History, Research, and Current Themes

"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

Search This Blog & Links


Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Late James Baldwin: "John Brown was a man of conscience"
Reminiscences of an interview by Frank Shatz

The 150th anniversary of John Brown’s raid and execution was observed by a series of events across our country. A memorable re-enactment of his burial took place in Lake Placid, where his gravesite serves as a place of pilgrimage. One individual to whom the life and death of John Brown had remained an ever- present reminder of the unfinished national agenda was James Baldwin, one of America’s foremost black writers.

Sitting across the table from him at the Hotel La Colombe de’Or, in St-Paul-de-Vence, on the French Riviera, where he had a home, I saw a slender, intense man who seemed to live up to his reputation as a fierce, outspoken and eloquent black writer. He was courteous, humorous and kind one moment, and the next he was carried away by the firmness and heat of his own arguments. His words did place, like bricks on bricks, a heavy burden of guilt on the shoulders of any white man to whom he happened to talk.

Baldwin chose his words deliberately. “I am a re-writer,” he said. “My sentences consist, usually, of eight words, and each must have meaning and weight.” He continued: “You asked me about John Brown. Now here was a white man who needed to cleanse his soul of guilt. To do so, he made an attack on the bastion of the federal government. He did it in an attempt to liberate not merely the black slaves but the whole country from a disastrous way of life. It was, on his part, an act of love, and it failed. Acts of this kind always do fail. What is left is the impact made on the conscience of a few people which travels down in time. So what John Brown did wasn’t futile. But even today, the institutions against which he stood up haven’t changed that much. As long as the institutions don’t change, there is no point in talking about progress.”

My interview with Baldwin took place in the late 1970s. He was living in self-exile in the south of France. “I didn’t walk out or away from my country,” he said. “I keep in touch, but need perspective. I am doing what responsible writers, white and black, had done through the ages… attacking the injustices of society and all the things which are wrong with it. I am an American. I was born there. I love the country. I love the people. Otherwise I wouldn’t be in such pain. In my writings I try to be as honest as I can be.”

Talking about John Brown, he said: “I learned the true story about him well past my school age. In the school textbooks of my youth he was described as a mad fanatic. But of course, today we know better.” Warming up to the subject, he continued: “In my mind John Brown was a man of conscience. He deeply believed that men are not born to become slaves. He wasn’t romantic as some people try to label him. When someone plans to take over government property with a handful of men, as John Brown did, and is ready to die the next morning, he is not a romantic. He was one of the really great American patriots who believed that he had to do what has to be done without regards to the consequences. To make it, real. It is what belief is all about, isn’t it?”

The transcript of the entire tape, containing almost an hour’s worth of my conversation with Baldwin, was published in Transition magazine, an international journal, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of the W. E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard. The original tape is now part of the Swem Library’s Special Collection at the College of William & Mary. A copy of the tape is on loan at the Lake Placid Public Library.

Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New York State Will Restore Siding on John Brown's Farm House

LAKE PLACID - The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will be undertaking a number of repairs at the John Brown Farm Historic Site this winter.

The project will include window restoration, as well as putting on new eastern white cedar siding to replicate how the farm looked more than 150 years ago when the radical abolitionist lived there, according to a press release from the state.

None of the building's current siding is historic, having been replaced a number of times, most recently in the 1970s. Over the years, "the exterior siding has deteriorated to the point that air and water infiltration threaten to damage the house," the press release says. "The old siding has warped and cracked, window frames are cracked and caulking is missing, and other exterior building elements need repair."

This year marked the 150th anniversary of Brown's raid on a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, (now W.) Va. and his subsequent hanging. It was marked and written about nationally, and a series of events, re-enactments and presentations were held in Lake Placid and elsewhere in Essex County to mark the anniversary.

Brown is buried on the farm along with a number of his followers, and the farmhouse and gravesite are open for tours from May through October.

Insulating the Farm for the Winter of 1855-56

Perhaps some of my readers share my obsessive interest in all things Brown, from Harper's Ferry to fine sheep and wool. The present plans to renovate the Brown farm house bring to mind two letters that the Old Man wrote after leaving New York State for the Kansas territory in 1855. The first, dated August 9, 1855, was written from Brown's home town of Hudson, Ohio, where he stopped to see his father (as it turned out, for the last time), family members, anti-slavery associates, and to gather money and weapons for the protection of free state settlers. The second, dated November 11, 1855, was written from Osawatomie, Kansas, probably from the home of his half-sister and brother-in-law, Florella and Samuel Adair (Brown arrived in the territory the month before).

My interest in these letters in this case pertain to Brown's plans to winterize the North Elba farm house despite his absence from home. Always one to plan in great detail, Brown was clearly contemplating the concerns of his wife and family during his extended (and possibly permanent) absence. Writing from Hudson, Brown thus informed Mary that before leaving North Elba he had talked with his son-in-law, Henry Thompson (Ruth's husband) about finishing the exterior of the house, particularly the shingles and clapboarding. Henry, a skilled carpenter, had built the house for his father-in-law in advance of the Brown's move back to the Adirondacks from Akron in the spring of 1855. Since Brown evidently was hoping to get Henry Thompson to join him in Kansas (which he did), he asked Henry to get his older brother, John Thompson, to finish the exterior work. Brown wrote:

I wish Watson would at once see Mr Nash, & secure enough of good Clapboards, & haul them into the Barn from the Mill after he gets through Haying. I want him to get John Thompson if he can; to take hold after Haying off while the weather is warm; & finish off the outside of the House good. I will see that the money is sent to pay for it. If he cannot get John Thompson; he must try to find some other good man; & have it done as the House will be as doubly as warm through the Winter. If he can get Lime, & Sand; & have some of the rooms plastered, I would be glad before freezeing weather comes; but the covering of the House properly will do most towards making it comfortable. I am anxious to have the Cellar dug, & walled up; as that you will greatly need, & will try to send money sufficient to enable Watson to bring it about; if good advice be had; & good management be had in those matters; before it gets too late in the season.1
The letter reminds us that when Brown left home, his son Watson (then nearly 20-years-old) was "the man of the house," and was left to manage the Brown farm and concerns for his mother, along with hired help. (Watson married Isabelle Thompson in September 1856, thus further tying together the Brown and Thompson families.2 He died as a result of wounds sustained during the battle of Harper's Ferry in October 1859). Brown had probably made prior arrangements with a neighbor, Pliny Nash, to purchase clapboards for the house and wanted Watson to follow through by obtaining the boards and storing them in the barn. It was Watson's job to get either John Thompson or another competent man to do the work. Brown also wanted the inside walls to be plastered, although he was particularly concerned to have the boards placed on the outside in order to make sure the family dwelling was warm during the long, cold mountain winter months. Recall that the Browns had lived in the Adirondacks previous to 1855, having rented a farm in North Elba from 1849-1851, after which they returned to Akron, Ohio, at the bequest of magnate Simon Perkins Jr. After Brown and Perkins dissolved their partnership, Brown decided to return to North Elba, while his elder sons had determined to migrate to Kansas. Lastly, Brown wanted to have an adequate cellar dug and walled for the house, which would be needful for storage. Regardless, Brown states that he would have to send the money for these projects to be completed, which likely means he would have to raise the funds in order to do so.

