On the 3d of July, 1859, John Brown, his sons Owen and Oliver, and John E. Cook were at Harper's Ferry carefully making observations and plans for the attack. The men enlisted for the enterprise were assembling at the Kennedy farm, a few miles distant on the Maryland side of the Potomac. Here the arms, including a large number of pikes, were secreted. The appearance of a party of strange men at the farm had aroused suspicion in the neighborhood and warrants had been taken out for searching the premises. As soon as Brown was informed of this danger he issued orders for the attack at once, eight days in advance of the time that had been originally fixed, and several men who were on the way failed to reach the rendezvous in time to participate in the desperate conflict.
On the 16th day of October there was assembled at the Kennedy farm a remarkable group of men, twenty-two in number. As the roll was called on that eventful morning the following persons responded "here": John Brown, Owen Brown, Watson Brown, Oliver Brown, A.D. Stevens, John E. Cook, J.H. Kagi, Chas. P. Tidd, Edwin Coppoc, Barclay Coppoc, J.G. Anderson, Steward Taylor, Albert Hazlett, Francis J. Merriam, Wm. Thompson, Dauphin A. Thompson, Wm. H. Leeman, Oliver P. Anderson, John A. Copeland, Lewis S. Leary, Dangerfield Newby and John Anderson. The last five were colored men. Brown now issued his written orders, eleven in number, assigning to each man his part in the attack. Thirteen of the number had proved their valor on the battlefields of Kansas.
Iowa furnished more actors in the last great tragedy, leading to the martyrdom of John Brown and most of his youthful followers, than any other State. It was in Iowa that he had established his chain of stations on the "Underground Railroad," leading from the Missouri slave plantations to freedom. It was at Springdale that his men had been drilled for the desperate assault upon slavery. Of the twenty-six volunteers who enlisted in this "forlorn hope," Edwin Coppoc, Barclay Coppoc, Steward Taylor, Jeremiah G. Anderson, George B. Gill and Charles W. Moffat were Iowa men. It was in Iowa that the rifles and revolvers were collected and secreted for arming the volunteers who were expected to join the expedition at Harper's Ferry. It was from West Liberty, Iowa, that they were shipped as "carpenters' tools," by John H. Painter, to a fictitious consignee near Harper's Ferry. It was from Iowa that the mysterious letter of warning was written to the Secretary of War two months before the attack. It was an Iowa Governor who saved from the Virginia gallows the Iowa boy who escaped capture and slaughter in the bloody conflict.
When the true story of the tragic affair came it was learned that twenty men captured Harper's Ferry and seventeen of them held it for two days and three nights against Virginia citizens and militia, from one to two thousand strong. One by one the members of the heroic little band fell. Not a man flinched. When the third night came, John Brown, Edwin Coppoc, Shields Green, Jeremiah G. Anderson, Watson Brown and Dauphin A. Thompson were the only survivors cooped in the engine house. Ten had been killed and several more severely wounded; still Brown sternly refused to surrender. It required a reinforcement of one hundred United States Marines, commanded by Robert E. Lee, and an assault led by J.E.B. Stuart, to enable the army to capture or slay the six unyielding emancipators. Of the Iowa members of the little army, Steward Taylor was killed at the engine house; Jeremiah G. Anderson was pierced through by bayonets in the last assault; Edwin Coppoc, who fought to the end, was disarmed and captured unhurt.
Owen Brown, Barclay Coppoc and F.J. Merriam had been left on the Maryland side to guard the arms there stored, while John E. Cook and C.P. Tidd were sent over Tuesday morning to take some prisoners to the schoolhouse. More than a thousand armed men were now between them and the spot where their leader and six survivors were making their last desperate flight. To join them was impossible. Lieutenant Hazlett, with O.P. Anderson and Shields Green, had been detailed to hold the arsenal, which they did until cut off from their comrades by a great body of militia. Brown and the other survivors, now surrounded, had retreated to the engine house for shelter. Green, who went as a substitute for Frederick Douglass was a very black negro slave, who had escaped from South Carolina, leaving his only boy in slavery. He fought like a tiger all through. Now, when Anderson and Hazlett saw that all was lost, and there was a bare possiblity for them to escape, they urged Green to go with them. He turned and looked toward Brown and the remnant of his command fighting at the door of the engine house, and pointing toward them, said: "You tink der's no chance?"
