Wednesday, December 4, 2013

John Brown's Miscalculation

The Engine House


Not knowing the extent of the danger on the trestle, Phelps and the engineer determined the best course of action was to sit tight.  They tried to keep the passenger calm. Dozens of people, some of the passengers and hotel guests congregated in the lobby.  Standing by a window Throckmartin saw one of the armed sentries walking across the town square towards the armory.  He aimed the borrowed revolver and fired five shots.  He missed his target, but the gunfire sent the jittery passengers and hotel guests into a near panic.  Everybody began asking the same question - 'what is going on; who are these men?'

    A messenger from the hotel roused a local physician, Dr. Louis Starry.  The doctor arrived to late to save Shepard.  As he stared down at the black man's corpse one thought occupied his mind - 'what was going on; who were these armed men?'  Phelps, Higgins, Throckmartin, hotel guests, the passengers from the train, everybody had a theory.  Some thought the men were disgruntled armory workers, others said they were laid off laborers from the nearby government dam project or maybe robbers after the $15,000 which was supposedly held in the armory paymaster's safe.

    Starry decided to find out for himself.  He left the hotel and for the next few hours furtively made his way around town.  He encountered one of Brown's sentries who outlined the purpose of the raid.  Shortly after dawn a farm wagon rolled out of the armory and headed out of town over the B & O trestle.  Starry correctly guessed that it was the first of many, which would transport armory weapons to Maryland.  At 6:30 AM forge workers began to arrive at the armory gate to being their shift.  Brown quickly rounded them up at gunpoint.
    With the intent to demonstrate he meant no harm unless provoked Brown sent a message requesting breakfast for the hostages to the Wager Hotel. "You will furnish forty-five men with a good breakfast", he said.  He also requested a parlay with the train conductor Phelps.  The conductor agreed to the meeting.   Covered by his men, Brown boldly walked across the street to the hotel and in plain view to all told Phelps, "You no doubt wonder that a man my age should be here with a band of armed men, but if you knew my past history you would not wonder so much".  After informing Phelps about his intention to lead a slave insurrection with weapons taken from the armory he surprised by Phelps by telling him that he would allow the train to leave the village and continue on its journey to Baltimore.  Three hours after the it arrived the train continued on its way across the B & O trestle into Maryland.  At 7:05 AM Phelps sent a telegram from Monocacy, Maryland - "Express train bound east, under my charge was stopped this morning at Harpers Ferry by armed abolitionists.  They say they have come to free the slaves and intend to do it all hazards."

    Brown knew that at the first opportunity Phelps would sent a telegram to alert Federal troops, to what was happening in Harpers Ferry.  But he had to assume that risk.  Brown's dilemma was this- he needed the news of his raid to spread so that freedom loving slaves from nearby plantations would flock to Harpers Ferry.  But at the same time he was aware that an alarm would bring militias from nearby towns.  He was hoping that the slaves would arrive first.  His exit plan depended on having a force that could overwhelm local resistance.  He was less concerned about federal troops.  He believed they would take several days to mobilize and his growing army would have disappeared into the surrounding wilderness by then.

    At 7:00 AM Starry sent a messenger to the Lutheran Church on Camp Hill overlooking the armory.   Within minutes an alarm bell reverberated through the town.  At about the same time, Thomas Boerly, an Irish tavern owner and grocer was opening his store.  A neighbor ran into his store and told him that the armory had been captured and many townsfolk were being held hostage.  Boerly grabbed his shotgun and started down Shenandoah Street towards the center of town.  He spotted a sentry at the arsenal gate and fired.  Dangerfield Newby returned fire with the much more accurate Sharps rifle.  Bleeding profusely Boerly staggered into a nearby jewelers store.  He received the last rites of the church and died.
    News of Boerly's death spread quickly but in a town housing over 100,000 weapons the only ones available to the citizens were there private squirrel guns and pistols.  Recognizing the need for support Starry hopped on his horse and rode for Charles Town five miles away.  From the beginning Brown had hoped to avoid bloodshed.  He knew that the neither the armory workers nor the Harper Ferry villagers were slave owners.  Of the approximately 100 Africans who resided in Harpers Ferry fewer than 50 were slaves.  Indeed his plan required that they escape from Harper's Ferry as soon as possible.  The last thing Brown wanted was a shoot-out with towns people, but the news of Boerly's murder had spread quickly.  Within an hour a cache of arms that had been removed from the armory a few weeks earlier were in the hands of the townspeople.

    Sporadic gunfire echoed throughout Harpers Ferry throughout morning as the villagers engaged Brown's men in desultory skirmishes.  John Henry Kagi, Brown's principal lieutenant sent a message to Brown from his sentry post on the Shenandoah Bridge.  He requested permission to withdraw.  Brown refused.  He was convinced that hundreds of slaves eager to embrace his cause would soon come streaming into the village.  It was a fatal error in judgment for Kagi and nine other raiders.   Alerted by Starry, the Jefferson Guards from Charles Town and the Sherpardstown militia marched on Harpers Ferry.  The Jefferson Guards approached the town from the west and immediately attacked Kagi, Lewis Leary and Oliver Brown at the rifle factory.  The three attempted to escape by jumping into the Shenandoah River. They were killed in a hail of bullets.  In the center of town a contingent of Jefferson Guards outflanked Watson Brown, Stewart Taylor and Dangerfield Newby at the B & O bridge by . The raiders fled for the safety of the engine house.

