The Virginia Campaign of John Brown (Part II)
The second installment in a six-part series about the abolitionist rebel, written by one of the New Englanders who secretly funded his efforts and featuring excerpts of his own writings
This is part two of a six-part series. Read part one here, part three here, part four here, part five here, and part six here.
HIS RECONNOISSANCE IN KANSAS
There can be no doubt that Captain Brown regarded his three guerrilla summers in Kansas (1856-58) as a series of reconnoissances in force against the enemy he was so tong contriving to attack more decisively. It has already been stated with what purpose he went to Kansas during the autumn of 1855, and his first year’s work there has been briefly noticed. But something more than this is due to his great services at a most critical period of the struggle against slavery, when to maintain the cause of the Northern settlers in Kansas was in fact to check the growth, and so, inevitably, cause the decay of the now prostrate slave-power. Looking back upon the contest we can see this now, plainly enough; nor did it escape notice at the time. A South Carolina youth, Warren Wilkes by name, who commanded for a while an armed force of Carolina and Georgia settlers in Kansas, wrote to the Charleston Mercury in the spring of 1856: —
“By consent of parties, the present contest in Kansas is made the turning point in the destinies of slavery and abolitionism. If the South triumphs, abolitionism will be defeated and shorn of its power for all time. If she is defeated, abolitionism will grow more insolent and aggressive, until the utter ruin of the South is consummated. If the South secures Kansas, she will extend slavery into all territory south of the fortieth parallel of north latitude, to the Rio Grande, and this, of course, will secure for her pent-up institutions of slavery an ample outlet, and restore her power in Congress. If the North secures Kansas, the power of the South in Congress will be gradually diminished, and the slave-population will become valueless. All depends upon the action of the present moment.”
To this reasoning men like Brown assented, and were ready to join issue for the control of Kansas upon this ground alone. But Brown had another and quite different object in view; he meant to attack slavery by force, in the States themselves, and to destroy it, as it was finally destroyed, by the weapons and influences of war.
John Brown has been so often called “the last of the Puritans” that the phrase has grown threadbare. It describes him, however, better than any that could now be invented. He was not only of direct Puritan ancestry (descending, as he loved to remember, from Peter Brown of the Mayflower), but he cherished the Puritan faith in foreordination and direct inspiration, the Puritan contempt for riches and indifference to art, and that stubborn sense of duty, which, combined with its tendency toward democracy, has made Calvinism so potent as a political force. Believing that the downfall of slavery was predestined in the councils of the Almighty, and that he was an appointed agent in that work, Brown gave himself thereto with a courage and a slow perseverance that are even yet but imperfectly understood. The Kansas warfare was to him but an opening skirmish, and the thought of revenging himself on the South for the sufferings of his family in Kansas, as has already been said, seldom occurred to him. His soul was intent on the national sin and curse; for removing this, he was willing to venture his life and that of all his household; and when his sons fell, he viewed their death more as a sacrifice, than as a murder to be avenged. His own execution appeared to him in the same light. When he said in his last speech, “If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the blood of millions in this slave country, whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done,” — this was no flourish of rhetoric, but the plain utterance of his Puritan soul. He believed that “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” such as America had committed, and he was as willing to shed his own blood for his country as any martyr for the faith. It had been revealed to him from heaven that he should promote the emancipation of the slaves; while he thought that fighting was his best course, he fought valiantly, and when he came to believe (as he finally did) that dying was his best course, he died cheerfully, even gladly.
Brown’s mode of warfare in Kansas was, of course, quite different from that which he proposed to himself in Virginia, but it is very evident that he contemplated something more like his Virginia campaign than circumstances ever permitted him to carry out; unless his incursion into Missouri in the winter of 1858-59 may be considered a foretaste of his main undertaking. There is in my possession a copy of the rules drawn up by Brown for the government of his “Kansas Regulars” of 1856, which indicate that he then had in mind a long warfare, during which he and his men would maintain themselves in a hostile country. I believe these have never been printed before; certainly never with the names of soldiers and the other information appended to them; and they are therefore given below in full,1 for comparison with the “Provisional Constitution” drawn up in anticipation of his Virginia campaign.
