Thursday, October 16, 2008

He Hoped the Slaves Would Rise Up

On October 16th 1859 perhaps the first shot of the Civil War was fired by twenty-two men, five of whom were black.

The abolitionist John Brown led a group of 21 men; five of whom were black, on this date in 1859 against the Arsenal in Harper’s Ferry,VA [now located in WV]. John Brown hoped to use the weapons that would be captured to begin a slave revolt in South. The raid began that night when a free black man named Shepherd, who worked for the B & O Railroad as a night baggage porter was shot. The sound woke Dr John Starry at about 1 am.  Starry walked from his home to investigate the noise and was confronted by the raiders. Starry stated that he was a doctor, but that he could do nothing more for Shepherd, Brown’s men let him go. The Doctor went straight to the livery, took a horse and rode to Charleston,VA to alert people of the raid.

John Brown and his men found themselves surrounded by local militia and angry citizens. They took up refuge in a building adjacent to the Armory known as the Engine House. Brown's group had taken 60 hostages, mostly prominent people from Harper’s Ferry. The Secretary of War requested assistance of a unit of United States Marines, A unit of 86 led by Lieutenant Israel Green was sent. In need of an officer to lead this force, non other than Colonel Robert E Lee who was on leave near by, was assigned the job, with Lieutenant J E B Stuart as his aide-de-camp. These Marines arrived on the 18th, and after trying to negotiate with Brown, the Engine House was stormed with most of the raiders killed or captured. [9 to 12 {the numbers differ} of the raiders were killed, including two of the black men and two of John Brown’s sons]

John Brown was seriously wounded. He was taken to Chalestown,VA [now WV] were he was tried for treason, convicted and hung on December 2nd 1859.

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