Incidentally, Brown says in this same letter that he had seen Frederick Douglass on August 7, 1855. Although he does not say where they met, it is possible that Brown met Douglass in Rochester, New York. Furthermore, this letter enables us to correct Villard's chronology at this point, which mistakenly says that Brown arrived in Hudson on August 15.3 He actually arrived on August 9, but even so, extant correspondence cannot adequately account for Brown's precise movements between June 28, when he attended an anti-slavery conference in Syracuse, New York (where he also saw Douglass), and his arrival in Hudson on August 9th.

Over a month after arriving in the Kansas territory, Brown thus wrote home to Mary at North Elba on November 23, 1855.4 Clearly his intentions to have had the exterior work done on the house were disappointed, perhaps because he had not been able to raise the cash necessary to pay for the materials and/or labor. In a letter to his father, Owen Brown, in Hudson, dated November 9, Brown wrote asking for a loan of $50. "I am looking for money from a number of sources but I may not get any for some time," he concluded.5 Regardless, now his son had written to him from New York, apparently confirming the failure of all efforts to complete the work.

Watson had written on October 3, undoubtedly reporting that things were not going well back in North Elba. They had hoped to raise some money by selling livestock to a man named Hurlbut in Connecticut, but this does not seem to have materialized. Meanwhile, Brown's sons were doing so poorly in Kansas that he was caught between a rock and a hard place. Desperate to help his freezing, struggling sons and their families on the prairie, he also had his own wife and younger children to worry about back in the Adirondacks. He already responded once to Watson's letter, writing to Mary on November 2, sharing the dismal news of their family's condition in Kansas. Typically optimistic about things getting "brighter here before long," nevertheless Brown assured Mary that his sad report was not done to make her "more unhappy," but point out that they were not doing any better out west. Brown did not want them to think that Kansas was "paradise" even though they had "to stay in that miserable Frosty region" of the Adirondacks.6

Having written so bluntly may have bothered him afterward, particularly as he was so far away from Mary and his tireless mind probably was working over time to figure a solution for the insulation of the farm house. On November 23, he finally dashed off another letter, this time offering a tentative solution:
Since Watson wrote, I have felt a great deal troubled about your prospects of a cold house to winter in, and since I wrote last I have thought of a cheap ready way to help it much, at any rate. Take any common straight-edged boards, and run them from the ground up to the eaves, barn fashion, not driving the nails in so far but that they may easily be drawn, covering all but doors and windows as close as may be in that way, and breaking joints if need be. This can be done by any one, and in any weather not very severe, and the boards may afterwards be mostly saved for other uses.7
John Brown followed up on this improvisational method, mentioning it again in a letter written on November 30, wherein he also expressed concern over whether they had sold their livestock. He also complained that he had not heard from home,8 which is why he could also write to his father in Ohio saying that he could only assume that his family in New York had successfully made the sale. In fact, old Owen had written to him, informing him that his family in North Elba had written to Ohio, seeking financial assistance for their Adirondack problems. To learn that his father had had to bail out his family back home only after the fact was a real source of anxiety and embarrassment to John Brown. Writing to his father on December 5, he thus explained:
I did suppose full provision had been made (by way of Cattle to be sold for me in Connecticut) for those at North Elba; but it seems they had received nothing from that source when they applied to you for help. I still hope they are relieved from that quarter before now; & I would not have asked you to send assistance this way had I thought of your getting a call from them. . . .9
In fact, the worried old man in Ohio had no intention of overlooking either his family in New York or Kansas, and had sent money to both. Whatever was ultimately done to the Brown farm house is not clear, but apparently the money that Mary sought and received was applied to some extent in securing an insulated home for the winter months. Writing to Mary on December 16, 1855, John Brown reported how his father's generosity had flowed both east and west, and the matter now seems to have been settled: "We have received Fifty Dollars from Father, & learn from him that he has sent you the same amount for which we ought to be grateful; as we are much relieved both as respects ourselves; & you. . . . Do write often & let me know all about how you get along through the Winter."10

In fact, his letter was lengthy, filled with the details of the growing crisis in Kansas. Ever the optimist, Brown's 1855 letters regarding the political condition of the territory were hopeful and positive in anticipating the success of the free state cause. Things shifted in late 1855 and with the coming of spring, his attentions would be fully drawn into conflict with pro-slavery terrorism. In August 1856, after his son Frederick was murdered by a pro-slavery preacher named Martin White, young Watson himself would set out for Kansas, along with his brother Salmon, with the intention of tracking down White and killing him. Brown would turn them back from their revenge, but Watson would ultimately follow his father down to Virginia and die, along with his brother Oliver, in a failed effort to launch a liberation movement in Virginia. Father and sons would be carried home to North Elba and interred just outside the humble farm house.

Interestingly, after her husband's death, Mary Brown came into some money through the royalties from Redpath's biography of her husband as well as donations sent from black and white friends and supporters. While she hardly made a fortune in this way, she was able to make significant additions to the farm house's structure. When she relocated to the west coast in 1864, she left behind a finished, expanded structure that would have made her husband proud. In the 20th century the John Brown farm house was restored to its form of 1855, the way Brown himself knew it. But once again, John Brown's farm house is in need of work.


