"Of all the men who were said to be my contemporaries, it seemed to me that John Brown was the only one who had not died. . . . I meet him at every turn. He is more alive than ever he was. He has earned immortality. He is not confined to North Elba nor to Kansas. He is no longer working in secret. He works in public, and in the clearest light that shines on this land." Henry David Thoreau<>"It would be difficult to find a parallel in all history for John Brown and his career."J. M. Buckley<>"His conversation was of the most pleasant and instructive character. One thing I observed that he never said a word that did not mean something. He always talked directly to the point and every word was big with meaning." C. G. Allen<>"It would have been as easy to drive a shadow into the centre of a block of granite as to force a pro-slavery falsehood into his brain or heart." James Redpath<>“People don’t realize, I believe, how thoughtfully Mr. Brown went into that expedition with the idea of sacrificing himself. All his preparations were made calmly and he went away as though going on a mere business trip. . . . he had weighed it all." Lyman Eppes<>"All that the courts could take cognizance of was a watch and a Bible and a few old guns. But to humanity he had left a firmer faith in virtue and in liberty." Clarence Macartney<>"He did much in his life and more in his death; he embodied the inspiration of the men of his generation." Theodore Roosevelt<>"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass<>

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Monday, January 09, 2017

January 1859

One hundred fifty-eight years ago at this time, John Brown was moving about the Kansas territory, using Shubel Morgan as his nom de guerre, and following through on a liberation effort that he had undertaken just prior to Christmas 1858.  On the night of December 20-21, Brown and his men had formed into two parties with the intention of liberating a total of eleven enslaved people from three different Missouri farms.  As Brown later recalled at the conclusion of his trial in Virginia in November 1859, he had accomplished the Missouri liberation "without the snapping of a gun."1

The Snapping of a Gun

Of course, Brown was being subjective to a fault, since the other party of his men were not so fortunate in the Missouri raid.  In their case, when a slaveholder drew his gun to protect his "property," he was shot and killed.   Brown has been accused of deception in this matter, although Brian McGinty, a legal scholar and the leading authority on Brown's trial, characterizes the abolitionist's description in court as a misstatement, not a deceit.  Brown "was not lying," McGinty concludes, "for a lie is an intentionally false statement made for the purpose of deception and fraud. Brown's Charlestown speech was neither deceptive nor fraudulent, merely imperfect."2

While I agree with McGinty, I'd further suggest that Brown's alleged misstatement was also reflective of his tendency to err on the upside in any assessment.  As Boyd Stutler observed of Brown many years ago, I can also attest that invariably he tended to cast things in optimistic terms, even his criticisms of others.  John Brown was the proverbial "glass-half-full" kind of guy, so it is no surprise that he would see his Missouri raid as exemplary of diminished violence rather than as one where a slaveholder was killed.  After all, his overall point was that he was no insurrectionist in the conventional sense--he had not set about to kill slaveholders, either in Missouri or in Virginia.  He wished to liberate the enslaved, if possible, without wiping out slaveholders (as would be the case in a classic insurrectionary format), and certainly it was his wish to avoid "the snapping of a gun" when he went into Missouri in December 1858.  Indeed, it may be the case that had Brown led the other raiding party, the shooting might have been averted.  But he could not be in two places at once, and the lieutenant to whom he entrusted the second raiding party perhaps lacked the finesse that Brown demonstrated.

On December 21, Brown and his men escorted the liberated party out of Missouri, taking them about thirty-five miles over to Osawatomie, in the Kansas Territory a free state settlement nearby the Brown family claims.  Ultimately, Brown and his band escorted them across country to Canadian freedom, although the larger story of their trek will be reserved for another time on this blog.  On March 12, the liberated party  passed across the Detroit River into Canada at Windsor, Ontario.   Of more immediate interest, however, is the period of several weeks in December and January during which Brown, his men, and the liberated party had remained before finally departing from the Territory on January 20, 1859.  The delay was understandable and strategic.  Had Brown and his men attempted right away to escort the liberated black people out of the Territory, they might very well have been apprehended immediately.