Kansas Territory, A. D., 1856.
We whose names are found on these and the next following pages, do hereby enlist ourselves to serve in the Free State cause under John Brown as Commander: during the full period of time affixed to our names respectively and we severally pledge our word and our sacred honor to said Commander; and to each other, that during the time for which we have enlisted we will faithfully and punctually perform our duty (in such capacity or place as may be assigned to us by a majority of all the votes of those associated with us: or of the companies to which we may belong as the case may be) as a regular volunteer force for the maintainance of the rights & liberties of the Free State Citizens of Kansas: and we further agree; that as individuals we will conform to the by Laws of this Organization & that we will insist on their regular & punctual enforcement, as a first & last duty: & in short that we will observe & maintain a strict & thorough Military discipline at all times untill our term of service expires.
Names, date of enlistment, and term of service on next Pages.
Term of service omitted for want of room (principally for the War).
Names and date of enlistment.
Aug. 22d.  Wm. Patridge (imprisoned), John Salathiel, S. Z. Brown, John Goodell, L. F. Parsons, N. B. Phelps, Wm. B. Harris.
Aug. 23d. Jason Brown (son of commander; imprisoned).
Aug. 24th. J. Benjamin (imprisoned).
Aug. 25th. Cyrus Taton, R. Reynolds (imprisoned), Noah Frazee (1st Lieut.), Wm. Miller, John P. Glenn, Wm. Quick, M. D. Lane, Amos Alderman, August Bondie, Charles Kaiser (murdered Aug. 30th), Freeman Austin (aged 57 years), Samuel Hereson, John W. Troy, Jas. H. Holmes (Capt.).
Aug. 26th. Geo. Patridge (killed Aug. 30th), Wm. A. Sears.
Aug. 27th. S. H. Wright.
Aug. 29th. B. Darrach (Surgeon), Saml. Farrar.
Sept. 8th. Timothy Kelly, Jas. Andrews.
Sept. 9th. W. H. Leman, Charles Oliver, D. H. Hurd.
Sept. 15th. Wm. F. Haniel.
Sept. 16th. Saml. Geer (Commissary).
Bylaws of the Free State regular Volunteers of Kansas enlisted under John Brown.
Art. 1st. Those who agree to be governed by the following articles & whose names are appended will be known as the Kansas Regulars.
Art. 2d. Every officer connected with organization (except the Commander already named) shall be elected by a majority of the members if above a Captain; & if a Captain; or under a Captain, by a majority of the company to which they belong.
Art. 3d. All vacancies shall be filled by vote of the majority of members or companies as the case may be, & all members shall be alike eligible to the highest office.
Art. 4th. All trials for misconduct of Officers; or privates; shall be by a jury of Twelve; chosen by a majority of Company, or companies as the case may be. Each Company shall try its own members.
Art. 5th. All valuable property taken by honorable warfare from the enemy, shall be held as the property of the whole company, or companies, as the case may be: equally, without distinction; to be used for the common benefit or be placed in the hands of responsible agents for sale: the proceeds to be divided as nearly equally amongst the company: or companies capturing it as may be: except that no person shall be entitled to any dividend from property taken before he entered the service; and any person guilty of desertion, or convicted of gross violation of his obligations to those with whom he should act, whether officer or private: shall forfeit his interest in all dividends made after such misconduct has occurred.
Art. 6th. All property captured shall be delivered to the receiver of the force, or company as the case may be; whose duty it shall be to make a full inventory of the same (assisted by such person, or persons as may be chosen for that purpose,) a coppy of which shall be made into the Books of this organization; & held subject to examination by any member, on all suitable occasions.
Art. 7th. The receiver shall give his receipts in a Book for that purpose for all moneys & other property of the regulars placed in his hands; keep an inventory of the same & make copy as provided in Article 6th.
Art. 8th. Captured articles when used for the benefit of the members: shall be receipted for by the Commissary, the same as moneyes placed in his hands. The receiver to hold said receipts.