1 Exact transcription of portion of letter from John Brown, Hudson, Ohio, to Mary Brown, North Elba, New York, August 9, 1855, from the original in the Gee Collection, Hudson Library & Historical Society, Hudson, Ohio.
2 The Thompson family was large and Isabell (known affectionately as "Bell") was the only daughter among the eleven children of Roswell and Jane Thompson, ages . In 1855, the Thompson siblings were: John (36), Archibald (35), Henry (33), Franklin (31), Samuel (29), Leander (26), twins William and Willard (23), Isabell (19), Roby (21), and Dauphin (17). The Browns were tied to the Thompsons through love and death, as it were: Isabell married Watson Brown, Henry married Ruth Brown, and William and Dauphin died as Brown's men at Harper's Ferry in 1859. See 1850 Census of North Elba, Essex County, New York, September 6, 1850.
4 See John Brown, Osawatomie, Kansas territory, to Mary Brown et al., North Elba, New York, November 23, 1855, in Franklin B. Sanborn, The Life and Letters of John Brown, 3rd Edition (Concord, Mass.: Published by the Author ), pp. 204-05.
7 See note 4.
10 John Brown, Osawatomie, Kansas Territory, to Mary Brown, North Elba, N.Y., December 16, 1855, 1:15, Kansas State Historical Society.

Monday, December 21, 2009


"What a year!": Magpie's Greg Artzner Writes (With Pictures)

Just wanted to compose one letter and send a few pics from our recent adventures in the saga of the sesquicentennial of John Brown's raid, hanging, funeral and burial. Call it my one-time "blog".
We just returned from 2 weeks on the road. The first 2 days were in the eastern Adirondacks working in songwriting residencies in the towns of Keeseville and Westport organized by our wonderful friend Martha Swan, founder of the organization "John Brown Lives!". More on that later.

Tuesday December 1, after our morning classes, we drove to the Albany airport and flew to Baltimore where we rented a car and drove to Charles Town, WV. Wednesday morning December 2nd we participated in the re-enactment of John Brown's execution procession from the Jefferson County Courthouse where he was tried to the exact location of his hanging. The sponsors had commissioned the construction of a 3/4 scale replica of the gallows, and our re-enactment ceremony took place there. Many of you have already seen the photos and video from that day. For those who haven't, the link is: http://www.inthepanhandle.com/local/news/article/john_brown_hanging_re-enactment/
At the gallows, I was given the opportunity by the sponsoring organizations, the Jefferson County NAACP and Black Historical Society, to speak in the character of the Old Man saying a few words such as he might have said if he had been allowed to address his executioners and spectators, which opportunity he was categorically denied on December 2nd, 1859. My remarks as John Brown, drawn from his writings and transcribed remarks with my own embellishments, are recorded on that video. The first photo below is from that scene.

I cannot begin to describe the emotions inhabiting my mind as I rode down the same street he traveled on that day 150 years ago, sitting on a "coffin" in the back of the wagon, as he did. I watched the crowd of over 300 people of every description follow the wagon down the streets and up to the gallows with a sense of pride to be in that role, leading a group of citizens such as those who were completely denied access to that experience in 1859 by order of declaration of martial law in the town. It was both a surreal and deeply moving experience.

Those feelings were heightened at the gallows site by the opportunity to speak in Brown's behalf, and also by words delivered by his great-great-great-granddaughter, our dear friend Alice Keesey Mecoy. Then they were deepened even more as I stood hidden behind the nearby house and watched Terry, portraying Mary Brown, newly widowed, receive her husband's "personal effects" of slippers and Bible, and then, escorted by our friend Naj Wikoff in the role of Wendell Phillips, as she followed the wagon bearing the coffin away.

After it was over, I dropped character and mingled in the crowd where I met Dick Gregory who was effusive in his expressions of emotion for the day. Mr. Gregory spoke to the crowd back at the courthouse before our procession began, a brilliant and humorous, impromptu address. He told me he wanted a copy of my remarks at the gallows, so I sent them to him. Our friend Kerry Altenbernd, who lives and portrays John Brown in Lawrence, Kansas, snapped a few photos of us. (Kerry and Alice were also with us all in the Adirondacks the following weekend, staying right to the very end.)

That afternoon, we drove back to Baltimore, flew back to Albany, and drove back to Martha's house at Westport. Thursday we finished the songs we were co-writing with our students, and Friday we joined them in singing the new songs in a showcase performance with students from other schools who were creating poetry and theatre in residencies with two artist colleagues. Our students wrote 2 powerful songs. One was a reflection on the losses endured by her families, the Thompsons and the Browns, in the voice of John Brown's oldest daughter Ruth Brown Thompson, and the second a call to action against racism and present-day slavery making the connection to the legacy of John Brown. The songs have found their way into our repertoire. The showcase took place at the Stone Church in Elizabethtown, and was preceded with talks by present day abolitionist Kevin Bales, president of FreetheSlaves.net, and Maria Suarez, a wonderful woman who is a survivor of modern day human trafficking and slavery. Their talks, stirring and deeply affecting, set the stage for the rest of the powerful weekend, making the connection between the work of our historical remembrance and direct action today. Please visit http://www.freetheslaves.net/Page.aspx?pid=183 to find out what you can do.

Saturday and Sunday were great days, joining in the symposium in Lake Placid where we shared unforgettable time with biographers, writers, scholars and John Brown people of all kinds. Highlights included hearing historian and author Margaret Washington talk about the African-American experience during the 19th century, professor J.W. Wiley's presentation on John Brown in context through the medium of film, novelist Russell Banks moderating a wonderful panel on Brown's legacy, and, most of all, our too-short time spent with Louis DeCaro Jr., author of one of our favorite biographies, Fire from the Midst of You, and his brilliant and talented wife Michele Sweeting, and son Lou Mike. We had the great pleasure of singing with Michele, who is a powerful singer of Gospel music. Our spontaneous 3-part arrangements of "Wade in the Water," "Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow" and "Amazing Grace" came together as if we'd been singing together for years. What a treat! We are looking forward to spending more time together with their family in NYC. Lou's blog site is a great clearing-house of information on "all things John Brown." [http://abolitionist-john-brown.blogspot.com/] I also spent some quality time with my friend and colleague actor Norman Thomas Marshall who has been portraying John Brown on stage for over 20 years. A number of people remarked that it seemed every time they turned around Norman, Kerry and I were standing in a three-way circle talking.

