Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 21, 1865

A dark, cold, sleety day, with rain. Troopers and scouts from the army have icicles hanging from their hats and caps, and their clothes covered with frost, and dripping.

The Examiner this morning says very positively that Mr. Secretary Seddon has resigned. Not a word about Messrs. Benjamin and Mallory—yet. The recent action of Congress is certainly a vote of censure, with great unanimity.

It is said Congress, in secret session, has decreed the purchase of all the cotton and tobacco! The stable locked after the horse is gone! If it had been done in 1861—

Mr. Secretary Trenholm is making spasmodic efforts to mend the currency—selling cotton and tobacco to foreign (Yankee) agents for gold and sterling bills, and buying Treasury notes at the market depreciation. For a moment he has reduced the price of gold from $80 to $50 for $1; but the flood will soon overwhelm all opposition, sweeping every obstruction away.

The Federal papers say they got 2500 prisoners at Fort Fisher.

It is said the President refuses to accept Mr. Seddon's resignation.

A rumor has sprung up to the effect that Judge Campbell, Assistant Secretary of War, has also resigned. If this be so, it will soon produce a great commotion among detailed and exempted men all over the country. Rumors fly thick these dark days. It is a good time, however, for some to resign. The President has need even of incompetent men, and may beg them to remain, etc., and thus they are flattered. But if they really feel that the ship is sinking, they will endeavor to jump ashore, notwithstanding the efforts made to retain them. And then, if the ship should not sink, manned by different men!

I hear nothing more about Gen. Breckinridge as Mr. Seddon's successor, but he is the guest of the old lawyer, G. A. Myers; and it is not probable he is bestowing his bread and meat, in such times as these, for nothing. He has made a fortune, and knows how to increase it—and even ̧ Gen. B. would never be the wiser.

We have at last a letter from Gen. Hood, narrating the battle of Franklin, Tenn. He says he lost about 4500 men—enemy's loss not stated. Failure of Gen. Cheatham to execute an order the day before, prevented him from routing the enemy. His account of the battle of Nashville I have not yet seen—but know enough about it.

Both the Secretary and his Assistant have been pretty constantly engaged, for some time past, in granting passports beyond our lines, and generally into those of the enemy.

Congress has passed an act allowing reserve forces to be ordered anywhere. Upon the heels of this, Governor Smith notifies the Secretary of War that the two regiments of second class militia here, acting with the reserves, shall no longer be under the orders of Gen. Kemper. He means to run a tilt against the President, whereby Richmond may be lost! Now "Tray, Blanche, and Sweetheart, bark at him."

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 393-4

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 22, 1865

Another day of sleet and gloom. The pavements are almost impassable from the enamel of ice; large icicles hang from the houses, and the trees are bent down with the weight of frost.

The mails have failed, and there is no telegraphic intelligence, the wires being down probably. It rained very fast all day yesterday, and I apprehend the railroad bridges have been destroyed in many places.

The young men (able-bodied) near the Secretary of War and the Assistant Secretary, at the War Department, say, this morning, that both have resigned.

It is said the Kentucky Congressmen oppose the acceptance of the portfolio of war by Gen. Breckinridge.

Whoever accepts it must reform the conscription business and the passport business, else the cause will speedily be lost. Most of our calamities may be traced to these two sources.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 394-5

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 23, 1865

Foggy, and raining. F. P. Blair is here again. If enemies are permitted to exist in the political edifice, there is danger of a crash. This weather, bad news, etc. etc. predispose both the people and the army for peace—while the papers are filled with accounts of the leniency of Sherman at Savannah, and his forbearance to interfere with the slaves. The enemy cannot take care of the negroes—and to feed them in idleness would produce a famine North and South. Emancipation now is physically impossible. Where is the surplus food to come from to feed 4,000,000 idle non-producers?

It is said by the press that Mr. Seddon resigned because the Virginia Congressmen expressed in some way a want of confidence in the cabinet. But Mr. Hunter was in the Secretary's office early this morning, and may prevail on him to withdraw his resignation again, or to hold on until all is accomplished.

Gen. Breckinridge, it is said, requires the removal of Northrop, before his acceptance. Gen. Bragg is also named.

Congress, in creating the office of a commander-in-chief, also aimed a blow at Bragg's staff; and this may decide the President to appoint him Secretary of War.

A long letter came to-day from Governor Brown, dated Macon, Ga., Jan. 6th, 1865, in reply to a long one from the Secretary of War, filled with criminations and recriminations, and a flat refusal to yield the old men and boys in State service, in obedience to the call of the "usurping" and "despotic" demand of the Confederate States Executive. Georgia trembles, and may topple over any day!

Mr. Blair's return has excited many vague hopes-among the rest, even of recognition by the United States Government! Yet many, very many croakers, weary of the war, would acquiesce in reconstruction, if they might save their property. Vain hopes.

It is rumored that a commissioner (a Louisianian) sailed to-day for England, to make overtures to that government.

The government has ordered the military authorities at Augusta, Ga. (Jan. 21), to remove or burn all the cotton in that town if it is likely to be occupied by the enemy.

Senator Hunter sends a letter to Mr. Seddon which he has just received from Randolph Dickinson, Camp 57th Virginia, stating that it is needful to inaugurate negotiations for the best possible terms without delay, as the army, demoralized and crumbling, cannot be relied upon to do more fighting, etc. Mr. Hunter indorses:

"My dear sir, will you read the inclosed? I fear there is too much truth in it. Can't the troops be paid?

"Yours most truly, R. M. T. HUNTER." 

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 395-6

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 24, 1865

Clear and cool. It is now said Mr. Seddon's resignation has not yet been accepted, and that his friends are urging the President to persuade him to remain. Another rumor says ex-Gov. Letcher is to be his successor, and that Mr. Benjamin has sent in his resignation. Nothing seems to be definitely settled. I wrote the President yesterday that, in my opinion, there was no ground for hope unless communication with the enemy's country were checked, and an entire change in the conscription business speedily ordered. I was sincere, and wrote plain truths, however they might be relished. It is my birth-right. It is said (I doubt it) that Mr. Blair left the city early yesterday. To add to the confusion and despair of the country, the Secretary of the Treasury is experimenting on the currency, ceasing to issue Treasury notes, with unsettled claims demanding liquidation to the amount of hundreds of millions. Even the clerks, almost in a starving condition, it is said will not be paid at the end of the month; and the troops have not been paid for many months; but they are fed and clothed. Mr. Trenholm will fail to raise our credit in this way; and he may be instrumental in precipitating a crash of the government itself. No doubt large amounts of gold have been shipped every month to Europe from Wilmington; and the government may be now selling the money intended to go out from that port. But it will be only a drop to the ocean.

The Northern papers say Mr. Blair is authorized to offer an amnesty, including all persons, with the "Union as it was, the Constitution as it is" (my old motto on the "Southern Monitor," in 1857); but gradual emancipation. No doubt some of the people here would be glad to accept this; but the President will fight more, and desperately yet, still hoping for foreign assistance.

What I fear is starvation; and I sincerely wish my family were on the old farm on the Eastern Shore of Virginia until the next campaign is over.

It is believed Gen. Grant meditates an early movement on our left—north side of the river; and many believe we are in no condition to resist him. Still, we have faith in Lee, and the President remains here. If he and the principal members of the government were captured by a sudden surprise, no doubt there would be a clamor in the North for their trial and execution!

Guns have been heard to-day, and there are rumors of fighting below; that Longstreet has marched to this side of the river; that one of our gun-boats has been sunk; that Fort Harrison has been retaken; and, finally, that an armistice of ninety days has been agreed to by both governments.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 396-7

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 25, 1865

Clear, and very cold. We lost gun-boat Drewry yesterday in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the enemy's pontoon bridge down the river. Fort Harrison was not taken as reported, nor is it likely to be.

The rumor of an armistice remains, nevertheless, and Mr. Blair dined with the President on Sunday, and has had frequent interviews with him. This is published in the papers, and will cause the President to be severely censured.

Congress failed to expel Mr. Foote yesterday (he is off again), not having a two-thirds vote, but censured him by a decided majority. What will it end in?

No successors yet announced to Seddon and Campbell—Secretary and Assistant Secretary of War. Perhaps they can be persuaded to remain.

After all, it appears that our fleet did not return, but remains down the river; and as the enemy's gun-boats have been mostly sent to North Carolina, Gen. Lee may give Grant some trouble. If he destroys the bridges, the Federal troops on this side the river will be cut off from their main army.

It is said the President has signed the bill creating a commander-in-chief.

Rev. W. Spottswood Fontaine writes from Greensborough, N. C., that — reports that Senator Hunter is in favor of Virginia negotiating a separate peace with the United States, as the other States will probably abandon her to her fate, etc.

I saw Mr. Lyons to-day, who told me Mr. Hunter dined with him yesterday, and that Gen. Lee took tea with him last evening, and seemed in good spirits, hope, etc. Mr. Lyons thinks Gen. Lee was always a thorough emancipationist. He owns no slaves. He (Mr. Lyons) thinks that using the negroes in the war will be equivalent to universal emancipation, that not a slave will remain after the President's idea (which he don't seem to condemn) is expanded and reduced to practice. He favors sending out a commissioner to Europe for aid, on the basis of emancipation, etc., as a dernier ressort. He thinks our cause has received most injury from Congress, of which he is no longer a member.

