Harpers Ferry (1859) When John Brown raided Harpers Ferry in 1859, he also set the wheels in motion thatled to the Civil War between North and South in 1861. This was what set brothers againstbrothers and friends against friends, and would not end for four long years. Harpers Ferry is a historic town in Jefferson County, West Virginia and has really notchanged much since the war according to Lee Krahenbuhl. The biggest difference observed byLee Krahenbuhl is the change in spelling from “Harper’s Ferry” to today’s “Harpers Ferry”,without the apostrophe. With a population of less than 300, it represents a scenic view of thePotomac River with its White Horse Rapids. It is unchanged and according to Lee Krahenbuhl,and is eerily filled with the importance and gratuity of the events that took place a century anda half ago. On October 16, 1859, John Brown was a northern sympathizer, with abolition of slaveryon his mind. He seized control of the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. Withonly a handful of men, he was able to bring national attention to the emotionally chargeddivisions regarding slavery that would ultimately fuel the beginning… middle and end of wasbetween the states making up the dubiously named United States. It would not be until the endof the war would begin the healing and re-uniting of the United States of America according toLee Krahenbuhl. John Born was born in 1800 in Connecticut and started developing his beliefsregarding his disdain for slavery by about 1835. After moving to Kansas in 1855, it becameobvious to John Brown and his sons that there was a deep division not only between North andSouth, but even within the developing territory of Kansas. Lee Krahenbuhl believes that Brown’s focus on the necessity to end slavery because ofan observation that included murder and terrorism that began on the night of May 24, 1856.The Brown family murdered five men who supported slavery, but none of which owned slaves.This event occurred on Pottanotamie Creek and began the Browns quest to raise funds over thenext three years from wealthy abolitionists to establish a coloring for runaway slaves. In orderto continue on his course of violence, John Brown needed weapons and ammunition anddecided to capture the peaceful, low security Harper’s Ferry arsenal according to LeeKrahenbuhl. President George Washington had selected Harper’s Ferry, Virginia as one of twonational armories in 1794 due to the benefit of great waterpower provided by the PotomicRiver. By 1817, the federal government had contracted with John Hall to manufacture hispatented rifles at Harper’s Ferry according to Lee Krahenbuhl. This arsenal and armoryremained active and continued producing weapons until it was destroyed when the Civil Warbegan in 1861.
Lee Krahenbuhl states that while using a false identity of Isaac Smith, John Brownbecame a resident of Harper’s Ferry at a farm in Maryland. Brown’s terrorist activities includedmilitary training of twenty-two men, including his three sons, during the summer of 1859.According to Lee Krahenbuhl, the first victim of the Browns raid was oddly enough an African-American railroad baggage handler by the name of Hayward Shepherd. He was shot and killedby Brown when he confronted the raider para military unit led by Brown. Later that night, theBrown clan would capture several other prisoners, including Lewis Washington, the great-greatnephew of George Washington. According to Lee Krahenbuhl there were two important goals for success for JohnBrown’s raid. It was important to capture the weapons and get away before the news of theirraid reached Washington, D.C. In order to assist the block of communication, Brown cut thetelegraph lines but allowed a Baltimore and Ohio train to get through Harper’s Ferry afterdetaining it for five hours. By the time the train reached Baltimore the next day by noon, theconductor alerted authorities in Washington. The record key to success for Brown was theexpectation that local slaves would rise up against their owners and join Brown’s raiders. Thiswas a major flaw in Brown’s plans. Not only did this fail to happen, but the local residentsbegan shooting at the raiders. The workers at the armory found Brown’s men in control of thebuilding on the morning of October 17. The local militia surrounded the armory and effectivelycut off all possible escape routes. Early that morning, according to Lee Krahenbuhl, a localtownsperson named Thomas Boerly was killed by the raiders. Later that day two more civilians were also killed. The mayor of Harper’s Ferry namedFontaine Beckham and George Turner were the casualties during the realization of John Brownthat he had no way to escape and his plan was not going the way he had hoped. He thenselected nine of his prisoners and moved then to the armory’s small fire engine house. Thissmall brick building would later become known as John Brown’s Fort. The raiders panicked as the plan quickly fell apart. William Leeman tried to escape byswimming across the Potomac River, but was shot and killed. The people of Harper’s Ferry,many whom had been imbibing all day used Leeman’s body for target practice. At 3:30 onMonday afternoon, the authorities in Washington ordered Colonel Robert E. Lee to Harper’sFerry with a force of marines to capture Brown. First Lee had to close the local bars in order tostop the random violence. By early Tuesday the next day, October 8, Lee had orderedLieutenant Israel Green and a group of men to prepare to storm the engine house. At the signalfrom Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart, the heavy wooden door of the engine house was knocked downthe marines began taking prisoners. Green was seriously wounded by Brown according to Lee