    One of the locals loaded a six inch spike into his musket and fired at Newby.  It pierced the ex-slaves throat nearly decapitating him.  An angry mob beat his body with sticks, cut off his ears and left his body lying in the gutter for the hogs.  Newby, had joined Brown's raiders to free his wife and children.  In his pocket he carried a letter from his wife.  "Oh dear Dangerfield, com this fall without fail monny or no Monny" she pleaded.  "I want to see you so much that is the one bright hope I have before me."  A few months later she was sold to a new master in Louisiana. In a St. Louis bank account Newby was saving money to buy his wife and children.  The $741.00 he had saved to free his wife and children was distributed among his relatives in Ohio.

    By noon Brown's situation had rapidly deteriorated.  He was cut-off from his men at the rifle works and the arsenal.  Both bridges were in the hands of the militia and the hillside above the armory offered snipers a clear shot at anyone who attempted to leave the engine house.  Now was the time, Brown decided, to use his hostages to gain some leverage.  He sent William Thompson along with a hostage out of the engine house.  Thompson carried a white flag of truce.  Ignoring the flag several men grabbed Thompson and dragged him off to the Wager Hotel.  Brown tried again.  This time he sent out his son Watson Brown and another raider Aaron Stevens with the armory superintendent Kitzmiller.  Shots rang out.  Stevens dropped to the street, where he lay dying.  Mortally wounded Watson dragged himself back to the engine house.  William Leeman who was guarding the arsenal decided to make his escape.  He waded into the Potomac River where he was greeted by a hail of bullets.   A townsman G.A. Shoppert pursued and cornered him on a large rock in the middle of the river.  Shoppert pulled his pistol and shot Leeman in the head at point blank range.  Towns people riddled his body with bullets Leeman's body for the rest of the day.

     Brown had two objectives - the first was to secure the weapons he needed to arm his insurrection.  His second objective was to rally the support of abolitionists and slaves.  In order to achieve his second objective Brown needed Phelps to spread the alarm, which he did with his telegrams from Monocacy.  By that afternoon newspapers throughout the region were hawking exaggerated accounts of bedlam at Harpers Ferry.    The Associated Press disseminated dispatches to newspapers announcing that a stampede of Negroes in Harpers Ferry had taken over the village.  In fact the opposite was true.  Rather than inspiring a flood of rebellious slaves the alarm mobilized not only local militias but Federal troops as well.  Brown's seriously miscalculated the speed of an armed response to his raid.  It would be his undoing.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mrs. Gamble's Grave


I am seventy years old.  The preceding sentence is simple and declarative, yet for me it is as unfathomable as time itself.  How did I get to seventy years, and why am I still here while some of my closest childhood friends are gone?  These were my thoughts as I stood over Mrs. Gamble's grave.  Her tombstone is a simple gray granite marker.  Wreathed with grass and leaves, it lies flush with the ground.  It measures three feet by eighteen inches.  The inscription is brief.  In letters worn smooth from a 145 years of weather, it reads "Mrs. Gamble, Died Dec 17th, 1798." Her tombstone is the only visible reminder that she rests in a colonial cemetery.  Over the years the earth has absorbed the tombstones of the others who share Mrs. Gamble's final resting place. Located in the middle of a north-side neighborhood in Syracuse, New York, the cemetery covers a square city block.  It has no name

         In 1955 the cemetery's green fields were interspersed with stately elm and shady chestnut trees. In the days before adults commandeered kids' sports, the cemetery was alive with activity. Four dirt paths divided it into quadrants.  Each path started at a corner of the block, and they intersected at a group of bushes at the center. The paths served as an informal boundary between kids who lived on the north side of the block and those who lived on the south. We called our makeshift playground "the park."  During the spring and summer we climbed trees and played baseball. In the fall we played football, and during winter the small hills on the west side of the park bristled with sleds.

         Summer was the best. Baseball games followed the sun. We started early, suspended play for lunch, and resumed until supper.  (No one ate "dinner," except on Sundays.) We chose sides by picking the two best players as captains. They threw fingers, odds and evens, to determine the first pick and which team would get the final at-bat. Being chosen last to play was a temporary humiliation that quickly dissipated as we embraced the flow of the game. The batting order was determined by the quickest to speak up. "I got first ups," "I got second ups," the chorus continued until the sequence of "ups" concluded with the last batter.  Soon the delightful crack of wooden bats smacking baseballs resonated through the neighborhood. We kids sailed together through the boundless summer joking, teasing, swearing, and playing. They were precious times, and we knew it.

    We devised several ball fields, each with its own set of ground rules and tricky golf-course contours. On one field a ball hit over a path was a home run.  On another fielders tracked a fly ball as it bounced through tree branches. An improbable catch earned a week of bragging rights. Trees, rocks, and stumps served as bases. In my favorite field a chestnut tree was first base, a forlorn baseball mitt usually served as second, and Mrs. Gamble was third.  I liked this field best because it was too small for baseball, so we played softball, and girls played along with us.

        I was twelve when I fell in love with Donna Jean. She had wavy brown hair and azure eyes.  When she ran the bases on Mrs. Gamble's field her long tanned legs flashed in the sunlight. She smelled like lavender. Some called what I felt "puppy love," but there was nothing puppy about the pain I felt when she "went steady" with the kid from the other side of the park.  Doug was handsome and a terrific athlete. He had crew-cut blonde hair, brown eyes, and a sturdy build. A small scar above his right eye gave him a rakish look. He lived a few blocks from the north side of the park with his mother.  They shared  a small apartment above a dry cleaning shop. His was a rough neighborhood that I avoided.