If it be really so, and if it were generally known, that Gen. Lee is, and always has been opposed to slavery, how soon would his great popularity vanish like the mist of the morning! Can it be possible that he has influenced the President's mind on this subject? Did he influence the mind of his father-in-law, G. W. Park Custis, to emancipate his hundreds of slaves? Gen. Lee would have been heir to all, as his wife was an only child. There's some mistake about it.

The Secretary of State (still there!) informs the Secretary of War (still here!) that the gold he wrote about to the President on the 18th inst. for Gen. Hardee and for Mr. Conrad, is ready and subject to his order.

Four steamers have run into Charleston with a large amount of commissary stores. This is providential.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 397-8

Monday, February 26, 2024

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 26, 1865

Clear and cold.

No further news from the iron-clad fleet that went down the river.

Beef is selling at $8 per pound this morning; wood at $150 per cord. Major Maynard, instead of bringing 120, gets in but 30 or 40 cords per day. I am out of wood, and must do my little cooking in the parlor with the coal in the grate. This is famine!

Congress passed a bill a few days ago increasing the number of midshipmen, and allowing themselves to appoint a large proportion of them. Yesterday the President vetoed the bill, he alone, by the Constitution, being authorized to make all appointments. But the Senate immediately repassed it over the veto—only three votes in the negative. Thus the war progresses! And Mr. Hunter was one of the three.

The President, in reply to a committee of the State Legislature, says Gen. Lee has always refused to accept the command of all the armies unless he could relinquish the immediate command of the Army of Northern Virginia defending the capital; and that he is and ever has been willing to bestow larger powers on Gen. Lee; but he would not accept them.

This makes me doubt whether the President has signed the bill creating a commander-in-chief.

It is said again, that Commissary-General Northrop has resigned. Doubtful.

Still, there are no beggars in the streets, except a few women of foreign or Northern birth. What a people! If our affairs were managed properly, subjugation would be utterly impossible. But all the statesmen of the years preceding the war have been, somehow, "ruled out" of positions, and wield no influence, unless it be a vengeful one in private. Where are the patriots of the decade between 1850 and 1860? "Echo answers where?" Who is responsible for their absence? A fearful responsibility! Gold is quoted at $35 for $1-illusory! Perhaps worse. The statistics furnished by my son Custis of the military strength of the Confederate States, and ordered by the President to be preserved on file in the department, seems to have attracted the attention of Mr. Assistant Secretary Campbell, and elicited a long indorsement, saying a calculation of the number of casualties of war was not made all this after the paper was sent in by the President. But the estimate was made, and included in the reduction from the 800,000, leaving 600,000. Judge C. thinks 200,000 have been killed, 50,000 permanently disabled, and 55,000 are prisoners; still 500,000 availables would be left.

Custis has drafted, and will send to the President, a bill establishing a Corps of Honor, with a view to excite emulation and to popularize the service, now sadly needed.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 398-400

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 27, 1865

Clear, and coldest morning of the winter. None but the rich speculators and quartermaster and commissary speculators have a supply of food and fuel. Much suffering exists in the city; and prices are indeed fabulous, notwithstanding the efforts of the Secretary of the Treasury and the press to bring down the premium on gold. Many fear the high members of the government have turned brokers and speculators, and are robbing the country-making friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, against the day of wrath which they see approaching. The idea that Confederate States notes are improving in value, when every commodity, even wood and coal, daily increases in price, is very absurd!

The iron-clad fleet returned, without accomplishing anything— losing one gun-boat and having some fifteen killed and wounded. The lower house of Congress failed yesterday to pass the Midshipman bill over the President's veto—though a majority was against the President.

It is said, and published in the papers, that Mrs. Davis threw her arms around Mr. Blair and embraced him. This, too, is injurious to the President.

My wood-house was broken into last night, and two (of the nine) sticks of wood taken. Wood is selling at $5 a stick this cold morning; mercury at zero.

A broker told me that he had an order (from government) to sell gold at $35 for $1. But that is not the market price.

It is believed (by some credulous people) that Gen. J. E. Johnston will command the army in Virginia, and that Lee will reside here and be commander-in-chief. I doubt. The clamor for Gen. J. seems to be the result of a political combination.

Mr. Hunter came to the department to-day almost in a run. He is excited.

Lieut.-Gen. Hardee, of Charleston, 26th (yesterday), dispatches to the Secretary that he has received an order from Gen. Cooper (Adjutant-General) for the return of the 15th Regiment and 10th Battalion North Carolina troops to North Carolina. He says these are nearly the only regular troops he has to defend the line of the Combahee—the rest being reserves, disaffected at being

detained out of their States. The withdrawal may cause the loss of the State line, and great disaster, etc. etc.

Official statement of Gen. Hood's losses shows 66 guns, 13,000 small arms, etc. The report says the army was saved by sacrificing transportation; and but for this the losses would have been nothing.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 400-1

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 28, 1865

Clear and very cold; can't find a thermometer in the city.

The President did sign the bill creating a general-in-chief, and depriving Gen. Bragg of his staff.

Major-Gen. Jno. C. Breckinridge has been appointed Secretary of War. May our success be greater hereafter !

Gen. Lee has sent a letter from Gen. Imboden, exposing the wretched management of the Piedmont Railroad, and showing that salt and corn, in "immense quantity," have been daily left piled in the mud and water, and exposed to rain, etc., while the army has been starving. Complaints and representations of this state of things have been made repeatedly.

Gold sold at $47 for one at auction yesterday.

Mr. Hunter was seen early this morning running (almost) toward the President's office, to pick up news. He and Breckinridge were old rivals in the United States.

The Enquirer seems in favor of listening to Blair's propositions. Judge Campbell thinks Gen. Breckinridge will not make a good Secretary of War, as he is not a man of small details. I hope he is not going to indulge in so many of them as the judge and Mr. Seddon have done, else all is lost! The judge's successor will be recommended soon to the new Secretary. There will be applicants enough, even if the ship of State were visibly going down.

Although it is understood that Gen. Breckinridge has been confirmed by the Senate, he has not yet taken his seat in the department.

The President has issued a proclamation for the observance of Friday, March 10th, as a day of "fasting, humiliation, and prayer, with thanksgiving," in pursuance of a resolution of Congress.

It seems that Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee will not be represented in the cabinet; this may breed trouble, and we have trouble enough, in all conscience.

It is said Mr. Blair has returned again to Richmond—third visit.

Can there be war brewing between the United States and England or France? We shall know all soon. Or have propositions been made on our part for reconstruction? There are many smiling faces in the streets, betokening a profound desire for peace.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 401-2

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 29, 1865

Clear, and moderating.

To-day at 10 A. M. three commissioners start for Washington on a mission of peace, which may be possibly attained. They are Vice-President Stephens, Senator R. M. T. Hunter, and James [sic] A. Campbell, Assistant Secretary of War, and formerly a judge on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, all of them heartily sick of war, and languishing for peace. If they cannot devise a mode of putting an end to the war, none can. Of course they have the instructions of the President, with his ultimata, etc., but they will strive earnestly for peace.

What terms may be expected? Not independence, unless the United States may be on the eve of embarking in a foreign war, and in that event that government will require all the resources it can command, and they would not be ample if the war should continue to be prosecuted against us. Hence it would be policy to hasten a peace with us, stipulating for valuable commercial advantages, being the first to recognize us over all other powers, hoping to restore the old trade, and ultimately to reconstruct the Union. Or it may proceed from intimations of a purpose on the part of France and England to recognize us, which, of itself, would lead inevitably to war. The refusal of the United States to recognize the Empire of Mexico is an offense to France, and the augmentation of the armament of the lakes, etc. is an offense to England. Besides, if it were possible to subjugate us, it would be only killing the goose that lays the golden egg, for the Southern trade would be destroyed, and the Northern people are a race of manufacturers and merchants. If the war goes on, 300,000 men must be immediately detailed in the United States, and their heavy losses heretofore are now sorely felt. We have no alternative but to fight on, they have the option of ceasing hostilities. And we have sufferred so much that almost any treaty, granting us independence, will be accepted by the people. All the commissioners must guard against is any appearance of a PROTECTORATE on the part of the United States. If the honor of the Southern people be saved, they will not haggle about material losses. If negotiations fail, our people will receive a new impulse for the war, and great will be the slaughter. Every one will feel and know that these commissioners sincerely desired an end of hostilities. Two, perhaps all of them, even look upon eventual reconstruction without much repugnance, so that slavery be preserved.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 402-3

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 30, 1865

Bright and beautiful, but quite cold; skating in the basin, etc.

The departure of the commissioners has produced much speculation.

The enemy's fleet has gone, it is supposed to Sherman at Charleston.

No doubt the Government of the United States imagines the "rebellion" in articulo mortis, and supposes the reconstruction of the Union a very practicable thing, and the men selected as our commissioners may confirm the belief. They can do nothing, of course, if independence is the ultimatum given them.

Among the rumors now current, it is stated that the French Minister at Washington has demanded his passports. Mr. Lincoln's message, in December, certainly gave Napoleon grounds for a quarrel by ignoring his empire erected in Mexico.

Mr. Seddon still awaits his successor. He has removed Col. and Lieut -Col. Ruffin from office.

Mr. Bruce, M. C. from Kentucky, and brother-in-law to Mr. Seddon, is named as Commissary-General.

The President has vetoed another bill, granting the privilege to soldiers to receive papers free of postage, and the Senate has passed it again by a two-thirds vote. Thus the breach widens.