Art. 9th. A disorderly retreat shall not be suffered at any time & every Officer & private is by this article fully empowered to prevent the same by force if need be, & any attempt at leaving the ground during a fight is hereby declared disorderly unless the consent or direction of the officer then in command have authorized the same.
Art. 10th. A disorderly attack or charge; shall not be suffered at any time.
Art. 11th. When in camp a thorough watch both regular and Piquet shall be maintained both by day, & by Night: and visitors shall not be suffered to pass or repass without leave from the Captain of the guard and under common or ordinary circumstances it is expected that the Officers will cheerfully share this service with the privates for examples sake.
Art. 12th. Keeping up Fires or lights after dark; or firing of Guns, Pistols or Caps shall not be allowed, except Fires and lights when unavoidable.
Art. 13th. When in Camp neither Officers shall be allowed to leave without consent of the Officer then in command.
Art. 14th. All uncivil ungentlemanly profane, vulgar talk or conversation shall be discountenanced.
Art. 15th. All acts of petty theft needless waste of the property of the members or of Citizens is hereby declared disorderly: together with all uncivil, or unkind treatment of Citizens or of prisoners.
Art. 16th. In all cases of capturing property, a sufficient number of men shall be detailed to take charge of the same: all others shall keep in their position.
Art. 17th. It shall at all times be the duty of the quarter Master to select ground for encampment subject however to the approbation of the commanding officer.
Art. 18th. The Commissary shall give his receipts in a Book for that purpose for all moneys provisions, and stores put into his hands.
Art. 19th. The Officers of companies shall see that the arms of the same are in constant good order and a neglect of this duty shall be deemed disorderly.
Art. 20th. No person after having first surrendered himself a prisoner shall be put to death: or subjected to corporeal punishment, without first having had the benefit of an impartial trial.
Art. 21st. A Waggon Master and an Assistant shall be chosen for each company whose duty it shall be to take a general care and oversight of the teams, waggons, harness and all other articles or property pertaining thereto: and who shall both be exempt from serving on guard.
Art. 22d. The ordinary use or introduction into the camp of any intoxicating liquor, as a beverage: is hereby declared disorderly.
Art. 23d. A Majority of Two Thirds of all the Members may at any time alter or amend the foregoing articles.
List of Volunteers either engaged or guarding Horses during the fight of Black Jack or Palmyra, June 2d, 1856.
1. Saml. T. Shore (Captain). 2. Silas More. 3. David Hendricks (Horse Guard). 4. Hiram Mc Allister. 5. Mr. Parmely (wounded). 6. Silvester Harris. 7. O. A. Carpenter (wounded). 8. Augustus Shore. 9. Mr. Townsley (of Pottawatomie). 10. Wm. B. Hayden. 11. John Mewhinney. 12. Montgomery Shore. 13. Elkana Timmons. 14. T. Weiner. 15. August Bondy. 16. Hugh Mewhinney. 17. Charles Kaiser. 18. Elizur Hill. 19. William David. 20. B. L. Cochran. 21. Henry Thompson (wounded). 22. Elias Basinger. 23. Owen Brown. 24. Fredk. Brown (horse guard; murdered Aug. 30th). 25. Salmon Brown. 26. Oliver Brown. 27. This blank may be filled by Capt. Shore as he may have the name. JOHN BROWN.
List of names of the wounded in the Battle of Black Jack (or Palmyra) and also of the Eight who held out to receive the surrender of Capt. Pate and Twenty Two men on that occasion. June 2d 1856.
1. Mr. Parmely wounded in Nose, & Arm obliged to leave. 2. Henry Thompson dangerously wounded but fought for nearly one Hour afterward. 3. O. A. Carpenter Badly wounded and obliged to leave. 4. Charles Kaiser, murdered Aug. 30th. 5. Elizur Hill. 6. Wm. David. 7. Hugh Mewhinney (17 yrs. old). 8. B. L. Cochran. 9. Owen Brown. 10. Salmon Brown. Seriously wounded (soon after by accident). 11. Oliver Brown — 17 years old.
