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Title: John Brown the Hero - Personal Reminiscences
Author: Winkley, J. W.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: BUST OF JOHN BROWN.

(_See Note._)]


  Personal Reminiscences

  J. W. WINKLEY, M.D.,

  Editor of _Practical Ideals_ and Author of "First
  Lessons in the New Thought."





  By James H. West Company



The sub-title, "Personal Reminiscences," is rightly appended to this
volume. The old saying, "Much of which I saw, and part of which I
was," the author can truthfully apply to himself in connection with
the interesting and stirring occurrences here recorded. He relates the
events because they were, in large measure, personal experiences. And
the narrative is made up, for the most part, of historical matter which
has not been presented heretofore by any writer. In other words, it is
history at first hand.

Another and more particular reason for the preparation of this little
volume is because it is believed by the writer that these narrations
will serve to throw some especially valuable side-lights upon the
subject of them. John Brown was one of the most unique characters in
all our American history, and an original factor in an important part
of that history.

The volume will surely be welcome to all admirers of Brown, and it
should be of considerable interest to the general public.

It hardly needs mentioning here that the standard work on John Brown,
giving very fully his life and letters, is that of the Hon. Frank B.
Sanborn, who kindly contributes the Introduction to the present volume.

  BOSTON, January, 1905.




  INTRODUCTION                           9

     I. A CALL FOR AID                  19

    II. THE PRAIRIE WONDER              24

   III. THE NIGHT MARCH                 29

    IV. A SIEGE AND ITS HEROINE         35

     V. THE MARCH RESUMED               43

    VI. SEEKING THE ENEMY               50

   VII. THE BATTLE                      55

  VIII. A SCENE FOR A PAINTER           59


     X. AN INTREPID CHARGE              68

    XI. BROWN TO OUR PRISONERS          76

   XII. HARD LINES                      82

  XIII. A GOVERNMENT MUSKET             88

   XIV. AN UNFAILING GUIDE              94

    XV. HAZARDOUS JOURNEYS             102


  XVII. CONCLUSION                     121


The frontispiece to this volume is a representation of a bust of
Captain Brown, conveying in so far a correct idea of the exterior man.

This excellent bust, the best representation of him extant, was made
from measurements taken by the sculptor in the Charlestown (Va.)
prison, while Brown was awaiting trial there. The photograph was
courteously furnished by the present owner of the bust, Mr. F. P.
Stearns, of Medford, Massachusetts, whose father, Mr. Henry Stearns, a
life-long friend of Brown, caused the bust to be made.

In other places in the volume are pictures of the log cabin of the
Adair family, one an exterior view of it, the other an interior, for
which we are indebted to Mr. F. B. Sanborn.

Under this modest roof Brown often sought and never failed to find
welcome resting-place and hospitality. Mrs. Adair was his half-sister;
her husband, a Methodist clergyman, ministered to the spiritual needs
of a scattered flock in the territory.

The writer, on the occasion of a visit a few years since to Kansas to
view the old familiar spots, found the cabin, almost the last of its
race, not much changed outside or within from what it was in the former
days. It is owned and occupied, as is the farm on which it stands, by a
son of the pioneer minister.




The interest attaching to this little book demands from me some notice
of its author, and of my indebtedness to him while preparing, twenty
years ago, a "Life and Letters of John Brown," which has since become
the basis of several biographies of that hero. Dr. J. W. Winkley, long
a citizen of Boston, was one of those who, in 1856, became a Free State
colonist of Kansas Territory, then the skirmish-ground of the long
conflict between free labor and Negro slavery. His residence there was
brief (1856 and 1857), as was that of many who went out in the years
1855-'58 to take part on one side or the other of the contest; but
he had the good fortune, as a youth, in the perceptive and receptive
period of life, to come under the influence of a hero; and this book
portrays the incidents of that interesting acquaintance. Nearly
thirty years later he communicated to me this story, and I succinctly
mentioned it in my book. But it required a fuller statement; especially
since it seems largely to have escaped the notice of the chroniclers
of that disturbed and confused period of 1856. The partisan movements
here described came in between two of Brown's famous fights,—that of
Black Jack, in early June, when he captured the Virginian captain,
Pate, and that in the end of August, when he repelled the formidable
attack of the Missourians upon the small settlement of Osawatomie. The
brothers Winkley and their comrades took up arms in the neighborhood
of Osawatomie, after the engagements of the first two weeks in August,
which culminated in the capture of several camps or "forts" of the
Southern invaders of eastern Kansas, August 14 and 16. Fort Saunders,
not far from Lawrence was taken by a Free State force under General
Lane, August 14. On the 16th, another Pro-slavery "fort," garrisoned
by a Colonel Titus, was captured, near Lecompton. The reason for
these attacks was thus given by John Brown, Jr., then a prisoner at
Lecompton, guarded by Captain Sackett with a force of United States
dragoons (August 16, 1856):

    "During the past month the Ruffians have been actively at work, and
    have made not less than five intrenched camps, where they have,
    in different parts of the Territory, established themselves in
    armed bands, well provided with arms, provisions, and ammunition.
    From these camps they sally out, steal horses, and rob Free State
    settlers (in several cases murdering them), and then slip back into
    their camp with their plunder. Last week, a body of our men made
    a descent upon Franklin (four miles south of Lawrence) and, after
    a skirmishing fight of about three hours, took their barracks and
    recovered some sixty guns and a cannon, of which our men had been
    robbed some months since, on the road from Westport. Yesterday
    our men invested another of their fortified camps, at Washington
    Creek.... Towards evening the enemy broke and fled, leaving behind,
    to fall into the hands of our men, a lot of provisions and 100
    stand of arms.... This morning our men followed Colonel Titus
    closely, and fell upon his camp (near Lecompton), killed two of his
    men, liberated his prisoners, took him and ten other prisoners, and
    with a lot of arms, tents, provisions, etc., returned, having in
    the fight had only one of our men seriously wounded.... This series
    of victories has caused the greatest fear among the Pro-slavery
    men. Great numbers are leaving for Missouri.... I see by the
    Missouri papers that they regard John Brown as the most terrible
    foe they have to encounter. He stands very high with the Free State
    men who will fight, and the great majority of these have made up
    their minds that nothing short of war to the death can save us from

Immediately following the date of this letter of young John Brown
came the adventures which Dr. Winkley so well describes. They may
have had no other chronicler; and it is well that the testimony of
an eye-witness should at last be given, ending with the striking
incident, just following the Osawatomie fight of August 30, when
young Winkley, in the log-cabin of the missionary Adair, husband of
Brown's half-sister, saw John Brown sternly mourning over the body of
his son Frederick, killed on the morning of the fight, on the high
prairie above Osawatomie. I visited Mr. Adair in this cabin, in 1882,
and talked with him on the events of that year of contention, and
the pictures here printed of his prairie home are true to the fact
as I then saw it. Two weeks after the burial of Frederick Brown, as
mentioned by Dr. Winkley (September 14, 1856), Charles Robinson, who
had commissioned John Brown as captain nine months earlier, wrote to
him by that title from Lawrence, and said in his letter:

    "Your course has been such as to merit the highest praise from
    every patriot, and I cheerfully accord to you my heartfelt thanks
    for your prompt, efficient, and timely action against the invaders
    of our rights and the murderers of our citizens. History will give
    your name a proud place on her pages, and posterity will pay homage
    to your heroism in the cause of God and humanity."

Robinson was at this time the nominal leader of the Free State
settlers, being their duly chosen State Governor under the Topeka
Constitution; and he became the first actual Free State Governor in
1861, when Kansas was admitted to the Union under another Constitution.
Many years later, at the dedication of a monument commemorating the
Osawatomie fight (August 30, 1877), Charles Robinson said, among other

    "The soul of John Brown was the inspiration of the Union armies in
    the emancipation war; and it will be the inspiration of all men in
    the present and the distant future who may revolt against tyranny
    and oppression; because he dared to be a traitor to the government
    that he might be loyal to humanity."

Dr. Winkley agrees in this statement of Robinson; and his portrayal of
the man as he was in the midst of surprises and responsibilities, but
ever the same intrepid and resourceful leader, will add a new picture
to those we already had of John Brown in action. Active or in chains,
in the battlefield or in his Virginia prison, he always commanded
attention, and received the applause of those who knew him.

The verdict of the world has confirmed this praise; and of all the
men connected with the dark and bloody story of Kansas, from 1854
till the close of the Civil War, Brown's name is the most widely
known. Blame has been mingled with praise; but the involuntary tribute
paid, by the natural human heart, to invincible courage and unwearied
self-sacrifice will insure the prevalence of praise over blame. Those
who cannot approve all his acts, as Dr. Winkley cannot, are yet
convinced generally of the high purpose and grand result of his arduous
life. Richard Mendenhall, a Kansas Quaker, who knew him well but "could
not sanction his mode of procedure," yet said, after Brown's death in

    "Men are not always to be judged so much by their actions as by
    their motives. I believe John Brown was a good man, and that he
    will be remembered for good in time long hence to come."