Some of our sensible men have strong hopes of peace immediately, on terms of alliance against European powers, and commercial advantages to the United States. I hope for even this for the sake of repose and independence, if we come off with honor. We owe nothing to any of the European governments. What has Blair been running backward and forward so often for between the two Presidents? Has it not been clearly stated that independence alone will content us? Blair must have understood this, and made it known to his President. Then what else but independence, on some terms, could be the basis for further conference? I believe our people would, for the sake of independence, agree to an alliance offensive and defensive with the United States, and agree to furnish an army of volunteers in the event of a war with France or England. The President has stigmatized the affected neutrality of those powers in one of his annual messages. Still, such a treaty would be unpopular after a term of peace with the United States. If the United States be upon the eve of war with France and England, or either of them, our commissioners abroad will soon have proposals from those governments, which would be accepted, if the United States did not act speedily.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 403-4

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 31, 1865

Bright and frosty.

The "peace commissioners" remained Sunday night at Petersburg, and proceeded on their way yesterday morning. As they passed our lines, our troops cheered them very heartily, and when they reached the enemy's lines, they were cheered more vociferously than ever. Is not this an evidence of a mutual desire for peace?

Yesterday, Mr. De Jarnette, of Virginia, introduced in Congress a resolution intimating a disposition on the part of our government to unite with the United States in vindication of the "Monroe doctrine," i.e. expulsion of monarchies established on this continent by European powers. This aims at France, and to aid our commissioners in their endeavors to divert the blows of the United States from us to France. The resolution was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

If there be complication with France, the United States may accept our overtures of alliance, and our people and government will acquiesce, but it would soon grow an unpopular treaty. At this moment we are hard pressed, pushed to the wall, and prepared to catch at anything affording relief. We pant for a "breathing spell." Sherman is advancing, but the conquest of territory and liberation of slaves, while they injure us, only embarrass the enemy, and add to their burdens. Now is the time for the United States to avert another year of slaughter and expense.

Mr. Foote has been denouncing Mr. Secretary Seddon for selling his wheat at $40 per bushel.

It is rumored that a column of the enemy's cavalry is on a raid somewhere, I suppose sent out from Grant's army. This does not look like peace and independence. An extract from the New York Tribune states that peace must come soon, because it has reliable information of the exhaustion of our resources. This means that we must submit unconditionally, which may be a fatal mistake.

The raiders are said to be on the Brooke Turnpike and Westhaven Road, northeast of the city, and menacing us in a weak place. Perhaps they are from the Valley. The militia regiments are ordered out, and the locals will follow of course, as when Dahlgren came.

Hon. Mr. Haynes of the Senate gives information of a raid organizing in East Tennessee on Salisbury, N. C., to liberate the prisoners, cut the Piedmont Road, etc.

Half-past two P. M. Nothing definite of the reported raid near the city. False, perhaps.

No papers from the President to-day; he is disabled again by neuralgia, in his hand, they say.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 2p. 404-5

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Wednesday, September 4, 1861

After returning from a battery drill, orders awaited our section, in command of Lieut. J. A. Tompkins. We left Darnestown at five o'clock P. M., going at a fast rate towards Great Falls, a distance of ten miles. At our arrival we found the Seventh Pennsylvania Regiment, commanded by Col. Harvey. During the day the enemy had some pieces of artillery in position, to bear on the water-works at Great Falls, and on the Seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, firing a hundred rounds. Only one man was wounded. Col. Harvey guided our battery through the woods at midnight. Our section took position on the edge of a knoll, while the Seventh fortified our guns. It rained during the night.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 19

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Thursday, September 5, 1861

At dawn of day, contrary to our expectations, the enemy did not open on us again. Having had no food since the day before, some of us went to the town, and as fortune, would have it, found bread, molasses, and that renowned coffee kettle, the fourth detachment will well remember. We enjoyed a good soldiers' breakfast. Lieut. Tompkins, behaving towards the men like a gentleman, they would have done most anything for him. In several cases he relieved our wants, out of his own purse. Late in the afternoon we left Great Falls, marching towards Seneca Mills, as the enemy made various demonstrations up and down the Potomac. Rain falling incessantly, and passing through dense woods marching became a matter of impossibility, and it was decided to halt by the roadside until daylight. An unoccupied house being close by, we all took possession of it, and found ourselves quite comfortable.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 19-20

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Friday, September 6, 1861

A bright morning greeted our eyes. The clear sky promised a pleasant day. We discovered an orchard near by, which furnished us with a variety of the most beautiful peaches. After taking a good supply of them, marching was resumed. Arrived by nine o'clock A. M. at Camp Jackson, occupied by the Thirty-fourth Regiment New York Volunteers, Col. LaDue. We were well received. Towards evening, the Colonel and Lieut. Tompkins took the fifth piece along, in the direction of the Potomac, getting the gun in position close to the canal, after masking it. All quiet during the night.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 20

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Sunday, September 8, 1861

A few shots were fired into the Old Dominion, without any response by the enemy.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 20

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Monday, September 9, 1861

Major Charles H. Tompkins, in company with Col. Wheaton, of the Second Rhode Island Regiment, tried a few shots, without reply.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 20

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Tuesday, September 10, 1861

Gov. Sprague, Col. Wheaton, Major Tompkins, and Capt. Reynolds, visited the section on picket. Quiet up to [Monday, September 16.]

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 20

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Monday, September 16, 1861

In the evening, some of the Thirty-fourth New York Regiment crossed the river, had a skirmish with the rebels, and returned with the loss of four men. Capt. Reynolds being promoted to Major, left the battery. So did Lieut. Albert Munroe, promoted to Captain. Lieut. Tompkins, also promoted, took command of our battery.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 20-1

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Tuesday, September 17, 1861

Our piece kept on firing at an imaginary enemy for a whole hour; the Major of the Thirty-fourth being present. Nothing remarkable up to [Sunday, September 22.]

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 21

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Sunday, September 22, 1861

Squads of cavalry and infantry visible on the Virginia shore. Great changes took place during this period. Orderly J. H. Newton being promoted to Lieutenant, took command of the left section. Sergeants Owen and Randolph, after having been promoted to Lieutenants, left the battery, and were transferred to other Rhode Island batteries. The State having organized a regiment of light artillery, on the thirteenth of August, we were no longer called the Second Battery, but Battery A.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 21

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Monday, September 23, 1861

Orders came to leave the picket line at dark, and return to Camp Jackson.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 21

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Tuesday, September 24, 1861

We were paid off in gold for two months service. Quiet in Camp Jackson up to [Monday, September 30.]

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 21

Diary of Private Theodore Reichardt, Monday, September 30, 1861

The section returned to Darnestown, and the battery was once more together.

SOURCE: Theodore Reichardt, Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery, p. 21

Diary of Sergeant Daniel L. Ambrose: October 3 – November 10, 1864

From October 3d to November 10th Sherman's army was continually marching, manoeuvering and skirmishing. The battle of Allatoona had been fought, the pass had been defended, the mad men who rushed up those rugged hills had been hurled back, the army of Georgia and Tennessee had been saved by the handful of men who stood there facing the grim monster as man never before had stood, and November 11th we find the armies commanded by General Sherman in the vicinity of Rome and Kingston. Hood was far to the northward. Sherman says: "He may push on his conquests; I will leave Thomas to confront him. I will enter the heart of the Confederacy. I will visit the South with war's stern realities."

Orderlies and aids are dashing hither and thither. The order has been given. Hark! We hear the drum and the bugle, as if to say "Up boys and be ready, for Sherman is going to make a great stride in the South-land." The Seventh is now ready, shod and equipped, and in the evening, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hector Perrin, we move from Rome about six miles and go into camp.

Rome is now burning, and to-night innocence, beautiful innocence is crying, all because its brothers rebelled; because they leaped from liberty's lap and struck the flag and swore this Union to divide, and her name and her glories to blacken.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 273-4

Diary of Sergeant Daniel L. Ambrose: November 11, 1864

The grand armies are now moving, headed towards Atlanta. To-night we go into camp upon the Allatoona battle field. The brave General John M. Corse, though his wound is scarcely well, is with us commanding the Fourth Division. As we see him late to-night riding up to his headquarters (having refused to dismount until his division was all in camp), we thought to ourselves, "Brave Johnny, thou art a noble type of an American soldier.” As we said, this is Allatoona's great battle field; here brave men sleep; here noble warriors fought their last fight; here sleep those who stood with us when Allatoona's hills were rocking amid the awful din and clash of steel; stood with us until they fell.

We are now standing by their uncoffined graves. Boon companions lie here. How vividly the hour comes to us when they passed away under the shadow of the flag, the pride of their hearts. We cannot help but cast silent tears to their memory, and turning our faces towards the north star, we are wont to say: Oh! weep, heart of the North, for thy fallen dead who sleep here. The night is growing cold; we will now wend our way to where the weary Seventh lie sleeping.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 274-5

Diary of Sergeant Daniel L. Ambrose: November 13, 1864

This evening finds us at the base of Kenesaw. We are reminded that this name has gone to history, associated with deeds of valor; where Logan's battle flag flapped against the sky. The heavens are all aglow to-night; to the southward red columns of smoke are curling upward. Signal lights are twinkling upon Kenesaw. Evidently Sherman is conversing with Howard and Slocum, his right and left bowers.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 275

Diary of Sergeant Daniel L. Ambrose: November 14, 1864

At seven A. M., we move; pass through Marietta, which is now slumbering in ruins; we are now in the advance; pass the old rebel works, two P. M. In the evening we cross the Chattahoochee and go into camp for the night nine miles from Atlanta.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 275

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: November 15, 1864

This morning the command moves by day-light. The Seventh is ordered to bring the extreme rear from the Chattahoochee to where Companies H and K are now ordered to assist the pioneers in taking up the pontoons, after which we move on and join the division at Atlanta, where we find it halted for dinner. Here we receive our last mail, which brings the commissions for the new officers of the regiment. The promotions in the veteran organizations are as follows:

Captain Hector Perrin to be Lieutenant Colonel, vice Rowett, promoted.