        In the past Doug and I occasionally played ball together, usually on opposite sides, but this summer we became inseparable.  I didn't understand his sudden interest in me, but his status among the other boys and his fun loving personality drew me to him like a moth to a neon sign. We decorated our bikes, with mud-flaps and reflectors and we rode around the neighborhood, preening like bantams roosters. We drank Pepsis and licked popsicles at the corner grocery store while listening to Buddy Holly, Pat Boone and Elvis on his transistor radio. We ate bologna sandwiches with mustard on white bread in my back yard. The coolest kid in the neighborhood was my best friend, which I figured made me the second coolest kid.

        After ball games Doug would head to Donna Jean's house across the street from the park.  Addicted to their companionship I would invariably tag along. As they sat on her front steps whispering and holding hands, I stood on the sidewalk not wanting to stay, but unable to leave. I hid my misery behind wisecracks and my keen ability to identify the newest model cars.  Other times when the three of us played on Mrs. Gamble's field, childish glee replaced pre-adolescent self-pity. There was no isolation, no sense of loss. Each of us joined the others in the pure pleasure of running, catching, and throwing a ball.  If Mrs. Gamble looked down on us, she surely smiled.

         Doug and I attended different schools. When the new school year started Doug disappeared. Donna Jean told me she heard he had a new girlfriend. He didn't tell her he was breaking up; he just stopped coming around. It seemed he decided to break up with us both. I didn't know what to make of it.  On a Saturday afternoon in late September Doug showed up with some kids I didn't recognize. Jimmy and I were playing catch with a football on Mrs. Gamble's field.  For no reason I could discern Doug picked a fight with me. He was a tough kid, and I wanted no part of fighting him.

    The commotion attracted a crowd and someone called the police. An adult in the crowd fingered Doug as the instigator. The police officer put him in the back seat of his cruiser. I peered through the cruiser rear window and saw him crying. From the kitchen window of our house across the street my mother spotted me in the center of the throng. I kept repeating to the officer, "He didn't do anything." I begged him to let Doug go. Suddenly I heard my mother's voice. She was at my side. "What do you think you are doing?" she said to the officer. Her statement was more accusation than question, and she didn't wait for a reply.  "Let that boy go," she demanded. In those days no one, not even a police officer, argued with a mother. She meant business. The officer opened the rear door of the cruiser. Doug jumped out and ran across the park. I never was so proud of my mother as I was at that moment.

    I didn't see Doug again for five years. I was a senior, sitting at a table at our high school hangout, Aunt Josie's restaurant. Marines were not a common sight in our neighborhood in 1961 so the kids at my table took notice when two Marines came in the door.  It was  Doug and his cousin Benny. They looked sharp.  I nodded to them as they passed our table. "Who are they?" someone asked. "Just some guys I used to know," I replied. I watched them slide into a booth on the far side of the dining room.  I felt a sadness that I didn't understand. I shook it off and went about the high school business of eating pizza and drinking beer. That was the last time I saw Doug.

    A few months ago I was telling my daughter about Doug and the days in the park.  Later that evening she called. "I think I found your friend, Dad," she said.  "I'm sorry. I found him in the Syracuse obituaries. He died last year." I looked up the obituary online.  I didn't recognize the story it told. Maybe, I hoped, it was someone else with the same name. But, as I studied the photo, there was no mistaking the handsome, square-jawed face. He was wearing a baseball cap. The kid I knew was there beneath the face of a 70-year-old man.
    These days I travel to Syracuse infrequently, but when I do I visit the cemetery. It is always quiet and empty. Kids don't play there anymore.  I clear off Mrs. Gamble’s tombstone, and I look around recalling the bittersweet days of my youth. The neighborhood has changed. The big red house I lived in on the corner is divided into apartments. The surrounding houses need a coat of paint. The Irish and Italian families who were the neighborhood backbone moved to the suburbs years ago. The cemetery seems smaller, almost shrunken. Blight destroyed the elm trees, but a few stunted chestnut trees still stand.  Only Mrs. Gamble is unchanged.  Her solitary tombstone remains, an obscure memorial to the joy and pathos of my childhood.
     During my last visit I was walking back to my car when I saw an African-American boy, about thirteen years old, shuffling along the sidewalk towards me.  He was wearing heavy boots that seemed at least a size too big. The laces were undone. He was dressed in a drab sweatshirt with the hood pulled down, obscuring his face. He walked by me and crossed the street to the cemetery. In the mind's eye past and present coexist.  On Mrs. Gamble's field the kids were choosing sides- Donald, Pete, Fred, my sister Judy, Jimmy, Donna Jean, and the rest. Doug was standing by Mrs. Gamble tossing a ball in the air. He saw the boy and called,"Hey kid, we need someone to play first base." But the invitation went unheard.  I watched the boy's silhouette shrink into the distance as he walked down the hill to Wolf Street. I glanced one last time at the deserted space in the cemetery. Then I got into my car and drove away.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Harpers Ferry Part II

Harpers Ferry 1859

     The Federal Armory was located on a strip of land a few hundred yards north of the Harper's Ferry train platform and the adjacent Wager House Hotel.  Several buildings comprised the armory where muskets were manufactured and warehoused.  The armory complex of forging shop, warehouse and various finishing shops extended for 600 yards and ran parallel to the Potomac river.   A cast iron fence guarded the south and west perimeter of the armory.  The north and east perimeter bordered the B&O railroad tracks. Beyond the tracks a steep embankment ran down to the Potomac. The main gate faced an open thoroughfare at the intersection of Potomac and Shenandoah streets, adjacent to the Wager Hotel and a saloon. Most of the weapons were stored in the arsenals, four buildings arranged in a square on Shenandoah Street across from the armory. Hall's rifle factory stood a half-mile south on Shenandoah Street.  The Winchester and Potomac railroad tracks ran parallel to Shenandoah Street and converged with the B & O tracks at the train trestle. 