Quite recently an English author, William Stevens, writing a history
of slavery and emancipation, has occasion to name John Brown, and the
warmth of his eulogy does not satisfy the cool judgment of that most
reflective journal, the London _Spectator_, which says:

    "Mr. Stevens asks if Brown did not see the forces moving towards
    abolition more clearly than did his friends who protested against
    the daring of his schemes: yet he emphasizes too much, surely, the
    forlorn recklessness of the man's methods. But a more fearless,
    resolute, and cooler-headed man never lived. His family life, the
    devotion of his own flesh and blood to him, and his tenderness were
    indications of a character intensely human, but also of a man who
    had counted the cost and knew that the individual must yield to the
    race. He lit, not a candle, but a powder-magazine; and his last
    words prove that he foresaw, as plainly as man ever saw sunrise
    follow dawn, that blood, and blood alone, would loosen the shackles
    of the slave."

Events, in fact, followed the track which Brown pointed out, and with
a swiftness that startled even such as accepted his clear insight of
the national situation. There was something prophetic in his perception
of the future; he could not see well what was _directly_ before him,
but of the consequences of his action, and of that of other men, he
had the most piercing and sagacious view. Such men appear on earth but
rarely; when they come, it is as martyrs and seers. Fatal are their
perceptions, and to themselves as well as to the order of things they
subvert. But it is more fatal to disregard the warning they give. Their
remedy for existing ills, sharp as it must be, is for the healing of
the nations and for the relief of man's estate.

                                                      F. B. SANBORN.

  CONCORD, January, 1905.




Personal Reminiscences


A Call for Aid


It was of an August morning in that eventful year of Kansas history,
1856, in the gray of the earliest dawn, that a horseman came riding at
full speed up the creek, the south branch of the Pottawatomie, from the
direction of the lower settlements, and halted before our cabin door.

The animal he rode was all afoam, and gave other signs of having been
urged hard and over a long distance. As the rider dismounted, his
nervous and excited manner told us he was the bearer of ill tidings or
that he was on some errand of unusual importance.

"What news below?" was asked the stranger.

"Bad news," he replied quickly. "The Ruffians are over the border upon
us again, in strong force; and they are bent on 'cleaning us out' this
time. If they keep on they won't leave a cornstalk standing to show
where our crops grew."

There is every reason to conclude that our informant was no other than
James Montgomery, then all unknown to fame, but who was later to
distinguish himself as a leader in the Kansas struggle for freedom.

As the writer remembers him as he appeared that morning, he gave
evidence of being a man of intelligence and character. He was
tall,—some six feet in height,—rather slender in build, and of dark
complexion. This answers the description given of Montgomery by those
who knew him well.

Montgomery afterward gained well-earned distinction by leading Free
State settlers, banded together for self-defense, to fire upon United
States troops, putting them to rout. He became, still later, a colonel
in the Northern army at the outbreak of the Civil War.

The trooper's story was soon told, as it needed to be, for there was
no time to be lost. He was a messenger from the Middle River region,
so-called, dispatched to us by his comrades in distress. He had
come twenty-five miles through the night and darkness, in an almost
incredibly short time, stopping by the way only to arouse the scattered
Free State men to arms.

He had been sent to ask help. The need was pressing. The invaders were
many, defiant, and reckless. They had encamped in the neighborhood,
were burning haystacks, foraging their horses in the cornfields,
hunting down Free State men, and sending terror to the hearts of women
and children. Detachments of marauders were sent out here and there on
these errands of mischief. They had even penetrated, not twelve hours
before, to within ten miles of the spot where we stood; had made
prisoner and borne away a pronounced Free State man; and, in addition
to that, had besieged other Northerners in their log cabins and
destroyed their property by pillage or fire,—as we shall see further
on in our story.



The Prairie Wonder


By this recital of the messenger our sympathies were sufficiently
enlisted; but if anything additional were needed, further to gain our
attention, it was given then and there.

As the speaker drew his narration to a close, all present instinctively
turned their eyes in the direction whence he had come: namely, toward
the south-east. There a sight met our gaze that riveted us to the
spot—a spectacle as marvelous as it was beautiful, and singularly
confirmatory of our informer's words. To our utter astonishment we
looked directly, at that moment, into the enemy's camp twenty miles
away, though seemingly less than a quarter of that distance. It was
one of those peculiar phenomena, rarely seen on the water and less
frequently on the land, and more wonderful in the latter case when it
does thus appear, because more perfect and on a grander scale: the

The prairie mirage is of wondrous beauty. It is usually in the autumn,
when all the atmospheric conditions are favorable, that these strange
illusions take place on the prairie ocean. Along the eastern horizon,
near sunrise, a narrow belt of silver light appears. As it grows
broader the silvery gray of its lower side changes slightly golden.
Fleecy clouds above the belt take on a yellow red. The grayish shadows
of the dawn lift slowly from the earth. Just before the red disk of
the sun peers above the horizon-line, one sees in the sky the landscape
of trees, of waving grasses or grain, of rocks and hills, held together
as it were by threads of yellow and gray and azure. The earth stands
inverted in the air.

The groundwork of this illusion is a grayish, semi-opaque mist; and the
objects are seen standing or moving along in it. The feet of animals
and of men, the trunks of trees, the rocks and hillocks, are set in
this aqueous soil. When the conditions are perfect, objects far beyond
the range of vision over the prairie are brought near and into plain
view of the beholder.

That morning was such a time and afforded such a scene. There was the
camp of the enemy,—miles away, as has been said,—mirrored perfectly
and beautifully on the sky, every feature of it traced with the
minuteness of a line-engraving. By the aid of our military field-glass
we could see the early risers moving through the camp-ground; the
horses, standing patiently outside awaiting their morning meal; the
positions of the pickets keeping guard; the tent-doors flapping in
the slight breeze or swaying back and forth as the men made egress or
entrance. Here and there were knots of soldiers,—of two or three or
four men each,—apparently discussing the situation or lighting the
early camp-fires for breakfast. Even the curling smoke of the newly
kindled flame, as it ascended upward, curiously traced itself visibly
to the eye.

But, what was of yet more interest and practical moment to us, we
beheld the stacks of arms, the rifles and shot-guns, of our foe,
reflecting their burnished steel, and the army-wagons for bearing
their luggage and provisions, stretched along the exposed sides of
their position to serve as barricades for defense in case of attack.
Moreover, there were the evidences on every side of wanton and cruel
destruction,—whole cornfields stripped or trodden into the dust, and
the blackened sites or yet smoking remains of burned houses, corn-bins,
and wheat-stacks, the property of the Northern settlers.

Here we had, right before our eyes, direct demonstration of the truth
that had just been told us. Deeply impressive was it indeed, and well
calculated to fire us and to spur us to the rescue.

Surely that effect it had.



The Night March


It would perhaps suffice here, so far as the main point in our story is
concerned, simply to say: We went to their relief. But I am tempted to
give a brief account of that march, and of the incidents by the way, as
affording the reader some idea of the difficulties and vicissitudes of
that Western-border, Kansas warfare.

In the settlement of the South Pottawatomie river there were thirty-six
men and boys, all told, capable of bearing arms. They had been
organized into a company, and were officered and drilled ready for
emergencies. But, inasmuch as they were scattered up and down the
creek over a distance of some miles, to inform all, and for each to
make ready, and for all to get together occupied the swift hours of
nearly the entire day.

Ammunition was to be collected; provisions were to be packed for the
journey; horses were to be gathered up from the prairie and bridled and
saddled. And, withal, preparations were to be made for home defense and
for the care of the women and children to be left behind. These, though
few, were all the more precious. The males who were sick or wounded,
lame or otherwise disabled, constituted the "Home Guard."

Finally, the leave-taking of wives and little ones, though hastily
made, also consumed time, so that the sun's rim already dipped the
western horizon before we were well under way.

The march thus taken up was one into a night of terror of which we
little dreamed when we set out.

We had not gone far before darkness settled down upon us. The sky,
cloudless through the day, became overcast, and one could hardly see
his hand before him. Only with great difficulty could we keep our
direction and follow the trail over the prairie.

But the possibility of losing our way was the least of our troubles.
In marching at all that dark night we ran fearful risks. Of that fact
we were perhaps only too unduly conscious. Fortunately, however, the
perils we feared we did not encounter. Some of them we escaped by
the merest and luckiest chance. And some of the dangers were wholly
imaginary, though they were none the less harassing on that account.
To our excited minds, a foe lurked behind every bush; in every thicket
and cluster of underbrush was the enemy in ambush.

