The Johns Hopkins University Press

The C&O Canal Companion



Notes on John Cook & the Harper's Ferry Raid

Historical Sketch
John Smith
The Fairfax Line
Braddock's Road
James Rumsey
Defenses of Washington
Second Chambersburg Raid
Home
Baron von Grafenried
Washington's Maps
John Ballendine
John Cook
Ball's Bluff
Kidnapping Crook & Kelley

References in C&O Canal Companion:
Historical Sketch, page 26, Canal Guide
Mile 60.7



David Hunter Strother's famous drawing of John Brown on the scaffold
at Charles Town, West Virginia, surrounded by 1,500 soldiers and cadets.
(Detail from John Brown and his Men, by Richard J. Hinton)

John E. Cook came to Harpers Ferry in 1858 to scout the area for John Brown, and spent the next year working as a schoolteacher, book agent, and a lock tender on the C&O Canal.

While in the area, he married a local woman, Mary V. Kennedy. He participated in the seizure of the arsenal on October 16, 1859, but was sent back to the farmhouse on the Maryland side of the river before Brown's party was surrounded. Cook subsequently made his way towards Chambersburg, but was captured in that vicinity on October 25. He was tried, convicted, and subsequently executed on December 16, 1859, with Edwin Coppoc, Shields Green, and John Copeland, Jr.

While his confession has to be viewed as part of his attempt to disavow his responsibility for the raid, it gives a reasonably accurate version of events and includes many interesting local details.

This text comes from The Life, Trial, and Execution of John Brown, published by Robert M. DeWitt in New York City in 1859, very shortly after the events.

The photograph of John Cook is from the Library of Congress, and the sketch of the schoolhouse (below) is from John Brown, by Oscar Garrison Villard. Villard's book, originally published in 1910, incorporates much information from interviews with Brown's family and contemporaries collected by his assistant, Katherine Mayo. A statement collected by Ms. Mayo from Mrs. Virginia Kennedy Cook Johnston in Chicago appears to be Villard's primary authority for Cook's employment as a lock tender on the C&O Canal. [Villard also cites Mayo's interview with Cleon Moore of Charles Town, but in a recollection drafted in 1902 Moore only mentioned Cook's employment as a schoolteacher.]

Joseph Barry, a resident of Harper's Ferry at the time of the raid, described Cook as a "schoolmaster, book agent and lockkeeper on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal" in his reminiscences.

 

I became acquainted with Capt. John Brown in his camp on Middle Creek, Kansas Territory, just after the battle of Black Jack, and was with him in said camp until it was broken up and his company disbanded, by Col. Sumner of the 1st Cavalry, U.S.A. I next saw him at the Convention at Topeka, which was on the 4th of July, 1856. I next met him some days afterward in Lawrence. Did not see him again until the fall of 1857, when I met him at the house of E. B. Whitman, about four miles from Lawrence, K. T., which, I think, was about the 1st of November following. I was told that he intended to organize a company for the purpose of putting a stop to the aggressions of the Pro-Slavery inen. I agreed to join him and was asked if I knew of any other young men, who were perfectly reliable, whom I thought would join also. I recommended Richard Realf, L. F. Parsons, and R. J. Hinton. I received a note on the next Sunday morning, while at breakfast in the Whitney House, from Capt. Brown, requesting me to come up that day, and to bring Realf, Parsons, and Hinton with me. Realf and Hinton were not in town, and therefore I could not extend to them the invitation. Parsons and myself went and had a long talk with Capt. Brown.

A few days later I received another note from Capt. Brown, which read, as near as I can recollect, as follows:

" DATE,

"CAPT. COOK :

"DEAR SIR : You will please get everything ready to join me at Topeka, by Monday night, next. Come to Mrs. Sheridan's, two miles south of Topeka, ard bring your arms, ammunition, clothing and other articles you may require. Bring Parsons with you, if he can get ready in time. Please keep very quiet about the matter.

" Yours, etc., JOHN BROWN."