     Daniel Whelan, the night watchman had completed his rounds of the sprawling armory.  His primary responsibility was to make sure the forge fires in the twenty buildings that comprised the armory were properly extinguished.  Sitting at his desk in the firehouse, a small brick building that doubled as a guard house, he heard a commotion at the main gate. He walked outside and saw a group of men and a wagon emerge from the gloom. They called him over to the gate. One of the intruders thrust his arm between the iron grates and grabbed Whelan's coat lapels. "Open the gate!" he ordered. "I was nearly scared to death with so many guns about me", Whelan later reported. Despite his fears Whelan refused. He said he didn't have the key. The standoff lasted only a moment. One of the men grabbed a crowbar from the wagon and went to work on the lock and chain. Within minutes the lock split and the gate opened. The men rushed into the courtyard and John Brown climbed down from the wagon. He ordered Whelan and Williams the night watchman from the train trestle inside the engine house 

    While Brown occupied the armory his raiders fanned out across the village. Watson Brown and Stewart Taylor assumed sentry detail at the B&O trestle; Charles Tidd and John Cook cut the telegraph lines; second in command John Kagi, Lewis Sheridan Leary and his nephew John Anthony Copeland captured the rifle works a half mile down Shenondoah Street; Aaron Stevens, an army deserter, marched the rifle works watchman and some late revelers from the saloon back to the engine house. Albert Hazlett and Edwin Copoc seized the unguarded arsenal, which was the storage facility for most of the weapons. By midnight Brown had control of approximately a 100,000 rifle, muskets and pistols. Triumphantly he announced to Williams and Whelan  "I want to free all the Negroes in this state", he told his prisoners, "if the citizens interfere with me.  I must only burn the town and have blood." (Carton, p. 131).  

     Satisfied that his main targets were secure Brown dispatched six men to three nearby Jefferson County plantations. His orders were to take the plantation owners hostage and bring them to the engine house. First on the list was Colonel Lewis Washington, the areas most distinguished citizen. The 46 year old widower was the great grand nephew of George Washington.  Washington's 670 acre estate, Beallaire, was located five miles west of Harpers Ferry just off the road to Charles Town.

     Lewis Washington was asleep when he heard a banging on his front door. He threw on a robe and rushed downstairs. He was greeted by six armed men. Aaron Stevens the toughest and most experienced of the raiders told Washington to get dressed and order his carriage harnessed.  Thanks to the spying of John Cook who had infiltrated Harpers Ferry society several months previously, Brown knew that Washington possessed a pistol presented to his grant uncle by the Marquis de Lafayette and a sword that was a gift from Frederick the Great.  Brown had told Stevens to take the heirlooms over give them to one of the black raiders Osborne Anderson.  In issuing his orders to Stevens Brown had said, "Anderson being a colored man, and colored men being only things in the South it is proper that the South be taught a lesson on this point." (Carton p. 299).  Stevens returned to the engine house around 4:00 AM with 12 hostages, six "liberated" slaves and two confiscated wagons. By dawn Browns' raiders had captured close to sixty hostages. About a dozen were rifle works employees and the others were villagers who had the misfortune of wandering around the streets. Brown herded the captives into the engine house and adjoining armory buildings. Brown was pleased with how his plan was succeeding, but miscues had begun to pile up.

     Shortly after midnight the crack of rifle fire echoed through the streets of the commercial district. Brown's sentries on the bridge had attempted to apprehend watchman Patrick Higgins when he showed up to relieve William Williams. When two gray shawled men armed with rifles emerged from the dark trestle the fleet footed Patrick Higgins took a swing at one the men and ran for his life.  He dodged two shots and dove through the front window of the Wager Hotel, which was located just past the trestle next to the railroad platform.  "Lock your doors," he bellowed, "there are robbers on the bridge."  

     At 1:25 AM the eastbound express train from Wheeling to Baltimore pulled in to the platform in front of the Wager Hotel. William Throckmorton the hotel clerk rushed out of the hotel to meet the train.  Breathless he hailed Andrew Phelps the conductor.  'There are armed men on the bridge, he said. 'Who are they', Phelps asked. "I don't know but they seem more serious than gypsies or rowdies', Throckmorton replied.  Determined to investigate the conductor grabbed a lantern and ordered four railroad employees to accompany him. Cautiously, with the train slowly following, they followed the tracks. In the darkness the tin roof make the trestle appear more like a tunnel than a bridge. Phelps held the lantern high as they proceeded forward. They were no more than 50 yards inside when a voice bellowed, "Stand and deliver." Three armed men stepped out of the shadows. Phelps and his men stared down the muzzles of Sharps rifles.  One of the men snatched and extinguished the lantern. In the sudden darkness Phelps and his companions turned and bolted for the bridge entrance. The train now chugging in reverse provided some cover. They were not pursued, but when they exited the bridge someone was missing - the baggage master Heyward Shepard.  Suddenly shots rang out and a few moments later Shepard stumbled out of the bridge.  He had been shot in the back. They carried him to the nearby railroad office and gently laid him on a plank between two chairs.  A doctor was called but the wound was mortal. Heyward Shepard a free black employee of the B & O railroad died two hours later, the first casualty of John Brown's raid.