Our apprehensions were augmented by the rumor which twice met us
that the "Border Ruffians" had commenced their march up the creek at
nightfall, as we began ours down. The terribly anxious, distracted
state of mind we were in it is difficult to portray to the reader. It
was mainly owing to the doubt and uncertainty as to everything.

This is the case, naturally, in all such warfare. It is otherwise where
there are regularly organized military operations. In the latter case,
by a proper system of spies and scouts, the general is of course kept
informed of the whereabouts of the enemy, of their numbers, and of
their movements.

With us it was wholly different. The air was full of rumors,—all
perhaps unreliable; yet it was not safe to let them go unheeded. If we
gave no heed to the reports we might find ourselves attacked wholly

We were not cowards, I will venture to assert, and as the sequel will
abundantly show; but such uncertainty and suspense were terribly trying
to the nerves, especially on such a night, and in such darkness;—ten
times more so than real battle would have been. With open daylight and
a fair field we would not have hesitated a moment to fight double our
own number. But the thought of being mowed down in the darkness by an
ambushed foe, without the chance of striking back in defense, was truly
a harrowing situation.

On the way we had several lesser or larger streams to ford; and, in
that prairie country, all such were densely wooded. At any of these
points, a dozen men well posted would have been equal to six times
their number, and could have cut us off almost to a man.

Every unusual noise grated upon our senses. Twice we halted and
prepared to repel an attack. But the alarms were needless: one was
occasioned by a drove of cattle crossing the prairie, the other by a
herd of wild deer startled from their lair.

Twice we took a vote whether we should continue our march, or intrench
in a good position and await patiently the enemy or the daylight. Once
the ballot was a tie, and only by the casting vote of our commander,
Captain Anderson, was it decided to proceed.



A Siege and its Heroine


The population of the region, friends and foes, were now up in alarm.
Reports met us of the outrages of the Ruffians upon Free State settlers
the night previous.

Here is the story of one of the depredations, detailed to us at one of
our halts.

It was upon a stanch old German and his family, settled near the
junction of the North and South branches of the Pottawatomie. Old
Kepler, as he was nicknamed, had not taken any leading or even
active part in the "troubles" (as they were termed), but his strong
anti-slavery sentiments had cropped out and were known to the enemy.

They now made directly for his cabin, evidently resolved, as the
opportunity might offer, to force him to declare himself for one
side or the other. No man, in fact, in those days of the Kansas
conflict,—partisan, bitter, bloody,—could long occupy anything like
neutral ground. If one undertook to "sit on the fence," he soon became
a target for both parties and was relentlessly dislodged.

It was not the nature of the old German to dissemble, when the trial
came. On the approach of the Ruffians he prepared for the worst, as
he expected no favor. He barricaded his cabin door and refused their
demand for admittance. They burned his wheat and hay stacks, and all
his outbuildings, and then called upon the besieged to surrender.

It was believed, probably rightly, by the assailants, that the old man
was possessed of considerable money, brought with him from the old
country. This lent incitement to their attack; while, if true, the
fact was undoubtedly an additional motive on his part for keeping the
invaders at a distance.

Brave old Kepler was quite advanced in years. He was about three score
and ten, but all the old valorous Teutonic blood in his veins was
aroused, and he prepared to resist the spoilers even to the death, if
need be. His wife, partner of his New World adventures and toils, had
succumbed not long before to the frontier hardships and had passed on.
He had one son, a chip of the old block, brave, strong, and inured to
the rough Western life, equally interested with the father in carving
out their fortunes in this new country, and in the making of their
Western prairie home.

And there was an only daughter, alike the support and solace of both
father and brother;—the light, indeed, of the household and of the

I must interpolate a word here, in passing, descriptive of this
daughter,—the worthy heroine of the event, as we shall see. She was a
light-haired, blond-complexioned young girl, with all the proverbial
German fairness,—bright and handsome as a prairie flower. And she had
the German habit of taking a share in the work in the open field. Often
was she seen by the passers up and down the creek, "chopping in corn"
(as they call it in the West),—keeping even step in the row with her
robust brother; or now driving the cattle while he held the plough;
then changing work with him, guiding the share while he drove the oxen.

Her household duties, however, were not neglected meanwhile. Doubtless
the brother, in return, here gave her a helping hand. Nowhere else
on the road (as the writer can testify from personal experience) did
the weary and hungry traveler find such bread as when thrown upon the
Keplers' hospitality,—bread of this young girl's manufacture.

Besides all this,—and appropriately to be said in this
connection,—this fair maiden could handle a rifle on occasion,
as we shall presently see. Such ability was often a quite useful
accomplishment for the gentler sex on our wild Western border. It
proved eminently so in the case before us.

The yelling, hooting, and now drunken mob began at length to fire upon
the cabin at its vulnerable points. The heroic inmates returned the
shots through the holes between the logs in the loft, and not without
effect. One of the assailants was seriously wounded and several others
less so. The battle grew warm, the effusion of blood thus far serving
only to increase the wild fury of the besiegers.

The father and son stood with their guns at the openings, while the
young girl loaded the pieces for them as fast as they were emptied.
At length the baffled and maddened crowd changed their tactics. They
managed to pile wood, logs, and rubbish against the cabin, hoping
to fire the building. There was danger that the dastardly effort
would prove only too successful. The flames began to crackle. All now
seemed lost, when suddenly the brave daughter unbarred the cabin door
and sprang forth with a bucket of water in her hand to dash out the
newly kindled flames. This was done from the girl's own impulse at
the moment. Had they divined her intention, the father and brother
would not have allowed it. The feat, however, strange to say, was as
successful as it was heroic and perilous.

The surprised besiegers were not actually cowardly and base enough to
fire upon the unarmed, defenseless girl. However, one of them sprang
from his covert behind a tree to seize her. But the old backwoodsman
father, watching breathlessly the scene below from his post in the
loft,—his hand and eye steadied to perfect accuracy by the imminent
danger,—sent a rifle-bullet straight to the heart of the venturesome
wretch, and he fell forward dead at the maiden's feet.

The girl regained the door and, with the aid of her brother, who
hastened to her assistance, rebarred it securely. All was now again
safe for the time being,—and permanently, as it proved. The marauders,
overawed by this episode and by the generally unexpected course of
affairs,—one of their number being actually killed and several others
more or less severely wounded,—hastily fell back to a safe distance
and finally beat a retreat from the neighborhood.



The March Resumed


It did not require the narration of this stirring tale to nerve our
forward movement, but it certainly increased our determination to
proceed at all hazard.

Our next halt was made at the cabin, some miles further on, from which,
as mentioned in the first chapter, the young man whom we all knew and
counted as one of us had been borne off a prisoner. As soon as it was
made known, by the usual signs, that we were friends, we were joyfully
if tearfully greeted. The family, consisting of aged parents, sister,
brother's wife and little children, were in despair. Dreadful anxiety
filled their minds. It was an illustration of the saying that "to know
the worst is better than suspense." If in the great cause then firing
their hearts this family had seen that son and brother shot down before
their eyes, they would have borne the affliction silently and with
submission. But the terrible uncertainty as to his fate wrought upon
them. A price had previously been set upon the young man's head, and
they had reason to fear the worst for him.

It must be added, in passing, that his beloved ones never saw him
again alive. The good fortune fell to us to liberate him the next day
from his captors, when we found him bound upon his horse, with his
hands lashed behind him and his feet tied together under the animal;
but, alas! his liberation gave him only a short respite from death.
He fell, only a few days after, heroically fighting at the battle of

Some miles beyond we had to make that ford of the Pottawatomie river
of unenviable fame, and which we looked upon as the danger-point of
all others in our journey; for there our enemy, we thought, would most
likely be in ambush. But we swam the swift, dark, muddy stream, swelled
by recent rains to a flood, with the water up to our horses' backs,
luckily without hindrance or serious mishap.

That ford was the notorious Dutch Henry's crossing, so-called,—surely
a gloomy, gruesome, and dreaded spot at that dark midnight hour. There,
close by, had been enacted, just two months prior, the rightly named
Pottawatomie tragedy, which made that locality, on account of this
bloody event, verily for the time the "storm center" of the Kansas
conflict. But, terrible as it was, it served a great purpose and was
speedily followed by good.

The hero of our sketch was the central figure in this tragic act of the
Kansas drama, as he was in most others at this trying period. Brown was
the cyclonic force, the lightning's flash in the darkness, that cleared
and lighted the way for the men of that day.

Despite all delays on the way, we made our forced night-march of
twenty-two or more miles in remarkably good time, and arrived at our
destination about two o'clock in the morning, as weary, exhausted, and
hungry a set of troopers as ever drew rein and slipped stirrup to seek
rest and refreshment.

[Illustration: THE ADAIR LOG CABIN.]

