Holton, Kansas, Dec 17 th 1859.
Col James Redpath
Dear Sir: In obedience [sic] to a general request, and as a friend and sympathizer with Brown, Whipple and others, I hereby transmit to you the particulars of “Old John Brown’s” final departure from this territory. Having myself been an eyewitness to the event I am about to relate, you can confidently rely upon its accuracy.
On the evening of the 27 th of January 1859, during a terrible snowstorm, Old John Brown Co l Whipple, another white man, and eleven fugitives arrived in this place, (Holton) and procured lodging at the “Holton Hotel” kept by Thomas. C. Watters. Although I have been intimately acquainted with Co l Whipple, having served by his side during the Kansas War, and partially so with Brown, they were so disguised that it was impossible for me to recognize them. The fugitives remained in the wagons during the night and so well were they provided with the necessary comforts of life, that they suffered little inconvenience from the elemental strife that was raging furiously all night. Before daylight on the morning of the 28 th, they were all under way: on reaching “Straight- Creek” five miles north of Holton, they found the stream so swollen in consequence of previous rains, that it was utterly impossible to effect a crossing. The fugitives were quartered in a
log-cabin situatee [sic] on the bank of the creek, in a commanding position to repel an attack, which Brown now apprehended. Brown and Whipple were domiciled at the home of Dr. Fuller, about ten rods distant from the one in which the fugitives were stationed, About ten o’clock, A.M. of the 28, a party of drunken slavehunters who had followed Brown’s tracks, discovered his whereabouts, and while sculking around the premises where the fugitives were concealed, they were suddenly brought to a sense of the dangerous position they occupied, by Co l Whipple presenting a Sharps rifle at their leader, and in a voice of thunder commanding them to surrender. One of the ruffians quietly yielded, the remaining five put spurs to their horses and effected their escape.
The report that Brown was in the vicinity circulated like lightning. Messengers were immediately dispatched to the Governor at Lecompton for troops, and to Atchison, S t Joseph and other points for men, to assist in capturing Brown in the event of the troops not arriving in time.
In the mean time a [pretender] United States marshall, by the name of J.T. Wood, from Lecompton had collected from the “rag tags”, and “bob tails”, of this community, a posse of twenty-five men, with the intention of capturing Brown before the arrival of the troops, and thus have immortality thrust upon him, by the arrest or annihilation of
the old “hero of Osawotomie”. Anticipating an easy victory, the bogus marshal with his select company appeared before Brown’s position, at three o’clock P.M. of the 28 th. The marshal demanded the immediate and unconditional surrender of all the inmates of the house, consisting at that time of Brown, Whipple. Dr. Fuller and Wife. two neighbors, the prisoners whom Whipple took. and myself. (I would here state that as soon as I ascertained that Brown was in the neighborhood, and that a pro-slavery mob threatened him, I had hastened on to join him, with the determination to stand by him to the last.) Brown most [peremptosily] refused to surrender upon any terms: the ruffian marshall raved and swore, and finally threatened to burn the building, if necessary, to accomplish his object. At this stage of the proceedings, the house was cleared for action; the family occupying the same, and the two neighbors above mentioned, received permission from the marshall, to withdraw from the premises: all left the building excepting Brown, Whipple, the prisoner who was handcuffed, and myself. The door and windows were barricaded with chests and trunks, sacks of flour and meal, and every disposition made for a terrible resistance. After every necessary precaution had been taken. Brown with a loaded revolver in each hand, firmly and resolutely awaited the least demonstration of an attack upon the house,
which was to be the signal for removing some chinking from the wall, and the immediate firing upon the enemy. It was only with the greatest difficulty that Brown could restrain Whipple, from commencing the action by shooting the marshall. The ruffians were thunderstruck at the preperations made for their reception: the idea that three men should [xxx] defiance to twenty five of the chivalry, [heedless] of the notorious “Wood” was more than they had anticipated.
Wood [counciled] with his trembling band: he made an appeal to their patriotism, replete with Davy Atchison ephit epithets: but the more he exhorted his men to duty, the more he felt himself incapacitated to perform the work before him. His men began to see in imagination, a thousand sharps rifles leveled at them from the houses and trees in the vicinity: some of the most timid ones suggested a retreat, and to postpone the capture until the arrival of reinforcements.
