Today in History:

John Brown's Trial - Witnesses Day 2


Dr. Starry, on Sunday, night, heard a shot fired at the Ferry; heard a cry, looked out and saw two men passing from toward the Armory gate, and a tall man came from the Armory gate, and two men from the cars hallooed, "There he goes now!" the man stopped, raising his rifle; they followed him to the Armory gate, and exchanged shots with him; Conductor Phelps was one of those men; afterward found the black man Hayward dying in the railroad office; he said he was commanded to stop by the men on the bridge, and refusing, they fired upon him; saw several men patrolling during the night, and go into the bridge; did not know what to make of it, and went to inquire of the Armory watchman what is meant; met a man who levelled his rifle at him; asked him where the watchman was, and was answered that he was not there, but that there were "a few of us here;" afterward, in the morning, saw a wagon with three armed men following it; then went to Mr. Kitzmiller and Mr. Ball, and told them that an armed body of men had possession of the Armory, and not to go near it; also gave information to the other persons employed in the Armory; saw also three of them at Hall's works, did not see more than thirty; recognized them by a peculiar hat they wore; rode to Charlestown to give the alarm and get assistance; returned about 11 o'clock, and resisted in bearing orders and in guiding the armed forces to the heat place of attack; did not see or recognize Brown there at all.

Cross-examined by Mr. Green--As I rode post the Armory, armed men were at the gate; they did not attempt to stop me; I was determined not to be stopped.