I made all my arrangements for starting it the time appointed. Parsons, Realf and Hinton could not get ready. I left them at Lawrence, and started in a carriage for Topeka. Stopped at the hotel over night, and left early the next morning for Mrs. Sheridan's, to meet Capt. Brown, Stayed. a day and a half at Mrs. S.'s; then left for Topeka, at which place we were joined by Stephens, Moffet, and Kagi. Left Topeka for Nebraska City, and camped at night on the prairie northeast of Topeka. Here, for the first, I learned that we were to leave Kansas, to attend a military school during the winter. It was the intention of the party to go to Ashtabula County, Ohio. Next morning I was sent back to Lawrence to get a draft of $80 cashed, and to get Parsons, Realf and Hinton to go back with me. I got the draft cashed. Capt. Brown had given me orders to take boat to St. Joseph, Mo., and stage from there to.Tabor, Iowa, where he would remain for a few days. I had to wait for Realf for three or four days; Hinton could not leave at that time. I started with Realf and Parsons on a stage for Leavenworth. The boats had stepped running on account of the ice. Staid one day in Leavenworth, and then left for Weston, where we took stage for St.Joseph, and from thence to Tabor. I found C.P.Tidd and Leeman at Tabor. Our party now consisted of Capt.John Brown, Owen Brown, A.D. Stephens, Chas. Moffett, C. P. Tidd, Richard Robertson, Col. Richard Realf, L. F. Parsons, Wm. Leeman and myself. We stopped some days at Tabor, making preparations to start. Here we found that Capt. Brown's ultimate destination was the State of Virginia. Some warm words passed between him and myself, in regard to the plan, which, I had supposed, was to be confined entirely to Kansas and Missouri. Realf and Parsons were of the same opinion with me. After a good deal of wrangling, we consented to go on, as we had not the means to return, and the rest of the party were so anxious that we should go with them. At Tabor we procured teams for the transportation of about 200 Sharp's rifles, which had been taken on as far as Tabor, one year before, at which place they had been left, awaiting the order of Capt. Brown. There were, also, other stores, consisting of blankets, clothing, boots and ammunition, and about 200 revolvers of the Massachusetts Arms patent, all of which we transported across the State of Iowa to Springdale, and from there to Liberty, at which place they were shipped for Ashtabula County, Ohio, where they remained till brought to Chambersburgh, Pa., and were from there transported to a house in Washington County, Md., which Capt. Brown had rented for six months, and which was situated about five miles from Harper's Ferry. It was the intention of Capt. Brown to sell his teams in Springdale, and with the proceeds to go on, with the rest of the company, to some place in Ashtabula County, Ohio, where we were to have a good military instructor during the winter; but he was disappointed in the sale. As he could not get cash for the teams, it was decided we should remain in the neighborhood of Springdale, and that our instructor, Col. H. Forbes, should be sent on. We stopped in Pedee, Iowa, over winter, at Mr. Maxson's, where we pursued a course of military studies. Col. H. Forbes and Capt. Brown had some words, and he (Col. F.) did not come on ; consequently, A. D. Stephens was our drillmaster. The people of the neighborhood did not know of our purpose. We remained at Pedee till about the middle of April, when we left for Chatham, Canada, via Chicago and Detroit. We staid about two weeks in Chatham; some of the party staid six or seven weeks. We left Chatham for Cleveland, and remained there until late in June. In the meantime, Capt. Brown went East, on business ; but previous to his departure, he had learned that Col. Forbes had betrayedhis plans to some extent. This, together with the scantiness of his funds, induced him to delay the commencement of his work, and was the means, for the time being, of disbanding the party. He had also received some information which called for his immediate attention in Kansas. I wished to go with him, but he said that I was too well known there, and requested me and some others to go to Harper's Ferry, Va., to see how things were there, and to gain information. While we were in Chatham, he called a convention, the purpose of which was to make a complete and thorough organization. He issued a written circular, which he sent to various persons in the United States and Canada. The circular, as near as I can recollect, read as follows:

CHATHAM, May ---, 1858.