The Controversy

Meanwhile, the outrage over the killing of a slaveholder by Brown's party was intense. To no surprise, the proslavery Missouri press shrieked loudly over the incident.  But some conservative free state people in the Territory also disdained Brown's Missouri invasion, some of them bitterly.   This was no more true than in the case of the contemptible G. W. Brown (no relative of the abolitionist), an opportunistic and cowardly editor who turned on John Brown with malicious intent (and continued to harangue the abolitionist vehemently throughout his final days in Virginia later that year).3 Biographers Oswald Villard and Stephen Oates both observed that free state opinion was actually divided over Brown's raid.4

The reason for this divided opinion seems to be that the free state element that criticized Brown's Missouri foray did so for reasons of realpolitik, since white free state settlers were far more concerned about their own immediate security than antislavery principles.  Of course, John Brown's intent in going to Kansas from the start was not to achieve peace in the Territory between proslavery and free state settlers, but to see the political conflict as an occasion against slavery.  According to Brown, it was his "deliberate Judgment since 1855 that the most ready & effectual way to relieve Kansas would be to meddle directly with the peculiar institution."5

Quite in contrast, many free state people were primarily concerned with avoiding retaliation from the proslavery side as a result of Brown's invasion of Missouri.  One irate settler named George Crawford told Brown off to his face, arguing that it was easy for him to strike a blow because he could leave the Territory.   It was the free state settlers, he continued, that would have to face the wrath of the proslavery side.  Brown responded to the effect that he was hardly comfortable in the circumstances, being away from home and risking his life for the sake of freedom.6  However, the real point was Brown's political priorities.  After all, it was his own family's security that had brought him to the Territory in the fall of 1855; yet for the Browns in Kansas, fighting the slave power was their family commitment. The same cannot be said for many of the free state people, who hated the "peculiar institution" but had not moved to Kansas to fight slavery, and who were both politically and psychologically unprepared to support black equality as a priority.

Yet, in all fairness to the free state side, Brown had more than pushed the envelope, and only the most radical abolitionists could cheer him on without reservation since he not only had had the audacity to invade Missouri in an armed foray, but also had run roughshod over every major federal law and ruling that protected the rights of slaveholders.  He had not only "stolen" "chattel" from slaveholders, but had the nerve to tax them in some measure of reparations.  Thus, Brown's men seized livestock, food, bedding, clothing, footwear, a wagon, and a shotgun from the three targeted Missouri slaveholders--what the Old Man called the "lawfully acquired earnings" of the enslaved.7 It is telling of the racial astigmatism that afflicted many free state people at the time, that they could not see the consistency of Brown's policy of seizing reparations for liberated black people, when surely they would have demanded the very same thing if their own interests were involved.   (Perhaps this failure of vision has continued in the more contemporary denial of any discussion about reparations for slavery and the subsequent theft of life and property that beset black people after the short-lived period of Reconstruction.)

A Wanted and an Unwanted Man

As far as the proslavery government in Washington D.C. was concerned, John Brown was a criminal that should have been brought to justice immediately.  President James Buchanan thus offered a reward of $250 for Brown's arrest, along with that of Capt. James Montgomery.  Montgomery was one of the leading "Jayhawkers"--militant free state opponents of the proslavery invasion in the Kansas Territory.  Montgomery's antislavery militancy became notable two years before, in 1857, when he formed a company of free state fighters to both resist and harass proslavery intruders in the Territory.  The newly appointed territorial governor, Samuel Medary, an Ohio Democrat, also issued a reward for Brown's capture, in the amount of $3000.8   After Brown had safely delivered the victims of slavery to Canadian freedom, a rumor spread that he had in turn issued a counter-reward for President Buchanan for $2.50.  It was not so, although the rumor had even caused the Old Man to chuckle in his own silent manner.9  Nor was he unaccustomed to rewards being placed on his head; the proslavery element had already offered a reward for $1000 for him in 1857.10   Still, Brown was not shy in his defiance. According to one source, when he spoke in Cleveland later in 1859, he declared that he "asked no favors of the General Government, nor of the Governor of Missouri, and expected none from either."  The report concluded that Brown avowed that he did not mean to be taken.11