Seemed the three "John Browns" spent a lot of time "hanging" around together.
Saturday afternoon we sang with Michelle at a graveside ceremony at John Brown Farm in North Elba. Later that evening we were honored by the organizing committee of the John Brown Coming Home events with the presentation of the John Brown Coming Home Humanitarian Award for our work as artist-scholars interpreting and presenting the story of the Browns in theater and music. It was an overwhelming experience.

We shared the evening with the other honorees, J. W. Wiley, for his work as a community activist at SUNY Plattsburgh, and novelist Russell Banks for his work as Adirondack storyteller, particularly his story of the Brown family, and his humanitarian work. What an honor to share the evening with 2 such luminaries! We were also able to sing 2 of our "Sword of the Spirit" songs, "John Copeland" and "Heaven Bound" honoring John Anthony Copeland and Shields Green, Brown's compatriots and freedom fighters executed two weeks after Brown on December 16, 1859.

On Sunday afternoon at the Stone Church we had the pleasure of adding our music to a "speak-choir" presentation of a piece that combined excerpts from Benét's "John Brown's Body" with other writings, directed by our friend Lindsay Pontius. That evening right after the performance the replica coffin was brought to the courthouse in Elizabethtown where it lay in state over night, as in 1859.

Monday Terry portrayed widow Mary Brown as the coffin was brought to the Brown farmhouse in North Elba and set up on a stand in the living room. She, Alice and Naj rode the last two miles to the farm in a genuine, early 19th century horse-drawn buggy, following another horse-drawn wagon carrying the replica coffin. The whole thing nearly went awry when the left side rein came unattached and the horse pulled the wagon off the road and into the ditch. With its right wheels in the ditch the wagon leaned at a dangerous angle and nearly tipped over. Luckily Brendan Mills, site manager at the Farm, was able to re-attach the rein and they were able to get righted again before anyone was hurt. Whew! That evening we performed our stage play "Sword of the Spirit" in the meeting room in the basement of the Brown's barn. The audience was intimate and appreciative, and Terry felt it was one of our best and most spirited performances, inspired as she was by working in that most honored venue.

Tuesday the 8th in the cold and snow Terry again portrayed Mary and I stood in as the Reverend Joshua Young, re-enacting parts of the original funeral, the prayers and eulogy. The most moving part of the day was the exchange of soils. When Mary Brown died in California in 1884, she was buried there in the town of Saratoga. On the 150th anniversary of her husband's burial, Alice brought soil from her great-great-great-grandmother's California grave and mingled it with the soil over the grave of her husband. Simultaneously, Alice's father, in California, mingled soil from John Brown's grave in New York with the soil over Mary's grave in Saratoga. Terry, in character as Mary, held Alice's hand as she completed this very moving, symbolic exchange, the culmination of the remarkable and historic commemoration events this year.

What a year! Now we get back into the rest of our work as musicians for awhile, but be looking for more appearances of John and Mary Brown in "Sword of the Spirit" in 2010, beginning with January 16th in New York City at the People's Voice Café, and at Allegany College in Cumberland, Maryland during African American History Month on Thursday February 25th. We're also looking forward to bringing "Sword", both song cycle and stage play to Kansas next year.
Greg & Terry (Magpie)
"It is not the end of the fight": Brown's Great-Great-Great Granddaughter Closes the John Brown Year at Lake Placid, N.Y.

On December 8, 2009, the closing remarks of the John Brown Coming Home program at Lake Placid, New York, were made by Alice Keesey Mecoy, a direct descendant of John and Mary Brown the abolitionists (through their daughter Anne Brown Adams).

"In Saratoga, California, my father, Paul Meredith Keesey, a great-great grandson of John Brown, and here in North Elba, New York, I, a great-great-great granddaughter of John Brown, participated in the ceremonies commingling the soil from John and Mary Brown's graves. Today, though their bodies are buried on opposite coasts, John and Mary Brown have been reunited by the actions of their descendants.

The reenactment of the burial of John Brown and the commingling of soil between John and Mary Brown's graves represent the culmination of 2009 – The Year of John Brown.

I have been both honored and proud to represent the Brown family as I have traveled to and spoken at many of the sites with John Brown historical significance: Red Bluff, Rohnerville and Saratoga, California; Hudson and Akron, Ohio; Charles Town and, of course, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia; and now, North Elba, New York.

Along the journey, I have had the opportunity to connect with many friends I have been corresponding with for years and have met many new friends. Like my ancestor, I do not see strangers, only friends I have not yet met.

The Year of John Brown has been an emotional year for me personally. I have experienced tears of joy and tears of sadness, moments of noise and longer moments of silence, examined the dark ugly side of humanity and celebrated the shining light of humanities greatest moments.

As I have traveled throughout this year, I have felt the presence of my great-great-great- grandfather, John Brown, close by my side - his hand on my shoulder when I needed comforting, his fingers brushing the tears gently from my cheeks when I wept, and laughing with me in my moments of joy, although I laugh much louder than he did.

Now we come to the end of The Year of John Brown – but it is not the end of the fight. John Brown gave the ultimate gift of his life to end slavery, but we are still surrounded by this most evil of institutions.

During my travels, I have often heard people say, "Slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, or if it does exist, it is only in underdeveloped countries. America does not have slavery." To this I answer, "No, you are wrong. Not only does slavery exist in the undeveloped countries, but in your own backyard. Slavery is not the public selling of another human, but rather the complete control of a person by the threat of violence for economic gain. A slave is a human being with no rights! This atrocity still exists today.'"

"But what can I do," you ask, "I am only one person. How much difference can I make?"

You must do everything you can to stop this evil:

Support the efforts of civil rights organizations such as C.O.R.E. (www.core-online.org) and the NAACP (www.naacp.org).

Become active in an Anti-Slavery organization like Free the Slaves (www.freetheslaves.net) or The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation (http://fdff.org).

Tell your friends, your neighbors, your family, your children, your teachers – stop strangers on the street and tell them about slavery and the need to end it.

There are so many things you can do, JUST DO SOMETHING!

As we come to the end of The Year of John Brown, we commemorate his death, celebrate his life and pledge to continue the good fight, remember, John Brown was only one man, and look at what he accomplished!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Brown's Raiders Honored

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — “ ... that scaffold has little dread for me ... by the taking of my life and the lives of my comrades, Virginia is but hastening on that glorious day when the slave shall rejoice in his freedom. When he can say, ‘I too am a man and am groaning no more under the yoke of oppression.’”

