John Brown 1859
Source: Franklin B. Sanborn, John Brown, Liberator of Kansas and Martyr of Virginia: Life and Letters. Torch, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1910;
Copy Left: this work is free of copyright;
Transcribed: by Mitch Abidor.
Charles Town, Jefferson County, Va. October 31, 1859
My dear wife and children, every one,
I suppose you have learned before this by the newspapers that two weeks ago today we were fighting for our lives at Harpers Ferry; that during the fight Watson [one of Brown’s sons] was mortally wounded, Oliver [another of Brown’s sons] killed, William Thompson killed and Dauphin slightly wounded; that on the following day I was taken prisoner, immediately after which I received several saber-cuts on my head and bayonet-stabs in my body. As nearly as I can learn, Watson died of his wound on Wednesday, the second, — or on Thursday the third — the day after I was taken. Dauphin was killed when I was taken, and Anderson I suppose also. I have since been tried, and found guilty of treason, etc., and of murder in the first degree. I have not yet received my sentence. No others of the company with whom you were acquainted were, so far as I can learn, either killed or taken. Under all these terrible calamities, I feel quite cheerful in the assurance that God reigns and will overrule all for his glory and the best possible good. I feel no consciousness of guilt in the matter, nor even mortification on account of my imprisonment and irons; and I feel perfectly sure that very soon no member of my family will feel any possible disposition to “blush on my account.” Already dear friends at a distance, with kindest sympathy, are cheering me with the assurance that posterity, at least, will do me justice. I shall command you all together, with my beloved but bereaved daughters-in-law, to their sympathies, which I do not doubt will soon reach you. I also commend you all to Him “whose mercy endureth forever,” — to the God of my fathers, “whose I am, and whom I serve.” “He will never leave you nor forsake you,” unless you forsake Him. Finally, my dearly beloved, be of good comfort. Be sure to remember and follow my advice, and my example too, so far as it has been consistent with the holy religion of Jesus Christ, — in which I remain a most firm and humble believer. Never forget the poor, nor think anything you bestow on them to be lost on you, even though they may be black as Ebedmelech, the Ethiopian eunuch, who cared for Jeremiah in the pit of the dungeon; or as black as the one to who Philip preached Christ. Be sure to entertain strangers, for thereby some have — “Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them.”
I am in charge of a jailer like the one who took charge of Paul and Silas; and you may rest assured that both kind hearts and kind faces are more or less about me, while thousands are thirsting for my blood. “These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” I hope to be able to write to you again. Copy this, Ruth, [one of Brown’s daughters] and send it to your sorrow-stricken brothers to comfort them. Write me a few words in regard to the welfare of all. God Almighty bless you all, and make you “joyful in the midst of all your tribulations!” Write to John Brown, Charles Town, Jefferson County, Va., care of Captain John avis.
Your affectionate husband and father,
P.S. Yesterday, November 2, I was sentenced to be hanged on December 2 next. Do not grieve on my account. I am still quite cheerful. God bless you!