Conductor Phelps, sworn--On Sunday night, the 15th, my train arrived at 1.25, bound east; saw no watchman at the bridge; thought it strange, as his business waste be there; was talking to the engineer, and was in the act of starting ahead, when the watchman came up to me, much excited, to state that he had been attacked in the bridge by men carrying rifles; Mr. Horsey was there with my light before starting the train; the baggage-master and a passenger accompanied him, and when they entered the bridge some one said, "stand and deliver;" had previously told the engineer to follow him slowly, but immediately saw the muzzles of four rifles resting on a railing, and pointed at us; told the engineer to "back"--something was wrong on the bridge--which he did; as I got on the tresseling, I heard the report of a gun, and Hayward, the colored man, came running to me, and said, "Captain, I am shot;" the ball had entered the back, and came oat under the left nipple; carried him to the railroad office, and started for the doctor, and saw one man come out of the bridge, and go toward the Armory gate; remarked, "There he goes now," and Throgmorton, clerk at the Wager House, fired at him; the shot was returned by two men at the Armory gate; I was close behind Throgmorton, who exchanged several shots with them; this was ten minutes after Hayward was shot; heard the men loading their rifles again; the reports were very loud, and I wondered why the people were not aroused; walked back to the railroad office, and one of the party on the bridge came out; he said, "You can come over the bridge with your train;" replied, "I would rather not, after these proceedings," and asked, "What do you want?" he replied, "We want liberty, and we intend to have it;" I then asked, "What do you mean?" he replied, "You will find out in a day or two;" I then felt alarmed for the safety of myself and passengers, and concluded to wait till daylight; men were passing back and forward from the bridge to the gate of the Armory; each appeared to be in blankets; the passengers were much excited, and wanted to know what it meant; went to the back of the train, and saw from twenty to thirty men about the engine-house; at about 4 o'clock saw a wagon driven in the yard, and nearly a dozen men jumped out of it, also a carriage, but did not see any one get out of it; saw men go backward and forward, who seemed to be putting something in the wagon; they were also going up and down the street leading from the Armory, and all seemed busy at something; this continued until nearly daylight, when the wagon left the yard and passed over the bridge to the Maryland side; about 3 o'clock, before the wagon left, an old gentleman came to me and said, "The parties who have arrested me allowed me to come out on condition that I would tell you that you might cross the bridge with your train;" afterward learned that this was Mr. Koise, a citizen of the town; replied that "I would not cross the bridge until daylight, that I might see whether it was safe;" afterward saw a man coming down Shenandoah street, with a lantern, and an armed man arrested him; afterward saw a short, stout negro walking with a staff with one of these men; could not see what was in the wagon; afterward a black boy brought a note to the clerk of the Wager House, ordering breakfast for forty-seven men; determined to go out and ascertain what it meant; met a man whom he now recognized as Coppie, and asked what they meant; he replied, "We don't want to injure you or detain your train; you could have gone at 3 o'clock; all we want is to free the negroes;" then asked if his train could now start, and went to the guard of the gate, who said, "There is Capt. Smith--he can tell you what you want to know;" went to the engine-house, and the guard called Capt. Smith, that somebody wanted to see him; the prisoner at the bar came out, and I asked him if he was captain of these --; he replied he was; asked him if I could cross the bridge, and he peremptorily responded, "No, Sir;" then asked him what he meant by stopping my train; he replied, "Are you the conductor on that train?" told him I was, and he said, "Why, I sent you word at 3 o'clock that you could pass;" told him that, after being stopped by armed men on the bridge, I would not pass with my train; he replied, "My head for it, you will not be hurt," said he was very sorry, it was not his intention that any blood should be spilled; that it was bad management on the part of the men in charge of the bridge; I then asked him what security I would have that my train would pass safely, and asked him if he would walk over the bridge ahead of my train with me? he called a large, stout man to accompany him, and one of my passengers, Mr. McByrne, asked to accompany me, but Brown ordered him to get into the train, or be would take them all prisoners in five minutes; Brown accompanied me; both had rifles; as we crossed the bridge, the three armed men were still in their places; when we got across, Brown said to me, "You doubtless wonder that a man of my age should be here with a  band of armed men, but if you knew my past history you would not wonder at it as much; my train was then through the bridge, and I bid him good morning, j umped of my train, and left him; witness returned to Harper's Ferry on Tuesday, and went in with Governor Wise and others to see Brown, who was a prisoner; beard his conversation with Wise and Hunter; Mr. Wise said he "was sorry to see a man of his age in that position;" Brown replied that he "asked no sympathy, and bad no apologies to make;" he knew exactly what he was about; the Governor asked him if he did not think he was doing wrong in running off with other people's property; Brown said, "No, he didn't;" he stated that he never had but twenty-two men of his party, but expected large reinforcements from Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and, I think, some of the New England States, and New York. He said that arms were sent to them from Massachusetts; think he spoke of Sharpe's rifles, revolvers, and spears; said he could arm from 1,500 to 2,000 men, said he had Harper's Ferry in his eye as the place for his operations; that he had rented a farm four miles off, from Dr. Kennedy, and had paid the rent up to March, and that all his arms were sent to him there from Chambersburg, Pa.; said those who brought the arms there did not know what they were, as he had taken the precaution to place them in double boxes; they were addressed to J. Smith & Sons. Brown told Gov. Wise that he had books in his trunk that would explain to him his whole proceedings, and what the purpose of his business was; Col. Lee said he had one, and handed it to Gov. Wise; Brown asked him to read two of its first preambles and four of the last sections, which he did, and Brown said that was a correct copy; in reply to a question of Gov. Wise, he said he was Commander-in-Chief of the forces under the Provisional Government, and that he then held that position; he said the constitution was adopted in a place called Chatham, in Canada; Brown said there was a Secretary of War, Secretary of State, Judge of the Supreme Court, and all the officers for s General Government; he said there was a House of Representatives, and that there was an intelligent colored man elected as one of the members of the House [sensation]; Gov. Wise asked Brown if he had taken the oath of allegiance provided for in the 48th article; he replied be had; asked if all the white men of his band had taken the oath; he replied that they had: he said that there were appointed and commissioned officers; that Stephens, Leeman, and one of Brown's sons were captains, and Coppie was a lieutenant; he said something about a battle in Kansas, and leaving one of his sons shot; I think he said Cook held a captain's commission; Gov. Wise asked Brown if he thought he had been betrayed to the Secretary of War; said he thought he had been betrayed, but had practised the ruse to prevent suspicion; the Governor asked him what that ruse was, but he refused to answer; said he knew exactly the position he had placed himself in, and if his life was forfeited he was prepared to suffer.