"Mr. ------ ------

"DEAR SIR: We have issued a call for a very quiet convention at this place, to which we shall be happy to see any true friends of freedom, and to which you are most earnestly invited to give your attendance.

"Yours, respectfully, JOHN BROWN."

As the names were left blank, I do not know to whom they were sent, though I wrote several of them. I learned, however, that one was sent to Frederick Douglass, and I think Gerrit Smith also received one. Who the others were sent to, I do not know. Neither Douglass nor Smith attended the convention. I suppose some twenty-five or thirty of these circulars were sent, but as they were directed by Capt. Brown or J. H. Kagi, I do not know the names of the parties to whom they were addressed. I do know, however, that they were sent to none save those whom Capt. Brown knew to be radical Abolitionists. I think it was about ten days from the time the circulars were sent, that the convention met. The place of meeting was in one of the negro churches in Chatham. The convention, I think) was called to order by J. H. Kagi. Its object was then stated, which was, to complete a thorough organization, and the formation of a constitution. The first business was to elect a President and Secretary. Elder Monroe, a colored minister, was elected President, and J. H. Kagi, Secretary. The next business was to form a constitution. Capt. Brown had already drawn up one, which, on motion, was read by the secretary. On motion, it was ordered that each article of the constitution be taken up and separately amended and passed, which was done. On motion, the constitution was then adopted as a whole. The next business was to nominate, a Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. Capt. John Brown was unanimously elected Commander-in-Chief; J. H. Kagi, Secretary of War, and Richard Realf, Secretary of State. Elder Monroe was to act as President until another was chosen. A. M. Chapman, I think, was to act as Vice-President. Doctor M. K. Delaney was one of the Corresponding Secretaries of the organization. There were some others from the United States, whose names I do not now remember. Most of the delegates to the convention were from Canada. After the constitution was adopted, the members took their oath to support it. It was then signed by all present. During the interval between the call for the convention and its assembling, regular meetings were held at Barbour's Hotel, where we were stopping, by those who were known to be true to the cause, at which meetings plans were laid and discussed. There were no white men at the convention, save the members of our company. Men and money had both been promised from Chatham and other parts of Canada. When the convention broke up, news was received that Col. H. Forbes, who had joined in the movement, had given information to the government. This, of course. delayed the time of attack. A day or two afterward, most of our party took the boat to Cleveland ; Jno. H. Kagi, Richard Realf, Wm. H. Leeman, Richard Robertson and Capt. Brown remaining. Capt. B., however, started in a day or two for the East. Kagi, I think, went to some other town in Canada, to set up the type and to get the constitution printed, which he completed before he returned to Cleveland. We.remained in Cleveland for some weeks, at which place, for the time being, the company dishanded. Capt. Brown had had the plan of the insurrection in contemplation for several years -- in fact, told me that it had been the chief aim of his life to carry out and accomplish the abolition of Slavery.

In his trip East he did not realize the amount of money that he expected. The money had been promised bona fide, but owing to the tightness of the money market, they failed to comply with his demands. The funds were necessary to the accomplishment of his plans. I afterward learned that there was a lack of confidence in the success of his scheme. It was, therefore, necessary that a movement should be made in another direction, to demonstrate the practicability of his plan. This he made about a year ago, by his invasion of Missouri, and the taking of about a dozen slaves, together with horses, cattle, etc., into Kansas, in defiance of the United States Marshal and his posse. From Kansas he took them to Canada, via Iowa city and Cleveland. At the latter place he remained some days, and, I think, disposed of his horses there. It seems that the United States Marshal was afraid to arrest him, and this was all that was wanting to give confidence to the wavering in the practicability of his plan and its ultimate success. He came to Harper's Ferry about the last of June, though I did not see him till late in July, or the early part of August, when we met on Shenandoah street, Harper's Ferry, opposite Tearney's store. I do not know who were his aiders or abettors, but have heard him mention in connection with it the names of Gerrit Smith of New York, Howe of Boston, and Sanborn and Thaddeus Hyatt of New York city. What connection, and how far connected with his plan, I do not know, but I know he wrote a letter, a few weeks previous to his attack, to some gentlemen in Boston, which read, as near as I can recollect, as follows:

" DATE ------ ------.