Although wanted by authorities, John Brown was not necessarily wanted by free state settlers, who either resented his actions or blended personal admiration with disdain for his radical actions. General James Lane, the anti-abolitionist Democrat who somehow became one of the free state leaders, gratuitously sought authority from Governor Medary to arrest both Brown and Montgomery.12  It was a self-aggrandizing and shabby effort that fortunately was not taken seriously by the governor, although it showed Lane's true colors.  Lane also sent down another Democrat to speak to Brown in January in order to file a report with President Buchanan.13  Montgomery, William Hutchinson (the Kansan correspondent of the New York Times, and Brown's Ohio abolitionist friend, Augustus Wattles, all wished that Brown had never invaded Missouri.  Fearing a counter-attack, Montgomery endeavored some peace talks through Hutchinson.  In the words of Oswald Villard, Wattles "severely censured" Brown for his actions, to which Brown responded that he was through with Missouri and was now intent on "draw[ing] the scene of the excitement to some other part of the country."14
Of course, Brown was alluding to Virginia, where he hoped to do precisely the same thing as he had done in Missouri, only on a far grander scale, and with the hopes of a more far-reaching effect.

Departure and Documents

Brown left the Territory before the month of January had passed, armed to escort his black friends to Canadian freedom.  However, afterward he was definitive that he was not forced out of the Territory, either by friend or foe.  Writing to a journalist associate in Iowa in March, Brown made this point clear, apparently after reading a report by the New York Tribune that he had been virtually driven out by free state imperatives.  "The Tribune man was mistaken in supposing I was requested to leave Kansas," Brown wrote.  "No such request was ever made   I did not escape from Kansas but left solely to secure safety."15  The safety that Brown intended, no doubt, was that of the eleven people that he had liberated, including one who gave birth during the arduous sojourn.

James Montgomery (Kansapedia)
Two documents survive from the December 1858-January 1859 Kansas episode that should be included here.  The first is a brief letter from Brown to James Montgomery, dated January 2, 1859.  It is unsigned but clearly written in the pinched hand of John Brown:

               Turkey Creek, 2d, Jany, 1859.

Capt James Montgomery

                                        Dear Sir

Osawatomie men made a drive into Missouri
the other night; since which some of the settlers
& other friends have made a stand on the line to
prevent an invasion.  You are requested to
hold yourself in reddiness [sic] to call out rein-
-forcements at a moments notice

                Respectfully Your Friend

This document (held by the Kansas State Historical Society) conveys the sense of concern that had arisen following his "drive into Missouri," with free state men standing guard in the event of a counter-attack by Missourians.

Brown to Montgomery, 2 January 1859, Kansas State Historical Society Collection

More notably, before his departure, Brown penned a response to his critics, written in the very home of his esteemed friend Wattles, but vaguely dated as January 1859 at "Trading Post," to spare his host any further trouble.   In this epic rejoinder, Brown refers to the 1858 massacre of free state men by proslavery thugs, which resulted in neither arrest nor prosecution from either the territorial or federal government.   Then, explaining the circumstances by which he had intervened in liberating the enslaved people in Missouri, Brown demands a "comparison."
Eleven persons are forcibly restored to their natural & inalienable rights, with but one man Killed, & all "Hell is stirred from beneath." It is currently reported that the Governor of Missouri has made a requisition upon the Governor of Kansas for the delivery of all such as were concerned in the last named "dreadful outage."  The Marshal of Kansas is said to be collecting a possee [sic] of Missouri (not Kansas) men at West Point, in Missouri, a little town about ten miles distant, to "enforce the laws". All proslavery conservative Free State, doughfaced men & administration tools are filled with holy honor. 
Consider the two cases and the action of the Administration party 
Respectfully yours 
John Brown 
They hypocrisy of the federal government is made quite clear as Brown points out the fury that had been aroused by his actions, while nothing had been done about the killings of free state men.  The original copy of this document in Brown's hand is also held by the Kansas State Historical Society, but it is amply reproduced in texts.   Happily for Brown, too, the letter was published by a number of newspapers, beginning with Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, pictured below from the January 22, 1859 (p. 6) edition:

