to Planning the Raid
J. Hinton’s Interview with John Brown and John Kagi
Richard J. Hinton, John Brown and His Men (New York:
Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894), pp. 672 675.
After dinner Kagi had some conversation with the Captain apart.
He then asked me if I would walk down to the Marais des Cygnes,
"as he was going to fish." I acquiesced, and we started.
About half way to the river we stopped and sat on a fence. Kagi
asked me what I supposed was the plan of Captain Brown. My answer
was, that I thought it had a reference to the Indian Territory
and the Southwestern States. He shook his head, and gradually
unfolded the whole of their plans . . . . A full account of the
conversation in Canada was given, as well as of the organization,
its extent and objects, thereby effected. The mountains of Virginia
were named as the place of refuge, and as a country admirably
adapted to carrying on a guerilla warfare. In the course of the
conversation, Harper's Ferry was mentioned as a point to be seized
but not held on account of the arsenal. The white members of the
company were to act as officers of different guerilla bands, which,
under the general command of John Brown, were to be composed of
Canadian refugees and the Virginia slaves who would join them.
A different time of the year was mentioned for the commencement
of the warfare from that which has lately been chosen. It was
not anticipated that the first movement would have any other appearance
to the masters than a slave stampede, or local outbreak at most.
The planters would pursue their chattels and be defeated. The
militia would then be called out, and would also be defeated.
It was not intended that the movement should appear to be of large
dimensions, but that, gradually increasing in magnitude, it should,
as it opened, strike terror into the heart of the slave States
by the amount of organization it would exhibit, and the strength
it gathered. They anticipated, after the first blow had been struck,
that, by the aid of the freed and Canadian negroes who would join
them, they could inspire confidence in the slaves, and induce
them to rally. No intention was expressed of gathering a large
body of slaves, and removing them to Canada. On the contrary,
Kagi clearly stated, in answer to my inquiries, that the design
was to make the fight in the mountains of Virginia, extending
it to North Carolina and Tennessee, and also to the swamps of
South Carolina, if possible. Their purpose was not the expatriation
of one or a thousand slaves, but their liberation in the States
wherein they were born, and were held in bondage. "The mountains
and the swamps of the South were intended by the Almighty,"
said John Brown to me afterwards, "for a refuge for the slave,
and a defense against the oppressor."
spoke of having marked out a chain of counties extending continuously
through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. He
had traveled over a large portion of the region indicated, and
from his own personal knowledge, and with the assistance of the
Canadian negroes who had escaped from those States, they had arranged
a general plan of attack. The counties he named were those which
contained the largest proportion of slaves, and would. therefore.
be the best in which to strike. The blow struck at Harper's Ferry
was to be in the spring, when the planters were busy, and the
slaves most needed. The arms in the arsenal were to be taken to
the mountains, with such slaves as joined. The telegraph wires
were to be cut and railroad tracks torn up in all directions.
As fast as possible, other bands besides the original one were
to be formed, and a continuous chain of posts established in the
mountains. They were to be supported by provisions taken from
the farms of the oppressors. They expected to be speedily and
constantly reinforced; first, by the arrival of those men, who
in Canada, were anxiously looking and praying for the time of
deliverance, and then by the slaves themselves. The intention
was to hold the egress to the free States as long as possible,
in order to retreat when that was advisable. Kagi, however, expected
to retreat southward, not in the contrary direction. The slaves
were to be armed with pikes, scythes, muskets, shot guns, and
other simple instruments of defense; the officers, white or black,
and such of the men as were skilled. and trustworthy, to have
the use of the Sharpe's, rifles and revolvers. They anticipated
procuring provisions enough for subsistence by forage, as also
arms, horses, and ammunition. Kagi said one of the reasons that
induced him to go into the enterprise was a full conviction that
at no very distant day forcible efforts for freedom would break
out among the slaves, and that slavery might be more speedily
abolished by such efforts than by any other means. He knew by
observation in the South, that in no point was the system so vulnerable
as in its fear of a slave rising. Believing that such a blow would
be soon struck, he wanted to organize it so as to make it more
effectual, and also, by directing and controlling the negroes,
to prevent some of the atrocities that would necessarily arise
from the sudden upheaving of such a mass as the Southern slaves.
The constitution adopted at Chatham was intended as the framework
of organization among the emancipationists, to enable the leaders
to effect a more complete control of their forces. Ignorant men,
in fact, all men, were more easily managed by the forms of law
and organization than without them. This was one of the purposes
to be subserved by the Provisional Government. Another was to
alarm the (slave holding) oligarchy by discipline and the show
of organization. In their terror they would imagine the whole
North was upon them pelf melt, as well as all their slaves. Kagi
said John Brown anticipated that by a system of forbearance to
non slaveholders many of them might be induced to join them.
answer to an inquiry, Kagi stated that no politician, in the Republican
or any other party, knew of their plans, and but few of the Abolitionists.
It was no use talking, he said, of anti slavery action to non
resistant agitators. That there were men who knew John Brown's
general idea is most true; but, south of the Canadian Provinces
and of North Elba, there were but few who were cognizant of the
mode by which he intended to mould those ideas into deeds.
a long conversation, the substance of which I have given, we returned
to the house. I had some further conversation with Brown, mostly
upon his movements, and the use of arms. An allusion to the terror
inspired by the fear of slaves rising, was the fact that Nat Turner
with fifty men held a portion of Virginia for several weeks. The
same number well organized and armed, can shake the system out
of the State . . . .