Skip Navigation


Shepherdstown Register Articles
on John Brown Raid

October 22, 1859

Slave Insurrection at Harpers Ferry.

GREAT EXCITEMENT!

The Armory seized and trains stopped!

CARS FIRED INTO!

VIRGINIA AND MARYLAND MILITARY ORDERED OUT!

CITIZEN’S TAKEN PRISONERS

Blood Shed and Lives Lost!

The Insurrectionists Routed!

Part of them flee to the Mountain!

PURSUIT!

The Commander-in-Chief and the Insurrectionists Captured, &c., &c.

The following dispatches were sent to the Baltimore Clipper from Frederick city, Md., (the telegraph wires at Harper’s Ferry being cut east and west) at 2 o’clock, Monday morning.

Frederick, Oct. 17. – Information has been received here this morning of a formidable negro insurrection at Harper’s Ferry. An armed band of Abolitionists have full possession of Harper’s Ferry and the United States Arsenal. The express train east was fired into twice, and one of the hands, a negro, was killed whilst trying to get the train through the town.

They have arrested two men who came with a load of wheat and took their wagon and loaded it with rifles, and sent them into Maryland. They are led by about fifty whites with a gang of negroes fighting for their freedom. They gave Conductor Phelps notice that they would not allow any more trains to pass.

Residents Imprisoned—Citizens Killed.

Frederick, Oct. 17. – The engine and train from here have just returned, being unable to proceed through Harper’s Ferry.

A letter has just been received here from a merchant in Harper’s Ferry, which was sent by two boys who had to swim the river to escape the insurrectionists. The letter states that most all of the leading people of Harper’s Ferry were taken prisoners, and that several have been killed.

The robbers have all the works in their possession, and have taken the money from the vaults. The Powder House is in their possession, and they will not permit any one to leave the town.

F. Beckham, the railroad agent, was shot twice by the gang and killed. They were said to be disguised—the whites being painted as blacks.

The attack was first made about 12 o’clock last night.

The watchman at the railroad depot was shot dead.

Statement of Conductor Phelps and his Officers.

The following particulars of the affair have been obtained from the train, viz: Mr. Andrew J. Phelps, conductor; Mr. Jacob Cromwell, baggage-master; and William Wooley, engineer. They state that their train (the regular passenger train from the West) reached point near the bridge at Harper’s Ferry at 20 minutes of one o’clock this morning, when it was stopped.

They were then informed by the night bridge tender that when he proceeded to relieve his colleague he discovered that the light on the bridge had been extinguished, and that his colleague had been murdered or waylaid. He was not left long in a state of suspense, as 3 men suddenly came upon him with violent outcries, which caused him to flee, whereupon the parties discharged firearms at him, which fortunately did not take effect. It further appeared that a colored man, well known as a baggage assistant upon teaching the Ferry was also shot at several balls penetrated his back, inflicting wounds of a mortal character.

At first conductor Phelps was at a loss how to act, and concluded to send over a person in the vicinity of the Ferry at ascertain the cause of the proceedings, when the leader of the party—a man of rather prepossessing appearance, and supposed to be nearly sixty years of age—appeared, and stated that he preferred holding communication with the conductor. Mr. Phelps went over close, and was told by the same man that he and his party had determined not to allow another train to pass over the road, but that they would give him five to ten minutes to get his train through.

In the meantime, other persons from the train ventured across the bridge above the Ferry, and soon coming into contact with the rioters, (who were reputed at about two hundred in number, half of whom seemed to be black,) one the party, a passenger, was captured. The train was delayed by the proceedings until half-pas six o’clock, when steam was raised and they reached the Camden station at noon to-day.

Upon the train leaving, Mr. Phelps was particularly requested by the leader of the gang to state to the superintendent of the road, that under no circumstances would another train be permitted to pass Harper’s Ferry. During the night a large two horse wagon, laden with wheat, came in from one of the neighboring counties of the State. The rioters immediately seized the driver, took possession of the wheat, and lading the vehicle with weapons from the Armory, sent it back up the country.

The engineer states that amongst them there were several strapping negroes who occasionally shouted out that they longed for liberty, as they had been in bondage long enough. The ringleader, who it is said is named Anderson, made his appearance at Harper’s Ferry five or six days ago, and since that time has been driving around the place in an elegant barouche drawn by two horses.

These officers report that the United States Armory and the neighboring country have been taken possession of by the rioters, all of whom are well armed with short rifles and other United States arms. When the workmen of the armory repaired there for the purpose of resuming work they were seized by the parties, forcibly dragged within the gates and imprisoned.

A number of the party proceeded to the propiritors [sic] of the hotel, near the Armory, and in an authoritative tone ordered breakfast for fifty or sixty persons, adding that they were determined to keep possession of the place, and live in the best manner.

More of the Bloody War.

Samuel K. Thomas, one of the conductors of the railroad and engaged in the storming at the paymaster’s office, displayed unparalleled feats. He stood within fifty feet of the building, exposed to the fire of those within, and loaded and fired nearly some half a dozen times. His coat was perforated with ball, and the skin cut from the flesh of his person by the shot. His preservation from instant death seems miraculous.

Aaron D. Stevens, a captain of the rioters, shot at the bridge, was taken into the Carroll Hotel, where his dreadful wounds were dressed by Dr. McGarrity. Heavy bullets passed through his breast, head and one arm. He said to those around him that as he expected to die before morning, he wanted somebody to telegraph to his father, at Norwich, Conn., to say to him that his Brown died at Harper’s Ferry, in an attempt at high treason against the State of Virginia. He was alive at four o’clock yesterday morning.

He is represented as a remarkably fine looking man, six feet six inches high, and possessed of great nerve. While lying in bed a number of the outraged citizens crowded into the room and attempted to dispatch him, pointing cocked muskets at his head, but Stevens, as he lay helpless, folded his arms, and looked them calmly in the eye, without uttering a word.

Consternation among the Passengers.

The passengers, especially the ladies, were greatly alarmed, and feared the party was a gang of robbers who intended to rob the Government Treasury which contained $15000, and might also rob them. The information is that the rifles were brought down from the works on the Shenandoah, and the parties at the Ferry were armed with them, and the wagons which brought them down afterwards drove off with outsiders, and it was supposed, when the train left, that they had taken off the treasure in the wagon. The band appeared to be well drilled, and Capt. Anderson had entire control, as his men were very obedient to his orders.

Cause of the outbreak.

This puzzles everybody. Some of the passengers, with whom we conversed, were of the opinion that the object was one of plunder, and others that the entire affair has resulted from malice. The Captain of the outlaws makes use of such expressions as these—“If you knew me and understood my motives as well as I and others understand them, you would not blame me much.” Again—“If you knew my heart and history, you would not blame me.” But from the fact that negroes principally are in the fray, there can be no possible doubt of its abolition aspect.

The Excitement in Baltimore.

The bulletin boards of the newspapers were besieged by anxious crowds the livelong day. “What’s the news?” was on every lip, and the utmost eagerness manifested everywhere to hear something.

Rush of Volunteers.

The rush of volunteers at the various armories was absolutely immense. Every vacant uniform in some of the companies, of which any knowledge could be gained, was hunted up and filled an hour least before starting. Hence, if any company in service is thin in its ranks, the cause is surely not the want of men, but of uniforms. One stalwart chap, at the armory of the Wells and McComas Riflemen, begged piteously for a chance to go. His language was—“Captain, if you’ll just let me go, dogged if I’ll ever forget you. All I want is a rifle, and a fair shot, and I’ll fetch ‘em sure.” But the Captain was headless.

Dismal appearance of the Town.

A gentleman from New York, who came a passenger[,] says: Every light in the town had been previously extinguished by the lawless mob. The train therefore remained stationary and the passengers, terribly affrighted, remained in the cars all night. The hotels were closed and no entrance could be had into them. All the streets were in possession of the men, and every road, lane and avenue leading to the town guarded or barricaded by them.

Military Movement—The Bridge to be Forced.

Washington, Oct. 17. – On receipt of intelligence from Harper’s Ferry this morning, orders were issued for three companies of Artillery, at Old Point, and the corps of Marines, at the Washington barracks, to proceed thither without delay.

The Marines, about 93 in number, with two twelve pound howitzers and a full supply of ammunition, left in the 3 o’clock train this afternoon. It is reported that they are under orders to force the bridge to-night at all hazards. Hon. C. J. Faulkner accompanied them.

It is stated on good authority that some weeks ago Secretary Floyd received an anonymous epistle, stating that about the 15th of October, the Abolitionists and negroes, with other disaffected persons would make an attempt to seize the Arsenal and hold the place.