                                                               To Be Continued


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Harpers Ferry Part I

The Raid of Harpers Ferry Part I

The Raid at Harper's Ferry - Part I

    The village of Harpers Ferry is nestled on a spit of land at the juncture of the Potomac and Susquehana Rivers. Early settlers congregated along the banks of the two rivers, but as the population increased to three thousand the town ascended, like an Alpine Village along the shanks of a steep hill. At the pinnacle St Paul's Church stood as a sentinel; its white trimmed steeple visible from miles around. For travelers from the east Harpers Ferry served as a portal to the lush Shenendoah Valley. Flanked by the verdant Blue Ridge mountains the picturesque meeting of land and water inspired Thomas Jefferson to compose a lyrical geological narrative.

    The passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps
    one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature. You stand on a very
    high point of land. On your right comes up the Shenandoah,
    having ranged along the foot of the mountain a hundred miles
    to seek a vent. On your left approaches the Patowmac in quest of
    a passage also. In the moment of their junction they rush together
     against the mountain, rend it asunder and pass off to the sea.
    The first glance of this scene hurries our senses into the opinion
     that this earth has been created in time, that the mountains
     were formed first, that the rivers began to flow afterwards,
    that in this place particularly they have been so dammed up
     by the Blue Ridge of mountains as to have formed an ocean
    which filled the whole valley; that, continuing to rise, they have
    at last broken over at this spot and have torn the mountain down
     from its summit to its base. The piles of rock on each hand,
     but particularly on the Shenandoah, the evident marks of
    their disruptions and avulsions from their beds by the most
    powerful agents in nature, corroborate the impression.

For Thomas Jefferson Harpers Ferry was one of the loveliest landscapes in Virginia; for John Brown the bucolic village was the site of his last stand.
 On a drizzly, moonless night on Sunday October 16th, 1859 a bedraggled band of nineteen men traipsed silently in pairs down a winding Maryland road. Their destination, 5 miles away, was the B & O train trestle that crossed the Potomac River into Harpers Ferry.  Each was armed with a knife, a pistol and a Sharps rifle.  The gray shawls draped over their heads to keep out the chill gave them a ghostly appearance as they trudged through the mist.  Ahead of them a farm wagon pulled by a single horse led the way. The solitary silhouette of John Brown hunched over the reins.
Alone with his thoughts Brown guided the wagon over the rutted road that descended towards the flickering lights of Harpers Ferry.  The village on the other side of the Potomac had something that Brown and his men desperately needed - guns, lots of them.  The federal armory at Harpers Ferry was second only to the armory in Springfield, Massachusetts in size.  Inside its red bricked walls  the sprawling armory warehoused 100,000 muskets, rifles and pistols. Brown intended to attack Harpers Ferry and confiscate the weapons in order to arm a slave insurrection. There is no record of Brown's thoughts during the two hours it took to reach the train trestle, but he had much to contemplate. 

    Two months earlier at secret meeting in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania Brown had outlined his plan to the man he admired most, the black abolitionist - Frederick Douglas.  Douglas listened attentively as Brown explained how under the cover of darkness he and his men would cut the telegraph lines, take control of the B & O train trestle, and overwhelm the single watchman at the armory gate.  While some of his men secured the armory and nearby rifle factory, others would round up unsuspecting workmen, villagers, and plantation owners. Should they encounter resistance the hostages would be used to barter their way out of the town. Once the the weapons were loaded into the wagon they would be transported back across the bridge to Maryland. The raiders would stash the weapons in an isolated schoolhouse for distribution to new recruits both white and black.  When the news spread of the successful raid on the federal facility Brown was certain that slaves in Maryland and Virginia would rush to join their cause.

    There were few men that Douglas respected more than John Brown, but he thought Brown's plan ludicrous. An attack on a federal arsenal would trigger a massive military response and swing public sentiment towards slave owners. Bitterly disappointed, Brown begged the abolitionist to reconsider and support him.  "Remember the trumpets of Jericho?" Brown entreated.  "Harpers Ferry will be mine.  The news of its capture will be the trumpet blast that will rally the slaves to my standard from miles around.  Join me, Frederick.  Together we will bring slavery down."

    "Brown continued.  "The southern militia are cowards, and if they come to me they will be even less eager to fight in Virginia than they were in Kansas."  Brown's fervor staggered Douglas.  Brown's unfettered commitment to freeing the slaves clearly included sacrificing his own life. In his later writings Douglas said he felt like the light of a taper next to a burning sun. While his respect for the fire breathing abolitionist soared it did not change his dim view of the Harpers Ferry plan.  As they parted Douglas said, "You forget, John, that I have some experience with the south. Virginia will blow you and your hostages sky-high rather than let you hold Harpers Ferry for an hour."

    As they approached the river crossing Brown brushed away nettlesome doubts. Straight ahead the covered B &O trestle crossed the Potomac River into the lower section of the village.  The bridge was enclosed with a tin roof and ran for a thousand feet .  At night crossing the bridge felt like passing through a dark tunnel.  The armory was located on a strip of land a few hundred yards north of the Harper's Ferry train platform and the adjacent Wager House Hotel.  The several buildings that comprised arsenal and armory ran for 900 yards parallel to the Potomac river.  A privately owned rifle factory was located a half-mile south of the armory on Shenandoah Street.

