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Chapter 10: husband and wife.

Mrs. Brown, on her return to Philadelphia from Baltimore, wrote a letter to Governor Wise, asking for the bodies of her slain sons, and of her husband, after his execution. He sent her the orders for them, addressed to the Sheriff and the General in command. On Wednesday evening, Mrs. Brown, carrying these sad certificates, arrived at Harper's Ferry, under the escort of two gentlemen from Philadelphia. She intended to have gone to Charlestown with them, on the following morning, to have her last earthly interview with her husband. When the morning came, a despatch from Headquarters ordered the officers to detain the sorrow-stricken wife and her friends until further orders. A trustworthy correspondent says:

I learned at Charlestown that for several hours a triangular correspondence by telegraph was going on between Charlestown, Richmond, and Harper's Ferry, which ultimated in a despatch from General Taliaferro, saying that he had sent a file of dragoons to escort Mrs. Brown, but not the others. The mortification of the citizens of Harper's Ferry was not less than that of Mrs. Brown, and her friends, at so cruel and unlooked — for an act on the part of the chivalrous sons of Virginia. But as a cow will frighten a private doing sentry duty, one [389] live Northern woman and two Northern men might reasonably be expected to intimidate a Virginia army.

The escort consisted of a file of eight mounted riflemen, under a sergeant. Captain Moore, of the Montgomery Guards, stationed at this place, very kindly offered his own services as a personal escort to Mrs. Brown, and she gladly accepted it.

The Captain referred frequently, as they came along, to the unfortunate situation of her husband. She exhibited no sorrow or regret, so far as he could observe.

The gallant Captain had the brutality to attempt to argue with a wife, thus circumstanced, in favor of that great crime against God and man, for assailing whose power her husband was doomed to die.

The writer, above quoted, continues:

I was in sight when the formidable cavalcade arrived. The military went through manoeuvres in Scott's Manual, named and nameless, and which were well calculated to impress the beholder with the wonderful effectiveness of a Virginia regiment at a general muster, but in a no more sanguinary conflict. At last, however, Mrs. Brown was admitted. She was kindly received by CaptainAvis and Mrs. Avis. Mrs. Avis, by order of the powers that be, conducted Mrs. Brown into a private apartment, where her clothing was searched for concealed weapons, or other means which the morbid suspicion of the Virginia army of occupation suggested Mrs. Brown might surreptitiously convey to her husband.

In the mean time Captain Brown had been informed that his wife had arrived. The announcement was made by General Taliaferro, when the following dialogue took place:

Captain Brown, how long do you desire this interview to last?” asked the Virginian.

“Not long; three or four hours will do,” said Captain Brown.

“ I am very sorry, Captain Brown,” said the Virginia General, “that I shall not be able to oblige you. Mrs. Brown must return to-night to Harper's Ferry.”

“ General, execute your orders; I have no favors to ask of the State of Virginia,” was the brave old man's reply.

This fact was related to an acquaintance of mine by a Virginia gentleman, as an illustration of Captain Brown's courage and bravery. He did not see in it the scathing rebuke to the pusillanimity of a great State, which, with a cordon of twenty-five hundred men, would not protract the last interview between a brave man and his sorrow-stricken wife.


Mrs. Brown, we are told, was led into the cell by the jailer. Her husband rose, and, as she entered, received her in his arms. For some minutes they stood speechless,--Mrs. Brown resting her head upon her husband's breast, and clasping his neck with her arms. At length they sat down and spoke; and from Captain Avis, who was the only witness of that sorrowful scene, (his fellow-prisoner, Stevens, having been placed in an adjoining cell before the entrance of the wife,) the following record comes:

John Brown spoke first. “Wife, I am glad to see you,” he said. “My dear husband, it is a hard fate.”

“Well, well; cheer up, cheer up, Mary. We must all bear it in the best manner we can. I believe it is all for the best.”

“Our poor children--God help them.”

“Those that are dead to this world are angels in another. How are all those still living? Tell them their father died without a single regret for the course he has pursued — that he is satisfied he is right in the eyes of God and of all just men.”