Mr. Green, counsel for the prisoner, interrupted the witness, and said to the Court that he had just received a dispatch from Cleveland, announcing that counsel was coming, and would almost certainly be here to-night. As this was a very important witness, and as it was late in the evening, he would ask the Court to adjourn until morning, in order that counsel might have an opportunity to cross-question the witness. He did not intend to conduct the case longer than the arrival of counsel selected by the prisoner. As only scraps of a conversation of two hours with Gov. Wise had been picked out and given to the Jury, he desired that the witness should be questioned as to the other parts of the conversation.

Mr. Hunter replied that there were several other witnesses to be called of the same character, to whom such questions could be put by new counsel to-morrow. If the cases were not pushed on, the whole balance of the term would not be sufficient to try these men. He thought there was no reason for delay, especially as it was uncertain whether the counsel could get here before to-morrow.

The Court decided that the witness should proceed.

Cross-examination by Mr. Green--In conversation, Brown said it was not his intention to harm anybody or anything; was sorry men had been killed; it was not by his orders or with his approbation, and would not occur again, provided the people were peaceable and quiet; when Brown spoke of taking them all prisoners if they did not get into the cars, he appeared to want the train to go on as soon as possible; it was advice more than in the form of a threat; did not recognize Brown till I talked with him in the Armory yard; don't think Brown was with the party the bridge or in the wagon, for if he had been I think I would have recognized him from his peculiar beard.

By Mr. Hunter--When Brown was parleying with us at the bridge, the three armed men remained on the bridge; saw what seemed to be a man dressed in woman's clothing nasa, followed by a boy with a box or bundle.

Col. Lewis W. Washington sworn--[He detailed the circumstances as previously stated.]

Cross-examined by Mr. Green--Cannot say whether the marines fired after they broke into the engine-house; the noise was great, and several shouted from the inside that some one had surrendered the prisoners; we were kept in the rear engine-house, and allowed to keep a safe position, so that there was no effort to endanger us; Brown's conduct was not rude or insulting toward us.

  By Mr. Hunter--was present at the conversation with Gov. Wise on Tuesday; Gov. Wise asked Brown if he had not selected Harper's Ferry as a border place between Maryland and Virginia for the establishment of his Provisional Government, and he answered "Certainly;" he avowed that his object was to free the Southern slaves, and said that his party consisted of twenty-two men, nineteen of whom came over with him; he said be had 200 Sharpe's rifles, 200 revolvers, and witness does not remember how many spears; Brown said he had enough to arm about 1,500 men; the Governor asked if he expected that number; he said no doubt that number, and five thousand if he wonted them; he detailed the conversation respecting the Provisional Government substantially as the last witness.

By Mr. Botts--At the time of the attack on the engine-house, the prisoners remained in the rear at the suggestion of Brown and his party; heard Brown direct his party not to fire on any unarmed man; he gave that order more than once.

By Mr. Hunter--Cook said Brown had been studying this subject twenty or thirty years. Had reconnoitered Harper's Ferry repeatedly.

By Mr. Botts--The prisoners were allowed to go out, and assure their families of their safety; some went out several times; told his men not to return from his dwelling-house; there were numerous shots toward the tank where Beckham was killed; Brown assured witness that he should be treated well, and his property should not be destroyed.

By Mr. Hunter--while a prisoner in the engine-house, overheard a conversation between Stephens and another party, not known to witness, about slave-holding. Stephens asked the man if he was in favor of slavery? He said "Yes, although not a slaveholder." Stephens said, "You are the first man I would hang."

By Mr. Harding--one of the three negroes taken with the witnesses was kept in the Armory yard; another escaped, and went home; saw no conversation in particular between the party and the negroes who were taken there; all the negroes were armed with spears while in the Armory yard; they walked about the Armory grounds, and one came and warmed himself; no negro from this neighborhood appeared to take up arms voluntarily; saw no wounded men dragged into the engine-house.

At 7 o'clock the Court adjourned till morning.