shop, and the room containing the gunstocks.
The rifle works, in which there were but a small number of finished arms, on account of their remoteness, could not be conveniently fired.
As soon as the buildings were fairly lighted, Lieutenant Jones
with his guard left for Hagerstown
, while Captain Kingsbury
was hardly authorized to leave then, and, was also unwilling to depart before learning the result of his efforts to baffle the Richmond
For sometime after the beginning of the conflagration the streets of the village were deserted.
At length one man, who appeared more enterprising than his neighbors, entered one of the burning arsenals and hauled therefrom into the street a box of arms.
On opening it, and not finding the rifle muskets he evidently expected, he rushed again towards the building for the probable purpose of trying his luck upon another, when the first discharge of old John Brown
's powder caused him to recoil, and it is believed that no other attempt was made to enter the storehouses before the contents were destroyed.
, therefore, had the gratification of ascertaining, that although the shops and machinery were not seriously damaged, of the fifteen thousand or sixteen thousand rifles and muskets in store, which were intended to arm the battalions of treason, only a few hundred--and not thousands, as has been stated — that were scattered among the buildings escaped destruction.
The entire responsibility of the affair thus devolved upon Captain Kingsbury
He sought to defend the place by arming the operatives, and when this was found impracticable, it was by his orders and through his instrumentality that the only means at hand were made available to destroy the arms, and thus defeat the object of the assault.
Of all those engaged in the affair he was the only one exposed to personal peril.
At one time, surrounded by an infuriate mob, with a bayonet at his breast, he might probably have been the first victim of the rebellion but for the generous interposition of a gentleman present, to whom he was almost a stranger.
A citizen of Harper's Ferry
thus wrote to him, on the twenty-fifth of April: “The feeling against you rose very high, and I was glad to learn that you had left the place.
If you had not, I have no doubt but your person would have sustained injury.”
After escaping from the hands of his captors, Captain Kingsbury
was enabled, by a night tramp of twenty-two miles over the cross-ties of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, to reach Washington
on the evening of the nineteenth, where he found, on his arrival, that the pressure of official duty was such that he had no time to make a written report of his conduct.
That, however, was not then necessary, as the facts were not only well known in military circles, but also among the rebel sympathizers of the capital.
Yet, notwithstanding all this, the name of the officer who originated the movement, and carried it to a successful conclusion, was suppressed at the time by the northern papers, and carefully excluded from an official report of the affair by the very Secretary
by whose order he was thus suddenly placed in a position of such responsibility; and the same version or perversion of the facts is still reproduced by all the historians of the rebellion.
But while Captain Kingsbury
's name was thus systematically ignored at the north, and by the war department of the government, his efforts for the cause of the Union
were promptly recognized and appreciated elsewhere.
In the “Staunton (Va.)
Spectator,” and other southern newspapers, he was denounced for his action at Harper's Ferry
as a “diabolical monster,” and his name held up for reproach and execration among his friends and relatives at the south.
A brief glance at the circumstances connected with the attack on Harper's Ferry
will show that the events of that night probably had a far more important bearing upon the final result of the rebellion than has ever been publicly ascribed to them.
The object of Wise
— who it was understood originated the raid — and his fellow-conspirators was, evidently, to capture the arms, proceed at once to Baltimore
, arm the ruffians then having control of that city, and complete the then easy conquest of the national capital.
An extra locomotive of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, with steam on, was in waiting at the Harper's Ferry bridge
; a mysterious party from Baltimore
was on the ground, one of whom positively refused the use of the engine to carry Captain Kingsbury
beyond the power of the mob from which he had just made his escape; and the next day — the day of the slaughter of the Massachusetts
troops — these arms would doubtless have been in the hands of the myrmidons of treason on a triumphal march to Washington
This view of the matter is forcibly presented in Abbott
's history of the rebellion, and is sustained by the following extracts from letters written by officers holding at that time high position in the military service.
, who was then Chief of Ordnance
, thus writes: “There can be no doubt the destruction of the arms there (Harper's Ferry
) was cause of great disappointment to the conspirators, who evidently calculated on being able by their means to equip a force sufficient to capture the capital, half filled as it was with traitors and lukewarm officials.”
, who was then on the staff of Lieutenant-General Scott
, writes as follows: “It was doubtless the design of the rebels to procure arms there (Harper's Ferry
) and move on Baltimore
was doubtless the ultimate point of attack; but the whole rebel project failed by the destruction of the arms at Harper's Ferry
If these views are correct, is it not probable that not only the capital, but the nation, was thus saved?
For if the traitors had then obtained possession of Washington
, the concession of belligerent rights by France
would have been promptly followed by unconditional recognition, and the bastard progeny of rebellion — to quote the language of Edmund Burke
, similarly applied — begotten “in a drunken delirium, produced by hot spirits drawn from the alembic of hell,” would have become legitimatized by a successful revolution.