Wood trembled in his boots: the bravest of his band quailed. “Let us be off” cries the marshall, “or these damed [sic] abolitionists will kill every one of us.” he had no need to to tell them his men a second time, for off they started as fast as their horses could carry them, the cowardly “Wood” loosing his hat, in the inglorious flight.
During the following night information was received by Brown, that large reinforcements
had arrived in the enemy’s camp, and that all their forces were concentrating at Eureka, a point about one mile north of Brown’s position, evidently not intending to molest him in his stronghold, but to intercept his march at Eureka, or at the crossing of Spring creek one mile further north, should he persist in reaching the Iowa line. On the morning of the 29 th, Brown dispatched a messenger to Topeka, for assistance: most nobly did the gallant and generous Topekians, respond to his call. Fifteen men, including Kagi and some of the most promenant [sic] citizens of Topeka, were soon far on their way for Browns encampment. In the mean-time a large number of the Free State men in and around Holton, had allied around Brown for the purpose of protecting him against assaults from the enemy, should any be attempted, before the arrival of re-inforcements. The enemy’s scouts kept hovering around Brown’s position day and night, but were careful never to come within Sharps rifle range. At 10, o’clock A.M. of the 31 st of Jan the Topeka Company arrived in Brown’s Camp: immediately preparations [sic] were made to commence the march. At 2 O’clock P.M. Straight Creek was safely crossed. and the entire party, – fugitives included, numbering twenty- five men, were ordered to march directly for the headquarters of the ruffians, at Eureka.
As soon as the enemy became aware of
Brown’s approach. they beat to arms, and drew up their men in battle array, on an elevated position, in the rear of Eureka: their Scouting parties were called in, and the movements of both parties for some time indicated, that a general engagement was about to take place.
The cowardly “Wood” was again at his post, harranging his men, b but fearful that his courage would again prove treacherous, he resigned his command in favor of two notorious ruffians, one by the name of Davis from Atchison who had come expressly to participate in the capture of Brown, the other by the name of Hendrickson, a renegade Free. State man, whose servility to slave drivers knows no bounds. The ruffians were all clamorous to be led into the fight by two such illustrious [chieftams], but when Brown’s party had approached within rifle range, a sudden panic seized all, Davis and Hendrickson trembled like leaves, the effect was contagious; all fled precipitously down a steep hill to the spring creek crossing. At the latter point they felt assured of arresting Brown’s further progress, until the arrival of the troops, who were now hourly expected. Sixty-five ruffians, the off scourings of the South, were drawn up in order of battle, on the north side of Spring creek; glorious deed they were expected to perform, immortality was to be their boon; This day
was to witness the capture of Brown: his abolition [xxx] was to be annihilated, and the the blood stained banner of the slave hunter wave in triumph over the virgin soil of Kansas. But alas, for human calculations, when Brown’s party had again arrived within rifle distance, the ruffian commanders were suddenly taken with the ague; Wood, mounted the swiftest horse and left the scene of action. the other leaders and their men followed in rapid retreat. Brown’s party not contented with merely opening a free passage for themselves without bloodshed, persued the ruffians in hot haste and succeeded in capturing three men and four horses, the latter, on the principle that “to the victor belongs the spoils,” Brown appropriate to the use his party.
The prisoners were carried along about twelve miles when after listening to a lengthy lecture from Brown, they were permitted to return home, minus their horses and arms.
Brown was no more molested by the ruffians in Kansas; he was escorted by about fifteen men as far as the Nebraska line, when they left him to proceed on his way with the fugitives, Col. Whipple, Kagi and others and finally reached the Land where “Fugitive Slave laws”
are null and void.
Now Dear Sir I have in my feeble way attempted to contribute my mite to perpetuate the deeds of “Old John Brown,” “Col Whipple” and their heroic associates, I hope you may find what I have pened [sic] or at least a portion of the same of sufficient import to assist you in your praiseworthy undertaking that of publishing the lives of those heroic men.
I might say more about Whipple having commanded a company under him during the Kansas war, but I will leave leave off for the present. Use my name if you see proper, I fear not the accursed minions of the slave power. Please write to me immediately and state whether you consider my feeble contribution worthy of notice. Do not forget to write to me, If you see proper to use the foregoing article, shape it to suit the occasion, and dress it in suitable language and if you think me entitled to a copy of the Book you are about to publish, please send it to Holton Jackson Co Kansas
I remain most respectfully and Truly
Your obedient servant
William F. Creitz