As Oswald Villard concluded, "Indubitably, the parallel was an effective one." As a result, his critics in the Kansas legislature were blunted, and Montgomery tried to wash his hands, writing to a local newspaper that he was not responsible for Brown's actions.  "Brown keeps his own counsels," Montgomery squeaked, "and acts on his own responsibility."   In February, while Brown was marching his liberated friends toward freedom, Montgomery surrendered himself to a judge in Lawrence.  For Brown, however, his successful Missouri raid's success had convinced him "of the telling effect upon the crumbling foundations of slavery of a similar undertaking on a larger scale."16
That undertaking would be his raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, at the end of the year.--LD


      1 "I intended certainly to have made a clean thing of that matter [i.e. the Harper's Ferry raid], as I did last winter when I went into Missouri, and there took slaves without the snapping of a gun on either side."  Statement of John Brown to the court, 2 Nov. 1859, Charlestown, Va., in John Brown Speaks: Letters and Statements from Charlestown.  Edited by Louis A. DeCaro, Jr. (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015), 105.

     2 Brian McGinty, John Brown's Trial (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009), 229.

     3 See my discussion about G. W. Brown's strenuous efforts in attacking John Brown after the Harper's Ferry raid in Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2015), 203-07.

     4 Oswald G. Villard, John Brown: A Biography 1800-1859 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929), 370; Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land with Blood: A Biography of John Brown (New York: Harper, 1970), 262.

     5 John Brown to John Teesdale, March 1859, in Villard, John Brown, 386.

     6 Oates, To Purge this Land With Blood, 263;

     7 Villard, John Brown, 386.

     8 Ibid., 371.

     9 Katherine Mayo's interview with Sarah Brown, Sept. 1908, in Box 6, Miss Sarah Brown folder, Oswald G. Villard-John Brown Papers, Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Collection (OGV).

     10 S. L. Adair to "Dear Bro. & Sis Davis," from Osawatomie, Kansas Territory, 23 Oct. 1856, Transcript, in Box 1, OGV.

     11 Unidentified clippings from typewritten copies of newspaper articles from Cleveland, 1859, in JB in Cleveland, March 1859 folder, Box 4, OGV.

     12  Villard, John Brown, 370-71.

     13  Ibid., 374.

    14  Ibid., 375.  Villard draws Wattle's account from the Congressional Report on the Harper's Ferry Raid, popularly known as the Mason Report.

    15  Brown to Teesdale, in Villard, 386.

    16 Villard, 376-78.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Lyman Eppes Jr.'s Christmas Memory of John Brown

If you have read my first biography of Brown, "Fire from the Midst of You" (NYU Press, 2002), you are acquainted with the background of the abolitionist's determined move to the Adirondacks in 1849, when he and his family joined a fledgling black colony in Essex County.   The colonists were not ex-slaves as many have supposed, but rather free black residents of New York State, all of which were recipients of land grants from the wealthy abolitionist, Gerrit Smith of Peterboro, N.Y.  After the folding of Perkins & Brown, the wool commission operation that Brown had supervised in Springfield from 1846, he eagerly moved his family to the Adirondack town of North Elba, near present day Lake Placid, N.Y.

Brown loved mountain life, but his greater motivation was to assist the black land grantees in settlement.   Brown and his family lived in North Elba, on a rented farm, from 1849 until 1851.  Probably against his will, he was constrained to relocate back to Akron, Ohio, to manage the flock and farm of his business partner, Simon Perkins Jr.  Notwithstanding their failed wool commission operation, their partnership continued for several more years, until Brown could get free from Perkins and return to North Elba.  When they returned in 1855, they moved into their newly built farm house, where his family resided at the time of the Harper's Ferry raid in 1859, and where Brown, his sons Oliver and Watson, and a number of his raiders are interred.

