Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?> John Brown in his Own Words>John Brown


John Brown exhibiting his hangman (1865)
Broadside Collection, portfolio 4, no. 12, Library of Congress

SUMMARY: Northern rejoicing at the end of the Civil War often took the form of vengeful if imaginary portrayals of the execution of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Here abolitionist martyr John Brown rises from the grave to confront Davis, although in actuality the latter had nothing to do with Brown's 1859 execution.

Brown points an accusing finger at Davis, who sits imprisoned in a birdcage hanging from a gallows. Davis wears a dress and bonnet, and holds a sour apple. Below, black men and women, resembling comic minstrel figures, frolic about. (For Davis's female attire, see "The Chased "Old Lady" of the C.S.A.," no. 1865-11.) Since the beginning of the war Union soldiers had sung about "hanging Jeff Davis from a sour apple tree." Davis's actual punishment was imprisonment at Fortress Monroe after his capture on May 10, 1865.

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