In the Battle of Osawatomie Capt. (or Dr.) Updegraph; and Two others whose names I have lost were severely (one of them shockingly) wounded before the fight began Aug. 30th 1856.
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In these lists appear a few of the men who afterwards fought under Captain Brown at Harper’s Ferry; but only a few, for most of them seem to have been settlers in Kansas who would fight to protect themselves, but not to attack slavery at a distance. The dates given in the list, when this man or that was “murdered,” denote the day on which Brown’s greatest engagement—that of Osawatomie, August 30, 1856—was fought. In this battle he held in check, with about thirty men, a force of several hundred armed Missourians, whose loss in killed and wounded considerably exceeded Brown’s whole company. The fight at Black Jack or Palmyra on the 2d of June, 1856, was no less remarkable, though the whole force engaged on both sides was less than eighty. I have more than once heard Captain Brown describe this fight, which was one of his earliest, but cannot find that he has left any written account of it, as he has of the fight at Osawatomie. I will therefore relate the story of the capture of Pate and his men, as Captain Brown used to tell it; using my words, rather than his own, which, if they had been noted down, would have been far more forcible.
Brown had taken to the prairie for guerrilla warfare against the Missourians and other Southern invaders of Kansas, about the 23d of May. On the 25th of May, while he was in another neighborhood, more than twenty miles distant, the so-called “Pottawatomie murders” took place; that is, the killing of the five pro-slavery partisans, Wilkinson, Sherman, and the Doyles, in the Pottawatomie district, by friends of Brown, though without his knowledge. This exasperated the Missourians, who again made an incursion into that part of Kansas, and among their leaders was Captain Pate, a Virginian, who succeeded in capturing, about the end of May, two of the sons of Captain Brown, — John Brown, Jr., and Jason Brown, both now living in Ohio. These prisoners, heavily ironed, were kept by Pate in his camp for a day or two, and then handed over to the United States dragoons, who marched them in chains to the northward. During this march John Brown, Jr., became insane, and remained so for weeks. Meantime Captain Brown, hearing of the capture of his sons, pursued Pate, and came up with him on Monday, the 2d of June, at his camp on the Black Jack Creek (so called from the black oak growing on its banks), within the present limits of Palmyra, now a town of twenty-five hundred inhabitants, but then a hamlet of only half a dozen log-houses. The town is about half-way between Lawrence and Osawatomie, and in Douglas County, of which Lawrence is the chief place. The fight occurred within a fortnight after the sacking of Lawrence by the Missouri “Border Ruffians.” Pate’s force numbered in all fifty men, while Brown’s company contained then but twenty-seven men.
When Captain Brown came in sight of the enemy, he found Pate and his Missourians posted in a strong position, with their wagons in front of them, forming a kind of breastwork. Brown at once divided his twenty-seven men into two parties, and commenced the attack with one, while the other moved round to get a better position. In passing from one of his parties to the other, along the slope of the ravine, Captain Brown, to avoid the enemy’s fire, crept for some distance on his hands and knees; and he mentioned to me a curious circumstance in that connection, which shows the extreme simplicity of his prairie life and prairie warfare that summer. In creeping along, as above mentioned, Brown wore holes in the knees of his thin summer trousers; and these holes remained unpatched until after the battle of Osawatomie on the 30th of August, so that Brown was recognized and shot at, in that battle, because he wore the same ragged dress that had distinguished him nearly three months before. Brown began the attack, directing his men to lie down in the grass behind the slope of the ravine, so that only their heads and shoulders were exposed to the enemy’s fire. They were ordered not to waste their shots, but to fire, with the best aim they could, through and under the wagons, at the Missouri men. After a straggling fire of this sort had been kept up for two or three hours, and nearly half Captain Pate’s men had run away, the latter hoisted a white handkerchief as a sign of truce, and asked for a parley. At first he sent his lieutenant to treat with Captain Brown, but finally went himself, and was told that no terms would be listened to except the unconditional surrender of his whole force. Pate assented and Brown walked back with him to his position, where, with eight of his own men, Brown received the surrender of twenty-two of his opponents. Twenty-one of these were unwounded, and well able to continue the fight; but they yielded without a blow to Brown and his eight remaining followers. Eight more of Brown’s men came up soon after, making sixteen in all; but as there were twenty-three prisoners, twenty-three horses, a number of wagons, with arms, ammunition, etc., there were scarcely men enough in the victorious party to take care of their prisoners and booty.