Those words were found in a letter written to Joshua Coppoc by his nephew, Edwin Coppoc, one of four members of abolitionist John Brown’s Harpers Ferry raiding party who was hanged in Charles Town on Dec. 16, 1859.

On Wednesday, the local NAACP branch sponsored a sesquicentennial commemoration of the executions of Coppoc, Shields Green, John Copeland and John Cook.

Coppoc wrote the letter to his uncle shortly before he and his fellow raiders were taken to the same gallows where Brown was hanged two weeks earlier in what was then a field, now the front lawn of an elegant brick home owned by Gene and Jo Ann Perkins at 515 S. Samuel St.

Two weeks ago, the 150th anniversary of Brown’s execution was witnessed by more than 200 people. Brown, portrayed by Greg Artzner, was led, arms bound in ropes, from the Jefferson County Courthouse by uniformed re-enactors and taken to the gallows by horse and wagon. Artzner stood in front of the scaffold and spoke some of the fiery abolitionist’s last words.

Wednesday’s re-enactment of the execution of his four followers drew a smaller crowd of about 60 onlookers. There were no actors standing in for the four and no wagon ride through town. The audience walked the five blocks to the hanging ground.

Copeland and Coppoc had descendants standing in for them — Judy Ashelman of Ranson, W.Va., whose great-great-grandfather on her mother’s side was Joshua Coppoc, and Brian Beatty, 37, of Stafford, Va., a descendant of Copeland.

Proxy stand-ins for Green and Cook were James Tolbert, a member of Marshall-Holly-Mason Post 102 American Legion in Charles Town, and Emily Gilbert, 14, a Harpers Ferry Middle School student.

Each stand-in placed a wreath beneath the gallows in memory of the four men hanged that day.

Cook, 27, came from a wealthy Connecticut family, attended Yale University and studied law. He was with Brown in Kansas, married a local girl and befriended many area residents.

He escaped during the raid and was captured later at Emmanuel Chapel on what is now Penn State University’s branch campus in Mont Alto, Pa.

Coppoc, 24, and his younger brother, Barclay, were Quakers from Iowa who joined Brown in 1858. Edwin was captured in the engine house in Harpers Ferry. Barclay escaped and went home.

Green, 23, an escaped slave from Charleston, S.C., and friend of Frederick Douglass, also was captured in the engine house.

Copeland, 25, was a free black born in Raleigh, N.C. His family moved to Ohio, where he attended Oberlin College. He joined Brown the night before the raid and was captured trying to escape across the Shenandoah River.

All four men were tried and convicted in the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Green and Copeland were hanged on the morning of the 16th, and Coppoc and Cook were hanged in the afternoon. The same wagon hauled all four from the jail, now site of the Charles Town Post Office, to the execution ground.

According to a report of the hangings in the Virginia Free Press newspaper, read Wednesday by Bob O’Connor, local historian and author, “Copeland stood with head erect and eyes closed ... Green stood with his hands clasped in front and rocked to and fro ... he appeared deeply affected and evidently realized the situation in which he was placed ... ”

The newspaper, reporting the afternoon hangings of Coppoc and Cook, said they shook hands on the gallows “and bid each other goodbye.” When the caps were placed over their heads Cook said, “Wait a minute. Where is Edwin’s hand?” Coppoc said, “Be quick as possible,” and the two men dropped together.

Marshall-Holly-Mason Post 102 was originally named Green-Copeland Post 63 in honor of the two condemned raiders.

Tribute to John Copeland, Edwin Coppock, Shields Green and John E. Cook, Brown's Hanged Raiders

CHARLES TOWN, WEST VA. - A small, somber crowd made its way to the gallows Wednesday morning to remember four of the men who died following their participation in John Brown's historic raid in Harpers Ferry.

Wednesday marked the 150th anniversary of the hanging of John Copeland, Edwin Coppock, Shields Green and John E. Cook, who joined forces with John Brown in 1859 to raid an arsenal in Harpers Ferry.

The men joined Brown for their own unique reasons.

Cook, 27 at the time of the raid, grew up in a wealthy Northern family and studied law at Yale, said local historian Bob O'Connor. Coppock, meanwhile, was a 24-year-old Quaker. Green, 23, was an escaped slave from Charleston, S.C., and Copeland was a free African American who had attended Oberland College.

Those who were on hand Wednesday to remember the men said the day was an important one for them. Kathi Donatucci had traveled from her home in Point of Rocks, Md., to attend. Dressed in period garb, she said she had a special interest in Coppock, who like herself was a Quaker.

"It had to be a conscience struggle for him to choose violence," she said.

Donatucci and others listened as O'Connor stood in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse and read a narration of the events that led up to the execution of the four men. Then the group marched to the site of a set of gallows that had been reconstructed where the raiders were executed.

When Cook and Coppock walked to the top of the actual gallows 150 years ago, O'Connor said they were reported to have shaken hands and bid one another farewell.

Copeland and Green were hung that same day, but at a different time. They were placed in coffins and buried not far away, although O'Connor noted that their bodies were later taken by students from a Winchester, Va., medical school who hoped to use them for research. The bodies were never recovered, and the school was destroyed by Union forces who entered the city in 1862.

During his own remarks that day, the Rev. Ernest Lyles asked the crowd to tell him what words came to mind when they thought about the men they had gathered to remember. Responses ranged from "conviction" to "strength" and "bravery."

Lyles chose another word.

"The one word I would use to describe these gentlemen is courageous," he said.

From his perspective, he said the men exemplified the definition of courageous, coming together despite racial boundaries to fight for a common cause.

"These gentlemen had the courage to challenge the unjust system of slavery. They had the courage to fight for what they believed in regardless of the consequences."

He called on those in attendance to work together in the community to exemplify courage as well, and to come together to fight poverty and ensure a racially diverse future for local government.

Nearby, Judy Ashelman, a descendant of Coppock, stood with her husband Peter near a series of wreaths that would be placed under the gallows in honor of her ancestor and the others who had died 150 years ago that day.

"It's turned out to be a really important day to me," the Jefferson County resident said shortly after the ceremony came to an end.

She said that as she prepared for the day's event, she attempted to learn more about her ancestor, and how he, as a Quaker, had chosen to take the path that he did.