" GENTLEMEN : I have got nearly all my machines on, and shall be ready to start them in a few days, unless prevented by a special Providence. Everything is working well. I shall want all the funds you promised me in a few days.

" Yours, truly, CALM & STILL."

In the meantime the men who had engaged to go with him had most of them arrived at Chambersburgh, Pa., and been sent to the place which he had rented in Washington County, Md., about flve miles from Harper's Ferry. The greater part of the men kept out of sight during the day, for fear of attracting attention. The arms, munitions, etc., were carted from Chambersburgh to his rendezvous. The spear-heads and guards came in strong boxes, and the shafts passed for fork-handles. They were put together by our own men, at the house where most of them were found. Letters of importance came to the Chambersburgh post-office, and were sent by some of our own party to headquarters. The letters of minor importance came to the Ferry, to J. Smith & Sons. All allusions to our business were made in such a blind way that they would not have been understood by any outside parties, even should they have been miscarried. The attack was made sooner than it was intended, owing to some friends in Boston writing a letter finding fault with the management of Capt. B., and what to them seemed his unnecessary delay and expense. I do not know who those persons were, or how far they were cognizant of his (Capt. B.'s) plans. But I do know that Dr. Howe gave Capt. Brown a breech-loading carbine and a pair of,muzzle-loading pistols, all of Government manufacture. They were left either at the house of Capt. Brown, or at the schoolhouse, where most of the arms were conveyed. At what time and for what purpose they were given to Capt. Brown I do not know. It was supposed that Colonel Hugh Forbes was dead. I was told by Capt. Brown that when on East he had been told by Thaddeus Hyatt of New York, that some of the negroes at that.place had informed him (Hyatt) that Forbes had "gone up"--a phrase -- which Capt. B. and the rest of our company understood to mean that he had been killed. I do not think that Forbes had any cognizance of our plans from the time of our leaving Pedee, a year ago last April. Previous to his quarrel with Captain Brown,we considered that he would hold a place next to Brown in command. I do not know the present whereabouts of Luke F. Parson or Charles Moffett. The last I heard of Parsons was through Capt. Brown, who informed me that Parsons had started for Pike's Peak, and that he (Brown) thought he would be pretty tolerably peaked before he got there. A short time before the attack on Harper's Ferry, Capt. Brown requested me to find out in some way, without creating suspicion, the number of male slaves on or near the roads leading from the Ferry, for a distance of eight or ten miles, and to make such memoranda as would be unintelligible to others, but in such a manner that I could make it plain to him and the rest of the company. He gave me two dollars to pay my expenses with. I took the road from Harper's Ferry to Charlestown, under the plea of gaining statistics for a work to be published by John Henri, and to decide a wager between him and Mr. Smith. I did not go on any other road. A few days after this, Capt. Brown sent his wagon over by his son Oliver and Jeremiah Anderson, to bring my wife and myself to his house. They gave me a note from him, which, as near as I can recollect, read as follows :

" MR. COOK--DEAR SIR: You will please get everything ready to come with your wife to my house this morning. My wagon will wait for you. I shall take your wife to Chambersburgh, and shall start early tomorrow morning. Be as expeditious as possible. Be very careful not to say or do anything which will awaken any suspicion.
" You can say your wife is going to make a visit to some friends of hers in the country. Be very careful that you do not let any of our plans leak out.

" Yours, etc., "J. SMITH."

My wife and myself accordingly left Harper's Ferry that night, accompanied by Oliver Brown and Jeremiah Anderson, for Captain Brown's house in Washington County, Md.