This statement, however, appeared so indefinite, improbably and ridiculous as to be regarded as not worthy of any attention.

Wholesale Massacre.

A party of five of the insurgents armed with Minnie rifles, and posted to in the rifle armory, it is said, 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 two and three hundred 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, attempted to jump over the dam, but fell, shot, and was not seen afterwards. The third was badly wounded, and the remaining one was taken unharmed. The white insurgent wounded and captured, died in a few moments afterwards. He was shot through the breast, arm and stomach. He declared there were only nineteen whites engaged in the insurrection.

The town approached on every side.

The Shepherdstown company approached the town over the mountain by the Bolivar road. The Frederick (Va) company by the Shenandoah river way; and the Jefferson co. company came down the Potomac river route; while the Frederick (Md.) company and Baltimore volunteers approached the town from across the railroad bridge.

Killed and Wounded.

Killed.—F. Beckham, railroad agent; Hayard Sheppard, colored porter at the railroad station; Thos. Boerly, grocer; Wm. Richardson of Martinsburg; George W. Turner of Charlestown; Wm. Brown, son of “Old Brown,” insurgent; Stewart Taylor, insurgent; J. C. Anderson, insurgent; E. H. Leeman, insurgent; Albert Haslitt, insurgent and several colored men; Dorsey of Baltimore, and a Mr. McCabe of Harper’s Ferry.

Wounded.—Ossowattamie (old) Brown, and second son, insurgents; Allen Evans, mortally, insurgent; Private Quinn, U. S. Marine, mortally; another marine, slightly; Alex. Kelly, Martinsburg, slightly; G. N. Hammond, Martinsburg, slightly; Geo. H. Murphy, Martinsburg, slightly; Geo. W. Richardson, Martinsburg, slightly; Nelson Hooper, Clinton Bowman, also of Martinsburg.

Incidents of the First Battle—Interesting statement by an Eye-witness.

A gentleman who returned from the scene in the the [sic] 6:30 train, describes the storming of the bridge and town. The first attack was made by a detachment of the Charlestown (Va.) Guards. They crossed the Potomac river above Harper’s Ferry, and reached the building where the insurgents were posted by the canal on the Maryland side. A smart firing occurred, and the rioters were driven from the bridge. One man was killed here and another arrested.

A man ran out of the building and tried to escape by swimming the river. A dozen shots were fired after him, and he partially fell, but rose again, threw his gun away and drew his pistol. Both snapped, and he drew a bowie knife, [?] his heavy accoutrements off, and lunged into the river. One of the soldiers [?] about [?] 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 the pockets was found a Captains commission to Captain E. H. Leeman, from the Provisional Government. The commission was dated October 15, 1850 [sic], and signed by A. W. Brown, Commander in Chief of the Army of the Provincial Government of the United States.

For nearly an hour a running and random firing was kept up the troops against the rioters. Several were shot down, and many managed to lip 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 when the firing was going on, says all the terrible scenes of a battle passed in reality beneath his eyes. Soldiers could be seen pursuing singly and in couples, and the crack of the musket and 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.

Defeat of the Insurgents—the rioters Barricaded in the Armory.

Harper’s Ferry, 3 ¼ A. M. – The town being in possession of the military, the rioters are entrenched in the armory, and hold Mr. Washington and Mr. Dangerfield as prisoners.

The insurrectionists were commanded by Capt. Brown, of Kansas notoriety, who gave his name as Anderson, to Conductor Phelps. They numbered originally seventeen white men and 5 negroes, but were reinforced during the day.

Allen Evans, one of the insurgents, a white man, is lying here dying, with a ball through his breast. He is from Connecticut, but has been in Kansas. He says the whole was got up by Captain Brown, who represented that the negroes would rise by thousands, and Maryland and Virginia would be made free States.

Colonel Shriver, of Frederick, has just had an interview with Capt. Brown in the armory. He asked to be allowed to march out with his men, and avowed his intention to defend himself to the last. They are very strongly posted in the engine house, and cannon cannot be used against them for fear of injuring the prisoners whom they still hold. Some sixteen persons are known to be killed. Fountain Beckham, the railroad agent, was shot dead from the armory windows. Three rioters are lying dead under the bridge, shot by the Shepherdstown troops in the charge on the bridge.

The armory was taken possession of by the rioters about 9 o’clock on Sunday night last, and was so quietly done that the citizens knew nothing of it until the train was stopped.

Captain Brown had been about here and rented a farm four miles off, which was the rendevous [sic] of the rioters. Captain Cook has also lived in the vicinity, and at one time taught school here. All the other white men are unknown, but are supposed to be men who have been connected with Captain Brown in Kansas.

Incidents of the Second Battle.

Harper’s Ferry, Oct. 18.
The town of Harper’s Ferry was thronged last night with military and rioters, and martial law prevailed throughout the entire community. No one could pass the bridge without arrest, unless permitted by Col. Shriver, commanding the Frederick military. The precaution was taken to prevent the possibility of any of the disturbers of the peace of the town.

Nearly the first object visible after passing the bridge was a dead negro lying outside the pavement with an ugly gash in his throat, and other wounds. No one seemed to notice him particularly, more than any other dead animal. The citizens have not yet recovered from their astonishment at the civil war which has so suddenly been engendered in their peaceful community—nor their surprise at the boldness and about which characterizes the efforts of the conspirators who have so mysteriously alighted, full armed, in their midst. The insurgents are caged, however, after their work of violence and death, and the people with great anxiety awaited the results of the events of to-day.

At about 5 o’clock yesterday morning the military companies, a part of which had been on duty at guard during the night were ordered out. The volunteers took possession of the streets surrounding the government buildings, and cleared them of spectators. The marines were drawn up within the enclosure, under the command of Col. Lee, Lieut. Stewart, of the army, and Major Russell, with their two Dalhgreen 12 pound howitzers. The insurgents were in the engine room of the armory, a small building a small building [sic] at the extreme end of the government works. They held as their prisoners some half dozen citizens of wealth and respectability, and some half dozen negroes. One of the Baltimore companies (the Independent Grays, Lieut. Simpson commanding,) occupied the railroad bridge directly in front of the unoccupied buildings.

The military companies of the adjoining town and the Baltimore companies presented an imposing military display. The scene was exciting in the extreme. The most breathless suspense existed for the half hour which preceeded [sic] the attack. Death was anticipated, and the reckless daring of the few bold and foolish fanatics who set at defiance the authority of the general government and the whole military [?] in their view, created an intense indignation and a desire for their summary chastisement. The apprehensions for the safety of the gentlemen detained in the custody of the insurgents were also painful. The marines in the yard commenced maneuvering towards a close proximity to the building. At length Col. Lee appeared in front of the enclosure with Lieut. Stewart, who, with a citizen, was deputed to bear a flag of truce to the insurgents. Every eye was upon the two latter as they approached the door of the building. The conference was long, especially between the insurgents and the citizen, and the patience of all present was nearly exhausted. At length they retired.

It was understood that Col. Lee, in summoning them to surrender, offered them protection till the pleasure of the President of the United States should be made known, and that nearly all of the insurgents were in favor of accepting those conditions, but the powerful will of the leader Brown overruled their wishes, and they refused to surrender. Major Russel then ordered Lieut. Green, with a file of marines, to force the large double doors. They rushed towards them, and attempted with their bayonets to force them open but the strength of their fastenings defied the effort. At this time a volley from within increased the excitement of the spectators. The marines then tried to force the doors with heavy sledge hammers, but they also proved ineffectual.

A double file of marines was then ordered to attack the doors with a heavy ladder. A few powerful efforts shattered the strong doors of this oathouse [sic] of the government, which was filled with fire engines, and as they yielded to the force of this battering ram and flew in pieces, an extra shout went up from the multitude. The moment the upper part of the dorso [sic] went down, Lt. Green and his marines fired a volley into the insurgents with deadly aim. Maj. Russel then sprang upon the ladder and preceded them. The conflict was terminated in a few minutes. One of the marines, private Quinn, was borne off fatally wounded by a shot in the abdomen, and another private, Rupert, received a flesh wound in the upper lip and had one or more of his upper teeth knocked out.

Statement of an Eye Witness.

When the order was given for the Marines to storm the barracks, Adjt. G. W. Talbott, of the 5th Regiment, mingled in with the marines, and took an active part in the affray. The insurgents were in a small house within the arsenal enclosures, and stubbornly refused to surrender, preferring death to capture. The order was given to batter down the doors, which was speedily done with sledge hammers and a large ladder, when the doors flew open the insurgents poured a volley into the besiegers, which was returned with deadly effect; after the first fire, the marines rushed into the barracks and captured five blacks and four white men, all of whom were wounded, with the exception of one white man.