It will be of interest to our readers to learn here that, a couple of
miles from the town,—our halting place,—we passed the log cabin of
the Adair family, which has such historic interest gathered about it,
and which we shall have occasion to mention again later.

It so happened, as we learned afterward, that the hero of our story
lodged under that roof that night. He was aroused from his slumbers and
watched us from the window as we marched past,—having been reliably
assured, by our advanced guard, that we were no threatening foe, but
his firmest and safest friends.

A photographic view of the cabin's exterior is given on the opposite
page, as it appears to-day; and nearly the same as it existed at that
early date, now almost fifty years ago.

The town referred to was Osawatomie, soon to be made famous by the man
who is the principal subject of these sketches.

We were challenged by friendly pickets on guard, who escorted us to the
old "block-house" reared for town defense, where we were glad to find
shelter, and especially to find food, for hungry we were indeed.

To what a sumptuous feast were we welcomed on that occasion! And yet,
strange to relate, the recollection of it is not calculated to make
one's mouth water. It so happened that a side of bacon and a barrel of
hardtack were stored there, for just such emergencies as the present
one, and these were now pressed into our service.

Their edible condition was such as naturally to suggest certain
Scripture phrases as descriptive thereof;—of the bacon, "ancient of
days"; and of the biscuit, "fullness of life." As we crunched the
latter between our teeth, the peculiar, fresh, sweet-and-bitter taste,
commingling at every mouthful, told us too well of the "life" ensconced
therein. No comments were made, however, except the ejaculation
occasionally, by one and another, "Wormy!" " Wormy!"

However, nothing daunted, we paused not in our eating till our ravenous
hunger was appeased. And then, on the bare floor of boards, rived
roughly out of forest trees,—though it was a little difficult to fit
our forms to their ridges and hollows,—we gained a few hours of as
sweet and refreshing slumber as ever visited mortal eyes.



Seeking the Enemy


It will be asked, perhaps, why we came to this particular place. In
this little town were encamped, at this particular time, Captain John
Brown and his daring and trusty band of men.

"Old Brown," as he was most often called, was a tower of strength in
time of need. He had become by that time a veritable terror to the
enemy. Tell a Border Ruffian: "John Brown is coming," and he would
shake in his shoes, or would run away had he strength enough left for
locomotion. Missouri mothers frightened their babies to sleep or to
quietude by the sound of his name.

If our information were correct, the foe we sought largely outnumbered
us. What more natural than that we should, under the circumstances,
desire the counsel of the stanch old man, and his help, if needed.

He had not looked for an invasion from the direction at present
threatened, but was daily expecting one from another quarter.
He detailed two small companies, Captain Shore's and Captain
Cline's,—two-thirds of his own command,—to join our force; then bade
us seek the enemy, with the direction, if we found them too strong for
us, to send back word to him, whereupon he would come to our aid.
Meanwhile, he said, he would stay with the remainder of his men and
guard the town.

We set out in the morning, early and hopefully. Scouts with fleet
horses were dispatched in advance, and we rapidly followed after.
Rumors of all wild and exaggerated sorts met us as we went. First,
it was said, there were three hundred of the enemy, well armed and
mounted; then there were five hundred men, strongly intrenched to
receive our attack; later, there were a thousand, coming to meet us.

At last we began to be a little apprehensive, possibly a grain
frightened. In the uncertainty, a messenger was sent back to Captain
Brown to say that probably we should need his help.

But we resolutely pushed on, if with somewhat slackened speed.
Presently a scout returned bearing reliable tidings. The position
and strength of the invaders had been quite accurately ascertained.
They were about three hundred in number, quietly encamped, and as yet
unaware of our approach.

Our officers decided not to wait for Captain Brown to come up, but
to press forward to the attack and by celerity of movement gain what
advantage was possible.

One point was, nevertheless, taken into consideration. We were but
about sixty in number, all told. We were prepared and determined to do
some hard fighting if necessary; but, it was argued, if we could take
the enemy by surprise, victory would be more fully assured us, and much
needless spilling of blood might be avoided.

We therefore proceeded cautiously till we arrived within two miles of
the hostile force, where our advanced scouts had taken up position and
were actually looking down with spy-glasses into the enemy's camp and
watching their every movement. The foe seemed wholly unconscious of any
impending danger.



The Battle


In less time than it takes to relate it, the plan of battle was

Our men were divided into three companies. Two divisions were to make
flank movements, one on the right and the other on the left of the foe,
while the third was to assault directly in front. The plan of attack
was well conceived and as successfully executed.

We had a circuit of some miles to make to gain the flank positions. It
was quickly and silently traveled. In our division, detailed on the
left flank, hardly a word was spoken during a two hours' march. Each
man was busy with his own thoughts. It is said that persons in critical
situations will sometimes have their whole lives pass before them. I
believe that most of us, during this march, recalled nearly all we had
ever done or seen, known or felt.

We were suddenly awakened, at length, from such reveries, by the crack
of rifles and the clash of musketry, and by bullets actually whizzing
about our ears. So closely had we stolen the march on them that when
we opened fire we were actually more in danger from the guns of our
friends than from those of our foes.

The enemy were taken completely by surprise. As prisoners whom we took
told us afterward, they thought that "Old Brown" was surely upon them;
and their next and only thought was of escape. They left all, and ran
for dear life, some on foot, shoeless and hatless; others springing to
their horses, and, even without bridle or saddle, desperately making
the trial of flight. Perfectly bewildered, they ran this way and that;
and naturally, as our forces were positioned, many ran directly into
our hands.

The one thing they did not do well was to fight, except in the case of
a few desperate ones and of the leaders, who called in vain upon their
men to rally. Then they gave up all for lost, and each looked out for
himself. Many discharged their pieces at the first onslaught, but so
much at random that not a man of our number was fatally injured, though
several were more or less severely wounded. We took many prisoners, and
captured some thirty horses, all the enemy's wagons and luggage, and
much ammunition and arms. The victory was complete.

Not until all was over did Captain Brown and his reserve come up,
though they had ridden hard to lend us a helping hand. He warmly
congratulated us, however, upon our good success, saying that he could
not have done it better himself, and that he was just as glad and proud
of our victory as though he had won it.



A Scene for a Painter


There were incidents not a few, connected with the day and with the
central figure of our sketch, which would add interest to our pages.
One there was which especially impressed itself upon all witnesses of

This relates to one of the enemy who was fatally wounded in the battle.
He desired very much, he said, to see "Old Brown" before he died.

Captain Brown was informed of the wish, whereupon he rode up to the
wagon which served as ambulance, and, with somewhat of sternness in
his manner, said to the prisoner, "You wish to see me. Here I am.
Take a good look at me, and tell your friends, when you get back to
Missouri, what sort of man I am."

Then he added in a gentler tone, "We wish no harm to you or to your
companions. Stay at home, let us alone, and we shall be friends. I wish
you well."

The prisoner meanwhile had raised himself with great difficulty, and
viewed the old man from head to foot as if feasting his eyes on a great
curiosity. Then he sank back, pale and exhausted, as he answered, "I
don't see as you are so bad. You don't talk like it."

The countenance of Brown as he viewed the sufferer had changed to a
look of commiseration. The wounded man saw it, and, reaching out his
hand, said, "I thank you." Brown tenderly clasped it, and replied, "God
bless you," while he turned with tears in his eyes and rode away.

The present writer was standing within a few feet of Brown at the time,
and naturally drank in the scene with a boy's eager curiosity and
susceptibility to impression.

It was a scene for a painter, and the artist could with appropriateness
have called his work, "The Conqueror Conquered."

But it was perfectly illustrative of the man and of the hero. Brown was
as brave as a lion. He seemed absolutely not to know fear. Yet withal
he possessed a heart tender as a child's or as the tenderest woman's.



Brown's Night Appointment


We gathered together the spoils and took up our march on the backward
track toward home, discussing the exciting events of the day and
recounting to each other our individual experiences, adventures, and
"hairbreadth escapes." When we had thus proceeded some three miles,
it was nearing sundown, and we halted for supper and to determine our
course for the night.

Meanwhile we had learned an important fact from our prisoners, namely:
that we had not met all of our enemies. A part of them, quite a large
force, had gone north that morning, and might be at that very moment
ravaging our own homes which we had left behind the evening before.
Naturally, these unwelcome tidings cast a cloud across our rejoicings.
They might after all be turned to mourning!

Having nearly finished our meal, and while we were yet speculating
on the situation, Captain Brown hastily rose to his feet and called
upon all those, who were ready to go with him, to mount their horses.
Forty or more men instantly sprang into their saddles, and others were
about to do the same, when the old man cried, "Enough—and too many."
He thanked them for their readiness, and then selected thirty of the
number, tried and trusted men who had followed him before, and without
asking why or whither. In the present instance also they ventured not
a question.