    Shortly before 11:00 AM B&O watchman Bill Williams walked along the carriage path that ran parallel to the covered bridge tracks.  He was almost at the end of his finishing his twelve hour shift for which he was paid a dollar a day. His job was to monitor track switches, and watch for embers spewing from a locomotive stack that could start a fire.  He earned a dollar a shift.   Williams was near the Maryland end of the bridge and about to reverse direction to Harpers Ferry when he heard the clip-clop of horse hooves and the creaking of a wagon. Williams raised his lantern and peered into the gloom.  Suddenly the lantern was struck from his hand and three Sharps rifles were pointed at his chest.  Brown's "Provisional Army of the Untied States" had taken its first prisoner. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Battle of Black Jack


John Brown Jr. predicted that the brutal retaliation for the sack of Lawrence at Potawatomie Creek would "likely cause a restraining fear" among the Missouri "Border Ruffians". He could not have been more wrong. Rather than checking proslave violence the Pottawatomie Creek killings triggered immediate cries for vengeance. The proslave Missouri newspaper "The Border Times" urged readers to "Let Loose the Dogs of War!" The editoral predicted "Hundreds of the Free State men, who have committed no overt acts but who have only given countenance to those reckless murderers, assassins, and thieves, will of necessity share the same fate of their brethren. If civil war is to the result of such a conflict, there cannot be, and will not be, any neutrals recognized." (Carton, p. 203)  

     Kansas governor Shannon feared that territory was on the verge of civil war.  In a letter to President Pierce he said that the murders "had produced an extraordinary state of excitement in southeastern Kansas". (Oates, p.142)  In an attempt to quell the violence the governor dispatched a company of federal troops to Osawatomie and another to Lawrence, and he put a five hundred dollar bounty on John Brown, dead or alive.  Posses of Missouri "Border Ruffians" along with United States cavalry units scoured eastern Kansas searching for Brown.  Not wanting to endanger his family Brown along with  his sons Owen, Frederick, and Oliver fled the family enclave north of Potawatomie Creek, and vanished into the wilderness. 

     Several days after the Pottawatomie Massacre, James Redpath a journalist from St. Louis stumbled upon the Brown hideout. The previous evening a group of proslavers accosted Redpath near Palymyra. Recognizing him as a freeman they pulled him from his saddle, and stole his horse. The next day while traveling on foot along the trail that ran next to Ottawa Creek Redpath pushed through a thicket of brush and stopped short. Several yards in front him a heavily built man stood knee deep in the creek. In one large hand he gripped a pail of water. He wore a coarse blue shirt and pantaloons tucked into calf high boots. A thick brown leather belt held three pistols and a double edged Arkansas bowie knife. The man's bulky build, tangled hair and piercing eyes gave him a wild, ominious look. For a moment both men stood gaping at one another. Then the big man put down his pail and strode towards Redpath. The journalist picked up a sturdy oak branch to defend himself.  "Don't fear", said Frederick Brown, "I have seen you in Lawrence and you are true." Redpath told Frederick he was searching for John Brown. His readers, Redpath said, were anxious to learn more about the controversial abolitionist leader. Redpath was delighted when Frederick offered to take him to the Brown hideout. For an hour he led the journalist on a meandering trek through the woods and along the creek.  Just as Redpath was beginning to wonder if the big man had lost his way, or his mind, they came to a clearing.  Redpath described the scene before him.

          a dozen horses were tied, all ready saddled for a ride for life,
          or a hunt after Southern invaders.  A dozen rifles and sabres were
          stacked around the trees. In an open space, amid the shady and lofty
          woods, there was a blazing fire with a pot on it; a woman bareheaded,
          with an honest, sunburned face, was picking blackberries from the bushes;
          three or four armed men were lying on red and blue blankets on the
          grass; and two fine-looking youths were standing, leaning on guard
          nearby.  [Brown] stood near the fire, with his shirt-sleeves rolled
          up, and large piece of pork in his hand.... He was poorly clad, and his 
          toes protruded from his boots.

     Brown welcomed the opportunity to get his intentions into print. During their talk Brown expounded on the evils of slavery and the qualities of a good soldier, but he refused to discuss the murders at Potawatomie Creek. Redpath asked Brown how he could continue the freeslave fight against such overwhelming resistance from the Kansas governor, Missourians, and southeners. Brown replied, "I would rather have smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera all together in my camp, than a man without principles. It's a mistake sir, that our people make, when they think that bullies are the best fighters, or they are the men fit to oppose these Southeners. Give me men of good principles, God fearing men, men who respect themselves, and with a dozen of them, I will oppose any hundred such men as these Buford ruffians." Brown's rhetoric impressed Redford who later wrote of Brown's men, "They were not earnest, but earnestness incarnate. Redford reserved his most glowing praise for Brown.. "I left this sacred spot with a far higher respect for the Great Struggle than ever had I felt before.... I had seen the predestined leader of the second and holier American Revolution."

     Four days after his interview with Redpath, Brown was presented with an opportunity to test his military convictions. A posse of approximately sixty Border Ruffians commanded by Colonel Henry C. Pate was combing the woods and ravines around Prairie City searching for Brown.  Captain Samuel Shore commander of Prairie City's Free State militia tipped off Brown that Pate was camped next to a stream five miles east. Settlers called the area "Black Jack" after the diminutive oak trees that proliferated along the banks of a cold spring stream. The enemy was at hand and Brown was ready. Once again he drew inspiration from the Old Testament. He proclaimed that like Gideon driving Midianites from the Wall of Harod and across the Jordan, he would expel Pate and his slavers from Kansas. 