Upon entering the door, J. B. Anderson, one of the ringleaders of the insurgents, discharged a Minnie rifle at the Marines, and was in the act of firing his revolver, when a Minnie ball struck him in the left side below the heart. He staggered back a few paces, and appeared determined to sell his life dearly. He raised his revolver and was cocking it, when Adjutant Talbott rushed upon him, and succeeded in disarming him. This task, however, was not accomplished without a struggle, as Anderson finding that his situation was life or death, used all his energies to accomplish as much harm as he was able. Finding himself overpowered, he yielded to Adjt. Talbott, and was removed to a place of safety, where he was attended by Prof. Dunbar, of Baltimore. Anderson’s wound is of such a character that he was supposed to be dying when our informant left Harper’s Ferry.

The pistol which Adjutant Talbott secured is one of the largest cavalry description, and was heavily loaded. On the but end there is engraved the name of J. E. Cook. This individual was second in command of the insurgents, and made his escape to the mountains, with a few of his followers. Our informant further states that when the barracks were captured he counted six dead bodies lying on the floor. On the body of one of the killed there was a copy of by laws and a constitution governing the abolitionists. A love-letter was also found upon one of the killed, couched in the most affectionate terms, from a female in Illinois. In leaving for home, three dead bodies were discovered floating down the Potomac. They were permitted to pass by, and no effort was made to bring them ashore. When the insurgents found that they were getting the worst of the battle, they secured themselves in houses and shot down passers by, by thrusting their rifles thro’ windows and loop holes.

Names of those held as Prisoners.

Armstead Ball, chief draughtsman at the Armory; Benj. Mills, master of the Armory; J. E. P. Dangerfield, pay-master’s clerk; Lewis Washington; John Allstadt and six sons; the two last named were seized on their farms several miles from the Ferry.

Seizure of Arms.

Shortly after the storming of the citadel of the insurrectionists, several respectable looking citizens of Harper’s Ferry approached Major Warner excitedly, and declared that a large number of the insurrectionists, under the command of J. E. Cook, one of the leaders of the rebellion, had entrenched themselves within an unoccupied log cabin, sometimes used as a school house, and had fired upon certain citizens a few moments before; and the assistance of Major Warner was asked to dislodge them. The latter replied that his corps being under the command of General Egerton he could not act without orders from him, but that they were eagerly willing to volunteer for the service. Meantime Gen. Egerton having received intelligence to the same effect as that communicated to Maj. Warner, had detailed the Independent Greys, Lieut. Simpson, to dislodge and capture the party.

The gallant Greys proceeded at “double-quick” time along a constantly ascending and rocky road to execute the order. About a mile from the Ferry, they arrived within sight of the school house, a cabin situated in the gloomy hollow, and apparently, closely barricaded. Halting for a few moments, the Greys formed into two platoons, under the respective commands of Lieuts. Simpson and Kerchner, and, at a given signal, dashing down the declevity [sic] of the road, with the butt end of their muskets, battered in the doors and windows, through which they entered. The cabin was entirely empty of occupants, though on all sides were discovered evidences of recent occupation, and a hasty retreat of its inmates.

Against the front door were piled sixteen long and heavy boxes, one of which—upon being burst open—was found to contain ten newly finished Sha[r]p’s breech loading rifles, evidently fresh from the hands of their maker. There was also discovered one large square box, exceedingly heavy, which were suffered to remain unopened; a large and heavy black trunk, a box filled with bayonets and sabers, and several boxes of rifle cartridges and ammunition. There were 21 boxes, several of which were filled with Maynard’s large sized patent revolvers, with powder flasks accompanying.

The room was littered with Sharp’s rifles, revolvers and pikes. Evidently distributed with a view to their immediate use, either for the purpose of defense or an aggressive action. After satisfying themselves that the traitors had fled, the gallant Greys proceeded to possess themselves—each man—of a rifle, and a pair of revolvers, the remainder being placed, together with a large number of pikes, &c, upon a large new wagon (purchased but a few days before by Smith, or Capt. Brown as he is now known,) to which the captors harnessed a pair of fine horses they caught grazing in the enclosure, and conveyed their valuable prize into town, where they were received with loud cheers by the citizens and military.

The captured boxes were placed for safe keeping in the Arsenal of the United States, though the Greys asserted an exclusive right to their possession as the lawful prize of its captors.

The revolvers and rifles were entirely new, and evidently expressly manufactured for the insurrectionists, the initials of whose leader’s name, “J. E. C,” were stamped upon every weapon.

The boxes in which the weapons were contained were marked thus, ”By railroad via Pittsburg and Harrisburg. J. Smith & Sons, Chambersburg, Pa. By American Express Company. Keep dry.” One box was directed to “W. F. McClarney, Marine Bank Building.” The name of the town had been obliterated, but several legible letters indicated that Cincinnati was the place. One small box, containing cartridges was inscribed with the initials “J. B.,” written on the back of a nearly obliterated card, with the following printed advertisement,” “From Burr and Swift, wholesale and retail dealers and importers of groceries, _____, fish, fruit, tobacco, segars, _____, glass, salt, rope, wooden-ware, etc., commission and for wading merchants, _____, between Front and Second, Davenport, Iowa.” Another unopened box, supposed to contain rifles was addressed to “T. B. Eldridge, Mt. Pleasant, _____.” The succeeding portion of the address, the name of the State perhaps, had been carefully obliterated.

Discovery of the Papers of the Insurrectionists.

The excitement attending this clever exploit had scarcely subsided, when another alarm was given, that the notorious insurgent leader Cook, had a few minutes before been seen upon the mountains on the Maryland shore.

A scouting party consisting of several members of the Greys, (the only foreign corps in the town, quite or nearly all of those present in the forenoon having left for their homes,) some score or more of volunteers, and about twenty U. S. Marines under command of Capt. J. E. B. Stewart, was instantly formed, and proceeded rapidly in pursuit.

Following the same path which the Greys had pursued in making their discoveries, and which is known as the “County road,” leading into the heart of Washington county, Md., the party continued their course for a distance of 4 ½ miles from the Ferry until they reached the farm and house bought and occupied by Brown under the name of John Smith. The dwelling, a log house, containing two unpaved basement rooms, used apparently for storage, and in which were several empty gun boxes; two rooms and a pantry upon the second floor; and one large attic room in which were about six husk mattresses—was discovered to be unoccupied, save a huge, savage looking mastiff, tied with a rope to the railing of a small piazza outside the house, but there were abundant evidences of its recent hurried vacation. The floors of all the rooms were littered with books, papers, documents and wearing apparel of several persons, hastily snatched from eight or ten trunks and an equal number of valices and coarse carpet bags, strewn around, the fastenings of all of which had been forcibly broken, as if their violators were too much hurried for time to adopt the tardier method of entrance, by looking up keys. In the pantry, which appeared to have been used for kitchen purposes, beside an almost new cooking stove and an abundance of tin utensils, were two barrels of flour, a large quantity of sausage meat and cured hams, together with several pounds of butter, lard, &c. The fire was yet smouldering in the stove, and the water in the boiler was quite hot at the time of the entrance.

But the most valuable discovery was a trunk belonged to Capt. Brown, containing a great number of highly important papers, documents, plans, and letters from private individuals throughout the Union—all revealing the existence of an extensive and thoroughly organised conspiracy, whose leaders were Captain Brown and J. E. Cook, and the well-defined, determinedly expressed object of which, was the hastening of “irrepressible conflict” predicted by Senator Seward, and recently by Gerritt Smith, which was to result in the “disenthralment [sic] of the the [sic] slaves of the South,” and the extinction of the “Slave Power.”

The most undoubted evidences have thus been obtained, not only of the plans and hopes of this formidable insurrectionary organization; but of the indisputable fact of its extension throughout the Northern and Western States, from the influential citizens of whom the treasonable movement has received its sustaining support and encouragement.

Among the most important documents discovered were pamphlets containing the Constitution of a Provisional Government for the United States, the treasonable purposes and objects of which if not directly put forth, are nevertheless so clearly expressed as to be conclusive.

Startling Revelation—The points of attack.