The next, after dinner, Captain B. and his son Watson, together with his wife and child, started for Chambersburgh. When Capt. B. returned, he told me that he had got her a good boarding-place in Chambersburgh, at Mrs. Ritterer's, and that she liked her boarding place very well.

There were some six or seven in our party who did not know anything of our constitution, and, as I have since understood, were also ignorant of the plan of operations until the Sunday morning previous to the attack. Among this number were Edwin Coppie, Barclay Coppie, Francis J. Merriam, Shields Green, John Copland, and Leary.

The constitution was read to them by A. D. Stephens, and the oath afterward administered by Capt. Brown. Sunday evening previous to our departure, Capt. Brown made his final arrangements for the capture of Harper's Ferry, and gave to his men their orders. In closing, he said: " And now, gentlemen, let me press this one thing on your minds: you all know how dear life is to you, and how dear your lives are to your friends; and in remembering that, consider that the lives of others are as dear to them as yours are to you; do not, therefore, take the life of any one if you can possibly avoid it; but if it is necessary to take life in order to save your own, then make sure work of it."

After taking the town, I was placed under Capt. Stephens, who received orders to proceed to the house of Col. Lewis Washington, and to take him prisoner, and to bring his slaves, horses, and arms, and as we came back to take Mr. Allstadt and his slaves, and to bring them all to Capt. Brown, at the Armory. When we returned, I staid a short time in the engine-house to get warm, as I was chilled through. After I got warm, Capt. Brown ordered me to go with C. P. Tidd, who was to take William E. Leeman, and I think four slaves with him, in Col. Washington's large wagon, across the river, and to take Terrence Burns and his brother and their slaves prisoners. My orders were to hold Burns and brother as prisoners at their own house, while Tidd and the slaves who accompanied him were, to go to Capt. Brown's house, and to load in the arms and bring them down to the school-house, stopping for the Burnses and their guard. William H. Leeman remained with me to guard the prisoners. On return of the wagon, in compliance with orders, we all started for the school-house. When we got there, I was to remain, by Capt. Brown's orders, with one of the slaves to guard the arms, while C. P. Tidd, with the other negroes, was to go back for the rest of the arms, and Burns was to be sent with William H. Leeman to Capt. Brown at the Armory. It was at this time that William Thompson came up from the Ferry, and reported that everything was all right, and then hurried on to overtake WiIliam H. Leeman. A short time after the departure of Tidd I heard a good deal of firing, and became anxious to know the cause, but my orders were strict to remain at the school-house and guard the arms, and I obeyed the orders to the letter. About four o'clock in the evening C. P . Tidd came with the second load. I then took one of the negroes with me and started for the Ferry. I met a negro woman a short distance below the schoolhouse, who informed me that they were fighting hard at the Ferry. I hurried on till I came to the Lock kept by George Hardy, about a mile above the bridge, where I saw his wife and Mrs. EIizabeth Read, who told me that our men were hemmed in, and that several of them had been shot. I expressed my intention to try to get to them, when Mrs. Hardy asked me to try to get her husband released from the engine-house. I told her I would. Mrs. Read begged of me not to go down to the Ferry. She said I would be shot. I told her I must make an attempt to save my comrades, and passed on down the road. A short distance below the Lock I met two boys whom I knew, and they told me that our men were all hemmed in by troops from Charlestown, Martinsburg, Hagerstown, and Shepherdstown. The negro who was with me had been very much frightened at the first .report we received, and as the boys told me the troops were coming up the road after us soon, I sent him (the negro) back to inform Tidd, while I hastened down the road. After going down opposite the Ferry, I ascended the mountain, in order to get a better view of. the position of our opponents.