"Not One," said Anderson.
"An'de ole Captain can't get away?"
"No," said both men.
"Well," said the loyal negro, "guess I'll go back to de ole man." And he marched calmly to certain death.
Anderson and Hazlett escaped across the river in the gathering darkness, the latter only to be captured and hung. The men on the Maryland side would not abandon their companions as long as there was a ray of hope. Led by Owen Brown they approached as near as possible to the Ferry and saw more than a thousand armed men between them and their comrades. Their rescue was hopeless, but the chivalrous Cook crept still closer, and climbing among the limbs of a huge oak, opened fire on the enemy. Twenty or thirty men in range of his rifle fled to shelter, while a hundred guns were turned upon him. the balls severed the limb upon which he was resting and he fell to the ground. With a parting shot he turned sadly away and joined his companions in retreat to the mountains.
Volumes have been written in this country and Europe on John Brown the liberator and martyr, who gave his life without a murmur to free slaves. the noblest men and women of his generation have paid tributes to his unselfish life and his fidelity to duty as he saw it - a fidelity which led him to the scaffold. His name will lye in history for all time. But little is known of his twenty-two followers who, in the early morning of their lives, actuated by the same spirit of self-sacrifice, enlisted in his "forlorn hope" and bravely marched to heroic deeds and almost certain death. In the world's history no more desperate and apparently hopeless undertaking has ever been entered upon by sane men. The chances for success were not one in a thousand, and yet these young men were so imbued with their leader's abhorrence of slavery, a fierce and fearless determination to devote their lives to its destruction, that they stopped not to count the cost or to calmly consider the chances of success.
they had such confidence in the wisdom, courage and invincibility of their leader, that, where he commanded, they marched with out a murmur; where he led, they hesitated not to follow.
Not one of them could have been actuated by selfish motives. There was no hope of reward, even in case of success. There was no pay for time or services, promised or expected. there were no honors to be won; there was no glory achieved. They fully realized that death was far more likely to meet them than was success.
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And yet twenty-two men in the fervor of youth, freely offered their services and their lives, if need be, to strike a blow at American slavery, which, they firmly believed would, in some way not clearly developed, result in its final overthrow. As unlikely as it appeared to all the world besides, they were not mistaken. They sacrificed their own lives but the sacrifice proved to be the fire brand that, in less than five years, melted with the red glare of a hundred battle-fields, the shackles from four millions of slaves.
Justice to the memory of the four young men from Iowa, who fought at Harper's Ferry in John Brown's band, requires a permanent record of what is known of their brief lives and heroic deaths.
Steward Taylor was born at Usbridge, Canada, October 29th, 1836. He came to Iowa when but seventeen years old and learned the wagonmaker's trade at West Liberty. Here he became acquainted with George B. Gill who tools him Springdale in the winter of 1858, and at John E. Painter's house they met John Brown. Young Taylor was greatly impressed with the fervor of the old "hero of Osawatomie," and listened eagerly to his recitals of the horrors of American slavery. He made the acquaintance, also, of the young men who were drilling under Stevens at the Maxson farm for the Harper's Ferry campaign and soon after enlisted with them. When the Chatham Convention was held he went to Canada to attend it. While waiting for the leader to complete his plans for the invasion, Taylor found work at his trade in Illinois. He waited impatiently for many months for notice to join the expedition. At times he feared that he was not to be included in the select band that was to strike the blow and he wrote to an Iowa friend: "My hopes were crushed and I felt as though I was deprived of my chief object in life. I believe that fate has decreed me for this undertaking, although at one time I had given up being wanted." But early in July, 1859, a letter came from Kagi telling him to come on. He wrote back: "It is my chief desire to add fuel to the flame. My ardent passion for the work is my thought by day and my dream by night." He raised what money was due him and at once started for the rendezvous at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, paying his own expenses. He was now twenty-one years of age and is described as of medium height, his hair reddish-brown, his eyes dark brown, large and full. He was smooth-faced and boyish looking. He was a constant student, always carrying books with him. He was a stenographer, and played the violin. He was quiet but persistent in his purposes, faithful, courageous and loyal. When John Brown issued his eleven orders, just before the night of the attack, No. 6 required Captain Watson Brown and Steward Taylor to "hold the covered bridge over the Potomac and arrest anyone attempting to cross, using pikes, if resistance is offered, instead of Sharpe's rifles." Taylor was cool and fearless throughout the conflict. He escorted one of Brown's prisoners to his home, to let his family know of his safety, and brought him back through crowds of armed, excited, desperate, drunken men. Later on in the day, while bravely fighting near the engine house he receded a mortal wound. He fell in the thickest of the fight and suffered great agony for three hours, when death came to his relief. the day before the attack he remarked to his comrades that he felt he would be one of the first killed. He was so impressed with the presentiment that he wrote farewell letters to his friends at home and then calmly marched to his death. Anne Brown, who kept house for her father, brothers and their comrades at the Kennedy farm, says of Steward Taylor: "He was one who could never have betrayed a friend or deserted a post."