In a trunk, supposed to have belonged to Capt. Brown, was found seven small though elaborate maps of as many different States, bearing peculiar marks, which would seem to indicate that the points of attack, and the course of the insurrectionary movement through the South, had already been carefully determined upon by this well-organized and confident league of traitors. Certain counties in the seven States, of which only these maps were obtained, bear cross-marks formed by a pen, and in several instances as if to command greater particularity of attention, or to suggest perhaps more available points of attack, circular lines are drawn around the crosses. South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, and Kentucky, are the States mentioned to attack

The maps which are about 18 by 12 inches, are carefully and neatly pasted on stout cambric cloth. Upon the margin of each map is pasted the census returns of 1850, of its State; giving in detail the relative strength of the white and slave population of each county, and the proportion of females to the whole number of inhabitabitants [sic]. By referring to the counties marked, it will be perceived that in them the slave population vastly preponderate, and might, therefore, have been deemed a safer field of operation for the abolition invaders.

Important Letters and Notes.

In the same trunk in which the maps were discovered, were found a number of highly important letters from certain well-known Northern abolitionists, conveying both “aid and comfort” to the insurrectionists; among them was a letter from Gerrit Smith, of New York, containing some financial statements, and a cheque for $100, endorsed by the cashier of a New York bank, and a letter from Frederick Douglass, enclosing $10, a part contributed by a lady. These were read by Gov. Wise to the crown in the arsenal yard.

There are yet other letters not yet made public, which implicate several well-known politicians of Iowa, New York and Pennsylvania in the conspiracy to create a slave insurrection throughout the Southern States.

Among a quantity of papers in our possession, found in the house of Capt. Brown, is the following brief, written upon a scrap of paper, in a good professional hand writing:

“At the right hour, by all you deem sacred, remember me.” [Signed]
GEORGE B. GILL.

The following is in the hand writing of Brown himself, and is entitled,

“VINDICATION OF THE INVASION,&C.

“The Denver truce was broken &
“1st It was in accordance with my settled policy
“2nd It was intended as a discriminating blow at Slavery
“3 It was calculated to lessen the value of Slaves
“4th It was (over & above all other motives) Right.
“Duty of all persons in regard to this matter
“Crimitality of neglect in this matter
“Suppose a case
“Ask further support.”

We give literatum et punctuatim, the following scrap written by Watson Brown who was seriously wounded by one of the Martinsburg men, and found on the floor of the engine house immediately after the storming:

Fight on, fight ever, you Hell Hown of the Lower Regions! Your day has come. Lower your black flag, shoot your Dogs you Devils, Hell and furies! go in for Death.

In an envelope addressed to “Capt. John Brown, care of Dr. S. G. Howe, 20 Bromfield street,” where a number of clippings from the New York Tribune, Cleveland Plaindealer and Rochester Union, referring to the Kansas exploits of “Ossawatamie” Brown. Scattered over the floor of the rooms where hundreds of copies of a pamphlet work entit[l]ed “extracts from the manual of the Patriotic Volunteer on active service in regular and irregular war, being the art and science of obtaining and maintaining Liberty and Independence.” By Hugh Forbis. Certain passages in one of the copies in our possession, referring to the duties of riflemen, is penciled down the margin, and dog-eared as if for future reference.

To the Victors belong the Spoils.

The entire contents of the house were appropriated by the scouting party, as legitimate plunder; barrels of flour were rolled away; the stove and its appurtenances removed, and on the re-entry of the expedition into Harper’s Ferry, scarcely a man of its volunteer arm but staggered beneath the weight of his spoils.

Discovery of Tents.

From the house of Brown the party proceeded to a log cabin, on the opposite side of the road, and but a few hundred feet higher up, where they discovered some eight or ten boxes filled with wearing apparel, boots blankets, quilts, etc., amply sufficient to supply the wants of a formidable number of men. In the loft of the cabin nearly or quite 2,000 pikes were found, together with six or more tents, and a great number of axes, picks and shovels. The captured articles completely filled a large country wagon, and was with much difficulty drawn to the Ferry by two powerful horses.

The Insurrection, Its origin and its end

The origin of the insurrection, and the sources from whence the fanatical traitors derived their hopes of success in this audacious attempt, is wrapped in mystery. All the insurgents however agree in saying that the plot has been in preparation for upwards of one year, during which time, young men were actually enlisted in several of the free States, and pecuniary contributions to the cause received from the same source.

Brown, accompanied by his sons, appeared at Harper’s Ferry, about eighteen months ago, calling themselves Smiths, shortly after they rented from Mr. Kennedy of Washington county, Md., the farm and house which they occupied until the outbreak; the twenty-two men composing the invading party, joined him shortly after he had settled himself in his new home about which period J. E. Cook, co-leader with Brown of the conspirators, and an associate of the latter through the Kansas difficulties, made his appearance, and engaging in the school teaching, continued to so ingratiate himself in the good graces of the community, that general confidence was reposed in his integrity, and he acquired a very fair share of popularity.

About a fortnight ago Cook gave out that he intended to visit Kansas, and left the Ferry in a covered two horse wagon ostensibly for that territory. On Wednesday preceding the outbreak he returned, and drove his wagon, which appeared to be heavily loaded, to the farm of Smith (Brown) where it remained for two days. Early on Friday morning he commenced the moulding of bullets in the residence of his mother-in-law, whose suspicions he silenced by assuring her that they were designed for use against the Indians in Kansas.

The entire party of insurgents, all of whom bore the appearance of poor and industrious farms and citizens, were in the habit of mixing freely with their neighbors, and with the residents of Harper’s Ferry, with whose opinions, means of defence, etc., they had thoroughly familiarized themselves.

Ripening of the Plot.

A fortnight or more prior to the occurrence which has resulted so fatally, Cook accompanied by Stevens, who it has subsequently been ascertained, held a Captain’s commission among the insurgents, and was quite influential among them, appeared at the residence of Col. Lewis Washington and requested permission to see his fine cabinet of curiosities, and library. The request was readily granted, and during the conversations which their visit gave rise to, the theme of skill in the use of fire arms was introduced, and Cook proposed to test his excellence as a shot, with that of Col. Washington. The match was made up, and resulted in the defeat of Cook, who expressed much surprise at the skill of him competitor. On the Sunday night of his capture, Col. Washington recognized Cook among the party, and upbraided him for the cowardice of the proceeding. The latter said he regretted the affair, but he couldn’t help it.

As the party were about to leave the house, Cook whispered to Stephens, the leader of the party, who then immediately demanded of him the key of his cabinet. It was yielded up in preference to having the costly furniture broken, as threatened in the event of a refusal and the insurgent took therefrom a valuable sword and pistol, formerly the property of Washington; the former presented him by Frederick the Great, and the latter by Lafayette; he also demanded the purse and watch of Col. Washington, which was indignantly refused; on Monday the Colonel observed his sword in possession of Capt. Brown, who paced the floor with the weapon on his arm every moment that he was not engaged in shooting at the citizens and soldiers. He expressed to Col. Washington his high admiration of the character of the original owner of the sword, and assured him that it should be restored to him at the termination of the affair. During the bloody transactions of Tuesday morning, the sword lay upon one of the two engines which occupied the house in which the insurgents had entrenched themselves, and at the conclusion of the attack, Col. Washington repossessed himself of the relic; the pistol however, has not yet been recovered.

Coolness of Brown.

Col. Washington, who was a keen observer of Capt. Brown during the events of Monday and Tuesday, expresses the highest admiration of the cool, calm courage of the insurgent leader, and of his humanity. He told us that he heard Capt. Brown give explicit orders to his men not to injure, if possible, any women, and only to aim at those who carried guns.

Capt. Brown’s coolness and courage inspired his men with a like contempt of danger, and their conduct and conversations were marked by a remarkable calmness. Watson Brown, the younger son of “Ossawatamie” and who was desperately wounded by the Martinsburg men (he has since died) on Monday forenoon, suffered intensely during Monday night, several times requesting his comrades to dash out his brains with their guns, and thus to relieve his sufferings. On Tuesday morning his agony had apparently become unendurable, and seizing a pistol, he was about to shoot himself in the head, when his father staying his hand, calmly told him that the time had not yet arrived for such a deed as that—to endure a little longer, and he might die as befitted a man; we saw and spoke with this young man a few minutes after the assault, and could not divest our heart of something akin to pity for him.

He feelingly enquired whether his father was alive, and on being answered in the affirmative, looked his thankfulness. He was informed of the death of his brother in the assault, but exhibited no emotion at that announcement.

In reply to certain questions, he stated that his father had been assured of the co-operation of several hundreds of men, who were to have rendezvoused at the Ferry on Sunday night, and frequently affirmed his conviction of the justness of the cause in which he had been so disastrously engaged. Edwin Coppie, the only one of the party except a negro, named Green, who esc[a]ped unhurt, is too ignorant to appreciate his position. He spoke glibly and good-naturedly of the occurrences through which he had passed as if it was a matter upon which he should pleasantly congratulate himself.