Brown seldom disclosed his intention or plans to any one. He wished
no man with him who was not absolutely reliable. He required the
implicit confidence of his followers and unquestioning obedience to his
commands. Whoever put himself under his leadership took his life in his
hand and followed whithersoever he was led.

On this occasion some not acquainted with his habits plied him with
queries as to where he was going and what he would do. He only
answered, characteristically, that he "had an appointment with some
Missourians and must not disappoint them." One ventured jocosely to ask
further, concerning the appointed place of meeting. He replied, they
had not been kind enough to fix upon the precise spot, but he felt
bound, out of courtesy, inasmuch as they came from a distance, to hold
himself in readiness when wanted. This left us, of course, wholly in
the dark as to his movements.

With some words of advice to those of us remaining,—that we would
better seek our homes, be prepared to defend them, and ready for any
action when needed,—he gave the command, "Ready! Forward!" and, with a
wave of his hand, led his Knights Errant away.

After they had departed it was decided that it would be advisible for
us to return to the camping-ground of the enemy and pitch our tents
there for the night; because, it was argued, when the detached force
gone north returned, they would naturally seek their friends in the
camp where they left them.

Accordingly, though weary near to exhaustion, we returned and camped
there, threw out our pickets, and made every preparation to give the
marauders a warm reception should they appear. We slept on our arms,
ready for any emergency, but the night passed and we were undisturbed.

The next morning dawned on us clear and beautiful. All our
apprehensions of danger had passed with the darkness. Our pickets were
withdrawn. The scouts, who had been sent out to gather news of the
scattered settlers, had come back with no tidings of the foe we had
awaited. Consequently, relieved of all military restraint, we gave
ourselves up for the time to the preparation and enjoyment of an early

The wagons were unpacked of their provisions. The horses were
picketed, or were turned loose for grazing. The prisoners, disarmed,
were allowed comparative freedom. Fires were lighted here and there
for cooking. And thus we were spread out over a large area, forgetful
of the enemy, without a thought of an attack, and bent only on making
ready to satisfy the cravings of hunger.



An Intrepid Charge


Then occurred the scene which gives us one of the glimpses of John
Brown for the sake of which these reminiscences have been written.

Suddenly, over the hill or rising ground some half or third of a mile
away, two horsemen came up at full speed.

"Look! look!" was whispered in suppressed voices from one to another of
our party, and all eyes were upturned in that direction.

Observing us, the horsemen as suddenly turned on their heels, and
disappeared the way they came, leaving us stupefied with doubt and

In a moment more, however, the heads of a whole troop rose in sight,
and the cry, "The Missourians! the Missourians!" rang through our camp
in startling accents.

We were in dismay, for we were entirely unprepared for attack and there
was no time to make ready. We were apparently caught just as our enemy
had been surprised by ourselves. Men sprang, some for their arms, some
for their horses. Whether to fight or to try to escape was uppermost
in their minds,—each could settle that question only for himself. At
any rate, every one felt that a daring and determined foe, apparently
numbering a hundred, which was double our own number, could, in the
condition in which we were, utterly cut us to pieces and destroy us at
a blow.

What grave emotions that thought aroused! It is difficult for one,
never thrown into any such situation, to realize or in any degree even
imagine the feelings that may surge through the bosom of men thus
placed. Accounts have been given of what panic-stricken crowds or
armies will sometimes do, but a description of what they _feel_ on such
occasions of disaster was never yet fully penned or painted by man.

Meanwhile, some of our number, who had been cool enough to observe the
fiercely advancing cavaliers, perceived that they were friends, not
foes. It was old Captain Brown himself and his trusty band. With joy,
this news rang through our ranks. All eyes were then directed toward
them, enchained and enchanted. It was a splendid sight.

They at first, naturally, took us for enemies, not dreaming but that we
were miles away, where they left us the evening before. They suspected
us to be the force, encamped there, which they had been riding all
night to overtake,—the same force we had awaited.

They came swiftly up over the brow of the hill, in full view, with
Brown at their head, and, without halting or even slackening their
speed, swung into line of battle. Only thirty men! yet they presented a
truly formidable array. The line was formed two deep, and was stretched
out to give the men full room for action. Brown sprang his horse in
front of the ranks, waving his long broadsword, and on they came,
sweeping down upon us with irresistible fury.

It was indeed a splendid and fearful sight, never to be forgotten by
the beholders. Only thirty men! yet they seemed a host. In their every
action, in their entire movements, seemed emblazoned, as in their
determined souls it was written, "Victory or death!"

Their leader looked the very impersonation of Battle. Many of us had
seen John Brown before, some of us a number of times, and under trying
circumstances. But now all felt that the real man we had never before
beheld. The daring, the intrepidity, the large resources of the man,
none of us had imagined till that moment.

Not a gun was discharged, their commander having given to his men the
same strict orders that were given at Bunker Hill of old, that they
should "reserve their fire till they could see the whites of their
enemy's eyes." But before they had quite gained that very dangerous
proximity to us, we succeeded in making them understand that we were
their friends.

Then such a glad shout as rent the air from both sides was seldom ever
heard, we believe, on any field even of victory. They were as glad to
find that we were their friends, as we, in our helpless condition, were
glad to learn that they were not our enemies.

The full intrepidity of Brown and his men, though it appeared to us
astounding, was not fully appreciable till we came to look at it
somewhat from their own view-point.

We were actually about eighty men, prisoners and all. But, spread out
as we were, with the many horses grazing, the scattered and unpacked
wagons, numerous camp-fires,—widely separated for convenience,—arms
stacked in some places, and men gathered in groups in others, we
presented altogether a formidable appearance. What was more, this
was enhanced by our peculiar position, so that, to them, our numbers
and strength were exaggerated, while our weakness and confusion were
concealed. Brown admitted to us himself, afterward, that he thought he
was undertaking to whip a force of two or three hundred, while his men
declared that they believed they were actually charging upon not less
than a thousand.

Brown's quick military eye took in, at the first, the supposed
situation; and, as in a flash, he decided what to do. All depended,
he concluded, upon rapidity of action. His only hope lay in striking
a sudden and crushing blow, for which we were unprepared, and from
which we could not recover till he had made victory sure. From the
time Brown's forces came in sight over the hill, till they were within
gunshot of us, hardly thirty seconds elapsed,—a very short notice in
which to prepare for action, even if an attack were expected.



Brown to Our Prisoners


After mutual congratulations over the bloodless and happy conclusion of
the adventure, we set our friends down with us to eat the interrupted
breakfast, to which they were prepared to do ample justice. They
had ridden all night, some forty or fifty miles, in pursuit of the
enemy,—had ridden all night, without rest or food, from the time they
left us, at dusk of evening, till they surprised us that morning with
their dauntless charge.

Another incident in connection with the events described it seems
fitting to mention, as affording a very interesting side-glance at
the character of our hero. After the meal, Captain Brown was asked by
our officers to give a talk to the prisoners taken the day before, who
were now drawn up in line for parole. He responded without an instant's
hesitation or a moment to think what he should say.

He spoke to them in a plain, simple, unpretentious way, but with
a directness, a force, and an eloquence withal, which doubtless
wonderfully impressed those addressed, as certainly it held spell-bound
all others who listened. Such vivid and indelible impression did this
speech of Brown make on the mind of the present writer that, even after
the lapse of these many years, he is able to reproduce it, not only
in substance, but almost word for word; and he has no doubt of its
exceptional character. Perhaps it was second only to that immortal
address which the hero made three years later to the court at his trial
in Virginia, which Emerson pronounced one of the three most remarkable
addresses in the world.

On the latter occasion, however, instead of a few plain, simple, rough
and ready, but intensely admiring followers, he had almost the whole
civilized world eagerly to hear and sacredly to preserve his utterance.

Brown's speech to the prisoners was probably not over five minutes long
in its delivery, but it lasted those forty trembling men a lifetime.
It was not known that one of them ever afterward ventured over the
Missouri border into the Kansas territory.

The address was as follows:

"Men of Missouri, one of your number has asked to see John Brown. Here
he is. Look at him, and hereafter remember that he is the enemy of all

"And what of you yourselves, men! You are from a neighboring State.
What are you here for? You are invaders of this territory,—and for
evil purposes, you know as well as we know. You have been killing
our men, terrorizing our women and children, and destroying our
property,—houses, crops, and animals. So you stand here as criminals.

"You are fighting for slavery. You want to make or keep other people
slaves. Do you not know that your wicked efforts will end in making
slaves of yourselves? You come here to make this a slave State. You are
fighting against liberty, which our Revolutionary fathers fought to
establish in this Republic, where all men should be free and equal,
with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. Therefore, you are traitors to liberty and to your country,
of the worst kind, and deserve to be hung to the nearest tree.

