Sunday, April 29, 2018

Colonel John Thomas Gibson to Governor Henry A. Wise, October 18, 1859

HARPER’S FERRY, Oct. 18, 1859.
HENRY A. WISE, Governor of Virginia:

SIR — Your order, per telegraph, dated Richmond, Va., the 17th instant, calling my attention to section 1st, chapter 29th, of the Code, and to the fact that the Arsenal and government property at Harper’s Ferry were in possession of a band of rioters, was not received till about 11 o'clock A.M. to-day, in consequence of the telegraphic posts round about here having been cut down by an audacious band of insurgents and robbers.

On the morning of the 17th inst., I received information at Charlestown that a band of abolitionists from the North had taken possession of the Arsenal and workshops of the government located here; that they had killed several of our citizens, taken others and held them as prisoners, and that they had in possession a large number of slaves, who, on the night of the 16th inst., were forcibly taken from their masters.

I immediately ordered out the “Jefferson Guard” and the citizens of Charlestown, which order was quickly responded to, and by ten o’clock A.M. they were armed and en route for this place. We left Charlestown with about one hundred men, and on reaching Halltown (midway between Charlestown and Harper’s Ferry), we learned that the insurgents were in large numbers, and we at once dispatched orders to Co1. L. F. Moore, of Frederick County, and to the “Hamtramck Guards” and “Shepherdstown Troop” to reinforce immediately  We reached Harper’s Ferry about half-past eleven o’clock, A.M., and took our position on Camp Hill. We immediately dispatched the “Jefferson Guards,” commanded by Capt. J. W. Rowan and Lieutenants H. B. Davenport, E. H. Campbell and W. B. Gallaher, to cross the Potomac River about a mile west of the Ferry, and march down on the Maryland side and take possession of the Potomac bridge; and a company of the citizens of Charlestown and vicinity, commanded by Capt. L. Botts and Lieut. F. Lackland, to cross the Winchester and Potomac railroad by way of Jefferson’s Rock, to take possession of the Galt House, in the rear of the Arsenal, and commanding the entrance to the Armory yard. Capt. John Avis and R. B. Washington, Esq., with a handful of men, were ordered to take possession of the houses commanding the yard of the Arsenal. All these orders were promptly and successfully executed.

The bridge across the Shenandoah River and that of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, at the west end of the trestle work, and the street leading from the rifle factory, were guarded by small detachments of men.

Between three and four o’clock P.M., the Hamtramck Guards, Shepherstown Troop, and a company from Martinsburg, commanded by Capt. E. Alburtis, arrived on the ground. The company from Winchester, commanded by Capt. R. B. Washington, did not arrive till late in the evening.

All the insurgents, save those who were killed and wounded through the day, retired with their prisoners into the guard-house and engine-room, just inside of the gate of the armory yard, which was firmly locked. About three o’clock P.M., the enemy, with the most prominent of their prisoners, concentrated in the engine-room, leaving a large number of their prisoners fastened up in the guard-house. At this point, and after the arrival of the reinforcements from Shepherdstown and Martinsburg, Col. R. W. Baylor assumed the command, and will furnish you with the details of what followed.

The avowed and confessed object of the insurgents was to free the slaves of the South. They had at their head-quarters, near Harper’s Ferry, 200 Sharpe’s rifles, 200 revolvers, 1,000 pikes, a large number of picks and shovels, and a great quantity of ammunition and other things used in war. All these were taken and are in possession of the federal government.

JNO. THOS. GIBSON,         
Com’dt 55th Regiment.

SOURCE: Robert M. De Witt, Publisher, The Life, Trial, and Execution of Captain John Brown, p. 40-1

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