He informed us that, on Monday night three of the party had advised a surrender, but that Captain Brown quietly but firmly opposed the proposition.

Upon the entrance of the Marines into the building, Coppie shouted out “I surrender!” when Capt. Brown exclaimed in as loud a tone, “But one surrenders, give him quarter!”

Interview between Gov. Wise and Capt. Brown.

On Tuesday evening, Gov. Henry A. Wise, who had arrived by the afternoon train from Richmond, held an interview with Captain Brown, at the office of the Superintendent of the arsenal, whither he was borne immediately after the assault, He held a second interview with him on Wednesday morning; the results of both interviews may be summed up in the following:

Statement of the Insurgent Leader.

For upwards of one year, the affair which has just culminated, has been in constant preparation. The necessary expenses of the undertaking was born exclusively by himself, though he received frequent words of encouragement from friends of the cause.

Gov. Wise informed him of the capture of his correspondence, and desired to have him mention the names of the most prominent.

In reply to the Governor, Capt. Brown said he was in possession of his correspondence and was welcome to all the intelligence it conveyed, but he declined adding any to it.

The Governor pointed out the folly and temerity of the insurgents hoping to maintain their ground at Harper’s Ferry.

Capt. Brown smiled peculiarly, and said that had he not permitted the train to pass of which Mr. Phelps was the conductor, his plans would have proven entirely successful. He had been promised, he said, reinforcements of 5,000 men at a word, and had not the military come upon him so soon, or had he not been delayed at Harper’s Ferry longer than he intended, he should have had them. In reply to Governor Wise’s question as to where he would obtain his recruits from, Brown replied, from Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and North and South Carolina.

Governor Wise said the assertion was improbable. When the old insurgent tartly replied that the Governor was surrounded by ignorance, and on that subject he (Brown) was far wiser than the Governor. He said he was glad he was entitled to a jury trial, and he should demand his rights.

In reference to the government funds, he said he did not know of their presence here, or he should certainly have taken them; and that had he found money or provisions necessary to his cause, he should have levied upon the inhabitants of the South without compunctions of conscience.

The Governor told him if such were his sentiments of honesty, he had better prepare to meet an impartial Judge.

The old “Border Ruffian” replied that he had no favors to ask, no apologies to offer to anybody, that he has well weighed the coast of his expedition before engaging in it, and that he would as leif hang as to die in any other manner.

He did not deny that the organization of which he had been the leader was a most extensive one; on the contrary he affirmed to Gov. Wise his entire conviction that the work would go on until the entire South would be in a state of insurrection.

He had preparations he said, to arm 1,500 men; the pikes he intended for the negroes, whom he was afraid to trust with fire-arms.—He spoke with some show of feeling of the extinction of his family; two of his sons he said had been killed in Kansas by Southerners, two had been butchered at Harper’s Ferry by General Government, and a fifth was he did not know where. His wife is somewhere in the State of New York.

Of the twenty-two who composed the invading party, 15 have been killed and two seriously wounded. Edwin Coppie has been consigned to the jail at Charlestown, the capitol of Jefferson county, whither “old Brown” is to be carried to-day. Governor Wise said they should both be tried before the Circuit Court of Jefferson county, which meets next week, and that at the conclusion of their trial there for murder, the General Government would be welcome to what was left of them.

The people of Virginia are bitterly incensed against “old” Brown, and even did the law fail to claim his life, he could not possibly escape beyond the borders of the State.

Gov. Wise has offered a reward of $1,000 for the apprehension of Cook, the ringleader of the insurgents, who is said to be hemmed in among the mountains, from whence it is barely possibly he may escape. He is a man of very small statu[r]e, blue eyes and light curly hair. Indeed it is a notable fact that, with two exceptions, all of the white insurgents had long light hair and blue eyes.

Condition of the Wounded.

Aaron D. Stevens, the insurgent who was shot in the face and breast, on Monday, is sinking rapidly, his recovery is impossible.

“Old” Brown is but slightly wounded; he owes his life to a trepidation which shook his heart at the last moment, and made him fall almost unharmed at the feet of Lieut. Green. Col. Washington told us that while the Marines were hammering at the door, he said to him, “Brown, they are battering down the walls; in one minute more they will enter, and you’ll be cut to pieces.” He informed us that “old” Brown perceptibly quailed at this, and offered but little resistance afterwards, firing but one shot of the twenty-five which were at his command.

Col. Washington made a narrow escape from death. He was cheering on the Marines, and pointing out Brown, who stood beside him, to Lieut. Green, when one of the Marines mistaking his shouts for words of encouragement to the insurgents, leveled his piece at him, and was about to fire, when he discovered his error. In the pocket of Brown was found, beside a number of letters, an envelope upon which was the following memorandum, “Jacob Fiery (!) 3 miles south of Hagerstown; widow of Kennedy, at Sharpsburg, on the way to Hagerstown.”

Old Brown’s Journal.

“Old” Brown kept a daily journal, in which he set forth the details of his transactions; which show his purchase of arms in large quantities and ammunition and stores of all kinds necessary to the success of an extensive insurrection—field spy-glasses, picks and shovels for throwing up temporary fortifications, calls, or boatswain’s whistles of a new kind, being very shrill and capable of being heard at a long distance, (which are supposed to have been intended for assembling his bands or warning them of danger) were among the stores in the wagon captured by the Greys.—The whistles, as per bill, found in his effects, were made in Philadalphia, and forwarded to an agent of his in Baltimore, last week, per Adams & Co.’s Express—some of them were found in his valise.

There is nothing in the papers found, showing that negroes or others belonging at Harper’s Ferry or its vicinity were particeps criminis before the fact in Brown’s conspiracy.

The following is the anonymous letter received by Governor Floyd, secretary of War, of which mention has been made:

Cincinnati, August 20, 1859.

Sir—I have lately received information of a movement of so great importance that I feel it to be my duty to impart it to you without delay. I have discovered the existence of a select association, having for its object the liberation of the slaves at the South by a general insurrection. The leader of the movement is old John brown late of Kansas. He has been in Canada during the winter drilling the negroes there, and they are only waiting his word to start for the South to assist the slaves. They had one of their leading men, a white man, in an armory in Maryland; where it is situated I have not been able to learn. As soon as everything is ready, those of their number who are in the Northern States and Canada are to come in small companies to their rendezvous, which is in the mountains in Virginia. They will pass down through Pennsylvania and Maryland, and enter Virginia at Harper’s Ferry. Brown left the North about three or four weeks ago, and will arm the negroes and strike the blow in a few weeks, so that whatever is done must be done at once. They have a large quantity of arms at their rendezvous, and probably distributing them already. As I am not fully in their confidence, this is all the information I can give you. I dare not sign my name to this, but trust that you will not disregard the warning on that account.

From the Balt. Clipper, Friday 21.

WHEREABOUT OF CAPT. COOK AND HIS WIFE—MORE INSURRECTIONARY ARMS.

Hagerstown, Md., Oct. 20.—A gentleman just from Harrisburg, says that Cook’s wife came into that town day before yesterday, and stopped at the same place where old Brown’s son’s wife was boarding.

[Second Despatch.]

Hagerstown, Oct. 20.—The statement must be true. Cook’s wife is not at Harper’s Ferry. She left some days ago. The Sheriff of this county tracked Cook as far as Greencastle to-day, and the impression there was that Cook had left for Chambersburg. The opinion here entertained is that Cook passed through last night.

The Sheriff was credible informed, at Greencastle, that a load of boxes passed through there on Tuesday for Washington county, loaded with rifles, pistols and pikes. Sheriff Hank is now on the lookout for them.

A gentleman named John Cuthberton, who resides in Chambersburg, Pa., informs us that Cook’s wife certainly did go to Harrisburg on Tuesday, and took lodging at the same place where Brown’s daughter-in-law has been lodging for the last two or three weeks. Cook’s wife left the Ferry several days before the disturbance broke out. The stage driver of the C[h]ambersburg line also confirms the statement in regard to her going to Harrisburg.

The Excitement in Shepherdstown.

On Monday whilst our Military were absent at Harper’s Ferry the greatest excitement prevailed. From every lip could be constantly heard, “what’s the news from Harper’s Ferry?” Flying and exaggerated rumors were frequently brought to town, which caused our citizens—for the protection of our own interests—to call upon the Mayor to organize a Patrole, to be posted at the different thoroughfares leading into town. At 7 o’clock a meeting was held by order of the Mayor, at the Armory Hall, and five different squads of Patrole were appointed to guard the town during the night. No disturbance of any kind occurred though during the night.