"But we shall not touch a hair of your heads. Have no fear. You are
deluded men. You have been deceived by men who are your elders but
not your betters. You have been misled into this wrong, by those your
leaders; thus, they are the real criminals and worse than traitors,
and, if we had them here instead of you, they would not find such mercy
at our hands.

"You we forgive. For, as you yourselves have confessed, we believe it
can be said of you that, as was said of them of old, you being without
knowledge, 'you know not what you do.' But hereafter you will be
without excuse.

"Go in peace. Go home and tell your neighbors and friends of your
mistake. We deprive you only of your arms, and do that only lest
some of you are not yet converted to the right. We let you go free
of punishment this time; but, do we catch you over the border again
committing depredations, you must not expect, nor will you receive, any

"Go home, and become liberty-loving citizens of your State and country,
and your mistakes and misdeeds, as also the injuries which you have
inflicted upon us, will not have been in vain."



Hard Lines


The personal experiences here related are of interest and have a value
mainly as they throw somewhat of fresh light upon the character of the
subject of this work, Captain Brown, and upon the events and times in
which he was the leading actor.

Those were troublous times,—times that indeed "tried the men's souls"
who experienced them. The hardships were severe. Danger and disease,
death by ruthless hands, and even death from starvation, often stared
us in the face. At one time we lived six weeks solely on Indian-meal
mixed with water and dried before the fire, and that without even a
condiment. This was our common fare in times of scarcity. Bacon and
molasses, and tea without milk or sugar, were our luxuries in times of

For months, in the summer of '56, the men in our settlement never had
their clothes off, day or night, unless torn or worn off. On a trip
early in the summer mentioned, made by a companion and myself to Kansas
City for provisions, we chanced to come across John Brown and his
company encamped in the woods on a river-bank. After we made ourselves
known as friends we were invited into their camp. A more ragged set of
men than we found were rarely, we believe, ever seen,—Brown worst off
of all, for he would not fare better than his men. They had no shirts
to their backs, and their outer clothing was worn or torn to tatters.
While in camp, they were going barefoot to save the remnants of their
worn-out shoes for emergencies. And withal, they were, they said, on
short rations, having no bread, but only Indian-meal and water. They
were glad of the opportunity to engage us to bring them provisions on
our return, but they confessed they were as short of money as they were
of provisions, which simply meant that we must share ours with them.

The men of our company worked hard by day to raise crops, with their
rifles near at hand, and slept in the "bush" at night to avoid surprise
and capture in their cabins. Only the women and children ran the risk
of remaining in the houses, in their defenselessness trusting to the
mercy of the enemy. That border life invited sickness, especially the
malaria of the low prairie. Our cabins were roughly made, and so open
that when it rained it was about as wet inside of them as outside.

We had not time to dig wells, and in mid-summer the rivers were low
and the water so stagnant that we had to brush the green scum from the
surface when we dipped the water to drink or for other uses. Every man,
woman, and child of the settlement was ill with the "fever and ague,"
so termed. There came near being an exception to the rule. One man kept
so full of whiskey, continuously, that the ague didn't seem to have
even a fighting chance; but at length the liquor fell short, and the
ague then found its opportunity and even made up for lost time.

As for fire-arms with which to defend ourselves, we were not well off.
The famous Sharpe's rifles—"Beecher's Bibles," so-called, from the
great preacher's contribution of them—won Kansas to freedom in large
measure; but more by their terrible name than by virtue of any large
number of the weapons themselves. The Free State men in Kansas actually
had few of them.

When my older brother, with whom I went to the territory, and myself
called on Theodore Parker in Boston,—for one thing to ask him if
those going to Kansas would be helped to fire-arms,—he said he was
sorry that his previous contributions had left him "nary red" which he
could give for the purpose, and he referred us to the Aid Society. We
concluded, however, to depend on our own means, though slender, and so
bought, to use between us, one Sharpe's rifle for twenty-five dollars.
We thought it might be useful to bring down prairie hens and wild
turkeys, if not needed for more serious use.

This was the only Sharpe's rifle owned in our settlement of thirty-six
men and youth able to bear arms. The members of our company, in fact,
at this early period in the Kansas troubles of which we write, were
very slimly accoutered for warfare, and the writer actually went into
the battle of Sugar Mound, described in previous pages, with an old,
worn-out flint-lock rifle, being a boy put off with the poorest weapon,
which, with the greatest care, he could not discharge more than once in
a half-dozen times' trying. And it was the only weapon he had until he
made prisoner a Missourian and possessed himself of better arms.



A Government Musket


What does the reader suppose these arms were? The one of interest was
a United States army musket, altered over from a "flint-lock" to a
modern "percussion-cap,"—a very effective fire-arm. It will be seen
that we had to contend not only with the Border Ruffian, but with the
greater ruffian at that time behind him, the United States Government
itself, which was covertly lending its influence and even its arms on
the side of slavery. Those Government guns were stored at Fort Scott,
on the Missouri border, and the Pro-slavery men were allowed to help
themselves to them.

That Government musket I intended to keep as a souvenir of Kansas
times; but later, on the occasion of coming down the Missouri river,
when boarding the steamboat with this musket in a common gun-case, I
thoughtlessly, on entering the main saloon, stood it in a conspicuous
corner. It was soon afterward noticed,—"spotted," as the phrase
went,—and I heard some one whisper, "Kansas." A rough-looking
passenger approached the piece, removed its case in examining it, and
inquired in a loud voice for its owner. Everybody was now all interest.
It was a time when the Kansas excitement was at its height, and
passions ran wild.

The cry, "Yankee! Yankee!" burst from the crowd. "Overboard with him!
Overboard! Overboard!" was howled, and "Yankee! Yankee!" again rang out
in hot, angry tones.

The subject of these gentle remarks, it goes without saying, was surely
one of the most interested spectators of the scene of all the members
of the crowd, and, as was quite politic, joined in the outcries. The
odds seemed to be decidedly against him, and dissent was surely unwise.
Apparently there was not another Eastern man on board, and this one
felt—as once a Western man said he did when expecting to be lynched
by a howling mob—"a little lonesome." Very fortunately for him, no
one observed that he was in any way connected with the interesting
implement of warfare. Had it been discovered that he was the owner
of that musket,—well! he would probably not be here now to tell
his story. If the possessor of it, on the contrary, had proved to be
a "Pro-slavery" from the territory, he would immediately have been
lionized as a hero.

"All's well that ends well." The only matter of regret to the owner was
that he lost sight and possession forever, that troublous night, of his
souvenir musket. It was secretly made away with by some one's hands,
under cover of the darkness.

An incident in the story of the musket we may here relate, on account
of its probable significance, not apparent at that time, but revealed
at a later date.

As we were making our way leisurely from the battlefield at Sugar
Mound, the opportunity was afforded me to show Captain Brown my share
of the trophies of our recent victory. He seemed rather indifferent as
he looked at the revolvers, the fine powder-horn, the shot-bag, and
the cartridge-pouch; but when he caught sight of the musket he grasped
it eagerly and scrutinized it with intense interest. On the gun-stock
was inscribed: "Made at the U. S. Armory, Harper's Ferry, Va.,"—or
words to that effect.

When, three years later, occurred that startling episode in our history
at Harper's Ferry, Brown's scrutiny of the musket was recalled by me
and apparently found its explanation. It raises the question, How long
had he contemplated carrying the war into Africa?

In Brown's view, slavery was war, aggressive and in actual operation.
Therefore, any attack on the institution was virtually defensive
warfare, legitimate and justifiable. He was a worshiper, heart and
soul, at liberty's shrine, and to his mind no sacrifice in its cause
was too great or costly. In that light must be interpreted his hard
saying: "It would be better that a whole generation of men, women, and
children should be sacrificed than have liberty perish from the earth."



An Unfailing Guide


The youngest male member of our Kansas party, hardly more than a boy,
was possessor of a peculiar psychical faculty—very fortunately for
us during all our troublous experiences in the territory. It was a
modest gift, but an exceedingly useful one to us under the exceptional
circumstances in which we often found ourselves, and this not alone to
its owner, but to the whole company. It cannot be better designated,
in brief, than as the faculty of "finding the way," the term usually
employed in speaking of it.

It probably will not lessen the interest of the reader in the matter if
he is here told that the writer of this account himself was the happy
possessor of this useful power. From a boy, a mere child, he may say,
it was known among his playmates that he could lead them safely and
surely to any place or object, when there was doubt about its locality,
and could also discover the whereabouts of things lost. The shyness of
the boy led him to keep his gift in the background.

In Kansas it was as suddenly as remarkably made prominent perforce. It
came into use the first day after we set out on our journey over the
prairie. We had not gone far from the borders of civilization,—only
far enough for its objects to be out of view,—when our whole caravan
of travelers, their teams, horses, oxen, and wagons, came to a full
stop. The trail over the prairie branched into two, and all were in
doubt which was the right one to take. The clouds had shut in the sun,
and the boundless prairie stretched out on all sides, with not an
object, house or tree, hill, or even a rock, in view, as a landmark
by which we could aim our course. One of the party, with a little
experience in traveling on the prairie, warned us that an error made
here might mislead us a whole day's journey.