I saw that our party were completely surrounded, aid as I saw a body of men on High street firing down upon them--they were about half a mile distant from me--I thought I would draw their fire upon myself; I therefore raised my rifle and took the best aim I could and fired. It had the desired effect, for the very instant the party returned it. Several shots were exchanged. The last one they fired at me cut a small limb I had hold of just below my hand, and gave me a fall of about fifteen feet, by which I was severely bruised and my flesh somewhat lacerated. I descended from the mountain and passed down the road to the Crane on the bank of the canal, about fifty yards from Mr. W.'s store. I saw several heads behind the door-post looking at me; I took a position behind the Crane, and cocking my rifle, beckoned to some of them to come to me; after some hesitation, one of them approached and then another, both of whom knew me. I asked them if there were any armed men in the store. They pledged me their word and honor that there were none. I then passed down to the lock-house, and went down the steps to the lock, where I saw William McGreg, and questioned him in regard to the troops on the other side. He told me that the bridge was filled by our opponents, and that all of our party were dead but seven--that two of them were shot while trying to escape across the river. He begged me to leave immediately. After questioning him in regard to the position and number of the troops, and from what sources he received his information, I bade him good-night, and started up the road at a rapid walk. I stopped at the house of an Irish family at the foot of the hill, and got a cup of coffee and some eatables. I was informed by them that Captain Brown was dead ; that he had been shot about four o'clock in the afternoon. At the time I believed this report to be true. I went on up to the schoolhouse, and found the shutters and door closed; called to Tidd and the boys, but received no answer; cocked my rifle, and then opened the door. It was dark at the time. Some of the goods had been placed in the middle of the floor, and, in the dark, looked like men crouching. I uncocked my rifle, and drew my revolver, and then struck a match; saw that there was no one in the school-house; went into the bushes back of the schoolhouse, and called for the boys. Receiving no answer, I went across the road into some pines, and again called, but could find no one. I then started up the road toward Captain Brown's house; I saw a party of men coming down the road ; when within about fifty yards, I ordered them to halt; they recognized my voice, and called me. I found them to be Charles P. Tidd, Owen Brown, Barclay Coppie, F. J. Merriam, and a negro who belonoed to Washington or Allstadt. They asked me the news,.and I gave the information that I received on the canal-lock, and on the road. It seemed that they thought it would be sheer madness in them to attempt a rescue of our comrades, and it was finally determined to return to the house of Capt. Brown. I found that Tidd, before leaving the school-house to go for Brown, Coppic, and Merriam, had stationed the negroes in a good position in the timber back of the school-house. On his return, however, they could not be found. We therefore left for Captain Brown's house. There we got a few articles which would be necessary, and then went over into the timber on the side of the mountain, a few yards beyond the house; where the spears were kept. Here we laid down and went to sleep. About three o'clock in the morning, one of our party awakened and found that the negro had left us. He immediately aroused the rest of the party, and we continued to go to the top of the mountain, before light. Here we remained for a few hours, and then passed over to the other side of the mountain, where we waited till dark, and then crossed the valley to the other range beyond.

I have forgotten to state previously, that before I left Captain Brown in Cleveland, Ohio, he gave me orders to trust no one with our secret, and to hold no conversation with the slaves, which orders I obeyed with but a single exception, which I here mention. The exception to which I allude is simply this: I met a party of four negroes, two free and two slave, near Bolivar, Jefferson County, Virginia. I asked them if they had ever thought about their freedom.. They replied, "they thought they ought to be free," but expressed doubts that they ever would be. I told them that time might come before many years, but for the present to keep dark and look for the good time coming, and left them.

I see from some of the newspapers, that I have been represented as Captain Brown's chief aid. This is incorrect. Kagi was second in command, Stephens third, Hazlitt fourth. Further than this, I do not know that Captain Brown had made known any preference as to superiority or rank. Edwin Coppie and Dolphin Thomas were the only lieutenants he commissioned. Owen Brown, Barclay Coppie, and Merriam were not at the Ferry during the time the attack was made, but remained by order of Captain Brown to take charge of the premises, and to guard the arms left at Brown's house, in case of an attack. I do not know of any person in the Ferry or its neighborhood who knew of our plan, save our own party, and they were pledged to keep it secret.