About twelve o’clock at night, a gentleman from Frederick city, Md., passed through town on his way to Charlestown, bearing telegraphic dispatches from President Buchanan to Col. Gibson, of Charlestown, and Col. Price, of Winchester, to order out the Militia and proceed directly to Harper’s Ferry. The telegraph wires being cut east and west of Harper’s Ferry, no connection could be made further than Frederick city.

Tuesday morning the excitement was still greater. About 12 o’clock the news came to town that a band of insurrectionists and negroes, headed by Capt. Cook, were proceeding up the river to make a descent upon this place. No sooner had this news reached us, than a Company of armed men—composed principally of our oldest citizens—commanded by Col. Charles Harper—marched through our streets—headed by fife and drum, and saluted with the cries of women and children—across the river and down the canal a mile or so in the expectation of meeting and dispersing the advancing Insurrectionists, but coming upon a canal boat, they were informed by the Capt. Of the boat that the Insurrectionists had fled to the mountains and were closely pursued by the Baltimore military.

In the evening of the same day, the Hamtramck Guards arrived in town, from Harper’s Ferry, marched through our principal streets, greeted with the cheers and boquets of our ladies, for the inflexible courage and undaunted bravery displayed by them at Harper’s Ferry in the midst of the hot firing of the Insurrectionists upon them; happily all of them escaped unhurt.

On Wednesday morning, a party of our citizens left town for the purpose of searching the Mountain for Cook and his followers.—They were not successful in capturing any one of the band, but came upon their Rendezvous and found several letters and a portion of their By-Laws, which stated that their sole object and intention was the liberation of slaves. Another provision in their By-Laws was, that the most liberally educated of them were to teach school in the neighboring counties in order that they might avoid suspicion and be better able to incite the slaves to rebellion.

This same Capt. Cook was in our town last Spring, selling the Life of Washington, and married a Miss Kennedy, of Harper’s Ferry, a few months since. He passed here as a Literary character and contributed several poetical effusions to the columns of the “Register” a part of which proved not to be original.

We understand that Capt. Brown, Commander of the Insurrectionists, confessed that he intended to attack Shepherdstown, on Tuesday night, had he been successful in Harper’s Ferry.


Shepherdstown Register,
November 5, 1859.

More News concerning the Insurrection at Harper’s Ferry.

Gov. Wise.

Governor Wise, on his return to Richmond made a speech on the deck of the steamer at Aquia Creek. Among other things he said:--

“When we arrived at Harper’s Ferry I found that there had been double more than ample force. The gallant volunteers of Jefferson were the first on the ground, and soon after them the noble men of Berkeley were there. Farmers with single and double barrel shot guns, and with plantation rifles, were there. The People with arms and without arms, rushed to the scene. For what? – what had happened? What summoned them to shoulder musket and snatch weapons as they could? What had disturbed their peace? – What threatened their safety and to sully their honor? Alas? To the disgrace of the Nation—not of Virginia, I repel all imputation upon her—but to the disgrace of—somebody—fourteen white ruffians and five negroes have been permitted to take the United States arsenal, with all its arms and treasure, and to hold it for 24 hours, at that Thermopyloe of America, harpers Ferry, on the confines of two slave States, with the avowed object of emancipating their slaves, at every hazard and the very perpetration of the seizure and imprisonment of the inhabitants, and of robbery and murder and treason.

You will indignantly ask: How could such outrage and disgrace be brought upon a country like this, strong as it is in every thing? I will briefly inform you. Congress had by law, displaced the regular army from the superintendence of its own arms, as if it was unworthy of the trust of its own affairs, and its officers very naturally turned away in disgust from giving attention to this arsenal. A civil superintendent was placed in charge, and I know the gentleman, a Virginian, is as worthy of it as any civilian can be. He was absent on official duty at Springfield, Mass., and I have great confidence that had he been at the Arsenal it could not have been captured and held as it was. And I do not mean, to go into the dispute or question, whether civil or military superintendence is most proper over a manufactory and Arsenal of arms. But this I do say, emphatically and indignantly, that whether the superintendence was civil or military, there ought to have been an organized and sufficient military guard there; and there was nothing of the kind. There was no watch even worth naming, and no guard at all. Thus an arsenal, which ought to be a depot of arms and munition of defence, for the citizens at all times to flee to for means of protection, became a depot for desperadoes to assail and a positive danger to our people. It would be better for Virginia and Maryland to have the arsenal removed from their borders, than to allow it thus to become a danger by being left unguarded. The Civil Superintendent was not responsible for a military guard. The question; who is responsible? I leave to the proper executive authorities of the United States. By the grossest negligence somewhere—which it is not my duty to after or to correct, except to proclaim it and complain of it, for the sake of the protection due to our own people—nineteen lawless men have seized this arsenal, with its arms and spoils, and have imprisoned and robbed and murdered our inhabitants!

[From the Baltimore Clipper]

HARPER’S FERRY, Va.,
October 28, 1859.

Vindication of Citizens of Harper’s Ferry from Slanders of Governor Wise

The smoke and excitement of the conflict having passed, and having been an eye witness of and an actor in the scenes of the recent tragedy at Harper’s Ferry, I am unwilling that the great injustice done our citizens by the remarks of Gov. Wise should go without correction.

The facts are these: On the morning of the 17th inst., at an early hour, our people were startled by the intelligence that the Arsenal and Musket and Rifle Factories were in the hands of a large body of armed negroes and whites, and that they had the principal streets leading or running in front of the government buildings, and were shooting down such of our citizens as they found outside their dwellings. Very few of our citizens had arms of any sort, and what few they had were fowling pieces, and those who had them had neither powder nor shot—bullets were out of the question—so that our town, for the time being, was at the mercy of the insurgents. The arms, and what little ammunition the government had at this place, were in the hands of the enemy. At this juncture of affairs two resolute men, employees of the Armory—John McClelland and Wm. Copeland, crept stealthily into the enclosure of the Armory, and entered one of the buildings and procured from it two single ball bullet moulds, and all the percussion caps in that department; next they proceeded to a building outside, but contiguous to the enclosure, called the stock-house, to which arms had been removed, to secure them from damage from the late freshet and thus after great delay our citizens were armed. Next powder and ball must be procured—the balls had to be cast in two pair of single-ball bullet moulds; this again occasioned great delay; the casting was necessarily a very slow process; powder was soon procured.

Our citizens were assembled on Capt Hill, a heighth overlooking the Potomac River eagerly awaiting their equipment. They were quickly organized as a body of citizen troops, under the command of Captain John Avis, of Charlestown, Va. As soon as three rounds of ammunition were furnished this body of citizen troops they were divided into four detachments and ordered to take position at the following important points around the enemy. Capt. Wm. H. Moore was ordered with a detachment of 18 men to cross the Potomac river, at the Old Furnace, a mile and a half above Harper’s Ferry west, and decend the river on the Maryland side, and take, if possible, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bridge, which the insurgents had in their possession. At Pitcher’s mill Capt. Moore received orders to stop the trains going east or west, to prevent reinforcements reaching the enemy by the cars, or the escape of the insurgents by the same means. After executing this order, Moore’s command was reinforced by several gentlemen from Duffield’s depot, making the entire force 25 men; this force crossed the river, marched to the bridge, cleared it to the Virginia side, killing one man and capturing another prisoner, thus obtaining an important point on that side of the town, as it cut off the retreat of the outlaws by the avenue they had entered the town. Capt. Moore left one-half of his force with Lieut. Hunter to hold the bridge, and entered, with others, the hotel and other buildings adjacent to the Railroad, firing upon the insurgents from the front windows.

Capt. H. Rhoderick, with another detachment of citizens, was ordered to take position at the west end of the Armory yard. This order he executed promptly, his command killing one of the insurgents, that was seen escaping across the Potomac river. The position of Capt. R. prevented the escape of the enemy in a westerly direction, thus securing that portion of the town.

Capt. H. Medlar, with another detachment of citizens, was ordered to march and take position on the Bridge crossing the Shenandoah river, on the east side of the town, which he did, thus cutting off the retreat of the enemy in that direction. Capt. Medlar also acted with an independent citizen force which were engaged with the insurgents at the Rifle works, some half mile above Medlar’s position. The enemy was driven from the Rifle factory into the river, and all either killed or captured. Several citizens behave with great gallantry in this affair, pursuing the enemy into the river, where they were either killed or captured.