The situation began to be a little distressing; whereupon the older
brother of the psychic boy said: "Call up my brother. He will tell you
which trail to take." Accordingly, the boy was summoned to the front;
and to the older heads, waiting there with amused smiles on their faces
for the decision, he pointed out what, in his belief, was the right
trail. Being wholly in doubt, they, with their smiles deepening to
laughter, said they might as well follow the trail he indicated. It
turned out to be the correct one.

During the following ten or a dozen days' journey, as many times at
least the youth was summoned to the front, and his psychical faculty
put to the test. Its possessor was made happy, and his companions were
equally gratified, that his power in no instance failed him.

These trails, mere wagon-tracks across the country, ran in almost all
directions, crosswise, parallel, and at all angles, and were enough
to puzzle the very elect,—the elect being in this instance the
psychic youth. The earnest wish to find the way in any case—and the
stronger and more earnest the wish the better—seemed to be a sort of
mainspring to the action of the power to insure its success.

This gift was brought into play many times during the two years
of Kansas events sketched here, and served us well; was often
invaluable. The fact just mentioned, that the strong wish insured its
effectiveness, was often clearly shown. For instance, on the occasion
referred to in a previous chapter, of our happening upon Captain
Brown's camp in an out-of-the-way spot on our trip for provisions,
there was a strong desire on our part, excited, perhaps, much by
curiosity, to see Brown and his men at that particular time in their
temporary hiding-place; and seemingly by this intense desire inciting
the psychic power, we were led to the spot,—for it had taken us, as we
found afterward, quite a number of miles out of our direct course.

In passing, we will here digress a little from our story to say that,
at this time of our visit, Brown was being hunted down, like a criminal
or a wild beast, by the Government military as well as by his other
enemies, and was all the time liable to betrayal into their hands.

I remember well, in this connection, how we found him armed that day.
He carried about his person not less than twenty shots with which to
defend himself did it become necessary: a Remington repeater—six
shots; a brace of revolvers—six-shooters; and a pair of pistols. He
had also a long knife or dirk, and his usual trusty old broadsword.
Most of these arms, he seemed to take pains to inform us, were
presented to him by his friends. Particularly did the old man impress
me, while showing us the weapons, when he quietly remarked: "Our
enemies would like much, no doubt, to get hold of me; but," he added
with sternness, "I will never be taken alive, and I warn them I shall
punish them to the extent of my power if they attempt my capture."

To return from this digression, it was a perilous thing in those
days for one to venture out alone on the prairie. It was perilous to
life, and perhaps still more dangerous to the property of him who
ventured,—at least in some ways. For one thing, we did not dare to
risk our horses. Horses were valuable, and the enemy considered them
as legitimate contraband of war. The luckless horseman caught abroad
by his foes was simply ordered to dismount. His horse, saddled and
bridled, was led off, and the owner was left to make his way on
foot, no matter how far the distance. When a team without a load was
overtaken by our opponents, the horses were appropriated and the wagon
left standing on the prairie. Were the wagon loaded with valuables,
both animals and wagon were confiscated, and their owner was told,
very likely with rifles pointed at him, to run for life till out of
sight. In such cases, were one found with money or other valuables on
his person, he was summarily relieved of them. Sometimes we sewed our
money within the lining of our clothes, for safety; but that device for
concealment had its risks. One was liable to be stripped, and to have
his clothing cut or torn to shreds in the hurried search for the money.



Hazardous Journeys


Such were some of the hazards of travel at that time, when the new
territory was indeed "bleeding Kansas."

Journeys, nevertheless, had to be made, and long ones, and many of them
from sheer necessity. We were obliged to buy in a distant market all
the food we ate, with all other necessaries of life. Shipment of goods
must be made by ox-teams—the use of horses being out of the question,
for the reasons mentioned; and the ox-team was rather a slow means of
transportation. Some ten days were necessary to make the journey from
our settlement to the nearest good market, Kansas City, and return.

There was another matter we had to consider. The journeys were
hazardous to men as well as to horses. Men were valuable and scarce.
Not more than two at most were ever allowed to go on these dangerous
errands, and usually one only.

It is not strange, as will readily be understood, that the boy who
could "find his way" was for that reason chosen to make these trips,
and he generally went alone. Another reason for this choice was that
the settlers would not run the risk of sacrificing their mature, strong
male members in this service, could it be avoided. This youth—because
a youth, with no one, wife or children, dependent upon him—would
not be so great a loss to the community if capture, imprisonment, or
death befell him! He was, however, inspired by, and felt not a little
pride because of, the confidence reposed in his ability to perform the
difficult and dangerous task assigned him.

Quite a number of these trips I made alone, and in not one did I
lose my way. On one occasion the guiding faculty was put to a severe
test. At the end of a day's travel the oxen were freed as usual from
the wagon for two or three hours, in order that they might graze.
Meanwhile, strict watch of them was necessary, lest they should wander
away. That night, through much exhaustion and lack of rest, it was
my misfortune to fall asleep. When I awoke, long past midnight, the
cattle were gone. The full moon shone brightly overhead, lighting up
the horizon far away on all sides; but, far and wide as the eye could
reach, no sight or sign of the animals was visible on that prairie

A serious state of things this appeared to be, at first thought,
and it awakened serious apprehensions. Far from home, I was left
with my valuables on the prairie, bereft of all means of taking them
to their destination. But upon second thought, often the better, I
calmly fell back, for rescue, on my humble psychic faculty. Humble and
inconsequential I had held it, but, if it served me true this time, it
never again should be lightly valued.

It proved as true as the needle to the pole.

It seemed to me that the cattle had gone in a certain direction; and
in that direction I went, in a straight line over the prairie, three or
four miles, directly to them. There they were, quietly feeding, close
to a stream at which they had evidently quenched their thirst. They
were led, doubtless, to find this water, in their need that night, by
an instinct similar to, and equally as unerring as, that possessed by
their owner which he had used to find them.

Whether the same instinct that "found the way" in the instances related
served to secure successful avoidance of the enemy on these journeys
will not be asserted; but this interesting fact can be affirmed,
namely, that, happily for the lone teamster and for the settlers whose
property, whether money or purchases, was intrusted to his care, not
once were dangerous foes encountered on these trips, and only in one
instance was there a near approach to it.

One day three horsemen appeared on the horizon in the rear, bearing
down upon me. When we have not strength sufficient, we are prone to
resort to strategy for protection or to extricate ourselves from
difficulty. On board my wagon, the usual large "prairie-schooner,"
covered with canvas, was a box of firearms which, with foolhardiness, I
had undertaken to deliver in Osawatomie. For one to transport arms was
to invite the services of the executioner.

I had reason that day, however, to thank my foolhardiness. At first
sight of the approaching horsemen I sprang into the cart, forced off
the box-cover, and stuck several of the gun-muzzles out under the sides
of the wagon-canopy.

And another reason I had for thankfulness that day. It had been my good
fortune that summer, while lying ill of the ague, to learn a little of
the ventriloquist's art from a half-breed Indian. The accomplishment
served me well now. As the strange horsemen closely approached, I was
busy carrying on a conversation, ventriloquist-wise, with my imaginary
companions inside the covered wagon.

"Lie still and make up your sleep. Lie still. No danger."

"Who is it?" (from the wagon.)

"They are travelers," was answered; "friendly, no doubt. Lie still and
get your sleep."

(From inside the wagon) "Whistle if you want us."

Answer: "O yes, I will. Lie still. No danger,—they're friends."

By this time the troopers were alongside. They looked hard at me, but
harder at the gun-muzzles, made the usual "good-day" greeting, asked a
few questions, and rode on. My little artifice had worked like a charm.
My visitors, I felt little doubt, had planned and meant mischief; had
probably been in search of my team, possibly for days, incited by hope
of rich plunder.

This record of personal experiences will serve the main purpose for
which it is written if it lays bare to the reader in some degree the
difficulties and dangers, the trials and sacrifices, of the Free State
settlers whom John Brown led at last to victory in the Kansas struggle
for freedom.

In closing this chapter, I will give my readers the only explanation
I am able to proffer of the strange faculty of localization which has
been mentioned. No voice is heard, nothing like an impression is felt,
there is no experience of any occult power of vision. Indeed, I have
already stated all that I am conscious of, in the words, "it seems to
me" that the object of quest, or the locality sought, lies in a certain
direction or place, whenever this faculty is brought into play to find



The Osawatomie Battle


The engagement at Sugar Mound (also called Middle Creek) took place on
Monday, the 25th of August. Five days later, on Saturday, August 30th,
was fought the really famous battle of Osawatomie, the Bunker Hill of
the Kansas struggle.

