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INSURRECTION AT HARPER'S FERRY.- A serious riot or insurrection broke out at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, on the 16th inst. A band of about 250 white men, and a gang of negroes, took possession of the bridge across the Potomac in the night-time, extinguished the lights, closed the hotels, barricaded the streets, took possession of the United States Arsenal and Government Pay house. The railroad trains were stopped, and fired into, several prominent citizens were taken and held as prisoners, and several persons were killed. The news of the outbreak caused intense excitement through the vicinity, rumors prevailed that the negroes were rising generally, and that the country was in the possession of the abolitionists. Upon the receipt of the intelligence at Washington several companies of military with artillery were promptly order to the scene of the disturbance. Great excitement prevailed at Richmond and Baltimore, and troops started to the scene of action. Gov. Wise of Virginia, also repaired to the place. As the military arrived, most of the rioters dispersed, but a few about 22 in number, including the leaders, entrenched them in the Engine House on the Arsenal grounds, where they offered resistance. They were called upon to surrender which they declined to do, whereupon a detachment of U.S. Marines, attacked and carried the house, killed two of the rioters, and captured the rest, and on the 18th the insurrection was entirely suppressed. Anderson, one of the leaders in the movement was killed in the Engine House. John Brown who figured so largely in Kansas matters, the principal mover in the matter, was badly wounded, and taken prisoner. It seems that he has been living for some time in the neighborhood under the assumed name of J. Smith, that he had been accumulating arms and ammunition, and making other preparations for an organized and wide spread movement with a view to overturn the United States government and liberate the slaves who were expected to rise in a body and flock to his standard at the outbreak of the insurrection. He had organized a military force and issued commissioners and had prepared a "provisional constitution" which was found among his papers. Letters from Gerritt Smith and Frederick Douglas, were found in his possession. It appears from the statements of some of the prisoners that the rifles used by the rioters were some of those sent to Kansas in 1856, and Brown himself has said to the correspondent of the New York Times, that he had "arms and ammunition enough furnished by the "Massachusetts Emigrant Aide Society." The affairs has aroused a strong feeling through the whole country.

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On October 16, 1859, John Brown (1800-1859) and his 21 manned "army of liberation" attacked the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. The siege lasted 36 hours and most of the men were killed. Brown was captured, tried and found guilty of treason, conspiring with slaves to rebel and murder, and was hanged on December 2, 1859. This newspaper account greatly exaggerates the number of insurgents, claiming 250 white men and a gang of Negroes, when in fact there were only five Negroes and 16 white men. The song, "John Brown's Body" was a favorite of northern soldiers during the Civil War.


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"Insurrection at Harper's Ferry" article from the Franklin Democrat newspaper

publisher   Franklin Democrat
date   Oct 24, 1859
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
height   9.75"
width   2.75"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L05.091

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See Also...

Frederick Douglas refused passport

"Correspondence between Lydia Maria Child and Gov. Wise and Mrs. Mason, of Viriginia"

"Union and Liberty"

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