  At dawn, two days later, Captain Shore accompanied by 17 Prairie City volunteers and Brown's small band of nine men dismounted their horses on the edge of the woods above Black Jack.  Leaving his son Frederick to guard the horses Brown ordered the troop to spread out and wend their way through a thicket of trees north of Pate's camp. The freeslavers burst out of the woods and ran onto a plateau covered with tall prairie grass. Suddenly two shots reverberated across the plateau. Sentries had spotted the invaders. Alerted to an impending attack the proslavers set up a defensive line at the south edge of the plateau. Pate ordered his men to line up four wagons to protect their rear. Behind the wagons a ravine ran followed the meandering Black Jack stream. Shore's men were armed with Sharps rifles. The single shot carbine was deadly up to five hundred yards.  An experienced rifleman could get off 8-10 shots in a minute. Pate's men also had Sharps but Brown and his men had only muskets and pistols. Their weapons were useless at a range over a hundred yards, and Pate's force was dug in several hundred yards away.
    Throughout the morning the crack of rifle fire reverberated across Black Jack. Brown and Shore's men zig-zagged through the prairie grass finding cover where they could. Although they killed several proslavers Brown's force could not gain an advantage. After three hours the antislavers began to run low on ammunition. As the stalemate continued some of Shore's men began sneaking back to their horses and riding off.  Frustrated by the desertions and his inability to strike a decisive blow Brown decided to outflank Pate. Moving slowly through the thick brush he led several men into the eastern edge of the ravine.  From their new vantage on Pate's right flank they fired on the proslavers who had taken cover behind their wagons. Shore's small force joined Brown, but Pate still held the high ground. When six more Prairie City volunteers appeared ready to abandon the fight Brown confronted them.  Kill the Missourian's horses and mules, he argued and we will cut off their ability to escape. The six followed Brown's orders. Soon the terrified cries of mortally wounded animals mingled with rifle fire and the moans of wounded men.

     Meanwhile on the far side of the woods Brown' son Frederick was tending the horses. Throughout the Kansas campaign Brown had been concerned about Frederick's fragile emotional state. Despite his menacing appearance, Frederick did not have the stomach for bloodletting. On the rare instances that Frederick accompanied his father on a raid, Brown isolated him from hostilities. Frederick accepted his rear guard status, but this day was different. For three hours he had been listening to the din of battle. Inexplicably he mounted his father's horse and charged through the woods into the center of the fray.  Waving a cutlass over his head he bellowed, "Father we have them surrounded and we have cut off their communication".   

     Believing that Frederick Brown was the vanguard of reinforcements, Pate panicked.  He raised a white flag and sent a messenger to parley with Brown. Brown sent the man back and demanded that Pate come forward. The two leaders confronted each other in the center of the battlefield.  Pate commanded Brown to surrender. He reminded Brown that he was a deputized U.S. marshal. Brown cut him off and pointed a pistol at Pate's chest. "I understand exactly what you are, and I do not wish to hear any more about it", Brown replied.  He told Pate if he didn't surrender unconditionally he would shoot him where he stood. Flabbergasted Pate said, "You can't do this; I'm under a white flag; you're violating the articles of war."  Brown simply stared at Pate and said, "You are my prisoner".  Then he walked Pate back towards the Missourian's battle line with a pistol at his back. When they reached the wagons Brown raised his pistol to the back of Pate's head. No more words were necessary.  Pate's men laid down their weapons.
     Brown took twenty-five prisoners along with food, ammunition and guns back to the Ottawa Creek camp.  Several days after his release, which was brokered by federal troops, Pate said, "I went to take Old Brown, but Old Brown took me!" The Battle of Black Jack was the first of many bloody battles over slavery. While Fort Sumter is generally considered the armed engagement that launched the Civil War an argument can be made that the Civil War actually began on June 2, 1856 on an isolated Kansas plateau known as Black Jack.

To be continued

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Massacre at Pottawatomie Creek

Eastern Kansas Territory, 1856

On Thursday, May 23, 1856 John Brown, his sons Owen, Frederic, Oliver, and Salmon, along with three local anti-slavers, Thomas Weiner, Henry Thompson and James Townsley set out by wagon on the south road along Pottawatomie Creek.  In their waistbands his sons toted the army surplus broadswords that Brown purchased a few months earlier on his way to Kansas. Brown the others armed themselves with pistols and knives. The swords contained a hollow bore filled with quicksilver. When brandished the quicksilver slid from the handle to the blade. The shifting weight added force to a blow. They were cruel weapons designed to mutilate and maim. The swords were ideally suited to Brown's purpose - to strike terror into the hearts of pro-slavers.

    Three days earlier a posse of 800 pro-slavers ransacked the anti-slavery town of Lawrence Kansas. The "Border Ruffians" from Missouri destroyed two anti -slavery newspaper offices; they leveled the house of anti-slavery leader Charles Robinson with cannon fire, and they burnt the Free State Hotel to the ground.  Despite an earthworks fortification and a trained militia the citizens of Lawrence stood by and did nothing to defend their town. Their inaction sacrificed the town but avoided bloodshed.  No one was killed.