Captain Edward S. Johnson to be Major, vice Estabrook, term expired.

Commissary Sergeant Frank Morse, to be First Lieutenant and Adjutant, vice Robinson, killed in battle.

First Lieutenant Benjamin Sweeney to be Captain of Company A, vice McGuire, term expired.

Quartermaster Sergeant Henry L. Balcom to be First Lieutenant of Company A, vice Sweeney, promoted.

First Lieutenant Edward R. Roberts (now prisoner of war) to be Captain of Company C, vice Lawyer, term expired.

Second Lieutenant John Hubbard to be First Lieutenant of Company C, vice Roberts, promoted.

First Lieutenant Seth Raymond to be Captain of Company D, vice Clark, term expired.

Private Elias Lorey to be Second Lieutenant of Company E, vice Miller, term expired.

First Lieutenant Henry Ahern to be Captain of Company F, vice Knowlton, term expired.

Second Lieutenant Thomas B. Atchison to be First Lieutenant of Company F, vice Ahern, promoted.

First Sergeant William P, Hackney to be Captain of Company H, vice Ring, term expired.

Sergeant D. Lieb Ambrose to be First Lieutenant of Company H, vice Pegram, term expired.

Private William E. Norton to be Captain of Company I, vice Johnson, promoted.

Private James Crawley to be First Lieutenant of Company I, vice John E. Sullivan, killed in battle. Second Lieutenant William C. Gillson to be Captain of Company K, vice Hunter, term expired.

First Sergeant Sanders to be First Lieutenant Company K, vice Partridge, resigned.

Commissions for the above promotions, with the exception of Lieutenant Colonel Hector Perrin's, Major Johnson's, and Captain Norton's, were received by to-day's mail, Lieutenant Colonel Hector Perrin's, Major Johnson's and Captain Norton's, having been received while in camp at Rome. The regiment is now newly officered by soldiers who have labored long and faithfully, and Allatoona tells us that the above list merit well their commissions. This evening at three o'clock we again move, our division being the last to pass through Atlanta; we go into camp three miles from the city. Up to this day communications have kept open. This evening the last train will leave for Nashville, by which Sherman will send his last dispatches to the Government, and ere the sun goes down we will have launched forth upon the perilous march. The destination we know not-everything seems to be clouded in mystery. The camp fires are now burning as it were upon a thousand hills, as if to rival the stars above. The boys are all in fine spirits. We to-night behold the conflagration of the great city. Atlanta is burning. "She sowed to the wind, she is now reaping the whirlwind."

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 275-8

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: November 16, 1864

This morning the army moves upon four different roads. The Seventeenth and Fifteenth A. C., comprising the right wing, commanded by Major General Howard, the Twentieth and Fourteenth A. C. the left wing, commanded by Major General Slocum. All eyes are now turned towards General Sherman, as he sits upon his restless war steed, directing the perilous movements of a mighty army, which if successful, will add a new chapter to the arts of war. Will he succeed? Will he plant his banner upon the ocean strand? His countenance seems to say “I will, if these seventy thousand warriors keep thundering at my heels." To-night we camp upon the banks of Cotton River.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 278

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: November 17, 1864

This morning our brigade takes the advance. At eleven o'clock we pass through McDonald, and in the evening go into camp four miles from Jackson.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 278

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: November 18, 1864

We remain in camp to-day to let the Seventeenth A. C. pass. We live high to-day; plenty of fresh meat and yams. Five o'clock P. M., we move, go about eight miles and go into camp for the night. The soldiers are tired to-night; it is twelve o'clock before they lie down to rest. We are now far in the South-land, encompassed by foes in the front, the rear, and on both flanks, but the hearts of the seventy thousand warriors beat high, and this land is feeling their powerful tread.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 278-9

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: November 19, 1864

We move early this morning and go as far as the Ocmulgee river, where we go into camp. Two pontoon bridges are now being spanned across the river, one for the teams and artillery, and the other for infantry. This evening Colonel Perrin receives orders from General Corse to mount his regiment as fast as stock can be captured. The order is received by the boys with great delight.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 279

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Sunday, November 20, 1864

Before daylight this morning we cross the Ocmulgee River, all the rest of the army having crossed last night. Our division is now in the rear guarding Kilpatrick's train; the roads are very muddy; only succeed in getting ten miles to-day, when we go into camp near Monticello. A cold rain is now falling; the chilling winds, how fierce they blow! The Seventh suffers to-night.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 279

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Monday, November 21, 1864

At seven o'clock we move. Oh! how terrible the mud; teams sticking all along the road, and in consequence we move slow. We go into camp about ten o'clock upon an open field. It is now raining. The regiment is upon half rations; the men are standing, shivering around the camp fires; it is a terrible night; the fierce, wild winds sweep through the Seventh's camp. Nothing to shelter the men from the howling storm, but this matters not. "Let the world wag as it will, we'll be gay and happy still," breaks forth from the soldiers as it were in harmony with the elements. There is manhood here; there is fidelity around these camp fires, and how sad the fact that there are men in America who would be loath to acknowledge it.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 279-80

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Tuesday, November 22, 1864

We move at seven o'clock this morning; weather very cool. Mud, mud everywhere; this evening the trains all swamp; night comes on dark and dreary, and being unable to extricate the teams, we go into camp two miles from Clinton.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 280

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Wednesday, November 23, 1864

We move at seven A. M.; the troops succeed in getting the train in motion; we go into camp in the evening five miles from Gordon.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 280

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Thursday, November 24, 1864

We move slow to-day, reach Gordon, the junction of the Milledgeville Railroad, by noon. The work of destruction is now going on; the railroad is being destroyed; we cross the railroad and go into camp two miles from Gordon. The whole country is clouded with smoke. This mighty army is making a terrible sweep. The legitimate vengeance of this government is now falling upon this rebellious people.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 280

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Friday, November 25, 1864

This morning we move early; pass through Irwinsville about noon. This was once a very beautiful town, but now lying in ashes. The roads are better to-day; we march twenty five miles and go into camp at five o'clock P. M. Our rations are now very short, and we are compelled to subsist chiefly upon the country.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 280

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Saturday, November 26, 1864

Our regiment having received orders to take the advance, to-day we move at 5 o'clock a. m.; about noon we enter the swamps of the Oknee river. Here the enemy endeavored to check our advance, but from this great army's front they are hurled away like chaff. The pontoons having been laid we cross the river, 2 o'clock P. M., go about eight miles, and go into camp for the night.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 280-1

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Sunday, November 27, 1864

This morning our brigade moves on three miles to the Macon and Savannah Railroad, and for our allotment destroy six miles of track. Night coming on we go into camp near the railroad.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 281

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Monday, November 28, 1864

This morning Company H is detailed for foragers. The Fifteenth corps is thrown into confusion to-day. The Third and Fourth Division get all mixed up, General Corse with the Second Brigade takes the wrong road and gets lost in the Pineries, taking some time to extricate himself and get on the right road.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 281

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Tuesday, November 29, 1864

We are still in the pine barrens of Georgia; darkness is now hovering around us. The troops are all on half rations, forage is scarce. We are late going into camp to-night, but the troops are all in fine spirits this evening. All seem confident that success with its glories will fall around this army.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 281

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Daniel L. Ambrose: Wednesday, November 30, 1864

To-day finds us still in the Wilderness of Pines, not more than half way to the sea, which, it is now evident, is our destination. For two days we have not seen a habitation; has man ever, penetrated these wilds before? It seems not. The roads are desperate; our supplies are becoming shorter and shorter; darkness seems to be falling on our path but the 70,000 warriors keep moving on with a silent but unceasing tread. Every step seems to say we will yet see the sunlight from the ocean flash on our serried lines—seems to say that we will yet see the ocean steamers from the great cities of the east, laden with supplies, deck the waters. This is our hope—our only hope. Late going into camp to-night; all tired and hungry marched 25 miles to-day.

SOURCE: Daniel Leib Ambrose, History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, p. 281-2

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Henry David Thoreau: A Plea for Captain John Brown,* October 30, 1859

I TRUST that you will pardon me for being here. I do not wish to force my thoughts upon you, but I feel forced myself. Little as I know of Captain Brown, I would fain do my part to correct the tone and the statements of the newspapers, and of my countrymen generally, respecting his character and actions. It costs us nothing to be just. We can at least express our sympathy with, and admiration of, him and his companions, and that is what I now propose to do.

