Digital History>eXplorations>John Brown: Hero or Terrorist?>The Execution>The Execution of John Brown

The Execution of John Brown

Source: The Life Trial, and Execution of John Brown, pp. 100-101

At eleven o'clock on Friday, Dec. 2d, John Brown was brought out of the jail accompanied by Sheriff Campbell and assistants, and Capt. Avis, the jailer . . . .

Brown was a accompanied by no ministers, he desiring no religious services either in the jail or on the scaffold.

On reaching the field where the gallows was erected, the prisoner said, "Why are none but military allowed in the inclosure? I am sorry citizens have been kept out." On reaching the gallows he observed Mr. Hunter and Mayor Green standing near, to whom he said, "Gentlemen, good bye," his voice not faltering.

The prisoner walked up the steps firmly, and was the first man on the gallows. Avis and Sheriff Campbell stood by his side, and after shaking hands, and bidding an affectionate adieu, he thanked them for their kindness. When the cap was put over his face, and the rope around his neck, Avis asked him to step forward on the trap. He replied, "You must lead me, I cannot see." The rope was adjusted, and the military order given, "Not ready yet." The soldiers marched, countermarched, and took position as if an enemy were in sight, and were thus occupied for nearly ten minutes, the prisoner standing all the time. Avis inquired if he was not tired. Brown said "No, not tired; but don't keep me waiting longer than is necessary."

While on the scaffold, Sheriff Campbell asked him if he would take a handkerchief in his hand to drop as a signal when he was ready. He replied, "No, I do not want it but do not detain me any longer than is absolutely necessary."

He was swung off at fifteen minutes past eleven. A slight grasping of the hands and twitching of the muscles were seen, and then all was quiet.

The body was several times examined, and the pulse did not cease until thirty-five minutes had passed. The body was then cut down, placed in a coffin and conveyed under military escort to the depot, where it was put in a car to be carried to the ferry by a special train at four o'clock . . . .


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