It was the fight at Osawatomie, August 30, 1856, that gave Captain Brown his sobriquet of “Old Osawatomie,” by which he was long known. When one of his questioners at Harper’s Ferry said, “Are you Osawatomie Brown?” he modestly answered, “I tried to do my duty there.” How he did it will appear from his own account of the fight, written a few days afterwards, at Lawrence, whither he went with his little band, after the Missouri forces, three or four hundred strong, had retreated.
THE FIGHT OF OSAWATOMIE
Early in the morning of the 30th of August, the enemy’s scouts approached to within one mile and a half of the western boundary of the town of Osawatomie. At this place my son Frederick (who was not attached to my force) had lodged, with some four other young men from Lawrence, and a young man named Garrison, from Middle Creek.
The scouts, led by a pro-slavery preacher named White, shot my son dead in the road, whilst he—as I have since ascertained—supposed them to be friendly. At the same time they butchered Mr. Garrison, and badly mangled one of the young men from Lawrence, who came with my son, leaving him for dead.
This was not far from sunrise. I had stopped during the night about two and one half miles from them, and nearly one mile from Osawatomie. I had no organized force, but only some twelve or fifteen new recruits, who were ordered to leave their preparations for breakfast, and follow me into the town as soon as this news was brought to me.
As I had no means of learning correctly the force of the enemy, I placed twelve of the recruits in a log-house, hoping we might be able to defend the town. I then gathered some fifteen more men together, whom we armed with guns; and we started in the direction of the enemy. After going a few rods, we could see them approaching the town in line of battle, about one half a mile off, upon a hill west of the village. I then gave up all idea of doing more than to annoy, from the timber near the town, into which we were all retreated, and which was filled with a thick growth of underbrush, but had no time to recall the twelve men in the log-house, and so lost their assistance in the fight.
At the point above named I met with Captain Cline, a very active young man, who had with him some twelve or fifteen mounted men, and persuaded him to go with us into the timber, on the southern shore of the Osage, or Marais-des-Cygnes, a little to the northwest from the village. Here the men, numbering not more than thirty in all, were directed to scatter and secrete themselves as well as they could, and await the approach of the enemy. This was done in full view of them (who must have seen the whole movement), and had to be done in the utmost haste. I believe Captain Cline and some of his men were not even dismounted in the fight, but cannot assert positively. When the left wing of the enemy had approached to within common rifle shot, we commenced firing; and very soon threw the northern branch of the enemy’s line into disorder. This continued some fifteen or twenty minutes, which gave us an uncommon opportunity to annoy them. Captain Cline and his men soon got out of ammunition, and retired across the river.
After the enemy rallied, we kept up our fire; until, by the leaving of one and another, we had but six or seven left. We then retired across the river. We had one man killed—a Mr. Powers, from Captain Clines company—in the fight. One of my men, a Mr. Partridge was shot in crossing the river. Two or three of the party, who took part in the fight, are yet missing, and may be lost or taken prisoners. Two were wounded, viz., Dr. Updegraff and a Mr. Collis.
I cannot speak in too high terms of them, and of many others I have not now time to mention.
One of my best men, together with myself, was struck with a partially spent ball from the enemy, in the commencement of the fight, but we were only bruised. The loss I refer to is one of my missing men. The loss of the enemy, as we learn by the different statements of our own, as well as their people, was some thirty one or two killed, and from forty to fifty wounded. After burning the town to ashes, and killing a Mr. Williams they had taken, whom neither party claimed, they took a hasty leave, carrying their dead and wounded with them. They did not attempt to cross the river, nor to search for us, and have not since returned to look over their work.
