Brown: Hero or Terrorist?> John
Brown in Kansas>John Brown to His Family
Brown to his Family, June, 1856
Franklin B. Sanborn, ed. The Life and Letters of John Brown,
It is now about five weeks since I have seen a line from North
Elba, or had any chance of writing you. During that period we
here have passed through an almost constant series of very trying
events. We were called to the relief of Lawrence, May 22, and
every man (eight in all), except Orson turned out; he staying
with the women and children, and to take care of the cattle. John
was captain of a company to which Jason belonged; the other six
were a little company by ourselves. On our way to Lawrence we
learned that it had been already destroyed, and we encamped with
John's company overnight. Next day our little company left, and
during the day we stopped and searched three men.
was destroyed in this way: Their leading men had (as I think)
decided, in a very cowardly manner, not to resist any process
having any Government official to serve it, notwithstanding the
process might be wholly a bogus affair. The consequence was that
a man called a United States marshal came on with a horde of ruffians
which he called his posse, and after arresting a few persons turned
the ruffians loose on the defenceless people. They robbed the
inhabitants of their money and other property, and even women
of their ornaments, and burned considerable of the town.
the second day and evening after we left John's men we encountered
quite a number of proslavery men, and took quite a number prisoners.
Our prisoners we let go; but we kept some four or five horses.
We were immediately after this accused of murdering five men at
Pottawatomie, and great efforts have since been made by the Missourians
and their ruffian allies to capture us. John's company soon afterward
disbanded, and also the Osawatomie men.
started to go and place himself under the protection of the Government
troops; but on his way he was taken prisoner by the Bogus men,
and is yet a prisoner, I suppose. John tried to hide for several
days; but from feelings of the ungrateful conduct of those who
ought to have stood by him, excessive fatigue, anxiety, and constant
loss of sleep, he became quite insane, and in that situation gave
up, or, as we are told, was betrayed at Osawatomie into the hands
of the Bogus men. We do not know all the truth about this affair.
He has since, we are told, been kept in irons, and brought to
a trial before a bogus court, the result of which we have not
yet learned. We have great anxiety both for hire and Jason, and
numerous other prisoners with the enemy (who have all the while
had the Government troops to sustain them). We can only commend
them to God.
cowardly mean conduct of Osawatomie and vicinity did not save
them; for the ruffians came on them, made numerous prisoners,
fired their buildings, and robbed them. After this a picked party
of the Bogus men went to Brown's Station, burned John's and Jason's
houses, and their contents to ashes; in which burning we have
all suffered more or less. Orson and boy have been prisoners,
but were soon set at liberty. They are well, and have not been
seriously injured. Owen and I have just come here for the first
time to look at the ruins. All looks desolate and forsaken, the
grass and weeds fast covering up the signs that these places were
lately the abodes of quiet families. After burning the houses,
this self same party of picked men, some forty in number, set
out as they supposed, and as was the fact, on the track of my
little company, boasting, with awful profanity, that they would
have our scalps. They however passed the place where we were hid,
and robbed a little town some four or five miles beyond our camp
in the timber. I had omitted to say that some murders had been
committed at the time Lawrence was sacked . . . .
then we have, like David of old, had our dwelling with the serpents
of the rocks and wild beasts of the wilderness; being obliged
to hide away from our enemies. We are not disheartened, though
nearly destitute of food, clothing, and money. God, who has not
given us over to the will of our enemies, but has moreover delivered
them into our hand, will, we humbly trust, still keep and deliver
us. We feel assured that He who sees not as men see, does not
lay the guilt of innocent blood to our charge . . .