Mrs. Brown then spoke of their remaining children and their home. Brown's voice, as he alluded to the bereavements of his family, was broken with emotion. After a brief pause, Brown said:

“Mary, I would like you to get the bodies of our two boys who were killed at Harper's Ferry, also the bodies of the two Thompsons, and, after I am dead, place us all together on a wood pile, and set fire to the wood; burn the flesh, then collect our bones and put them in a large box, then have the box carried to our farm in Essex County, and there bury us.”

Mrs. Brown said, “I really cannot consent to do this. I hope you will change your mind on this subject. I do not think permission would be granted to do any such thing. For my sake, think no more of such an idea.”

“Well, well,” Brown answered, “do not worry or fret about it; I thought the plan would save considerable expense, and was the best.”

Mrs. Brown observed a chain about the ankles of her husband. To avoid its galling his limbs, he had put on two pairs of woollen socks. Mrs. Brown said she was desirous of procuring the chain as a family relic. She had already at her home the one with which the limbs of John Brown, Jr., were inhumanly shackled in Kansas, and in which [391] he was goaded on by the Border devils until he was mad, and the chain had worn through his flesh to the bone; and this, too, she desired. Captain Brown said he had himself asked that it be given to his family, and had been refused.

The conversation then turned upon matters of business, which Brown desired to have arranged after his death. He gave his wife all the letters and papers which were needed for this purpose, and read to her the will which had been drawn up for him by Mr. Hunter, carefully explaining every portion of it.

Speaking of the parties to whom sums are directed to be paid, he said: “Dear Mary, if you can find these, pay them personally; but do not pay any one who may present himself as their attorneys, for if it gets into the hands of attorneys, we do not know what will become of it.”

Subsequently he requested his wife to make a denial of the statement that had gained publicity, that he had said in his interview with Governor Wise that he had been actuated by feelings of revenge. He denied that he had ever made such statement, and wished his denial made known; and he denied further that any such base motives had ever been his incentive action.

After this conversation they took supper together. This occupied only a few minutes. Their last sorrowful meal being concluded, and the time approaching at which they must part, Mrs. Brown asked to be permitted to speak to the other prisoners. But Gen. Taliaferro's orders forbade this, though Capt. Avis expressed a willingness to permit her to see them even at the risk of violating orders. She declined to see them under the circumstances.

Brown then touched upon business affairs, until an order was received from the Commander-in-Chief, saying that the interview must terminate. Brown then said, “Mary, I hope you will always live in Essex County. I hope you will be able to get all our children together, and impress the inculcation of the right principles to each succeeding generation. I give you all the letters and papers which have been sent me since my arrest. I wish you also to take all my clothes that are here, and carry them home. Good by, good by. God bless you!”

Mrs. Brown was escorted back to Harper's Ferry, and reached there, greatly exhausted, at nine o'clock.

Three stray facts.

The rope with which the old man was to be hanged was publicly exhibited several days before the date of his official murder. South Carolina sent one, Missouri [392] another, and Kentucky a third rope, with which to strangle the fearless man who had dared to beard the lion which the nation dreaded in its oldest and strongest den. The gifts of South Carolina and Missouri were found to be wanting in strength; and Kentucky had the infamous preference in this choice of the necessities of assassination.

A forged letter, purporting to be written by Mrs. Doyle, the widow of one of the ruffians of Pottawattomie, was published before John Brown's execution, in order to avert from Virginia the indignation which the slaughter of a hero would inevitably excite in every manly heart in Christendom. It was a fit expedient for its authors; but it failed to effect its purpose. It proved the brutality of Slavery; not the crime of its pure-hearted assailant.

On this day, also, the old mall presented to a merchant of Charlestown, who had shown him great kindness, a copy of the Bible, bearing on the fly-leaf this dedication:

With the best wishes of the undersigned, and his sincere thanks for many acts of kindness received. There is no Commentary in the world so good in order to a right understanding of this Blessed Book as an honest, child-like, and teachable spirit.

John Brown. Charlestown, 29th November, 1859.

The opposite page was thus inscribed:

John Brown. The leaves were turned down and marked by him while in prison at Charlestown, Va. But a small portion of those passages, which in the most positive terms condemn oppression and violence, are marked.

“Many hundred passages,” writes a correspondent of a Southern paper, , “which can by any possibility of interpretation be tortured into a support of his peculiar theory, are carefully marked, both by having the corner of the pages turned over, and by being surrounded by heavy pencil marks.”

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