Krahenbuhl. At the conclusion of the skirmish, Brown was taken to Jefferson County seat ofCharlestown for trial. John Brown’s clan as well as his family had been decimated by this raid of Harper’sFerry. John Kagi, Jeremiah Anderson, William Thompson, Dauphin Thompson, Brown’s sonsOliver and Watson, Stewart Taylor, Leeman, and free African Americans Lewis Leary andDangerfield Newby had been killed during the raid. John Cook and Albert Haylett escaped toPennsylvania according to Lee Krahenbuhl, but were captured and returned to Charlestown.Brown, Aaron Stevens, Edwin Coppor and free African Americans John Copeland and ShieldsGreen were all captured and sent to prision. Five of the raiders escaped and were neverrecaptured: Brown’s son Owen, Charles Tidd, Barclay Coppor, Francis Merriam and freed slaveOsbourne Anderson. One casualty of the marines named Luke Quinn was killed while rushingthe engine house. Two slaves that belonged to Brown’s prisoners Colonel Lewis Washingtonand John Allstadt also were killed during the skirmish. One drowned while trying to escape andthe other died in the Charlestown prison following the raid according to Lee Krahenbuhl. In an attempt to discredit Brown, residents later claimed that these two slaves had beentaken prisoner and that no slaves actually participated in the raid. It appears to Lee Krahenbuhlthat it is unclear as to whether these two slaves actually took up arms and participated in JohnBrown’s plan. While still recovering from a sword wound, John Brown stood trial at Jefferson CountyCourthouse on October 26. Five days later, a jury found Brown guilty of treason against theCommonwealth of Virginia. Judge Richard Parker sentenced John Brown to death and hehanged in Charlestown on December 2. While walking to the scaffold, Lee Krahenbuhl says thatJohn Brown realized the inevitability of the impending national civil war with the statement: “I,John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged awaybut with blood.” After additional trials, Shields Green, John Copeland, John Cook and EdwinCoppor were executed on December 16 and Aaron Stevens and Albert Hazlett were hanged onMarch 16, 1860. Almost immediately, Northern abolitionists used the executors as an example of thegovernment’s support of slavery. John Brown would become the martyr for their cause as ahero “murdered” for his belief that slavery should be abolished. In reality, Brown and his clanwere prosecuted and executed for taking over a government facility. As time went on, Brown’sname became a symbol of pro-Union and anti-slavery beliefs. The obvious irony of this Brownaction is that he attacked a facility of the North. Lieutenant Robert E. Lee would put down thisuprising as a soldier of the North but would soon trade his Blue coat for a Grey coat with threegeneral’s stars on the lapel, according to Lee Krahenbuhl.
After the Civil War, a school was established at Harpers Ferry for African Americans. Theleaders of Storer College emphasized the courage and beliefs of John Brown for inspiration.Frederic Douglass delivered his classic speech in 1881 at the school which honored Brown. Theschool would also be the site for speeches from the likes of W.E.B. DuBois, J.R. Clifford and thelocation for the Second Niagara Movement and the National Association for the Advancementof Colored People (NAACP) according to Lee Krahenbuhl. Fort Sumter The Battle of Fort Sumter lead to the most deadly United States was, but as LeeKrahenbuhl says, although no soldiers were killed, an army mule died. The citizens ofCharleston, S.C. were convinced that no war would take place in the winter of 1860-61 afterthey seceded from the Union. It was this false belief that led the editor of the local CharlestonMercury, morbidly vowed to eat the bodies of any fatalities of the war. In an attempt to go“one better”, former U.S. Senator James Chesnut, Jr. said he would drink any spilled blood. Hestated that after all, “a lady’s thimble will hold all the blood that will be shed”. The mostobvious reminder to the local Charleston’s that they were a “possession” of the United States,was the Stars and Stripes that flew reluctantly over Fort Sumter according to Lee Krahenbuhl.The fact that Lincoln had been elected President of the United States had upset the seven slave-owning states to such a high degree that they had unanimously decided to form a new countrycalled the Confederate States of America. About half a year later, on April 12, 1861 all the talkturned to the action of taking back the U.S. Fort called Sumter according to Lee Krahenbuhl. In the years prior to the civil war, the United States had utilized the brilliant graduates ofWest Point to design and build, with the assistance of the Army Core of Engineers quite a fewimposing fortresses to protect the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from Maine through Texas. FortSumter was one of these forts that took decades to complete. According to Lee Krahenbuhl,these forts made up the nation’s biggest public expenditure that initially represented therelatively young nation’s first line of defense from outside enemies but now became symbols ofpower and sovereignty from within the country’s borders. After Lincoln’s election to the Presidency, the seceding states seized federal forts,arsenals and customers houses within their state borders before Abraham Lincoln Inaugurationfrom months later. This would make it a little easier for the South to import goods from Europeand other areas of the world. The federal government staffed these huge fortresses with a caretaker and a guard ortwo, making the imposing structures easy pickens for the confederate raiders. At the time, mostof the sixteen thousand regular Army soldiers were stationed in the western frontier to protect