With the move to North Elba in 1849, the Browns immediately became quite close to the black settlers since they already had been sending support, and since Brown had already become quite familiar to them as one of the leading white proponents of the experiment.  However, the relationship that the Browns formed with a family named Eppes (often spelled as Epps) was particularly warm.  Lyman Eppes Sr. was about thirty-three years old when he met John Brown (he was born sometime between 1813 and 1816), and moved to the "Timbuctoo" colony with his wife, Amelia (maybe Anna) and their young family, which ultimately grew to six children by 1856.  Eppes Sr. was a musician and teacher, as the late Ed Cotter once told me, "of rare ability."  He was also of mixed black and Native American descent (I am skeptical about references to him having been "full-blooded Indian," but I'm open to correction if anyone has better information.)  It was Eppes and his family that sang at John Brown's funeral in 1859, leading family and friends in Brown's favorite song, an 18th century hymn entitled, "Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow."

Lyman Eppes Jr. in later life
Of the six Eppes family members, the longest surviving sibling was Lyman Jr., who was born about 1848 (based upon the 1860 census), the year before the Browns' arrived in North Elba.1   Lyman Jr. lived well into the 20th century and perhaps was the last black settler in Essex County.  The black settlement itself was a failure, and most of the land grantees were already leaving the cold mountain settlement in Brown's time; only a small number remained in subsequent decades, and Lyman Jr. outlasted and outlived all of them.  In a letter written late in life, Lyman Jr. said that he never left North Elba because he could not bear to leave John Brown's grave.2

In December 1940, the Watertown [N.Y.] Times published a story based upon an interview with "'Lyme' Epps," on December 26 in Lake Placid.   In the interview a brief vignette is presented that I have seen nowhere else, pertaining to John Brown and Christmas.  "Among [the reminiscences], he relates how he sat on the knees of John Brown, the martyr of Harper's Ferry, and sang Christmas songs.  He was rewarded with candy for his efforts."3

Even assuming the reliability of his reminiscence, there is no certain way to determine the year of Lyman's Christmas memory of Brown.  My educated guess, however, is that this episode actually took place in between the first and second periods of the Browns' residence in North Elba.  Lyman Jr. would have been too young to sing Christmas carols on Brown's knee in 1849-51, so it is likely the story he recounts happened after 1851.  On the other hand, John Brown was not in North Elba for Christmas in 1855-58, when Lyman Jr. was older.  Of course, Brown was hanged before Christmas of 1859, so my assumption is that the incident took place during a visit to North Elba in the early 1850s, during the period when Brown had relocated to Akron, Ohio.
Detail of Joseph Pollia's statue of Brown and a black youth
 at the John Brown Farm in Lake Placid.  

If this is the case, then most likely it was during December 1852, when we can document that Brown was visiting North Elba from mid-to-late December.  It was during this visit that Brown spent Christmas with his married daughter, Ruth Brown Thompson and son-in-law, Henry Thompson in North Elba.  The couple had been married since the previous year, and Brown arrived in North Elba on December 14, 1852, on a mild Adirondack winter day.  In a letter to his son John Jr. in Ohio, the father thus wrote that "things appear to be progressing among our old neighbors," which is a direct reference to the black settlers, undoubtedly including the Eppes family.4 

When the statue of John Brown by Joseph Pollia was installed at the John Brown Farm on May 9, 1935, Lyman Eppes Jr. was still alive, and was even able to unveil the statue before an audience of 1500 people. It must have been quite a dramatic moment for the elderly man--to have remembered Brown in life, and now to finish his days under the shadow of a great bronze statue of the abolitionist. Perhaps the figure of the black youth standing next to Brown is, in part, an idealization of Lyman Eppes' life long devotion to John Brown.  Whether or not his story was a direct inspiration to Pollia as a sculptor is not clear.  But it is not hard to imagine what it must have meant to Lyman, especially in his final years.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!--LD


1 The birth year of Lyman Eppes Jr. is not clear.  The 1860 census for Essex County lists him as twelve years old, which would mean he was born sometime between 1848-49.  But according to the Lake Placid News (14 Jun. 1940), his hundredth birthday was celebrated in 1940.  However, this is quite unlikely, and would have made him about nineteen at the time of Brown's death.  It is far more reasonable that he was actually in his early nineties when his hundredth birthday celebration took place.  Likwise, I am not certain of his death date, which seems to have been in the 1940s.

