informed that when the Sheriff and his guard reached the jail, the prisoners were engaged in washing their feet and preparing themselves for the fate that awaited them. Mr. Avis the Jailor, asked them if they had anything to say, and told them they would then be permitted to make any statements they desired. Cook responded, “that he was truly grateful for the kindness shown him by Sheriff Campbell, Mr. Avis and family, Revs. Waugh, North, Little, and Leach, and other ministers who had called upon, and prayed and talked with him. Also, to Messrs John J. Lock and John F. Blessing, and to the citizens of Charlestown generally.” After Cook had concluded, Coppoc said, “them’s my sentiments too, gentlemen!” There were some eighteen or twenty persons present.

Cook then gave direction as to the disposition he desired made of one or two articles which he had in his possession. A small breast-pin which he wore in his bosom he desired after his execution, to be taken out of his shirt, and given to his little boy if he should live. “Within my shirt bosom,” said he, “will be found my wife’s daguerreotype and a lock of my little boy’s hair, and these I desire also to have sent to my wife.”

They both then made the request that their arms should not be pinioned so tightly as to interrupt the circulation of the blood, and their requests were granted. A blue talma was thrown over Coppoc and a dark one over Cook, and these they wore to the scaffold. Coppoc just previous to leaving the jail, gave to Mr. Thomas Winn, an elderly gentleman from Iowa, a light slouch hat, which he desired Mr. W. to give to his friends. The dark one which he intended to wear to the scaffold, he said was a present from Gov. Willard of Indiana. Cook made the request that the position of his hat be changed, which was done by Rev. Mr. North. During the whole time, Coppoc seemed to be struggling to suppress his emotions, and Cook, though endeavoring to be calm, was evidently much effected. Some one made a remark, to which Coppoc replied, “it is the parting with friends, and not the dread of death, that moves us.”

The prisoners before leaving the jail, were permitted to visit the room occupied by Stevens and Hazlett alias Harrison. These advanced and shook hands with Cook and Coppoc, and bade them goodbye. Stevens in parting with them, said, “Good-bye friends! Cheer up! Give my love to my friends in the other world!” Coppoc made a remark to Stevens, which was not understood by others, to which the latter responded, “never mind.” Neither Cook nor Coppoc called Hazlett by name, but both shook hands with him, and their final leave. Near the jail door they recognized and took leave of others. On the way to the field of execution, and after they had entered the gate, the prisoners conversed with the Sheriff and others who were in the wagon with them. When they reached the scaffold, they ascended the steps without assistance, and approached their doom with apparent coolness. A short prayer was offered up by Rev. Mr. North, and the two prisoners were assigned their places on the drop, and the white caps drawn over their faces. The exhortations of the ministers were earnest and tended—and they directed the prisoners to Christ as the atonement for sin, and the hope of the sinner. They then shook hands with those upon the scaffold, and took their leave of the ministers. Whilst the noose was being adjusted to the neck of Coppoc he said, “be quick as possible.”

Whilst the Sheriff was placing the rope around Cook’s neck, he said, “Wait a moment! Where is Ed’s hand?” Coppoc’s hand was then extended to him, and grasping it heartily he said, “Good-bye! God bless you!” He then waved his hand to the crowd around the gallows, and said, “Good-bye, all!”

These were the last words of John E. Cook. In less than one minute the drop fell, and with his confederate in crime, Edwin Coppoc, he was transported from time to eternity, and from the judgment of the Court below, to that of the Bar above. They both died without struggling and in one moment after the drop fell no indication of life was left. Thus ended, for a time at least, the expedition of John Brown—an expedition conceived in sin, and inaugurated in bloodshed.

After hanging thirty minutes, they were examined by the same physicians who performed a similar duty in reference to the negroes, and being pronounced dead, the bodies were taken down and placed in their coffins, that of Cook, being an improved metallic, incased in a wooden box, directed to A. P. Willard, care of Robert Crowley, Williamsburg, N. Y., per Adams Express. The coffin was sent on from New York, the afflicted relatives not being able to procure one to suit them in Charlestown. The body of Coppic was put into a plain mahogany coffin, encased in a box directed to “Thos. Winn, Springdale, Ohio.” His uncle endeavored to procure a metallic coffin, but was unable to succeed, and therefore was compelled to take the best that Charlestown could afford.

The body of Coppic was taken directly from the gallows to Harper’s Ferry by the turnpike, arriving there at 3 o’clock. It was handed over to his uncle, a highly esteemed old Quaker gentleman, who did not sympathize in the least with the misguided and errant young man, and by him conveyed to the home of his afflicted mother, leaving the Ferry on the regular express train at 7 ½ o’clock. The old gentleman expects to reach home with the body on Monday evening. The body of Cook arrived at the Ferry at a later hour, and will pass through Baltimore early this morning, reaching his heart-stricken relative this evening. It is said that nearly all the immediate relatives of Cook are now in Williamsburg, and they intend interring the body in a private lot of his brother-in-law, who resides there.