"I have to believe there was a very spiritual force behind this," she said.

Coppock and the other men were just that, men, she said. Still, Ashelman said she believed in spiritual principles that are universal in nature and are still important today.

The commemoration was held through the cooperation of the Jefferson County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society.

A commemoration event took place Dec. 2 in Charles Town to mark the 150th anniversary of the day Brown was hanged.

After Harper’s Ferry
by Gwen Gunn

snow began to fall on Adirondack rocks
as wreaths were laid to decorate the Old Man’s grave
where for one hundred fifty years
he has lain since being hanged

Roy Innis was first co-founder of CORE
shaky underneath a black umbrella
followed by a line of younger activists
locals from Lake Placid travelers from afar

like Maria who told of rape and bondage in Texas
slavery still exists but at least it’s now illegal
the horrors of John Brown’s days are fewer
his violence is becoming seen as justified

black folks have always understood that slavery
maintained by force of torture of loss of family
indeed of all identity required force to end it
as slaves were sent farther south after the cotton gin

this peculiar institution grew more profitable
while the fugitive slave law made no free black safe
laws had to be broken to help them
abolitionists were terrorized and killed

passive resistance freed India from Britain
and improved civil rights in the Sixties
by facing detainment dogs even death
resistors risked their lives for their cause

but is it fair for an outsider to ask that of the victims?
moral suasion wasn’t winning after our revolution
John Brown couldn’t stand to see more ruined lives
believed he had to fight for those enslaved

American patriots fought to oust the British
the U.S. and Europe fought against the fascists
feeling there was no other way but force
now again we’re in a “just war” to free others

the Old Man in this grave farmed these hills with Africans
when most white people thought them lesser beings
his war against terror was personal profound
seems in retrospect less mad than many others

(c) 2009 by Gwen Gunn

A Pardon for John Brown: My Letter to Biographer David Reynolds and His Response

Dec 3, 2009

Dear David:

Thanks for sharing your Op-Ed and appeal in pursuit of a pardon for John Brown the abolitionist. Please be assured that I am very sympathetic and emotionally attracted to any cause that will, as you put it, rescue him from the loony bin of history.

Despite my admiration for you and your effort, I differ with the idea of seeking a pardon for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I do not think that John Brown himself would want to be pardoned until there was a clear and definitive statement--at the very least--coming from the United States government and the former slave states (and I would include northern states of course) expressing regret and admitting to the wrongs committed against African people in the USA--officially apologizing in clear and uncertain terms.

In one of the last letters (Nov. 30) that John Brown penned to his family, he wrote: "It is ground of the utmost comfort to my mind; to know that so many of you as have had the opportunity; have given full proof of your fidelity to the great family of man. Be faithful until death."

The popular criminalization of Brown in the minds of many (white) citizens is not based upon a lack of a pardon but upon the fact that our society (and implicitly) our government treat slavery like a grandiose but unpleasant mistake rather than as a crime and an injustice. Citing some remarks by Lincoln does not count as an official apology. In the name of Brown, we ought to be demanding an official apology for slavery in the name of the myriad victims of
this "slave nation," as Brown called it.

Secondly, by asking for the State of Virginia to pardon Brown, we are going to the representative entity that killed him and asking for it to officially legitimate him. If Virginia pardons Brown
without admitting its own guilt and apologizing to African Americans, the pardon will be an empty victory. Besides, even if we get him pardoned and put on a postage stamp too, until we get the final victory over slavery's stylized legacy in this nation, I doubt it would do much to change the mind of the public at large (i.e., white people).

Third, given the lack of acknowledgment of its wrongs and injustices, the government and state governments with legacies of slavery need to pardoned by African Americans, and if any symbolic gesture would have weight, it would be for a nationwide black vote as to whether or not to forgive the USA for its crimes.

Finally, pardoning John Brown might even "sanitize" him. He might end up another "American hero," one representing the mythical "true America" instead of being the one who opposed the real USA as a slave nation steeped in racism and injustice. Richard Nixon made some reference in a 1971 speech in which he used Brown to beautify the nation, rather than see the nation as Brown saw it; if we don’t get our history right as a nation, pardoning Brown will pervert his
memory and give opportunities for politicians to do more of the same.

I'm sorry that I cannot support your position, however eloquent and admirable, and however much I deeply appreciate your monumental contribution to our work. I would not willingly hold back anything good from the Old Man's legacy, but I believe we can best serve his memory by finishing up the necessary historical paper-work by advocating for a state apology and a serious consideration of reparations by our leaders.

Receive my warm regards and best wishes for a joyous holiday season.

Yours truly,
Louis A. DeCaro Jr.
A Fellow Biographer of John Brown

Dec. 3, 2009


Thanks for a very thoughtful response. I appreciate your point of view and acknowledge the potential unintended signals of a pardon. But I think the potential benefits and the simple justice of the act more than offset the risks. Coming to terms with the past is a process, not a one-time event. Our society has a tendency to personify everything, to need to make the abstract concrete by enacting it in the story of a specific human being. More than others, we build up and tear down heroes. John Brown was a man way ahead of his time, more valiant and morally driven than the acknowledged heroes of his day. I feel it important to make that truth known. The pardon is the most tangible way to make that happen, to force the kind of tough introspection and national debate required to get to the place you envision.

It’s possible that John Brown himself might indeed reject this idea. But, again, I feel he has a larger national purpose to deliver. With this president at this time in history, his time has come yet again to help take us to a better, truer democracy.



David Reynolds to David Blight, Yale University, and other scholars, in defense of a John Brown Pardon

David, you say that the pardon idea is “very wrong.” You argue that “John Brown should trouble us” and that’s all. But he’s been troubling us for 150 years, with few people standing up publicly and going beyond straddling to take a clear stance. I try to take such a stance in my op ed. Also, if we should be troubled about Brown, shouldn’t we also be troubled by Columbus’s indiscriminate torture and slaughter of thousands of natives? How about Washington’s and Jefferson’s holding of slaves, along with Jefferson’s statements about the inferiority of blacks in “Notes”? Or Jackson’s slave-holding and his cruel treatment of Native Americans? Or Lincoln’s view that blacks must be shipped out of the country because there were racial differences the prevented them from living on equal terms in America?
Well, some people are troubled these figures, but I think most Americans are right in celebrating them, even though in some cases they held views that were far more “un-American” (in the egalitarian sense) John Brown did. These figures all come with big “buts”—some of them with much bigger buts than Brown’s—and yet, rightly I think, most of us aren’t so troubled by their buts that we exile them from the pantheon of American heroes. So, why should we be troubled by Brown’s, especially since, unlike them, he was fighting for a totally integrated America in which all people would have equal rights, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender?