Richard Realf, one of our original party, and our Secretary of State, came from Chatham to Cleveland, a few days before Capt. Brown's arrival from the East. Soon after his arrival, he (Capt. B.) sent Realf to New-York city, at which place he embarked for England for the purpose of carrying out the plans of Capt. Brown. Realf was born and raised in England. He is a peasant's son, but his native talents brought him into the notice of some of the nobility, who took charge of him, and made arrangements to give him a finished education. He was taken into the family of Lady Noel Byron, where he made his home while pursuing his studies. Falling in love with a young lady of noble birth, who was a relative of Lady Byron's, he was censured by Lady B. for his presumption. He became offended at her interference; and finally left Lady B. to work his own way in the world. About this,time the Chartist movement was made, which Realf joined, and the result was, he was obliged to seek safety by emigrating to America. He made his home some years in New York city. A part of the time he was there, he was engaged as assistant superintendent of the Five Points Mission. He is well known as an author and a poet. He gave up his situation as assistant superintendent, and went to Kansas in the Summer or Fall of 1856. I first met him in Lawrence, Kansas. No word was received from him, to my knowledge, after he left for England, to which place he went in his own capacity and that of our Secretary of State, to solicit funds for the support of our organization. He proposed to deliver a course of lectures in various parts of England, and the net proceeds of which were to be given to carry out Capt. Brown's plan. He is a man of rare talents, and a powerful and fluent speaker. He is about 28,.years of age. , Mr. Kagi, I believe, got a letter from some one in England a few months ago, stating that Realf had sailed for this country, and that he had quite a sum of money with him, but further than that, we have been unable to find any trace of him. Capt. Brown and the rest of our company who knew him, think that he is dead.

At the time Mr. Allstadt was taken I was not at his house, but in the carriage with Col. Lewis Washington, opposite the house. I do not think any arms were placed in the hands of his slaves till they arrived at the musket armory. I did not see any of the spears on our way from the Ferry to Col. Washington's--there were none taken out, to my knowledge. After stopping about half an hour at the engine-house to get warm, I was called out by Captain Brown, and then saw, for the first time, the slaves with spears in their hands. I do not know who gave them the spears, but it was some of our party, and probably by the order of Captain Brown.

The negro who was with me on Monday evening, when I left the school-house for the Ferry, was armed with a double-barreled shot-gun, and I think a revolving pistol of the Massachusetts arms manufacture. Who delivered him the arms I do not know. He was under my control till I sent him back to report to Tidd that the troops were coming up. He obeyed orders while with me.

I was commissioned as a captain on the Sunday of the insurrection, at the same time the others were, and with them took the oath prescribed in Article 48 in the Constitution.

George B. Gill joined us before leaving Iowa, in the spring, as did Stewart Taylor.