I give this in great haste, in the midst of constant interruptions. My second son was with me in the fight, and escaped unharmed. This I mention for the benefit of his friends
Old preacher White, I hear, boasts of having killed my son. Of course he is a lion.
LAWRENCE, KANSAS, September 7, 1856.
Soon after this affair,2 Brown aided in the defense of Lawrence, again threatened with attack by a thousand armed men from Missouri. This was in the autumn of 1856. He was out of Kansas after that until the summer of 1857; then he took the field there once more, and a third time in the summer of 1858. Towards the end of that year, he made his incursion into Missouri, which has been received as a sample of what he would have done in Virginia. His own brief account of this matter may be quoted here. It was in the form of a letter to the New York Tribune or other friendly newspaper, as follows:
JOHN BROWN’S PARALLELS
TRADING POST, KANSAS, January, 1859.
Gentlemen: You will greatly oblige a humble friend by allowing the use of your columns while I briefly state two parallels, in my poor way.
Not one year ago, eleven quiet citizens of this neighborhood, viz.: William Robertson, William Colpetzer, Amos Hall, Austin Hall, John Campbell, Asa Snyder, Thomas Stilwell, William Hairgrove, Asa Hairgrove, Patrick Ross, and B. L. Reed, were gathered up from their work and their homes by an armed force under one Hamilton, and without trial or opportunity to speak in their own defense, were formed into line, and all but one shot—five killed and five wounded. One fell unharmed, pretending to be dead. All were left for dead. The only crime charged against them was that of being Free State men. Now, I inquire what action has ever, since the occurrence in May last, been taken by either the President of the United States, the Governor of Missouri, the Governor of Kansas, or any of their tools, or by any pro-slavery or Administration man, to ferret out and punish the perpetrators of this crime?
Now for the other parallel. On Sunday, December 19, a negro man called Jim came over to the Osage settlement, from Missouri, and stated that he, together with his wife, two children, and another negro man, was to be sold within a day or two, and begged for help to get away. On Monday (the following) night, two small companies were made up to go to Missouri and forcibly liberate the five slaves, together with other slaves. One of these companies I assumed to direct. We proceeded to the place, surrounded the buildings, liberated the slaves, and also took certain property supposed to belong to the estate.
We however learned, before leaving, that a portion of the articles we had taken belonged to a man living on the plantation, as a tenant, and who was supposed to have no interest in the estate. We promptly returned to him all we had taken. We then went to another plantation, where we found five more slaves, took some property and two white men. We moved all slowly away into the Territory for some distance, and then sent the white men back, telling them to follow us as soon as they chose to do so. The other company freed one female slave, took some property, and, as I am informed, killed one white man (the master), who fought against the liberation.
Now for a comparison. Eleven persons are forcibly restored to their natural and inalienable rights, with but one man killed, and all “hell is stirred from beneath.” It is currently reported that the Governor of Missouri has made a requisition upon the Governor of Kansas for the delivery of all such as were concerned in the last-named “dreadful outrage.” The Marshal of Kansas is said to be collecting a posse of Missouri (not Kansas) men at West Point, in Missouri, a little town about ten miles distant, to “enforce the laws.” All pro-slavery, conservative Free State, and doughface men, and Administration tools, are filled with holy horror.
Consider the two cases, and the action of the Administration party.