2 Lyman Eppes (Jr.) to O. G. Libby, 4 Aug. 1938 [TLS], courtesy of H. Scott Wolfe.

3 "Old Time Adirondack Christmas Recalled."  Watertown Times, 26 Dec. 1940.

4 John Brown to John Brown Jr., 15 Dec. 1852, in Sanborn, Life and Letters of John Brown, 105-06.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

About John Brown: Remembrances by Frederick Douglass and Richard Hinton

"It must be admitted that Brown assumed tremendous responsibility in making war upon the peaceful people of Harper's Ferry, but it must be remembered also that in his eye a slave-holding. community could not be peaceable, but was, in the nature of the case, in one incessant state of war. To him such a community- was not more sacred than a band of robbers : it was the right of anyone to assault it by day or night. He saw no hope that slavery would ever be abolished by moral or political means: he knew,  he said, 'the proud and hard hearts of the slave-holders, and that they never would consent to give up their slaves, till they felt a big stick about their heads.'"  

Frederick Douglass, Storer College Address (1881)

“The purpose [of the Harper’s Ferry raid] was not that of insurrection, technically speaking, but to make slavery unsafe, by showing how it could be uptorn and disturbed through the efforts of a few resolute men.”

Richard Hinton, “About John Brown,” Hyde Park Herald, 18 April 1885.

Friday, December 09, 2016

From the Files--Covering John Brown's Burial

From the Files--
Covering John Brown's Burial

Two New York daily newspapers figure preeminently in covering the last days of John Brown, Horace Greeley's antislavery New York Tribune and James Bennett's New York Herald.  It is not exaggerating to say that to a great degree, the rest of the newspaper reportage on John Brown's last days--at least in the North--was dependent upon what was published in these two papers.  While a good many newspapers dispatched journalists to cover the final reel at Harper's Ferry in October 1859, and then again for Brown's execution in December, the main flow of information from Virginia to the North about Brown throughout his final ordeal was provided by the Herald and the Tribune.

James G. Bennett

As I have observed in Freedom's Dawn: The Last Days of John Brown in Virginia, the New York Herald was privileged by Virginia authorities because of Bennett's ultra-conservative and proslavery position.  However, Bennett did not consistently have his New York journalists in Virginia, but rather depended upon local reporters to feed reports to the Herald.  Indeed, some of the most problematic reportage in the Herald seems to have come from a local newspaperman named Gallaher (sometimes written Gallager) who misrepresented facts in order to protect the image of slaveholders and to belittle Brown's impact in Virginia.  The Herald, however, is still quite useful in many respects because Bennett generally emphasized thorough gathering of details and so published a great deal of primary material, letters, and statements that are valuable to the historians.  For instance, Bennett could publish an entire article by abolitionist Frederick Douglass without interpolation, except for a demeaning title.

Horace Greeley

Quite in contrast, Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, was no less thorough, and equally ambitious in covering a wide range of topics.  Greeley's paper covered every aspect of contemporary life, from theater reviews to agricultural items and religious intelligence.  When it came to the Brown episode, Greeley accomplished what seemed impossible at the time, by placing one of his correspondents in Virginia incognito, since the Tribune was hated and banned by Virginia authorities.  While Greeley was not pro-Brown, he was at least sympathetic toward the abolitionist, and used his editorials to invoke sympathy for him, and to criticize the hasty and determined manner that Virginia had gone about in rushing the Old Man to trial and execution.

After Brown was executed on December 2, 1859, the Herald and the Tribune continued to cover details about his hanging, the removal of his body from Virginia and certain stops made en route to its final resting place in the Adirondacks.  When Brown's remains reached his farm in North Elba, Essex County, reporters from both papers were present to document the burial in their respective dailies.  I have not yet been able to document the names of these journalists, although it is very unlikely that they had previously covered Brown's last days in Virginia.