First, as to his history. I will endeavor to omit, as much as possible, what you have already read. I need not describe his person to you, for probably most of you have seen and will not soon forget him. I am told that his grandfather, John Brown, was an officer in the Revolution; that he himself was born in Connecticut about the beginning of this century, but early went with his father to Ohio. I heard him say that his father was a contractor who furnished beef to the army there, in the war of 1812; that he accompanied him to the camp, and assisted him in that employment, seeing a good deal of military life, more, perhaps, than if he had been a soldier, for he was often present at the councils of the officers. Especially, he learned by experience how armies are supplied and maintained in the field—a work which, he observed, requires at least as much experience and skill as to lead them in battle. He said that few persons had any conception of the cost, even the pecuniary cost, of firing a single bullet in war. He saw enough, at any rate, to disgust him with a military life; indeed, to excite in him a great abhorrence of it; so much so, that though he was tempted by the offer of some petty office in the army, when he was about eighteen, he not only declined that, but he also refused to train when warned, and was fined for it. He then resolved that he would never have any thing to do with any war, unless it were a war for liberty.

When the troubles in Kansas began, he sent several of his sons thither to strengthen the party of the Free State men, fitting them out with such weapons as he had; telling them that if the troubles should increase, and there should be need of him, he would follow to assist them with his hand and counsel. This, as you all know, he soon after did; and it was through his agency, far more than any other's, that Kansas was made free.

For a part of his life he was a surveyor, and at one time he was engaged in wool-growing, and he went to Europe as an agent about that business. There, as every where, he had his eyes about him, and made many original observations. He said, for instance, that he saw why the soil of England was so rich, and that of Germany (I think it was) so poor, and he thought of writing to some of the crowned heads about it. It was because in England the peasantry live on the soil which they cultivate, but in Germany they are gathered into villages, at night. It is a pity that he did not make a book of his observations.

I should say that he was an old-fashioned man in his respect for the Constitution, and his faith in the permanence of this Union. Slavery he deemed to be wholly opposed to these, and he was its determined foe.

He was by descent and birth a New England farmer, a man of great common sense, deliberate and practical as that class is, and tenfold more so. He was like the best of those who stood at Concord Bridge once, on Lexington Common, and on Bunker Hill, only he was firmer and higher principled than any that I have chanced to hear of as there. It was no abolition lecturer that converted him. Ethan Allen and Stark, with whom he may in some respects be compared, were rangers in a lower and less important field. They could bravely face their country's foes, but he had the courage to face his country herself, when she was in the wrong. A Western writer says, to account for his escape from so many perils, that he was concealed under a "rural exterior;" as if, in that prairie land, a hero should, by good rights, wear a citizen's dress only.

He did not go to the college called Harvard, good old Alma Mater as she is. He was not fed on the pap that is there furnished. As he phrased it, "I know no more of grammar than one of your calves." But he went to the great university of the West, where he sedulously pursued the study of Liberty, for which he had early betrayed a fondness, and having taken many degrees, he finally commenced the public practice of Humanity in Kansas, as you all know. Such were his humanities, and not any study of grammar. He would have left a Greek accent slanting the wrong way, and righted up a falling man.

He was one of that class of whom we hear a great deal, but, for the most part, see nothing at all—the Puritans. It would be in vain to kill him. He died lately in the time of Cromwell, but he reappeared here. Why should he not? Some of the Puritan stock are said to have come over and settled in New England. They were a class that did something else than celebrate their forefathers' day, and eat parched corn in remembrance of that time. They were neither Democrats nor Republicans, but men of simple habits, straightforward, prayerful; not thinking much of rulers who did not fear God, not making many compromises, nor seeking after available candidates.

"In his camp," as one has recently written, and as I have myself heard him state, "he permitted no profanity; no man of loose morals was suffered to remain there, unless, indeed, as a prisoner of war. 'I would rather,' said he, ‘have the small-pox, yellow fever, and cholera, all together in my camp, than a man without principle. * * * It is a mistake, sir, that our people make, when they think that bullies are the best fighters, or that they are the fit men to oppose these Southerners. Give me men of good principles,—God-fearing men,—men who respect themselves, and with a dozen of them I will oppose any hundred such men as these Buford ruffians.'" He said that if one offered himself to be a soldier under him, who was forward to tell what he could or would do, if he could only get sight of the enemy, he had but little confidence in him.

He was never able to find more than a score or so of recruits whom he would accept, and only about a dozen, among them his sons, in whom he had perfect faith. When he was here, some years ago, 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 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. It is easy enough to find one for the United States army. I believe that he had prayers in his camp morning and evening, nevertheless.

He was a man of Spartan habits, and at sixty was scrupulous about his diet at your table, excusing himself by saying that he must eat sparingly and fare hard, as became a soldier or one who was fitting himself for difficult enterprises, a life of exposure.

A man of rare common sense and directness of speech, as of action; a transcendentalist above all, a man of ideas and principles, that was what distinguished him. Not yielding to a whim or transient impulse, but carrying out the purpose of a life. I noticed that he did not overstate any thing, but spoke within bounds. I remember, particularly, how, in his speech here, he referred to what his family had suffered in Kansas, without ever giving the least vent to his pent-up fire. It was a volcano with an ordinary chimney-flue. Also referring to the deeds of certain Border Ruffians, he said, rapidly paring away his speech, like an experienced soldier, keeping a reserve of force and meaning, "They had a perfect right to be hung." He was not in the least a rhetorician, was not talking to Buncombe or his constituents any where, had no need to invent any thing, but to tell the simple truth, and communicate his own resolution; therefore he appeared incomparably strong, and eloquence in Congress and elsewhere seemed to me at a discount. It was like the speeches of Cromwell compared with those of an ordinary king.

As for his tact and prudence, I will merely say, that at a time when scarcely a man from the Free States was able to reach Kansas by any direct route, at least without having his arms taken from him, he, carrying what imperfect guns and other weapons he could collect, openly and slowly drove an ox-cart through Missouri, apparently in the capacity of a surveyor, with his surveying compass exposed in it, and so passed unsuspected, and had ample opportunity to learn the designs of the enemy. For some time after his arrival he still followed the same profession. When, for instance, he saw a knot of the ruffians on the prairie, discussing, of course, the single topic which then occupied their minds, he would, perhaps, take his compass and one of his sons, and proceed to run an imaginary line right through the very spot on which that conclave had assembled, and when he came up to them, he would naturally pause and have some talk with them, learning their news, and, at last, all their plans perfectly; and having thus completed his real survey, he would resume his imaginary one, and run on his line till he was out of sight.

When I expressed surprise that he could live in Kansas at all, with a price set upon his head, and so large a number, including the authorities, exasperated against him, he accounted for it by saying, "It is perfectly well understood that I will not be taken." Much of the time for some years he has had to skulk in swamps, suffering from poverty and from sickness, which was the consequence of exposure, befriended only by Indians and a few whites. But though it might be known that he was lurking in a particular swamp, his foes commonly did not care to go in after him. He could even come out into a town where there were more Border Ruffians than Free State men, and transact some business, without delaying long, and yet not be molested; for said he, "No little handful of men were willing to undertake it, and a large body could not be got together in season."

As for his recent failure, we do not know the facts about it. It was evidently far from being a wild and desperate attempt. His enemy, Mr. Vallandingham, is compelled to say, that “it was among the best planned and executed conspiracies that ever failed."

Not to mention his other successes, was it a failure, or did it show a want of good management, to deliver from bondage a dozen human beings, and walk off with them by broad daylight, for weeks if not months, at a leisurely pace, through one State after another, for half the length of the North, conspicuous to all parties, with a price set upon his head, going into a court room on his way and telling what he had done, thus convincing Missouri that it was not profitable to try to hold slaves in his neighborhood?—and this, not because the government menials were lenient, but because they were afraid of him.

Yet he did not attribute his success, foolishly, to "his star," or to any magic. He said, truly, that the reason why such greatly superior numbers quailed before him, was, as one of his prisoners confessed, because they lacked a cause a kind of armor which he and his party never lacked. When the time came, few men were found willing to lay down their lives in defence of what they knew to be wrong; they did not like that this should be their last act in this world.

But to make haste to his last act, and its effects.

The newspapers seem to ignore, or perhaps are really ignorant of the fact, that there are at least as many as two or three individuals to a town throughout the North, who think much as the present speaker does about him and his enterprise. I do not hesitate to say that they are an important and growing party. We aspire to be something more than stupid and timid chattels, pretending to read history and our Bibles, but desecrating every house and every day we breathe in. Perhaps anxious politicians may prove that only seventeen white men and five negroes were concerned in the late enterprise; but their very anxiety to prove this might suggest to themselves that all is not told. Why do they still dodge the truth? They are so anxious because of a dim consciousness of the fact, which they do not distinctly face, that at least a million of the free inhabitants of the United States would have rejoiced if it had succeeded. They at most only criticise the tactics. Though we wear no crape, the thought of that man's position and probable fate is spoiling many a man's day here at the North for other thinking. If any one who has seen him here can pursue successfully any other train of thought, I do not know what he is made of. If there is any such who gets his usual allowance of sleep, I will warrant him to fatten easily under any circumstances which do not touch his body or purse. I put a piece of paper and a pencil under my pillow, and when I could not sleep, I wrote in the dark.