But, critics say, how about John Brown’s violence? It should be noted that of the 36 record political murders committed in Bleeding Kansas from 1855 to 1858, over 75% of them were committed by the proslavery side. As my op ed says, Brown in Kansas was part of a cycle of preemptive and retaliatory violence. Newspapers of the time noted that Brown was bringing Southern tactics to the Northern side. John Brown never killed women, children, or other innocents. He would not have, say, used jet planes or bombed a building in Oklahoma City, because such incidents involved the random killing of innocents. At Pottawatomie he targeted five known members of the proslavery party who had threatened to wipe out his family. He left unscathed the women and children who were in those cabins. His anger was spurred by the drunken border ruffians who had just destroyed the free-state capital of Lawrence and by Preston Brooks’s brutal beating of the antislavery senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor.

Unlike a recent administration that condoned the torture of prisoners, Brown bent over backward to be kind to his hostages. He even refused friends’ offers to break him out of jail, since he didn’t want his proslavery captors to be hurt in the process.

Besides, throughout our history, much greater violence than Brown’s has been committed by people who hold the respect of many Americans. Lincoln, for instance, was at first reluctant to wage war but resorted to “total war” when he saw that it was necessary for uprooting so deeply an entrenched evil as slavery. The Hammer-and-Anvil campaigns of Grant and Sherman included many acts of what could be called terrorism. Sherman wrote that in order to gain victory “we will remove and destroy every obstacle, if need be, take every life, every acre of land, every particle or property.” He said his goal was “extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least of the trouble, but of the people also.” Sherman’s scorched-earth campaign resulted in the widespread destruction of property and in thousands of civilian casualties.

John Brown saw slavery as an unprovoked war against an entire race. In Kansas and in Virginia, he was a soldier in the war for freedom. It’s easy for those sitting in the comfort of freedom to criticize someone who would take up arms to try to end slavery—a system of oppression, murder, torture, and rape. This institution was coercive and violent to the core. While we might prefer the Ghandi approach, there is nothing terroristic about defending the slaves against the horrific condition inflicted on them.

Time proved, sadly, that Brown was right in saying that slavery would be abolished only after “very much bloodshed.” 620,000 Americans gave their lives in the war over slavery. A good number of them were so inspired bv John Brown that they sang about him as they marched to their deaths.

Yes, John Brown should be pardoned.

David [Reynolds]
[Dec. 3, 2009]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



Contact: Martha Swan, Director, John Brown Lives!

518-962-4758 518-582-3341 mswan@capital.net

Naj Wikoff, Coordinator, John Brown Coming Home

518-523-2445, ext. 108 johnbrowncominghome@lakeplacid.com


December 16, 2009. Lake Placid, NY. As the sun rises over New York’s highest snow-capped mountains where abolitionist John Brown is buried, the sacrifice made by fellow Harpers Ferry raiders John A. Copeland and Shields Green will be remembered on Wednesday, December 16, with a call for 100 Anti-Slavery Conventions around New York State.

Copeland and Green were executed by the state of Virginia 150 years ago on this date for their role in John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Copeland, who was born a free black, was a twenty-five year-old student at Oberlin College in Ohio when he decided to join Brown’s small band of men. In a letter to his family penned the morning he gave his life to free the slave, he regrets not his death so much as “such an unjust institution [as slavery] should exist as the one which demands my life.”

Shields Green, born in slavery in South Carolina, first met Brown in the Rochester, NY, home of Frederick Douglass and voluntarily went to help Brown execute his Harpers Ferry plan. Described by Douglass as a man whose “courage and self respect made him quite a dignified character”, Green reportedly could have escaped capture in the October 1859 raid.

Instead, Green returned to the fray, was captured and, along with Copeland, was indicted, tried and convicted along with Brown for treason against the State of Virginia. Green and Copeland hanged from the gallows two weeks after Brown was executed on December 2, 1859.

Borrowing a chapter from their 19th century abolitionist forebears, the freedom education project John Brown Lives! and organizers of the recently completed John Brown Coming Home 150th Commemoration in Lake Placid, NY are issuing a call for 100 Anti-Slavery Conventions to be held throughout New York to combat global slavery and human trafficking that still exists in the 21st century.

More than 27 million people are held in slavery today, in nearly every country of the planet, including the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 55,000 cases of slavery have been reported in the U.S. New York State numbers among the top 4 states where slavery is a reality today.

Remembering John Copeland and Shields Green: A Note from Jean Libby

Dear friends, I am happy to forward the idea of many Antislavery Conventions for commemoration on this day by John Brown Lives!

Brenda Pitts and I have prepared biographies of John Copeland and Shields Green for the Jefferson County Black Heritage Committee who are holding a walk and vigil in Charles Town on December 16. Many local organizations are participating.

We are glad to share these with everyone for your commemorations.

Jean Libby, editor
Allies for Freedom

John Brown Theme on Sirius Satellite Radio Program, Dec. 17

The Folk Duo Magpie - Greg Artzer and Terry Leonino
Comedian and Activist - Dick Gregory
National Congress of Black Women National Chair - Dr E. Faye Williams
Direct Descendant of John Brown - Alice Keesey Mecoy

Join us as we discuss the history of John Brown, the Harpers Ferry raid, the December 2, 1859 hanging, the 150th anniversary events in West Virginia and New York, as well as highlight the modern-day battles of abolitionists.

