October 16 This Day During The Civil War

October 16, 1859 – John Brown leads a raid on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. On Sunday night, October 16, 1859, Brown left three of his men behind as a rear-guard: his son, Owen Brown, Barclay Coppoc, and Frank Meriam; led the rest into the town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown detached a party under John Cook Jr. to capture Colonel Lewis Washington, great-grandnephew of George Washington, at his nearby Beall-Air estate, some of his slaves, and two relics of George Washington: a sword allegedly presented to Washington by Frederick the Great and two pistols given by the Marquis de Lafayette, which Brown considered talismans. The party carried out its mission and returned via the Allstadt House, where they took more hostages.Brown’s main party captured several watchmen and townspeople in Harpers Ferry. Brown’s men needed to capture the weapons and escape before word could be sent to Washington. The raid was going well for Brown’s men. They cut the telegraph wire and seized a Baltimore & Ohio train passing through. A free black man was the first casualty of the raid. Hayward Shepherd, an African-American baggage handler on the train, confronted the raiders; they shot and killed him. For some reason, Brown let the train continue, and the conductor alerted the authorities down the line. Brown had been sure that he would win the support of local slaves in joining the rebellion, but a massive uprising did not occur, because word had not been spread about the uprising, so the slaves nearby did not know about it. Although the white townspeople soon began to fight back against the raiders, Brown’s men succeeded in capturing the armory that evening.


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