Jeremiah G. Anderson was the grandson of an officer of the American Revolution. His father, John Anderson, left the slave State of Virginia soon after his marriage and settled in Putnam County, Indiana, where Jeremiah was born on the 17th of April, 1833. After his father's death, his mother moved with her family to Des Moines, Iowa. Jeremiah was well educated. He was sent by his mother to a Presbyterian Academy at Kossuth, in 1854, to prepare for the ministry. Hon. James W. McDill, afterwards Judge, and United States Senator, was one of his instructors.
Judge McDill said "he was an eccentric young man, quiet and very studious." But he had no taste for the orthodox ministry. In an essay he declared his belief in universal salvation and soon after became a Spiritualist. In 1857, Jeremiah went to Kansas and took a claim on the Little Osage. He joined Colonel Montgomery's army and fought with him to make Kansas a free State. He afterward served under John Brown and was with him in one of his successful incursions for the liberation of Missouri slaves. He again joined his old commander in New York, where he was organizing the Harper's Ferry campaign and was one of his most trusted and faithful friends. John Brown told Gerrit Smith that "Anderson was more than a friend; he was as a brother and a son." three days before his execution Captain Brown said: "My brother Jeremiah was fighting bravely by my side at Harper's Ferry up to the moment when I was struck down." When Colonel Lee's marines broke through the barricade and charged on its five defenders, Anderson was pierced with three bayonets as his smoking rifle fell from his grasp. Mortally wounded he was dragged out by his captors, thrown down on the stone flagging and left to the mercy of the brutal crowd. He lingered there in great agony for three hours, subjected to the most fiendish tortures. A gang of Virginia "chivalry" now mustered courage to approach the disarmed and dying man, kicking his face with their heavy boots, then opening his eyes, they spat tobacco juice into them, while forced their filthy quids into his mouth amid laughter, jeers and horrid oaths. When death finally ended his sufferings, two village doctors came and crowded his mutilated body into a salt barrel, stamping it down with their feet. They carted their prey toward their office and that was the last seen of Jeremiah G. Anderson, the close friend of John Brown and one of the bravest Iowa soldiers who ever marched to the field of death.
Edwin Coppoc was born near Salem, Ohio, June 30, 1835. His father died when he was a child. He lived many years with his grandfather, going to district school and working on a farm. He is described as a studious, industrious boy of cheerful disposition. His eyes and hair were brown and his skin fair. His head was large and well formed; he was fond of athletic sports and a genial companion. As a young man he was intelligent, active, brave, loyal and the soul of honor. He had winning manners, was amiable generous and kind. Anne Brown says of Edwin: "He was a rare young fellow, fearing nothing, yet possessed of great social traits, and no better comrade have I ever met." His mother was a woman of unusual intelligence and force of character. She strongly opposed the determination of her sons to enlist in the desperate enterprise. She had married again and her sons were living with her in Springdale when John Brown and his men came there to prepare for the Virginia invasion. Her boys eagerly listened to the story of the wrongs and cruelties inflicted upon the helpless slaves, as eloquently told by John Brown, and longed to help them to freedom. Edwin and his younger brother, Barclay, at last determined to join the young men who were drilling at the Maxson farm and to follow wherever the old liberator should strike the nest blow for emancipation.
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