Teste JOHN E. COOK

Additional Sources

  • A Voice from Harper's Ferry, A Narrative of Events at Harper's Ferry, by Osborne P. Anderson, printed in Boston, 1861. [Reprinted by Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, New York, 1972. As the only surviving narrative by an African-American in Brown's raiding party, this is of particular interest, though it is marred by some significant errors.]
  • Recollections of the John Brown Raid by a Virginian Who Witnessed the Fight, Alexander Botelor, Century Magazine 26, July 1883. [Botelor was the owner of Botelor's Mill at Shepherdstown, and a rather bombastic defender of the Southern cause.]
  • "John Brown at Harper's Ferry," John E.P. Daingerfield, in The Century, Volume 30, Issue 2, June 1885, pp. 265-268. [Viewable on-line as a part of Cornell University's Making of America collection--a brief account by a resident of Harper's Ferry who was taken hostage by the raiders.]
  • Epitome of the Life of "Ossawotamie" John Brown, Including the Story of the Attack on Harpers Ferry and His Capture, Trial and Execution, as related by Cleon Moore, Esq., of Charles-Town, W.Va., edited and published by Mrs. Livia Simpson Poffenburger, Point Pleasant, West Virginia, 1904. [Cleon Moore's recollections take up only about half of this slender 22-page volume--Moore states that he wrote Cook's marriage license, and accompanied the Jefferson Guards as they crossed the Potomac and drove Brown's raiders from the B&O Railroad Bridge.]
  • The Raid of John Brown at Harper's Ferry As I Saw It, Rev. Samuel Vanderlip Leech, D.D., published by the author, Washington, DC, 1909. [Unfortunately, this 24-page account contains little first-hand information, mainly repeating the chronology of reported events from the perspective of Reverend Leech.]
  • A Correct History of the John Brown Invasion at Harper's Ferry, West Va., "compiled by the late Capt. John H. Zittle, edited and published by his widow," Hagerstown, MD, Mail Publishing Company, 1905. [Given the late date and posthumous editing, this is a somewhat suspect source, but it does print some letters by Copeland, Cook, and others members of the raiding party, as well as some of Cook's poetry.]
  • John Brown and His Men, With Some Account of the Roads They Traveled to Reach Harper's Ferry, Richard J. Hinton, Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York and London, 1894. [As the title suggests, this volume provides considerable background material concerning Brown's men, including extensive material culled from their letters.]
  • "John Brown's Raid at Harper's Ferry: An Eyewitness Account By Charles White," edited by Rayburn S. Moore, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, October, 1959. [An on-line version is posted on the Valley of the Shadow's John Brown page, under "Eyewitness Accounts."]
  • The Strange Story of Harper's Ferry, With Legends of the Surrounding Country, Joseph Barry, Thompson Brothers, Martinsburg, West Virginia, 1903. [A delightful and unabashedly anecdotal reminiscence by Barry, who was "a resident of the place for half a century," including the seven years of the Brown raid and the Civil War.]
  • Articles in the Virginia Free Press, published in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia), October 27, November 24, December 1, and December 22, 1859, and January 17 and April 5, 1860.
  • Report of the Joint Committee of the General Assembly of Virginia on the Harpers Ferry Outrages, January 26, 1860, Doc. No. XXXI, from the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
  • Report [of] the Select committee of the Senate appointed to inquire in to the late invastion and seizure of the public property at Harper's Ferry, published by U.S. Senate, 36th Congress, 1st Session, as Rep. Com. No. 278, Washington, 1860. [Reprinted as Invasion at Harper's Ferry by Arno Press, New York, 1969]
  • See David Hunter Strother's first-person account of Brown's hanging, first printed in American Heritage VI (February, 1955) as "An Eyewitness Describes the Hanging of John Brown," with an introduction by Boyd B. Stutler. [Strother wrote for Harper's Weekly under the pen name "Porte Crayon." Harper's published two articles by Strother on Brown's raid and the ensuing trial, but decided not to publish his account of the hanging.]
  • John Brown's Raid, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC, 1974. [An excellent 70-page summary of the raid itself, with many contemporary photographs and newspaper illustrations.]
  • John Brown, 1800-1859, A Biography Fifty Years After, by Oscar Garrison Villard, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, New York, 1910. [Reprinted by Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1929, Alfred Knopf, 1943--includes a detailed but now somewhat dated account of the raid.]
  • David Hunter Strother, "One of the Best Draughtsmen the Country Possesses," John A. Cuthbert and Jessie Poesch.West Virginia University Press, Morgantown, West Virginia, 1997. [Contains handsome reproductions of original drawings by Strother, many of them from a pre-war series documenting his travels in the Appalachians, but also including several from Harper's Ferry and the Civil War years--some of these can be viewed on-line under the title Porte Crayon (David Strother)'s Drawings of Augusta County, at "The Valley of the Shadow" Web site.]

Related:

  • The Kennedy Farmhouse, the staging area for Brown and his men, is a National Historic Landmark maintained by the John Brown Historical Foundation.
  • The courthouse where John Brown was tried still stands in Charles Town, West Virginia.

 

 


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Mike High

Updated Edition
$18.95 paperback
978-0-8018-6602-9 (32 ctn qty)
2001 280 pp. 56 photos, 27 drawings