Sunday, January 6, 2019

John Brown to John Q. Anderson,* November 29, 1859

Charlestown, Jefferson County Prison, Va., Nov. 29, 1859.
J. Q. Anderson, Esq.

My Dear Sir, — Your letter of the 23d instant is received; but notwithstanding it would afford me the utmost pleasure to answer it at length, it is not in my power to write you but a few words. Jeremiah G. Anderson was fighting bravely by my side at Harper's Ferry up to the moment when I fell wounded, and I took no further notice of what passed for a little time.1 I have since been told that he was mortally wounded at the same moment, and died in a short time afterwards. I believe this information is correct; but I have no means of knowing from any acquaintances, not being allowed intercourse with other prisoners, except one. The same is true as to the death of one of my own sons. I have no doubt but both are dead.

Your friend,
John Brown.

* Brother of Jeremiah G. Anderson.

1 At this point may be introduced the letter of an eye-witness of what happened during this “little time,” when the hero had swooned from loss of blood and pain, and was believed to be dead. Mr. Taylcure, a South Carolinian, wrote thus to John Brown, Jr., six years ago: —

864 Broadway, New York, June 15, 1879.

Dear Sir, — Duty took me to Harper's Ferry at the time of the mid in 1859 (I was then connected with the Baltimore Press), and by chance I was brought into close personal contact with both your father and your brother Watson. After the assault I assisted your father to rise, as he stumbled forward out of the historic engine-house; and was able to administer to your brother, just before he died, some physical comfort, which won me his thanks. Subsequent to the capture of the party, I accompanied Captain J. E. B. Stuart and the battalion he commanded to the Kennedy farm; and there, by another strange chance, I came into possession of a number of papers belonging to your father. These I afterwards delivered to Governor Wise, upon his requisition; but there yet remains in my possession an old manifold letter-writer which belonged to your father. In this are several letters, in his handwriting, entitled “Sambo's Mistakes,” written, apparently, for publication, and addressed “To the Editor of the “Ramshorn.” They contain a satirical summing up, related in the first person, of the mistakes and weaknesses common to the colored people. This book, together with a common carpet-bag, a red and white check blanket, a rifle, pistol, and pike, — all of which I found at the Kennedy house, — I kept, and yet have, I think, as mementos of that tragic affair. Two or three years ago I read in one of the magazines Owen Brown's relation of his escape from the Ferry, and was minded to supplement it with my narrative of the capture and its incidents, but the many demands upon my time prevented my doing so.

I am a South Carolinian, and at the time of the raid was very deeply imbued with the political prejudices of my State; but the serenity, calm courage, and devotion to duty which your father and his followers then manifested impressed me very profoundly. It is impossible not to feel respect for men who offer up their lives in support of their convictions; and the earnestness of my respect I put upon record in a Baltimore paper the day succeeding the event. I gave your brother a cup of water to quench his thirst (this was at about 7.30 on the morning of the capture), and improvised a couch for him out of a bench, with a pair of overalls for a pillow. I remember how he looked, — singularly handsome, even through the grime of his all-day struggles, and the intense suffering which he must have endured. He was very calm, and of a tone and look very gentle. The look with which he searched my very heart I can never forget. One sentence of our conversation will give you the key-note to the whole. I asked him, “What brought you here?” He replied, very patiently, “Duty, sir.” After a pause, I again asked: “Is it then your idea of duty to shoot men down upon their own hearthstones for defending their rights?” He answered: “I am dying; I cannot discuss the question; I did my duty, as I saw it.” This conversation occurred in the compartment of the engine-house adjoining that in which the defence had been made, and was listened to by young Coppoc with perfect equanimity, and by Shields Green with uncontrollable terror.

I met at Pittsburg, some years ago, Mr. Richard Realf (If that is the name; he was connected with the “Commercial” of that city); and on relating my experience, he not only expressed much interest in it, but said he thought the surviving members of John Brown's family would be gratified to hear what I had to tell. ’T is in remembrance of Colonel Realf that I obey the impulse to write you now. I do so with deep earnestness and with respect . The war, in which I took part on the Southern side, eradicated many errors of political opinion, and gave growth to many established truths not then recognized. I have, for my own part, no regrets for my humble share in the revolt; but I have now to say, that I firmly believe the war was ordained of God for the extermination of slavery; and that your father was an elected instrument for the commencement of that good work.

I am, sir, with respect,
Yours truly,
C. W. Tayleure.

SOURCES: Franklin B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown, p. 611-2

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