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It happened to me to be in Iowa and Nebraska a month or two before Captain Brown made his retreat from Kansas in 1856; but though often hearing of him I did not meet him. It was not till the following January, eighteen years ago, that I made his acquaintance. I was sitting in the office of the State Kansas Committee in Boston, of which I acted as secretary, when, one winter morning, there appeared the most noteworthy person (as I then thought, and now know) with whom Kansas affairs had made me acquainted. A tall old man, slightly bent and walking with a measured, heavy step, entered the room, and handed me a letter of introduction, which notified me that my visitor was Captain Brown of Kansas. Of course, as I talked with him I watched him closely; and his dress and manner became as deeply impressed on my memory as did the salient points of his character. He had laid aside in Chicago the torn and faded summer garments which he wore throughout his campaigns, and I saw him at one of those rare periods in his life when his garb was new. He wore a complete suit of brown broadcloth or kerseymere, cut in the fashion of a dozen years before, and giving him the air of a respectable deacon in a rural parish. But instead of collar he had on a hi0h stock of patent leather, such as soldiers used to wear, a gray military overcoat with a cape, similar to that worn in the Confederate army, and a fur cap. His beard was shaven close; his hair was tinged with gray, though far less so than at the time of his death. His form was angular and lean, his face thin, his mouth large and firmly shut, his eyes not large but piercing, and grayish-blue in color. I was not long in perceiving that this hero, at least, was genuine and to be trusted. His errand was to obtain the means for raising and arming a company of mounted men in Kansas, with whom to keep the peace there, and, if necessary, to make reprisals in Missouri. He intimated nothing of his purpose to act against slavery elsewhere, but he wished it distinctly understood that whatever money was contributed should be left to his discretion in the spending; he would not be responsible to any committee or party for what he should do with it.
Within a few days the proposition of Captain Brown was laid before the State Kansas Committee, of which Mr. George L. Stearns was chairman, and Dr. S. G. Howe, Dr. William R. Lawrence, Judge Russell, Dr. Samuel Cabot, and others were members. In the main it was approved, and Captain Brown was promised the custody of certain rifles belonging to the committee, which were then stored in Western Iowa. He was also allowed a considerable sum of money to transport these arms to the place where line should need them. So well satisfied were the committee with what he had done and proposed to do, that these votes were passed, if I remember rightly, with no opposition, early in the month of January, 1857.
But a difficulty at once sprung up, of which, indeed, Captain Brown had warned us. The organization known as the “National Kansas Committee,” which was elected at Buffalo in 1856, and had its head-quarters at Chicago, had received these arms in the previous autumn, and the active members of this committee were distrustful of Captain Brown. He was too radical for them. It was doubtful, therefore, if they would honor the request of the Massachusetts Committee to transfer the arms to him. As it happened, a general meeting of this National Committee, which was made up of one or more members from each free State, had been called to assemble in New York on the 22d of January, 1857. At this meeting, which took place at the Astor House, and remained in session two days, Captain Brown was present, urging his plan to organize a company of mounted rangers for service in Kansas and Missouri. I was there as a delegate (by proxy) from Massachusetts, and caused a resolution to be introduced, transferring the custody of the Massachusetts rifles to our own State Committee. This was passed without much opposition; but another resolution, introduced, I think, by the delegate from Vermont, and appropriating $5000 or $10,000 to Captain Brown for his special purposes, was vehemently opposed by Mr. Henry B. Hurd of Chicago, and a few others, — among them Mr. Amy of Illinois, who had taken Abraham Lincolns place on the National Committee. The reasons given by these gentlemen were, that Captain Brown was so ultra and violent that he would use the money, if voted, in ways which the committee would not sanction; and I remember that Mr. Hurd, when Captain Brown had withdrawn, urged this argument very earnestly. The views of the more radical Eastern members prevailed, however, and the money was voted, although only $160 of it was ever paid over to Captain Brown.
Returning from New York and reporting to the Massachusetts Committee in Boston, I soon had the pleasure of notifying Brown that the two hundred rifles were at his disposal. These were the weapons which, nearly three years afterwards, were captured by Colonel Robert Lee3 at Harper’s Ferry. Though originally purchased for the protection of the Northern settlers in Kansas, few of these rifles were ever carried into that Territory. They remained in Western Iowa, not far from Kansas, for a year or two, and were then sent eastward to be used against slavery in Virginia. All through the year 1857 and the early part of 1858, however, none of Brown’s Massachusetts friends knew that he had any designs against Virginia. How that came to their knowledge will be explained in a subsequent chapter, wherein also the organization and function of the Kansas committees of 1856-57-58 will be more fully treated.