Five Sketches by Thomas Nast

Interestingly, when Brown was buried on Thursday, December 8, 1859, only one sketch artist from New York City was present on the ground in North Elba, having been sent upstate for J. Warner Campbell's New York Illustrated News.  Campbell's paper was a brand new publication, as it were, cutting its teeth on the John Brown episode.  Campbell had sent another artist, DeWitt Hitchcock to cover Brown's last days in Virginia, competing with two established illustrated publications, Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.  Nor was the competition friendly, with Campbell and Leslie feuding in the pages of the Tribune about the authenticity of their respective illustrations.  Interestingly, however, Leslie seems to have failed for some reason to extend the competition to sending an artist upstate to cover Brown's burial.  It appears that when the short, pudgy German artist, Thomas Nast, arrived at the Brown farm, the young artist had the entire episode to himself.

In Th. Nast: His Period and His Pictures (1904), biographer Albert Paine recalled the young artist's first job with Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, where he worked under the auspices of the high-minded German illustrator, Albert Berghaus.  In later years, Nast made cartoon of himself, the small, chubby newcomer, with Leslie towering over him. Interestingly, however, by 1859, Nast had left Leslie and gone over to Campbell's New York Illustrated News.  As the rising star of newspaper illustration, it was under assignment from Campbell that the young artist managed to capture the return and interment of Brown's remains for history.  In remembering the 157th anniversary of Brown's death and burial, then, what follows are scanned images of both the Tribune and Herald coverage, along with Nast's brilliant sketches in The New York Illustrated Newspaper.

*  *  *

"The Burial of John Brown."  New York Daily Tribune, 12 December 1859, p. 6, col. 1-3


Thomas Nast, "our artist on the spot," captured the arrival of the carriage carrying Mary 
Brown, Wendell Phillips, and abolitionist James Miller McKim on Wednesday evening, 
December 7.  Note the great rock to the left, where Brown was buried the following day 
following a brief viewing of the body.  New York Illustrated News, 24 Dec. 1859, p. 85.

Rev. Joshua Young, a Unitarian minister, had already alienated some of his congregation in Burlington, Vt.,  after preaching a Thanksgiving Day sermon that included admiring references to John Brown.  When Brown was hanged, Young took it upon himself to make the arduous trek from Vermont to North Elba, N.Y. in order to attend Brown's funeral.  Little did he know that he would be the only clergyman present, and that he would end up eulogizing Brown.  Young's ministry was adversely impacted, since there were many conservatives in Vermont, and eventually he was forced to resign his pulpit in Burlington as a result of intense resentment among his neighbors and congregants.  As an old man, Young returned to preside over the interment of the remains of Brown's raiders after they were recovered from Virginia in 1899.  New York Illustrated News, 24 Dec. 1859, p. 92.  See this blog, H. Scott Wolfe, "The Second Harper's Ferry Raid: The Fate of John Brown's Men" (Part 3 in a series), 13 Sept. 2015 

Nast made perhaps the most important of the funeral set of sketches in capturing Brown's 
partially opened coffin being viewed by family and admirers.  I suggest the following 
identification from left: Jane and Roswell Thompson, parents of two of Brown's fallen 
raiders; orator Wendell Phillips; Lyman Epps, a black colonist and friend of the Brown 
family; Salmon Brown (son); Ellen Brown (young daughter); James Miller McKim, holding 
the arm of the widow, Mary Brown; daughter Ruth Brown Thompson and husband Henry Thompson.  
Perhaps the man at the foot of the coffin is Phineas Norton of Keene, N.Y., a 
friend of Brown.  This sketch appeared in The New York Illustrated News, 24 Dec. 1859, 
p. 93.  The figure on the far upper right seems to be Nast with his sketch book, the artist 
having included himself in the picture.

"The 'Impending Crisis; The Burial of John Brown."  New York Herald, 12 December 1859, p. 1, col. 1-3

Nast captured the lowering of the coffin into the ground, near the great rock, with the empty viewing table in the background near the Brown house.  New York Illustrated News, 24 Dec. 1859, p. 81.

Before departing, Nast sketched the grave of John Brown near the great rock.  New York Illustrated News, 24 Dec. 1859, p. 92