On the whole, my respect for my fellow-men, except as one may outweigh a million, is not being increased these days. I have noticed the cold-blooded way in which newspaper writers and men generally speak of this event, as if an ordinary malefactor, though one of unusual "pluck,” as the Governor of Virginia is reported to have said, using the language of the cock-pit, "the gamest man he ever saw," — had been caught, and were about to be hung. He was not dreaming of his foes when the governor thought he looked so brave. It turns what sweetness I have to gall, to hear, or hear of, the remarks of some of my neighbors. When we heard at first that he was dead, one of my townsmen observed that “he died as the fool dieth;" which, pardon me, for an instant suggested a likeness in him dying to my neighbor living. Others, craven-hearted, said disparagingly, that "he threw his life away," because he resisted the government. Which way have they thrown their lives, pray?—Such as would praise a man for attacking singly an ordinary band of thieves or murderers. I hear another ask, Yankee-like, "What will he gain by it?" as if he expected to fill his pockets by this enterprise. Such a one has no idea of gain but in this worldly sense. If it does not lead to a "surprise" party, if he does not get a new pair of boots, or a vote of thanks, it must be a failure. "But he won't gain any thing by it." Well, no, I don't suppose he could get four-and-sixpence a day for being hung, take the year round; but then he stands a chance to save a considerable part of his soul and such a soul!—when you do not. No doubt you can get more in your market for a quart of milk than for a quart of blood, but that is not the market that heroes carry their blood to.

Such do not know that like the seed is the fruit, and that, in the moral world, when good seed is planted, good fruit is inevitable, and does not depend on our watering and cultivating; that when you plant, or bury, a hero in his field, a crop of heroes is sure to spring up. This is a seed of such force and vitality, that it does not ask our leave to germinate.

The momentary charge at Balaclava, in obedience to a blundering command, proving what a perfect machine the soldier is, has, properly enough, been celebrated by a poet laureate; but the steady, and for the most part successful charge of this man, for some years, against the legions of Slavery, in obedience to an infinitely higher command, is as much more memorable than that, as an intelligent and conscientious man is superior to a machine. Do you think that that will go unsung?

"Served him right" — "A dangerous man" — "He is undoubtedly insane." So they proceed to live their sane, and wise, and altogether admirable lives, reading their Plutarch a little, but chiefly pausing at that feat of Putnam, who was let down into a wolf's den; and in this wise they nourish themselves for brave and patriotic deeds some time or other. The Tract Society could afford to print that story of Putnam. You might open the district schools with the reading of it, for there is nothing about Slavery or the Church in it; unless it occurs to the reader that some pastors are wolves in sheep's clothing. "The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions" even, might dare to protest against that wolf. I have heard of boards, and of American boards, but it chances that I never heard of this particular lumber till lately. And yet I hear of Northern men, women, and children, by families, buying a "life membership" in such societies as these; a life-membership in the grave! You can get buried cheaper than that.

Our foes are in our midst and all about us. There is hardly a house but is divided against itself, for our foe is the all but universal woodenness of both head and heart, the want of vitality in man, which is the effect of our vice; and hence are begotten fear, superstition, bigotry, persecution, and slavery of all kinds. We are mere figure-heads upon a hulk, with livers in the place of hearts. The curse is the worship of idols, which at length changes the worshipper into a stone image himself; and the New Englander is just as much an idolater as the Hindoo. This man was an exception, for he did not set up even a political graven image between him and his God.

A church that can never have done with excommunicating Christ while it exists! Away with your broad and flat churches, and your narrow and tall churches! Take a step forward, and invent a new style of out-houses. Invent a salt that will save you, and defend our nostrils.

Christian is a man who has consented to say all the prayers in the liturgy, provided you will let him go straight to bed and sleep quietly afterward. All his prayers begin with "Now I lay me down to sleep," and he is forever looking forward to the time when he shall go to his "long rest." He has consented to perform certain old established charities, too, after a fashion, but he does not wish to hear of any new-fangled ones; he doesn't wish to have any supplementary articles added to the contract, to fit it to the present time. He shows the whites of his eyes on the Sabbath, and the blacks all the rest of the week. The evil is not merely a stagnation of blood, but a stagnation of spirit. Many, no doubt, are well disposed, but sluggish by constitution and by habit, and they cannot conceive of a man who is actuated by higher motives than they are. Accordingly they pronounce this man insane, for they know that they could never act as he does, as long as they were themselves.

We dream of foreign countries, of other times and races of men, placing them at a distance in history or space; but let some significant event like the present occur in our midst, and we discover, often, this distance and this strangeness between us and our nearest neighbors. They are our Austrias, and Chinas, and South Sea Islands. Our crowded society becomes well spaced all at once, clean and handsome to the eye, a city of magnificent distances. We discover why it was that we never got beyond compliments and surfaces with them before; we become aware of as many versts between us and them as there are between a wandering Tartar and a Chinese town. The thoughtful man becomes a hermit in the thoroughfares of the market-place. Impassable seas suddenly find their level between us, or dumb steppes stretch themselves out there. It is the difference of constitution, of intelligence, and faith, and not streams and mountains, that make the true and impassable boundaries between individuals and between states. None but the like-minded can come plenipotentiary to our court.

I read all the newspapers I could get within a week after this event, and I do not remember in them a single expression of sympathy for these men. I have since seen one noble statement, in a Boston paper, not editorial. Some voluminous sheets decided not to print the full report of Brown's words to the exclusion of other matter. It was as if a publisher should reject the manuscript of the New Testament, and print Wilson's last speech. The same journal which contained this pregnant news, was chiefly filled, in parallel columns, with the reports of the political conventions that were being held. But the descent to them was too steep. They should have been spared this contrast, been printed in an extra at least. To turn from the voices and deeds of earnest men to the cackling of political conventions! Office-seekers and speech-makers, who do not so much as lay an honest egg, but wear their breasts bare upon an egg of chalk! Their great game is the game of straws, or rather that universal aboriginal game of the platter, at which the Indians cried hub, bub! Exclude the reports of religious and political conventions, and publish the words of a living man.

But I object not so much to what they have omitted, as to what they have inserted. Even the Liberator called it "a misguided, wild, and apparently insane-effort." As for the herd of newspapers and magazines, I do not chance to know an editor in the country who will deliberately print any thing which he knows will ultimately and permanently reduce the number of his subscribers. They do not believe that it would be expedient. How then can they print truth? If we do not say pleasant things, they argue, nobody will attend to us. And so they do like some travelling auctioneers, who sing an obscene song in order to draw a crowd around them. Republican editors, obliged to get their sentences ready for the morning edition, and accustomed to look at every thing by the twilight of politics, express no admiration, nor true sorrow even, but call these men "deluded fanatics" — "mistaken men" "insane," or "crazed." It suggests what a sane set of editors we are blessed with, not "mistaken men"; who know very well on which side their bread is buttered, at least.

A man does a brave and humane deed, and at once, on all sides, we hear people and parties declaring, "I didn't do it, nor countenance him to do it, in any conceivable way. It can't be fairly inferred from my past career." I, for one, am not interested to hear you define your position. I don't know that I ever was, or ever shall be. I think it is mere egotism, or impertinent at this time. Ye needn't take so much pains to wash your skirts of him. No intelligent man will ever be convinced that he was any creature of yours. He went and came, as he himself informs us, "under the auspices of John Brown and nobody else." The Republican party does not perceive how many his failure will make to vote more correctly than they would have them. They have counted the votes of Pennsylvania & Co., but they have not correctly counted Captain Brown's vote. He has taken the wind out of their sails, the little wind they had, and they may as well lie to and repair.

What though he did not belong to your clique! Though you may not approve of his method or his principles, recognize his magnanimity. Would you not like to claim kindredship with him in that, though in no other thing he is like, or likely, to you? Do you think that you would lose your reputation so? What you lost at the spile, you would gain at the bung.

If they do not mean all this, then they do not speak the truth, and say what they mean. They are simply at their old tricks still.

"It was always conceded to him," says one who calls him crazy, "that he was a conscientious man, very modest in his demeanor, apparently inoffensive, until the subject of Slavery was introduced, when he would exhibit a feeling of indignation unparalleled."

The slave-ship is on her way, crowded with its dying victims; new cargoes are being added in mid ocean; a small crew of slaveholders, countenanced by a large body of passengers, is smothering four millions under the hatches, and yet the politician asserts that the only proper way by which deliverance is to be obtained, is by "the quiet diffusion of the sentiments of humanity," without any "outbreak." As if the sentiments of humanity were ever found unaccompanied by its deeds, and you could disperse them, all finished to order, the pure article, as easily as water with a watering-pot, and so lay the dust. What is that that I hear cast overboard?

The bodies of the dead that have found deliverance. That is the way we are "diffusing" humanity, and its sentiments with it.

Prominent and influential editors, accustomed to deal with politicians, men of an infinitely lower grade, say, in their ignorance, that he acted "on the principle of revenge." They do not know the man. They must enlarge themselves to conceive of him. I have no doubt that the time will come when they will begin to see him as he was. They have got to conceive of a man of faith and of religious principle, and not a politician nor an Indian; of a man who did not wait till he was personally interfered with or thwarted in some harmless business before he gave his life to the cause of the oppressed.

If Walker may be considered the representative of the South, I wish I could say that Brown was the representative of the North. He was a superior man. He did not value his bodily life in comparison with ideal things. He did not recognize unjust human laws, but resisted them as he was bid. For once we are lifted out of the trivialness and dust of politics into the region of truth and manhood. No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature, knowing himself for a man, and the equal of any and all governments. In that sense he was the most American of us all. He needed no babbling lawyer, making false issues, to defend him. He was more than a match for all the judges that American voters, or office-holders of whatever grade, can create. He could not have been tried by a jury of his peers, because his peers did not exist. When a man stands up serenely against the condemnation and vengeance of mankind, rising above them literally by a whole body, — even though he were of late the vilest murderer, who has settled that matter with himself, the spectacle is a sublime one, — didn't ye know it, ye Liberators, ye Tribunes, ye Republicans? — and we become criminal in comparison. Do yourselves the honor to recognize him. He needs none of your respect.