After Cook and Coppic were taken from the cell a number of papers were taken from the table occupied by the latter during his imprisonment in writing. One half sheet of foolscap on which was scribbled in a beautiful hand all manner of things—prominent among which were the words “My dear wife,” “Mrs. Mary Virginia Cook, “ “J. R. Sellers, of Chambersburg, Pa., has the daguerreotype of my poor mother,” and many other endearing epithets. On the reverse side was written in a different hand and in pencil the following:--Give me an accurate description, as possible as you can of the age and personal appearance of Owen Brown, Barclay Coppic and J. T. Merriam. Signed “J. W. Avis.” Below this was written, in Cook’s hand-writing, the words “I revealed the secret only to a woman and that under a solemn pledge of secrecy.”


Shepherdstown Register,
March 24, 1860

Execution of Stevens and Hazlett.

Another, and it is to be hoped the final acted in the Harper’s Ferry tragedy has been enacted, and Aaron D. Stevens and Albert Hazlett have been sent to “that bourne from which no traveler returneth.” Although it is known that at least four of the Brown party yet remain unwhipped of Justice, and the desire is, that no more blood be shed, and that the remaining wretches be permitted to wander through the world, with the sting of a guilty conscience, and scorned by all honest men, rather than our county shall be made the theatre of another season of excitement.

The near approach of the day of execution seemed to have little effect on the prisoners, and for the past few days they were unusually cheerful. Stevens declaring it was his wish to be free, and therefore desired the day for his execution to arrive. Mrs. Pearce, the sister of Stevens, was with him up to yesterday morning, and made a fine impression on all with whom she was thrown by her ladylike deportment and conduct. On Thursday, a Miss Dunbar, of Ohio, arrived in town. It is said she was engaged to be married to Stevens at the time of the Harper’s ferry invasion, and has corresponded with him since his imprisonment in this town. She is a lady of much in intelligence and beauty.

A brother of Hazlett, who resides in Armstrong county, Penn.; also arrived a few days ago, and was present with his brother until yesterday morning. He advised Hazlett to make a full confession of his connection with the Brown party, and counseled him to abandon all hope of a reprieve or commutation of punishment.

Yesterday morning the table was set in the passage for the criminals to eat; and seated around it were the two men, who in a few hours were to be launched into eternity, a sister, and the betrothed of one, and the brother of the other. A solemn feast, and one which was, seemingly, enjoyed by but two—the condemned.

After breakfast had been partaken of, the friends of the criminals bade them a long farewell, and took a carriage for Harper’s Ferry, where they remained until the bodies of the executed reached that place.

At eleven o’clock, the field on which the scaffold was occupied by a large number of spectators, a still larger number of spectators, a still larger number, however, remaining in town to accompany the sad procession. Col. John T. Gibson, was in command of the military, which made a magnificent display. The following companies were posted around the scaffold before the arrival of the prisoners:--Clark Guards, Capt. Bowen; Berkley Border Guards, Capt. Nadenbousch; Floyd Riflemen, Capt. G. W. Chambers; Floyd Riflemen, Capt. T. S. Duke; Armory Guard, Capt. Derrick; Letcher Cadets, Capt. Campbell; Continental Morgan Guards, Capt. Haines, and Letcher Riflemen, Lieut. Link.

At ten minutes to 12 o’clock, the prisoners made their appearance on the field, escorted by the Hamtramck Guards, Capt. Butler; Jefferson Guards, Capt. Rowan; and Botts Grays, Capt. Lawson Botts. The prisoners walked to the scaffold. Hazelett was in advance, and ascended the steps with an easy, unconcerned air, followed by Stevens. Both seemed to survey with perfect indifference the large mass of persons in attendance, and neither gave the least sign of fear. A short time was spent in adjusting the ropes properly around the necks of the prisoners, which was improved by them in taking an affectionate farewell of the Sheriff, Jailor and the jail-guard, after which the caps were placed over their heads, and Aaron D. Stevens and Albert Hazlett were launched into eternity, to be dealt with by a judge who doeth all things right.

There was no religious exercise with the prisoners, as they declined all offers from the clergy.

Just before the caps were drawn over their heads, Stevens and Hazlett embraced each other and kissed.

The fall broke the neck of Hazlett, and he died without a struggle, whilst the knot skipped on Stevens’s neck, and he writhed in contortions for several minutes. They were permitted to hang about half an hour, when they were examined and pronounced dead.

The bodies were placed in neat walnut coffins, and forwarded to Mr. Marcus Spring, South Amboy, New Jersey. It is understood Mrs. Spring sent money here for the purpose of paying a portion of the funeral expenses. – Spirit of Jefferson.


Chapter Twelve: Death and Burial

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History