Commander Avis, with the remainder of our armed citizens, took position in the upper part of Mr. Butler’s house, in front of the Arsenal, where his command killed the negro sentinel in the street, and by his sharp shooters cleared the enemy from the Arsenal, which he immediately seized and held, thus gaining positions that drove the enemy into the watch-house, and from which they could not escape. This was all accomplished by the citizens of Harper’s Ferry before assistance arrived, and yet Gov. Wise sees proper to stigmatise us with cowardice. Could he, under the circumstances, have made as good arrangements, and accomplished the same results?

Many acts of individual gallantry on the part of our citizens were preformed by Capt. Chambers and Mr. Percival, in what is called the Galt House, where they had posted themselves, shooting down the enemy from a wooden building that was no barrier from the enemy’s balls. Personal gallantry of Edmond Chambers and Edward McCabe, who was shot through the shoulder, &c., might be mentioned.

Sketch of Capt. Cook.

The New York Times contain a letter from Mr. John N. Stearns, of Williamsburg, in whose office Cook was once engaged as a law clerk. Mr. Stearns says:

He was born in Haddon, Conn, about the year 1833, of highly respectable parentage, and was reared amidst the religious and moral influences which characterize the rural population of Connecticut. His general education was good—so that he had spent one or two winters as a successful teacher of public schools, before his majority. He had also through most of the States of the Union, in the pursuit of a mercantile agency. He had a great passion for mineralogy, and for the collection of mineral cabinets; nurtured no doubt, by his spending his early pastimes amidst the stone quarries worked on his father’s estate and in the vicinity. While with me he showed specimens of ore, and, as he supposed, of gold, found by him fore than five years since in the neighborhood of Harper’s Ferry, Va. So that I am inclined to believe that the alledged purpose of his going to Harper’s Ferry to dig ore was truthful not feigned. More than five years since he expressed the purpose of going there some time for that object. And I am strongly of the impression that this Harper’s Ferry rebellion was an incident of special temptation that crossed his path, rather than the result of a long settled and matured purpose.

“In March, 1854, he came to reside with me, as a student and law clerk, and was employed in my office, and continued an inmate of my family for a year. But he had no taste for the law. Though generally faithful to his duties as a copyist; the law, in its facts and principles, was destined to remain to him a blank obscurity. The most persevering drill on my part could not fix in his mind the most simple elements of legal knowledge. I was disappointed in the result of my experiment with him. Possessing, as he appeared to, so fair a share of general intelligence, it was a mystery to me to find in him so much reluctance to intellectual analysis. His knowledge, however, was the fruit of a wide extended superficial observation of men, matters, and things, rather than of reflection and reasoning. And still, in his elegant penmanship, correct orthography, and ready knowledge of arithmetic and grammar, and there was evidence that in his early life he had studied to some purpose and effect. The truth, when discovered, was this. He had nurtured the fancies of a poetic imagination for years, and his mind wandered in a land of dreams.

The world and life were scarcely appreciated as realities. While he could not draw a complaint or a promissory note, a score of fancy verses for a lady’s album would be thrown off without effort, as by intuition. The use of guns and pistols was with him a kindred passion to his poetry, as a marksman he was a dead shot. If thrown in the midst of strife and contention, he would naturally become a soldier as by the force of this passion, without personal motive or inducement, and indeed, as against his own welfare and happiness. And still he appeared kind to every one; and during the year he was with me, though often abstracted from his proper employments by his poetical infatuations, he was never guilty, to my recollection of a disobliging act or unkind word toward myself or my family. I never knew him to drink a glass of intoxicating liquor, or to utter a profane oath. He would do anything and everything reasonable to oblige us, except to learn law.

“He went to Kansas during the year 1855, and is said to have had something to do with the defence of Southern Kansas from the border ruffians. How much or what, I have no means of knowing. He was once at the East afterwards for a short time, but his family and friends shortly afterwards lost all trace of him, and for two or three years have supposed him dead. While with me, I never discovered in him any special interest in Abolitionism, nor any special sympathy for the colored race. If he was ever converted to that faith, it must have through the teaching of Buford and other border ruffians in Kansas. I know of none of his family friends who are specially infected with anti-slavery sentiments. Governor Willard of Indiana, is his brother-in-law, and he has certainly been no ‘heretical’ teacher to this end.

“I can well conceive, from my knowledge of the character of Cook’s mind, how that without a purpose of crime, he would become the parasite of the first leader in a romantic adventure that might solicit his aid. If anybody is killed or injured it is a consequence not intended by Cook, but a necessity arising from the circumstances into which he has been led. Cook was, in fact, the Blennerhasset of Brown’s enterprise, without Blennerhasset’s estate, but more of courage and skill.

Statement of W. W. Throckmorton.

The clerk of the Wager Hotel, which is situated by the side of the railroad track a young man named W. W. Throckmorton, makes the following statement:--About ten o’clock Sunday night, as I was about closing up the doors below, I noticed a one horse covered wagon going by, and from its appearance concluded it was a gypsy wagon. There were some four or five men following the wagon. I went below to shut up, and told one of our colored servants, whom I found up, that some gypsies were going by. He wanted to go out and see them, and seemed quite anxious to go, but I said I was going to shut up, and bade him go to bed. All was quiet after this, except some men walking along the streets till about twelve o’clock, when I went to call some men who were to go in the express train. Then I heard the report of a gun on the bridge and a man running. I went down to the door when the watchman of the bridge, an Irishman, rushed in and said, “lock your doors, there are several robbers on the bridge—several men.” I did not think of the gypsy wagon at the time, but supposed some rowdies from the canal locks had fired at him to frighten him. I then went up and awoke the passengers, and tried to borrow a revolver from some of the guests, but could not find one. I then walked out and went up to the railroad office to see Sheppard, the colored man, and borrow his revolver, as he always kept one, but his revolver was not loaded. AS I came out of the office I saw two men on the bridge with guns in their hands. I went back to the hotel and kept quiet till the train came along. I then informed Captain Phelps, the conductor, of what I had seen and heard, and he took four or five men and went to the bridge. Heyward Sheppard, the colored man, went in with them ahead, and as he got in, they called out “Surrender.” The man turned and ran, and the men on the bridge shot him as he ran, all the men then ran back to the hotel; we carried the wounded man into the ticket office, and I started for a doctor; I had a revolver then which I had borrowed from a passenger on the train; just as I crossed the street, I met two men coming down the road; the passengers were at this time running around in excitement and women and children screaming in the cars. I supposed these men were passengers till one of them presented his gun, and said to me “you son of _____, I will give you some too, and fired, but missed me.” I had no chance to run, but they both ran towards the armory, and as they were running I fired all the shots in my revolver at them. The men stopped about half way to the armory gates.

Then I got another revolver, and Captain Phelps and some of the passengers went with me towards the armory. As we came out the men had got inside the gate, and fired at us two or three shots, but the distance or the darkness prevented their taking good aim, and nobody was hurt. I then returned and got the passengers into the hotel. Soon after I walked out upon the platform with another gentleman, and then we saw two men with guns coming from the armory. They walked past us towards the office where the negro Shepard lay. As they reached the railroad bridge they called to us, but we could not understand what they said. Then we put the lights out in the hotel, and watched from the windows. Soon after, an old man named Grice, whom they had taken on the Shenandoah bridge, came up from the armory, and wanted to come in, but I sent him to the office were Capt. Phelps was. Afterwards I learned that he had been let out on condition of his going straight home, because of his age. He said he was directed by the men who had released him to tell hotel keeper and railroad agent that nobody here should be harmed if they kept the peace and made no resistance.

About three o’clock we saw a large four horse wagon and a two horse buggy (Colonel Washington’s) driven past and taken into the armory yard. We concluded then that a gang of robbers were plundering the armory, where I knew there was a large sum of money. We could hear them at work loading or unloading in the armory, and an hour later the wagon was driven out with four men in it, and two or three following with guns. I recognized one of the men as a man named Cooke, who had lived around here and married his wife in this town. He was here on Friday last, and I saw him talking a long time with our boy, the one who was so anxious to see the gypsy wagon. At daylight Dr. Starry started for Charlestown to get help, and after that from time to time we could see citizens coming up to the armory gates, one at a time, and taken in as prisoners. I saw a negro boy leave the yard and come to the hotel, bringing a note. He came to the door and gave me a note, which was directed to the hotel keeper, or clerk of the Wager house, and read thus:--

October 17.
You will furnish forty-five men with a good breakfast. CAPT. SMITH.