As for the Democratic journals, they are not human enough to affect me at all. I do not feel indignation at any thing they may say.

I am aware that I anticipate a little, that he was still, at the last accounts, alive in the hands of his foes; but that being the case, I have all along found myself thinking and speaking of him as physically dead.

I do not believe in erecting statues to those who still live in our hearts, whose bones have not yet crumbled in the earth around us, but I would rather see the statue of Captain Brown in the Massachusetts State-House yard, than that of any other man whom I know. I rejoice that I live in this age— that I am his contemporary.

What a contrast, when we turn to that political party which is so anxiously shuffling him and his plot out of its way, and looking around for some available slaveholder, perhaps, to be its candidate, at least for one who will execute the Fugitive Slave Law, and all those other unjust laws which he took up arms to annul!

Insane! A father and six sons, and one son-in-law, and several more men besides, as many at least as twelve disciples, — all struck with insanity at once; while the sane tyrant holds with a firmer gripe than ever his four millions of slaves, and a thousand sane editors, his abettors, are saving their country and their bacon! Just as insane were his efforts in Kansas. Ask the tyrant who is his most dangerous foe, the sane man or the insane. Do the thousands who know him best, who have rejoiced at his deeds in Kansas, and have afforded him material aid there, think him insane? Such a use of this word is a mere trope with most who persist in using it, and I have no doubt that many of the rest have already in silence retracted their words.

Read his admirable answers to Mason and others. How they are dwarfed and defeated by the contrast! On the one side, half brutish, half timid questioning; on the other, truth, clear as lightning, crashing into their obscene temples. They are made to stand with Pilate, and Gesler, and the Inquisition. How ineffectual their speech and action! and what a void their silence! They are but helpless tools in this great work. It was no human power that gathered them about this preacher.

What have Massachusetts and the North sent a few sane representatives to Congress for, of late years? —to declare with effect what kind of sentiments? All their speeches put together and boiled down, — and probably they themselves will confess it, — do not match for manly directness and force, and for simple truth, the few casual remarks of crazy John Brown, on the floor of the Harper's Ferry engine house; — that man whom you are about to hang, to send to the other world, though not to represent you there. No, he was not our representative in any sense. He was too fair a specimen of a man to represent the like of us. Who, then, were his constituents? If you read his words understandingly you will find out. In his case there is no idle eloquence, no made, nor maiden speech, no compliments to the oppressor. Truth is his inspirer, and earnestness the polisher of his sentences. He could afford to lose his Sharpe's rifles, while he retained his faculty of speech, a Sharpe's rifle of infinitely surer and longer range.

And the New York Herald reports the conversation "verbatim"! It does not know of what undying words it is made the vehicle.

I have no respect for the penetration of any man who can read the report of that conversation, and still call the principal in it insane. It has the ring of a saner sanity than an ordinary discipline and habits of life, than an ordinary organization, secure. Take any sentence of it—"Any questions that I can honorably answer, I will; not otherwise. So far as I am myself concerned, I have told every thing truthfully. I value my word, sir." The few who talk about his vindictive spirit, while they really admire his heroism, have no test by which to detect a noble man, no amalgam to combine with his pure gold. They mix their own dross with it.

It is a relief to turn from these slanders to the testimony of his more truthful, but frightened, jailers and hangmen. Governor Wise speaks far more justly and appreciatingly of him than any Northern editor, or politician, or public personage, that I chance to have heard from. I know that you can afford to hear him again on this subject. He says: "They are themselves mistaken who take him to be a madman. . . He is cool, collected, and indomitable, and it is but just to him to say, that he was humane to his prisoners. And he inspired me with great trust in his integrity as a man of truth. He is a fanatic, vain and garrulous," (I leave that part to Mr. Wise,) "but firm, truthful, and intelligent. His men, too, who survive, are like him. Colonel Washington says that he was the coolest and firmest man he ever saw in defying danger and death. With one son dead by his side, and another shot through, he felt the pulse of his dying son with one hand, and held his rifle with the other, and commanded his men with the utmost composure, encouraging them to be firm, and to sell their lives as dear as they could. Of the three white prisoners, Brown, Stephens, and Coppic, it was hard to say which was most firm."

Almost the first Northern men whom the slaveholder has learned to respect!

The testimony of Mr. Vallandingham, though less valuable, is of the same purport, that "it is vain to underrate either the man or his conspiracy. . . He is the farthest possible remove from the ordinary ruffian, fanatic, or madman."

"All is quiet at Harper's Ferry," say the journals. What is the character of that calm which follows when the law and the slaveholder prevail? I regard this event as a touchstone designed to bring out, with glaring distinctness, the character of this government. We needed to be thus assisted to see it by the light of history. It needed to see itself. When a government puts forth its strength on the side of injustice, as ours to maintain Slavery and kill the liberators of the slave, it reveals itself a merely brute force, or worse, a demoniacal force. It is the head of the Plug Uglies. It is more manifest than ever that tyranny rules. I see this government to be effectually allied with France and Austria in oppressing mankind. There sits a tyrant holding fettered four millions of slaves; here comes their heroic liberator. This most hypocritical and diabolical government looks up from its seat on the gasping four millions, and inquires with an assumption of innocence, "What do you assault me for? Am I not an honest man? Cease agitation on this subject, or I will make a slave of you, too, or else hang you."

We talk about a representative government but what a monster of a government is that where the noblest faculties of the mind, and the whole heart, are not represented. A semi-human tiger or ox, stalking over the earth, with its heart taken out and the top of its brain shot away. Heroes have fought well on their stumps when their legs were shot off, but I never heard of any good done by such a government as that.

The only government that I recognize,—and it matters not how few are at the head of it, or how small its army, is that power that establishes justice in the land, never that which establishes injustice. What shall we think of a government to which all the truly brave and just men in the land are enemies, standing between it and those whom it oppresses? A government that pretends to be Christian and crucifies a million Christs every day!

Treason! Where does such treason take its rise? I cannot help thinking of you as you deserve, ye governments. Can you dry up the fountains of thought? High treason, when it is resistance to tyranny here below, has its origin in, and is first committed by the power that makes and forever recreates man. When you have caught and hung all these human rebels, you have accomplished nothing but your own guilt, for you have not struck at the fountain head. You presume to contend with a foe against whom West Point cadets and rifled cannon point not. Can all the art of the cannon-founder tempt matter to turn against its maker? Is the form in which the founder thinks he casts it more essential than the constitution of it and of himself?

The United States have a coffle of four millions of slaves. They are determined to keep them in this condition; and Massachusetts is one of the confederated overseers to prevent their escape. Such are not all the inhabitants of Massachusetts, but such are they who rule and are obeyed here. It was Massachusetts, as well as Virginia, that put down this insurrection at Harper's Ferry. She sent the marines there, and she will have to pay the penalty of her sin.

Suppose that there is a society in this State that out of its own purse and magnanimity saves all the fugitive slaves that run to us, and protects our colored fellow-citizen?, and leaves the other work to the Government, so-called. Is not that government fast losing its occupation, and becoming contemptible to mankind? If private men are obliged to perform the offices of government, to protect the weak and dispense justice, then the government becomes only a hired man, or clerk, to perform menial or indifferent services. Of course, that is but the shadow of a government whose existence necessitates a Vigilant Committee. What should we think of the oriental Cadi even, behind whom worked in secret a vigilant committee? But such is the character of our Northern States generally; each has its Vigilant Committee. And, to a certain extent, these crazy governments recognize and accept this relation. They say, virtually, "We'll be glad to work for you on these terms, only don't make a noise about it." And thus the government, its salary being insured, withdraws into the back shop, taking the constitution with it, and bestows most of its labor on repairing that. When I hear it at work sometimes, as I go by, it reminds me, at best, of those farmers who in winter contrive to turn a penny by following the coopering business. And what kind of spirit is their barrel made to hold? They speculate in stocks, and bore holes in mountains, but they are not competent to lay out even a decent highway. The only free road, the Underground Railroad, is owned and managed by the Vigilant Committee.

They have tunnelled under the whole breadth of the land. Such a government is losing its power and respectability as surely as water runs out of a leaky vessel, and is held by one that can contain it.

I hear many condemn these men because they were so few. When were the good and the brave ever in a majority? Would you have had him wait till that time came? — till you and I came over to him? The very fact that he had no rabble or troop of hirelings about him, would alone distinguish him from ordinary heroes. His company was small indeed, because few could be found worthy to pass muster. Each one who there laid down his life for the poor and oppressed was a picked man, culled out of many thousands, if not millions; apparently a man of principle, of rare courage and devoted humanity; ready to sacrifice his life at any moment for the benefit of his fellow-man. It may be doubted if there were as many more their equals in these respects in all the country-I speak of his followers only for their leader, no doubt, scoured the land far and wide, seeking to swell his troop. These alone were ready to step between the oppressor and the oppressed. Surely they were the very best men you could select to be hung. That was the greatest compliment which this country could pay them. They were ripe for her gallows. She has tried a long time, she has hung a good many, but never found the right one before.