Show: Make it Plain with Mark Thompson
Network: Sirius XM Satellite Radio
Channels: Sirius Left 146 & XM America Left 167
Date: Thursday, December 17, 2009
Time: 6:15pm EST (5:15CST)
Length: 30-45 minutes
Type: Live by phone with callers

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Harper's Ferry Reunion: Veteran JB Scholar, Jean Libby (center), poses with Ian Barford, actor, filmmaker, and JB student (right) and your blogger on Oct. 17th

Scholar Jean Libby to Brown Descendant: John Brown's War in Virginia was a Just War

Following an insulting, undoubtedly racist e-mail having been sent to Alice Keesey Mecoy, John Brown's great-great-great-granddaughter, Jean Libby--the veteran scholar and expert on Brown--wrote the following thoughtful and insightful reflection concerning the theme of Brown's use of violence. Considering that the ongoing academic discussion on this theme often tends toward a kind of tired, self-righteous discourse, I find Libby's reasoning quite refreshing. Perhaps you will also. Libby writes:

Dear Alice -- you are doing wonderful, inspiring work at bringing John and Mary Brown back to life through their descendants.

I think that President Barack Obama's speech at acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize has much relevance to John Brown's plans and ideas. He spoke about the right to self-defense as a reason for war.

In the case of Kansas, the five victims at the Pottawatomie Creek had made death threats, in writing, against the Brown settlement. Their political party in Kansas and Missouri had murdered six freestate settlers in ambush. John Brown's retaliation was to include one of the Sherman brothers who had attacked the freestate settlement and threatened the women with rape. When he was not home, there was no substitution.

In the case of Harpers Ferry we must consider that John Brown was -- from his perspective -- at war to liberate slaves. He followed those rules of war as he announced and understood them. Victims were not random civilians, they were people who were actively defending the town of Harpers Ferry against invasion.

Therefore, those five deaths on October 17 and 18, 1859, are more problematic for me. Again, I return to the speech of President Obama in Norway yesterday. Is there a time when war is just? There will be people killed, troops and civilians, in any war.

I believe that John Brown's war against slavery, in defense of people captive through the legal systems of the slave states and the federal government by the Dred Scott decision, was a just war. One of the people killed by his army was George Turner, who had murdered a young slave by drowning him in a well. He got away with it because of the system of slavery. The owner of the Turner farm near Charles Town told me of this murder when I showed up at his door one day asking to take pictures of the barn.

The mayor of Harpers Ferry, Fontaine Beckham, was certainly defending slavery in his daily life. He "held papers" for many freed slaves and was head of a graft system that paid workers in script instead of money for their labor at the federal arsenal. They were required to spend this script for food & supplies in his store. During the fight, he climbed the water tower to get a better view. Stupid?! John Brown later expressed regret that he had ordered his shooting by Edwin Coppoc because Beckham was unarmed. There was no way that they could have known that.
Private Luke Quinn was doing his duty as a U.S. Marine. Other marines who entered the enginehouse bayonetted Dauphin Thompson (engaged to Annie) in brutal death and killed and mutilated Jeremiah Anderson. They were doing their duty, too. I saw the Marine re-enactment in Harpers Ferry when the descendants' group was on the hill that I couldn't climb. They admitted they came in to kill the men, not capture them. Col. Robert E. Lee removed their guns so no hostages would be shot at close quarters. We all know the destiny that Lieutenant Green's sword bent instead of killed John Brown.

The most problematic of all is the death of Hayward Shepherd, night baggage master at the railroad. He was shot in the back when he turned and ran when ordered to "Halt" (a military term). In the new handbook published by the National Park Service there is a suggestion that guns may have been fired by the railroad party following Shepherd. I am not recommending that anyone buy this handbook because John Brown is presented as insane. I don't know who is responsible for this, as the publication is very adept at covering up who wrote and edited it. I expect the decisions were higher up than the people we met.

Jeffrey Dahmer (I forgot who he was) or another mass murderer Timothy McVeigh who is often invoked by the ilk of your Southern National Congress correspondant, did not inspire people to continue their work. Their motives are not clear. John Brown's motives were just and clear. And he inspired the end of slavery in our nation which was accomplished with a just war. His children Ruth and Jason asked him to pursue peace. He replied, "How can you say 'Peace, Peace' when there is no peace" for the enslaved people.

I am very proud of my President Barack Obama today. And I am proud of your ancestor John Brown 150 years ago.

Jean Libby, editor
Allies for Freedom

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The so-called "Southern National Congress" Speaks (Barely)

It was probably inevitable. All the coverage of John Brown sesquicentennial events was hardly a major theme in the media this year, but there was evidently enough information to seep down through the cracks, into that low-lying realm of Redneckdom and neo-Confederate pride to irritate one angry Southern man, whom we'll call Ronnie, a self-identified "delegate" of the so-called Southern National Congress. It seems that Delegate Ronnie was irritated by the wonderful blog of our friend and sister, Alice Keesey Mecoy, the direct descendant of John Brown, and thus sent the following "inspirational" lines to her:

It does not surprise me as crazies like you do the absurd to promote their agenda. Realhistory teaches you nothing and the so-called history you profess encourages you to promote this tommyrot.

This is what we can expect in subsequent generations if we do not act now to stop absurd promotion of historical villians like John Brown as in the future people like Jeffrey Dahmer will stand beside George Washington as heroes of equal standing.

Well, perhaps he should have asked someone at the "SNC" to help him with his writing, although it is also possible that he may be the best writer in the group. Perhaps someone of his own "race" can help Delegate Ronnie with his spelling. I don't quite know what a "villian" is, but I'm pretty sure that John Brown was not one of them. Now, there's a word similar to "villian," Delegate Ronnie, and that's "villain." You may know some of them, or very likely are descended from a few yourself. Certainly there were a lot of villains running around Kansas in John Brown's day, terrorizing free state settlers and carrying banners that proclaimed "the supremacy of the white race"--just the kind of folk who inspire the Southern National Congress to do such good work today. Bottom line, Delegate Ronnie: get an editor; better yet, get an editor who is also a psychologist.

As far as "Realhistory" is concerned, perhaps we have finally located the bastion of historical truth--and it's in the possession of the "SNC," apparently the true guardians of history. Take heart, we can all rest peacefully tonight because the Southern National Congress is standing guard over "Realhistory." With the help of Delegate Ronnie, we finally know where to place John Brown the abolitionist on the spectrum of "Realhistory" biography: somewhere between George Washington and Jeffrey Dahmer. Stunning.

I'd like to close my little comments with an inside joke, but first you have to close your eyes and pretend that Delegate Ronnie of the Southern National Congress lives in a little cabin along the Pottawatomie Creek, and it's May 1856.


Ronnie: "Who's there?"

Unidentified man: "Northern."

Ronnie: "Northern who?"

Unidentified man: "Northern Army."