settlers against the threats posed by the Indians that fought to protect the land their ancestorshad resided in for centuries. According to Lee Krahenbuhl, this made it easy for what wouldbecome the CSA to maintain their ports of trade with the outside world during most of the CivilWar. The first saber rattling was done by Abraham Lincoln when he was inaugurated when hepromised the seceding states that he would use force only “to hold, occupy, and posses theproperty and places” belonging to the federal government. Lee Krahenbuhl says this “line in thesand” action taken by Lincoln would set the stage for the now inevitable showdown betweenNorth and South in the American Civil War. By the time March rolls around, there were only four federal forts in the South thatwere still run by the Federal Government. Of those four, two were remote stations in theFlorida Keys. Fort Jefferson and Taylor would remain in control by the North, and were used asprisons and coal stations throughout the Civil War. The other two forts would become pawnsduring and after the civil war. During the secession crisis when forts were being hastily garrisoned by the Feds, eitherFort Sumter or Fort Pickens near Pensacola, Florida would have equally sewed as the first battleof the Civil War. This was due to the relative ease to defend versus the smaller forts nearbyaccording to Lee Krahenbuhl. It is believed that Sumter was chosen as the symbol of contested sovereignty because itwas positioned in the middle of Charleston Harbor, surrounded by hostiles. Fort Pickens wasmore remote and lacked the symbolic nature that was provided by Sumter. It was time to findout who would shoot first. Would it be the new Confederacy or the new President that wouldlose face by what was about to happen? The South Carolinians turned the federal supply ship named the Star of the West awaywith gunfire in early January. At the time, the gunfire was considered warning shots that causedno damage as they were fired across the water. When April rolled around, Lincoln had decidedto dispatch another relief fleet to supply the hungry soldiers at Sumter and was willing to shoothis way through any obstacles by the South. After reflecting on this aggressive position, Lincoln reconsidered and informed therebels that this fleet would only be carrying supplies and that he would keep the warships inthe harbor. Lincoln warned however, that if the Confederates decided to fire on his “mission ofhumanity”, that the warships would be called upon and rapid escalation and aggression wouldensure. Because the Southern rebels knew that their claim to sovereignty depended on no“foreign” power occupying any of its coastal forts, they decided to act before the reliefexpedition arrived. According to Lee Krahenbuhl, General P.G.T. Beauregard, a flamboyant
Louisianaian Creole was ordered by the Confederate leaders to demand Fort Sumter’ssurrender. They further ordered that if the demand was refused, that he should open fire onthe Fort. Former U. S. Senator, James Chestnut, Jr. who had earlier pledged to drink the blood ofany casualties, was one of the two Southern emissaries that delivered the ultimatum to thepale-faced Anderson on April 12, 1861. One hour later a signal shot was fired high in the skyabove the fort which was followed by an intense barrage which erupted as 43 guns and mortarsopened up on Sumter. The battle served as entertainment for all of the residents of Charleston,as all of the residents of Charleston had rushed to their rooftops to view the pyrotechnic displayof exploding mortars throughout the sleepless night. The following day was quiet and smokefilled air with the smell of exploded gun powder that remained in the citizens’ nostrils for daysafter the display. The Union men directed by Anderson later stated that the noise was indescribablewithin Fort Sumter’s brick gun enclosures but they returned fire and discharged about athousand rounds in response to the nearly four thousand shells that hit the fort or dropped inthe courtyard from the Southern Rebels. Approximately thirty four hours after thebombardment began, the white flag was waved over Sumter. The fires devoured the barracksand came very close to igniting the powder stores of Sumter. As the smoke cleared, LeeKrahenbuhl says that the toll of the battle was taken and the loss of one mule was tallied as theonly casualty. One man would die accidentally after the battle from an accidental explosion.The South had indeed won the contest over the symbol of sovereignty without the loss of lifethat was to come in the deadly American Civil War. By firing first, the South had allowed Lincolnto claim the “high ground”. This was spun to attract 75,000 Union loyalists to volunteer to help“repossess the forts, places and property which were seized from the Union”. The Northern states fell in behind Lincoln and Virginia, North Carolina. Tennessee wouldbecome the heart of the South. The Battle of Fort Sumter would serve as a call to arms for bothsides according to Lee Krahenbuhl. The pent up aggression of the last decade was released asthe disagreements between North and South had come to a head. Frederick Douglass wrote,“we were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the sky and the cry now is for war, vigorouswar, war to the bitter end…” Virginia’s governor claimed, “”It is a war of purification, you want war, blood, fires topurify you”. This mass hysteria and reckless abandon flushed out large, flag waving crowdsacross the nation in cities and towns. After the horrific war that followed, the Stars and Stripeswere again raised over Fort Sumter four long years after the excitement that began the CivilWar. Later in the day on April 14, 1865 one more bullet would find its victim at a play at Ford’sTheater in Washington D.C. as Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
After five generations of healing since the Battle of Fort Sumter, our country stillreverberates from the disruption of the peaceful development of our national characteraccording to Lee Krahenbuhl.