When I think of him, and his six sons, and his son-in-law, — not to enumerate the others, enlisted for this fight, proceeding coolly, reverently, humanely to work, for months, if not years, sleeping and waking upon it, summering and wintering the thought, without expecting any reward but a good conscience, while almost all America stood ranked on the other side, I say again, that it affects me as a sublime spectacle. If he had had any journal advocating "his cause," any organ, as the phrase is, monotonously and wearisomely playing the same old tune, and then passing round the hat, it would have been fatal to his efficiency. If he had acted in any way so as to be let alone by the government, he might have been suspected. It was the fact that the tyrant must give place to him, or he to the tyrant, that distinguished him from all the reformers of the day that I know.

It was his peculiar doctrine that a man has a perfect right to interfere by force with the slaveholder, in order to rescue the slave. I agree with him. They who are continually shocked by slavery have some right to be shocked by the violent death of the slaveholder, but no others. Such will be more shocked by his life than by his death. I shall not be forward to think him mistaken in his method who quickest succeeds to liberate the slave. I speak for the slave when I say, that I prefer the philanthropy of Captain Brown philanthropy which neither shoots me nor liberates me. At any rate, I do not think it is quite sane for one to spend his whole life in talking or writing about this matter, unless he is continuously inspired, and I have not done so. A man may have other affairs to attend to. I do not wish to kill nor to be killed, but I can foresee circumstances in which both these things would be by me unavoidable. We preserve the so-called peace of our community by deeds of petty violence every day. Look at the policeman's billy and handcuffs! Look at the jail! Look at the gallows! Look at the chaplain of the regiment! We are hoping only to live safely on the outskirts of this provisional army. So we defend ourselves and our hen-roosts, and maintain slavery. I know that the mass of my countrymen think that the only righteous use that can be made of Sharpe's rifles and revolvers is to fight duels with them, when we are insulted by other nations, or to hunt Indians, or shoot fugitive slaves with them, or the like. I think that for once the Sharpe's rifles and the revolvers were employed in a righteous cause. The tools were in the hands of one who could use them.

The same indignation that is said to have cleared the temple once will clear it again. The question is not about the weapon, but the spirit in which you use it. No man has appeared in America, as yet, who loved his fellow-man so well, and treated him so tenderly. He lived for him. He took up his life and he laid it down for him. What sort of violence is that which is encouraged, not by soldiers but by peaceable citizens, not so much by laymen as by ministers of the gospel, not so much by the fighting sects as by the Quakers, and not so much by Quaker men as by Quaker women?

This event advertises me that there is such a fact as death the possibility of a man's dying. It seems as if no man had ever died in America before, for in order to die you must first have lived. I don't believe in the hearses, and palls, and funerals that they have had. There was no death in the case, because there had been no life; they merely rotted or sloughed off, pretty much as they had rotted or sloughed along. No temple's vail was rent, only a hole dug somewhere. Let the dead bury their dead. The best of them fairly ran down like a clock. Franklin — Washington — they were let off without dying; they were merely missing one day. I hear a good many pretend that they are going to die; or that they have died, for aught that I know. Nonsense! I'll defy them to do it. They haven't got life enough in them. They'll deliquesce like fungi, and keep a hundred eulogists mopping the spot where they left off. Only half a dozen or so have died since the world began. Do you think that you are going to die, sir? No! there's no hope of you. You haven't got your lesson yet. You've got to stay after school. We make a needless ado about capital punishment — taking lives, when there is no life to take. Memento mori! We don't understand that sublime sentence which some worthy got sculptured on his gravestone once. We've interpreted it in a grovelling and snivelling sense; we've wholly forgotten how to die.

But be sure you do die, nevertheless. Do your work, and finish it. If you know how to begin, you will know when to end.

These men, in teaching us how to die, have at the same time taught us how to live. If this man's acts and words do not create a revival, it will be the severest possible satire on the acts and words that do. It is the best news that America has ever heard. It has already quickened the feeble pulse of the North, and infused more and more generous blood into her veins and heart, than any number of years of what is called commercial and political prosperity could. How many a man who was lately contemplating suicide has now something to live for!

One writer says that Brown's peculiar monomania made him to be "dreaded by the Missourians as a supernatural being." Sure enough, a hero in the midst of us cowards is always so dreaded. He is just that thing. He shows himself superior to nature. He has a spark of divinity in him.

"Unless above himself he doth erect himself,

How poor a thing is man!"

Newspaper editors argue also that it is a proof of his insanity that he thought he was appointed to do this work which he did that he did not suspect himself for a moment! They talk as if it were impossible that a man could be "divinely appointed" in these days to do any work whatever; as if vows and religion were out of date as connected with any man's daily work, as if the agent to abolish Slavery could only be somebody appointed by the President, or by some political party. They talk as if a man's death were a failure, and his continued life, be it of whatever character, were a success.

When I reflect to what a cause this man devoted himself, and how religiously, and then reflect to what cause his judges and all who condemn him so angrily and fluently devote themselves, I see that they are as far apart as the heavens and earth are asunder.

The amount of it is, our "leading men" are a harmless kind of folk, and they know well enough that they were not divinely appointed, but elected by the votes of their party.

Who is it whose safety requires that Captain Brown be hung? Is it indispensable to any Northern man? Is there no resource but to cast these men also to the Minotaur? If you do not wish it, say so distinctly. While these things are being done, beauty stands veiled and music is a screeching lie. Think of him — of his rare qualities! such a man as it takes ages to make, and ages to understand; no mock hero, nor the representative of any party. A man such as the sun may not rise upon again in this benighted land. To whose making went the costliest material, the finest adamant; sent to be the redeemer of those in captivity; and the only use to which you can put him is to hang him at the end of a rope! You who pretend to care for Christ crucified, consider what you are about to do to him who offered himself to be the saviour of four millions of men.

Any man knows when he is justified, and all the wits in the world cannot enlighten him on that point. The murderer always knows that he is justly punished; but when a government takes the life of a man without the consent of his conscience, it is an audacious government, and is taking a step towards its own dissolution. Is it not possible that an individual may be right and a government wrong? Are laws to be enforced simply because they were made? or declared by any number of men to be good, if they are not good? Is there any necessity for a man's being a tool to perform a deed of which his better nature disapproves? Is it the intention of law-makers that good men shall be hung ever? Are judges to interpret the law according to the letter, and not the spirit? What right have you to enter into a compact with yourself that you will do thus or so, against the light within you? Is it for you to make up your mind to form any resolution whatever — and not accept the convictions that are forced upon you, and which ever pass your understanding? I do not believe in lawyers, in that mode of attacking or defending a man, because you descend to meet the judge on his own ground, and, in cases of the highest importance, it is of no consequence whether a man breaks a human law or not. Let lawyers decide trivial cases. Business men may arrange that among themselves. If they were the interpreters of the everlasting laws which rightfully bind man, that would be another thing. A counterfeiting law-factory, standing half in a slave land and half in a free! What kind of laws for free men can you expect from that?

I am here to plead his cause with you. I plead not for his life, but for his character- his immortal life; and so it becomes your cause wholly, and is not his in the least. Some eighteen hundred years ago Christ was crucified; this morning, perchance, Captain Brown was hung. These are the two ends of a chain which is not without its links.

He is not Old Brown any longer; he is an angel of light.

I see now that it was necessary that the bravest and humanest man in all the country should be hung. Perhaps he saw it himself. I almost fear that I may yet hear of his deliverance, doubting if a prolonged life, if any life, can do as much good as his death.

"Misguided"! "Garrulous"! "Insane"! Vindictive"! So ye write in your easy chairs, and thus he wounded responds from the floor of the Armory, clear as a cloudless sky, true as the voice of nature is: "No man sent me here; it was my own prompting and that of my Maker. I acknowledge no master in human form."

And in what a sweet and noble strain he proceeds, addressing his captors, who stand over him: "I think, my friends, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity, and it would be perfectly right for any one to interfere with you so far as to free those you wilfully and wickedly hold in bondage."

And referring to his movement: "It is, in my opinion, the greatest service a man can render to God."

"I pity the poor in bondage that have none to help them; that is why I am here; not to gratify any personal animosity, revenge, or vindictive spirit. It is my sympathy with the oppressed and the wronged, that are as good as you, and as precious in the sight of God."

You don't know your testament when you see it.

"I want you to understand that I respect the rights of the poorest and weakest of colored people, oppressed by the slave power, just as much as I do those of the most wealthy and powerful."

"I wish to say, furthermore, that you had better, all you people at the South, prepare yourselves for a settlement of that question, that must come up for settlement sooner than you are prepared for it. The sooner you are prepared the better. You may dispose of me very easily. I am nearly disposed of now; but this question is still to be settled—this negro question, I mean; the end of that is not yet."

I foresee the time when the painter will paint that scene, no longer going to Rome for a subject; the poet will sing it; the historian record it; and, with the Landing of the Pilgrims and the Declaration of Independence, it will be the ornament of some future national gallery, when at least the present form of Slavery shall be no more here. We shall then be at liberty to weep for Captain Brown. Then, and not till then, we will take our revenge.


*A Plea for Captain John Brown; read to the citizens of Concord, Mass., Sunday evening, October 30, 1859; also as the Fifth Lecture of the Fraternity Course, in Boston, November 1.

SOURCE: James Redpath, Editor, Echoes of Harper’s Ferry, p. 17-42