In the early dawn of that day some four hundred of the enemy, well
mounted and equipped,—with their bayonets glistening in the morning
sun,—bore down upon the devoted town and its stanch defenders. There,
in that day's notable battle, John Brown showed that he possessed
real military talent. In this case he was acting on the defensive, and
manifested coolness and caution equal in effectiveness to the dash and
daring displayed on other occasions.

To our settlement on the South Pottawatomie, the same thing occurred
on this memorable occasion as on the earlier one already described. A
rider came up the creek twenty miles, asking for our aid.

This time the messenger was sent by Brown himself, and there was a
similar ready and willing response to the call, even though we had
so lately arrived home. There was the same eager hurrying to and
fro to get our force together, the same quick preparations, hasty
leave-taking, setting out at dusk, and the like night-march. We made
all possible haste to the rescue.

Before midnight, however, when we had covered only half the distance to
our friends in distress, a scout met us with unwelcome news, which, to
our dismay, ran: "Battle at Osawatomie, John Brown killed, Free State
men defeated, and the town burned to ashes." Moreover, our informant
thought it probable that the victors were on their way to lay waste our

The only thing now to be done was to return to our homes, and to make
ready, if the need came, to defend them. One prior thing it was decided
it would surely be well to do, namely: dispatch two scouts to our
friends at the scene of disaster and get accurate information of their
fate or fortune.

The choice fell upon the two brothers, the writer and his older
brother, and for the reason (comforting to them) that, being the
youngest men, with none dependent upon them, their loss, were they
killed, would be less to the community than the loss of older men. And
besides, one of them was good at "finding the way" and the other had
won a reputation for extra courage and trustiness in emergencies. We
were assigned, to say the least, a rather delicate and hazardous duty,
and probably there were few men in the company that night anxious or
willing to undertake it.

Bidding our comrades adieu, we mounted two of our best horses and
proceeded on through the night. Being obliged, for safety, to avoid
both the "open" and the main road, we could make our way but slowly,
and so did not reach the vicinity of Osawatomie till daylight. We kept
in hiding during the day, spying around the city of desolation and
trying to learn of the presence of foes or if any of our friends were
still alive. After nightfall we cautiously approached the log-cabin on
the outskirts of the town, where, if anywhere, we knew we should most
likely find friends. It was the home of the Adairs, relatives of John

There we learned from them the story of recent events. Captain Brown
had not been killed, as was reported, though he was wounded; but there
in that humble cottage, folded in the embrace of death, lay one of his
sons, the tall, handsome Frederick Brown, as noble-looking as he was
noble of soul, the fourth of that now historic band of six hero-sons,
worthy scions of their hero-father.

As the Pro-slavery invaders were marching into Osawatomie, two
of their scouts, at some distance from the town, met this son of
Brown with a companion named Garrison, and in cold blood, without
provocation, shot down the unarmed men. Their whole force of four
hundred or more horsemen then trampled over the bodies, leaving them to
lie there all day in the hot August sun.

Late that same night, Sunday evening, as we lingered in conversation
with the family, the old father, having learned of the death of his
son, returned to take a last look at his remains. Here again, surely,
was a scene for a painter, in that lowly cabin that night. If a picture
of it, as those bright young eyes saw it in all its realistic setting
and color, could have been faithfully depicted on the artist's canvas,
and thus preserved for us to-day, it could not fail to be of more than
common historic interest.


As Brown bent over the lifeless form of his boy, there was not a word
of complaint from his lips, nor any look of revenge on his face,—only
deep, silent grief, and falling tears, and humble submission to the
Almighty will. Then he hurried away to the morrow's duty, after
expressing his wishes as to the disposal of the remains of his son.

Yes, one thing more, doubtless. He carried away in his heart that night
a deeper abhorrence of the institution which had virtually inspired the
blow and aimed the bullet that had ended that young life. The scene in
that lowly cabin that night was to remain, at any rate, ineffaceable in
the memory of the few who were witnesses to it.

On the opposite page is given an interior view of the Adair log-cabin,
taken while Mr. Adair was still living, and representing him sitting
in his accustomed chair in the main room of the house,—the room where
lay the body of Brown's son, Frederick, and where the father sadly
viewed it.

       *       *       *       *       *

The battle of Osawatomie was surely a remarkable engagement. Brown,
with a handful of men hastily gathered together and placed in position,
kept long at bay more than ten times their number. The stand was made
in the edge of the timber, on the near bank of the river. "There,"
said Brown modestly in his account of the battle, "we had exceptional
opportunity to annoy the enemy."

The first onslaught of their foes, who marched gaily as if to sure
victory, was met by a steady, determined fire from Brown and his men,
so destructive as to make the ranks of their assailants reel, break,
and then hastily retreat. Again and yet again they re-formed their
broken lines, and renewed the attack, suffering terrible punishment
each time, till their leaders could rally them no longer.

At that time the gallant little band of defenders, out of ammunition
and with their ranks sadly thinned, thought it wise to retire across
the river. Their foes, crippled and shattered, had no heart to follow,
and the battle ended. It only remained for spite and revenge to find
vent in the burning of the town.

We need not recite details here; they are matters of history. And yet
some uncertainty has hung over that engagement. The invaders, in the
chagrin and shame of their more than failure, proceeded to conceal
or falsify the facts. And never was there greater temptation to
falsification. The certainty of Brown's annihilation at their hands
they had loudly trumpeted beforehand, but their own defeat had occurred

The account of the battle written soon after by Brown to his family was
near to the truth, and is borne out by all reliable testimony. About
thirty of the assailants were killed, and the usual ratio of wounded
would be some seventy-five or eighty.





In concluding these reminiscences it only remains to be said, of the
subject of them, that in the writer's opinion John Brown was a great
man; and he believes that this will be the verdict of the future upon
him when misconceptions and prejudice are blown to the winds. John
Brown is one of the most unique characters in all our history. In a
way, he stands almost alone, and deserves, if only for that reason, a
place in the Hall of Fame far more than many a one who has been given a
niche therein.

John Brown was a hero. Our country has brought forth no greater one. He
was of the very substance and essence of self-sacrifice. What higher
can be said of any one of our humankind? Everything, possessions,
reputation, life, he was ready to throw into the scales against wrong
and for the cause of human liberty, human rights, and justice, which
were to him as sacred, as divine, as the God he worshiped. Love of them
was the consuming passion of his soul, and to fight for them, to live
and die for them, was to him the highest duty of man.

The ablest minds have been the most appreciative of the high qualities
of John Brown,—for example, Ralph Waldo Emerson, of our own country,
and Victor Hugo, of France. It is Edward Everett Hale who has
pronounced him "our great American martyr." Nothing could be finer
than Thomas Wentworth Higginson's tribute: "It must be conceded that
John Brown was the most eloquent of all our great Abolitionists, for
his was the eloquence of a life."

Let not our readers conclude that we are attempting to glorify Brown's
militant course, or that we would inspire the spirit of war. We
celebrate the great soul.

John A. Andrew said: "Whatever might be thought of John Brown's acts,
John Brown himself was right." That sentiment so touched the popular
heart at the time that it went far to make Andrew governor.

We may accept fully and wholly the man, though we approve not his
methods. Brown derived his ideal, in its spirit, so to speak, from
the New Testament; but his ideal of action was rooted in the Old
Dispensation. The one is wholly worthy our following, the other is not.

One can allow that this is true, though he hold that the old or past
was inevitable, and that Brown did the best possible at the time
and under the circumstances. That is no reason why we should go on
imitating his example; but we cannot be enough filled with his spirit.

The truth, we think, may be told in a word: John Brown belonged to the
"old order," which is passing away. Heaven speed its end! He was a man
of war, whatever else he might be; though it seems surely to be shown
that he was much besides. While we would do him full justice, while we
glorify the spirit he was of, we must turn to our higher ideal,—those
of the "new order," the men of peace. The spirit of both may be the
same, their methods are as opposite as the poles.

Tolstoi has given us the key that opens to us the coming ideal: "It is
better to suffer wrong, even without limit, than to do wrong even in
the least."

This represents the meaning of Tolstoi, though it may not be expressed
in just his words. That ideal is far in advance of mankind in general
to-day, but the world is moving surely if slowly toward it. The spirit
that actuated John Brown—that of self-sacrifice for what he believed
to be the good and true, and his entire devotion to liberty and
right—is to be more and more alive, and more truly than ever "marching

The North will more and more appreciate and honor John Brown, as time
goes on; and we shall not wonder very much if even the South some day
builds a monument to his memory. For it is simple justice, and not
flattery, to say that no men ever lived who possessed higher courage or
had a finer sense of what is heroic than the true Southerner.


  Text in italics is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation have been retained from
    the original.

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