I determined then to go to the yard. I went to the gate and two mulattoes conducted me to “Capt. Smith,” who spoke very politely. He said, “I am Capt. Smith; I want prepared a breakfast for forty-five men.” He took me into one of the shops and showed me a number of citizens whom he had captured, and asked me if I knew them. I said I did. Then he said he wanted breakfast for forty-five men, including these, my friends, as soon as possible. I told him I would do the best I could, but it would have to be rather rough, as we had not expected anything like this, and were not prepared. Captain Phelps then came into the yard and was brought to Captain Smith. He appealed to him in the strongest terms to allow him to pass with the train, saying he had women and children who were frightened nearly to death, and if he would let them pass they would do nothing to trouble him. Brown then said he could pass if he would hold his peace and say nothing along the route that anything was going on here, and he would go to the bridge himself and see that the train went through safely. Brown then came to the bridge and the passengers got on as fast as possible, and the train left. I went to some of the passengers and begged them to make an alarm, and have a military company sent here as soon as possible.

Before leaving the armory, Brown told me they came here to free the slaves, and said although he had so small a force he could have thousands as soon as he said the word. Said he, I am a military man, and I came here to free the salves of your surrounding country, and I take possession of the government property and arms to assist me in going. [?] have five thousand men [?] twenty-four hours as my [?] me leave to pass backward [?] if I would keep quiet, and [?] take possession of the [?] one supposed of course he had [?] force at hand.

After the train left, the bridge was still guarded, and Brown’s men were marching backward and forward. I told Brown I could get him breakfast but only water to drink. He said he must have coffee because he felt fatigued, and I must bring it immediately to the Armory yard. I accordingly prepared breakfast and took it over in a basket. They all ate but Brown himself, who took good care not to touch it. I had intended to prepare a special breakfast for him as he treated me so gentlemanly, but I forgot it. I laughed and joked with him, deeming it best not to seem to fear him. After breakfast Col. Washington asked me to take care of his horses, and said I might put them in the stable at the hotel. He then said: “There is another horse, pointing to his own, which was standing in the yard—I will put the horse in your; keep him till I call for him.” I don’t think he will call soon. I asked him about pay for the breakfast, and he said he should dinner for 200 men, and he would pay for the whole then. One of our servants, the one I spoke of as wanting to see the gypsies, appeared to know him very well, and had conversation with him in the engine house. He had gone with me to carry the breakfast very willingly, though the other servants hung back, and when I ordered him to take the breakfast things and go back to the hotel, he said he would when he got ready, and I must understand he was a much boss as I was. This amused Old Brown, who laughed at me, and I told him there was no nigger blood in me, at all events. This boy was a slave, belonging to some heirs, but was been doing for himself and counted free for some time. The fellow left on Wednesday and has not been seen since. He went away because he knew I suppose, that there were plenty around who would take a crack at him if they got a chance. His name is Charles Williams. About twelve o’clock I learned that the Charlestown company had arrived, and then I felt we were safe. I went and looked out of the window, and saw just then a shot fired at one of Brown’s men, whose name is Stephens, and saw him fall. The shot was fired from the Galt House by Geo. W. Chambers. They called to me that they had spare guns, and asked me to come over. I went over, and as I passed seized Stephens’ rifle, which lay by his side. I tried also to get his pistol, they fired at me, and the bullets came too thick. The Charlestown company had the bridge, and called me to them, but I thought they were Brown’s men, and ran into the hotel with the gun. After this, one of Brown’s men got into the hotel, by some means and demanded the gun, but just then the Charlestown men drove through the hotel, and the man got out at the back way without the gun. Stephens, the wounded man, was then brought in, and another fellow named Thompson was brought in a prisoner, and placed in the parlor tied hand and foot. All this time a sharp firing was kept up.

About three o’clock, Hayward Sheppard, the colored man they shot in the morning died. Mr. Beckham, the agent, was greatly excited at his death, as the old man had had him ten or twelve years, and liked him very much. He went to the railroad platform beyond the railroad station, once, and was pulled back, but he want again, his hands in his pockets, and got some distance beyond the water station, when they shot him through the heart. He fell, and never moved again. The man who shot him from the door of the engine house, was himself shot a moment afterwards by a Harper’s Ferry man.

John E. Cook.

We announce this morning with much pleasure, the fact of the arrest of Capt. J. E. Cook, one of the leaders in the Harper’s Ferry invasion. The arrest was made in Franklin County, Pa., near the Mount Alto Iron Works, about eight miles from Chambersburg, by Messrs. Clagget Fitzhugh, of Hagerstown, a nephew of the Hon. Gerret Smith, and John Logan, brother of the ex-sheriff of Washington County, Md. He had gone to the iron Works for the purpose of getting provisions, having been in the mountains for ten days. He made considerable resistance, but was overpowered by the superior strength of the two men. On his person was found a commission as Captain in the Provisional Army, a daguerreotype of his wife, and several articles taken from the house of Col. Washington. A telegram was sent to Gov. Wise, who immediately sent an officer to bring him to Charlestown, and he was accordingly lodged in the jail of the county about half past one o’clock yesterday morning.

Gov. A. P. Willard, of Indiana, who is a brother-in-law of Cook, accompanied by Attorney General McDonald, of the same State, arrived in the train yesterday, and will probably remain until the conclusion of the trial.—Spirit, 29th ult.


Shepherdstown Register,
December 24, 1859

The Harper’s Ferry Fugitives.

A Chambersburg correspondent of the Philadelphia Press says that the facts in relation to the escape from Harper’s Ferry, of F. J. Merriam, Owen Brown, Barclay Coppic, C. P. Tidd, and J. C. Anderson, (a negro,) are now well known in that vicinity. He says:

Merriam is a young Bostonian of scarcely 23 years of age. He passed through part of the Kansas war, and was fearless and untiring in his efforts against the Missourians who were at war with the free State men. Subsequently he went to Hayti and spent a winter there. He does not seem to have been immediately connected with John Brown in his Harper’s Ferry insurrection until about the 1st of October. He came to this place about that time on his way to Harper’s Ferry, and called upon one of our attorneys and had his will drawn, properly executed, and mailed to his executor in Boston. He represented himself as a tourist on his way South, and fearing accidents, wished his will prepared. He is a young man of fine address and evidently more than ordinary culture. He was not in the fight at Harper’s Ferry, but was stationed at an outpost for some purpose—perhaps to receive and lead expected reinforcements.

In company with Tidd, Coppic, and Brown, he came to Chambersburg the night Cook was put in jail; and the whole four remained in this immediate vicinity for several days. They were seen frequently by different persons and suspected to be the fugitives; but nothing was known of them with any degree of positiveness, excepting by a few, who were professionally or otherwise confidentially advised of their names and purpose. They slept in a barn near town two nights and were seen there; and they called at several houses in town after dark to get food. It is generally understood that they desired and contemplated the rescue of Cook from prison; but they were prevailed upon not to attempt it. They had each four revolvers, in addition to their bowie knives and rifles. It is believed that but one white person communicated with them directly during their stay here, and that person was a woman; though it is more than probable that they were advised indirectly by several of our citizens.

Although it was well known that they were here, no one attempted to hunt or arrest them. No reward had been offered for them. In fact, the Virginians believed that Tidd, Anderson and Brown were dead, and they did not know that there had been two Coppics in the insurrection. Gov. Wise was informed that there were four fugitives in this neighborhood, and he at once offered a reward of $500 a head for them. But it did not tempt any one to try the arrest; indeed, it was well known that they could not be taken alive. They might have been overwhelmed by numbers, and taken dead or crippled; but with each one prepared to fire twenty-four balls, with fearful precision, in as many seconds, the attempt would have been a most costly one.

After Cook had been remanded to Virginia, Merriam disguised himself, and went to Boston direct by railroad, passing through Philadelphia and New York. In Philadelphia, he stopped at the Merchants’ Hotel, and, I believe, registered his name correctly. He was known to but very few persons out of Boston, and when he passed through Philadelphia, the general belief was that he had died of wounds received at Harper’s Ferry, and been buried by his companions in the mountains. Obituary notices of him had been published in several of the New York and Boston papers. He reached Boston, and from thence he went to Canada, where he still remains.

Tidd, Coppic, and Brown, being better known, started for the North on foot through the mountains. Brown was wounded, and often had to be assisted by his companions, and at times they carried him to facilitate their progress. They reached the North mountain, near Strasburg, in this county, and from thence passed on to Shirleysburg, in Huntingdon county. They were ten days reaching Shirleysburg, some forty miles distant. From that place they went on to the Juniata, at Bell’s Mills, where they seperated. Coppic reached Canada first, and Tidd was some days behind him. Brown has never gone to Canada; he is still in the Northern States, and will probably remain there. Anderson made his escape, doubtless, through the aid of negro friends, and is now in Canada. I believe that no white man in our county saw him who knew him.


Chapter Ten: The Raid

His Soul Goes Marching On

West Virginia Archives and History