- They are contained in a pocket memorandum book, six inches long by four wide, where they occupy seventeen pages; the rest of the book being left blank. I received this book from Brown in the first year of my acquaintance with him, its first page being thus inscribed: —“Article of Enlistment, and By Laws, of the Kansas Regulars, made and established by the commander in A. D. 1856: in whose hand writing it is: & by whom it is most respectfully presented to F. B. Sanborn, Esqr: of concord, Mass, by his highly obligated and admiring Friend.“Springfield, Mass, April 16th, 1857.“JOHN BROWN.”It has seemed best to copy this whole title-page, notwithstanding the undeserved compliment with which it ends, because it fixes a date, and describes tolerably well the contents of the book. I had seen it during one of Brown’s visits to Concord in the spring of 1857; and it is unquestionably the book which Thoreau mentioned in his Plea for captain John Brown, read to the citizens of Concord in the vestry of the parish church, October 80, 1859, while Brown was undergoing his trial in Virginia. “When he was here some years ago,” says Thoreau, “he showed to a few a little manuscript book—his ‘orderly book,’ I think he called it—containing the names of his company in Kansas, and the rules by which they bound themselves; and he stated that several of them had already sealed the contract with their blood. When some one” (Thoreau himself, no doubt) “remarked that, with the addition of a chaplain, it would have been a perfect Cromwellian troop, he observed that he would have been glad to add a chaplain to the list if he could have found one who could fill that office worthily.” ↩
- There was living net far from Osawatomie in 1855-60, a worthy Quaker, Richard Mendenhall by name, who knew Brown well, and admired him, as many of the Quakers did, notwithstanding his deeds of war. In a letter from Mendenhall to a friend in New Jersey, written December 11, 1859, there are some interesting particulars respecting Brown, which have probably never been published. The brother-in-law of Brown mentioned in this letter was Rev. S. L. Adair, of Osawatomie, to whose care I sometimes addressed my own letters, sent to Brown under the name of “Nelson Hawkins,” which was one of his Kansas aliases. Mr. Mendenhall wrote, —“I first saw John Brown soon after he came to Kansas; the next time was at a public meeting at Osawatomie, called for the purpose of considering what course should be pursued relative to submitting to the ‘Bogus Laws’ (of Governor Shannon’s Territorial legislature), more especially the payment of taxes under them. I was very unexpectedly chosen chairman of the meeting. John Brown was present and made a very earnest, decisive, and characteristic speech. For the action of that meeting in taking a bold stand against the Bogus Laws, we were all indicted, but the warrants were never served. I next met John Brown on the evening before the battle of Osawatomie. He, with a number of others, was driving a herd of cattle which they had taken from pro-slavery men. He rode out of the company to speak to me, when I playfully asked him where he got those cattle. He replied, with a characteristic shake of the head, that ‘they were good Free State cattle now.’ In the tenth month, 1858, John Brown and two others, one of them Stevens, came to my house and stayed several days, being detained by high water. I found him capable of talking interestingly on almost every subject. He had traveled a good deal in Europe on account of his business, and he imparted to me some valuable hints on different branches of business. A half-sister of Brown lives here, whose husband is a congregational minister. I once heard a stranger ask him if he knew what John Brown’s principles were, and he replied that his relations to John Brown gave him a right to know that Brown had had an idea impressed upon his mind from childhood that he was an instrument raised up by Providence to break the jaws of the wicked; and his feelings becoming enlisted in the affairs of Kansas, he thought this was the field for his operations. Last winter, when Brown took those negroes from Missouri, he sent them directly to me; but I had a school then at my house, and the children were just assembling when they came. I could not take them in, and was glad of an excuse, as I could not sanction his mode of procedure.” Nevertheless Richard Mendenhall added, much in the spirit of John A. Andrews phrase (“Brown himself was right”), “Men are not always to be judged so much by their actions as by their motives. I believe that John Brown was a good man, and that he will be remembered for good in time long hence to come.” ↩
- The same officer who, as General Lee, was the Hector of the siege of Richmond. ↩