    When the news of the attack reached Brown's encampment south of Lawrence he was outraged that the citizens of Lawrence did nothing to resist the pillaging of their town. He branded them cowards and he vowed pro-slaver violence would be answered in kind. As in many of his deliberations he leaned on Biblical verse for justification and an "eye for an eye" precisely fit his mood. He ignored his son John Brown Jr.'s warning, not to do anything rash.  Brown was set on revenge and no argument would dissuade him. Their response to the sacking of Lawrence, he said, must be swift and dramatic.  After a brief consultation with the members of anti-slavery militia the Pottawatomie Rifles Brown selected a small enclave of pro-slavers who lived in Shermanville for his revenge.  Pleasant Doyle, "Dutch" Henry, and Allen Wilkerson did not own slaves themselves, but they were active pro-slavers who hunted and captured run-away slaves. They also provided information "Border Ruffians" used to bully, rob and terrorize free-state people. John Brown had his targets.
    Clouds scudded by the three-quarter moon. The wagon was left behind at the previous evenings campsite. In single file Brown and his men trudged north along a seldom used wagon road that cut through woods. They moved quickly.  There was no talk, only the sounds of the night and the crunching of their boots. Each man was alone with his own thoughts. None had killed before, but before the night was over they all would have blood on their hands.  They crossed Mosquito Creek, a small tributary of Pottawatomie Creek and climbed an embankment.  In a clearing they spotted an outline of a cabin.  Brown held up his hand and the company halted two hundred yards from the home of Pleasant Doyle.  Crouched in the shadow Brown whispered his orders. He directed Townsley and his son Frederick to stand guard by the road.  He told Weiner and Henry Thompson to reconnoiter the road in the direction of their next target Allen Wilkinson.  Then Brown motioned his three sons to follow him across the clearing.  Suddenly a large dog sprang out of the brush. It halted barking, growling and snapping a few feet from the intruders  Frederick swung his broadside and killed the animal with one deep gash alongside the neck.

    The ruckus awakened Doyle and his wife, Mahala.  His three sons asleep in an adjacent room also were awakened.  Brown moved quickly to the door of the cabin and knocked.  Doyle jumped from his bed and grabbed a poker from the fireplace.  "Who is it?" he asked.  Brown replied that he was lost and needed directions to the Wilkinson house.  Doyle cracked the door to get a glimpse of the stranger.  Brown and his boys shoved the door and forced their way inside the cabin.  Brown pointed his pistol at Doyle and ordered him and his three sons outside. who had been asleep in an adjacent room, outside.  Mahala Doyle pleaded with Brown to release her youngest son who was fourteen.  Brown agreed.  Doyle and his two oldest sons twenty-two year old William and twenty year old Drury marched down the road towards the Wilkinson house.   When they were outside shouting range from Doyle's house Owen, Salmon and Oliver drew their swords and attacked the Doyles. In a matter of minutes Doyle's two sons were hacked to death. Doyle lay in a pool of blood, mortally wounded.  Brown aimed his pistol and shot him in the head.

    The band of men continued down the road to the house of Allen Wilkerson.  Brown knocked on the door and asked for directions to Dutch Henry.  The ruse did not work with Wilkerson and he refused to open the door.  Then Brown declared himself an officer in the anti-slave Northern Army.  Either come out of the house, Brown said, or we will come in to get you.  Wilkerson's wife was sick was measles.  He opened the door and walked into the gloom. A short distance from the cabin Weiner and Thompson cut him down with broadswords.

    Next Brown and his men crossed the Pottawatomie and headed for Dutch Henry's Tavern.  Several men were sleeping in the tavern. At gunpoint Brown forced them outside and interrogated them about their proslavery activities.  His primary target, Dutch Henry, was not among them.  Earlier in the day Henry had ridden out onto the plains to search for lost cattle. Brown released all the men except for William Sherman.  They marched Sherman down to the creek and where Thompson and Wiener split his skull with their broadswords.  After killing Sherman Brown and his men confiscated pistols, knives and saddles they found in the tavern.  They took several horses from Dutch Henry's stable and headed back to their encampment.  Along the way they washed the blood and gore from their hands and clothes in the Pottawatomie.  Owen Brown wandered off a short distance and began to sob. When they arrived at their camp Owen Brown looked at Townsley with red rimmed eyes and said, "There should be no more work such as that." Owen Brown's hope went unfulfilled. The violence that was to give the territory the name "Bleeding Kansas" was just beginning.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Execution of John Brown

John Brown, 1859

December 2, 1859 was a clear, unseasonably warm day in Charlestown, Virginia.  The bright blue sky infused the surrounding Shenandoah Valley with a warm and dreamy haze. On such a delightful day the shops lining the main thoroughfare, George Street, should have been bustling with activity.  But on the day John Brown, the leader of a bloody attempt to capture the federal arsenal in Harper's Ferry Virginia, was to be executed the shops were closed and shuttered.  Women and children were nowhere in sight; General George Taliaferro commander of the Virginal militia had ordered them to stay in their homes. About a hundred yards from the red brick Jefferson County jail small groups of men milled about whispering and pointing.  Their view of the building was obstructed by a phalanx of six companies of infantry. The soldiers formed a cordon from the jail up George Street to a 40 acre field southeast of town. Amid the rye and corn stubble 2,000 Virginia militia with bayonets fixed formed two concentric squares.  On a small rise in the center of the formation a single trap door gallows struck a hideous pose.

     At 11:00 AM a farm wagon with two white horses in harness pulled up to the front steps of the jail.  In the back of the wagon a fine oak coffin rested inside a large  pine box. The front door of the jail opened. Abolitionist and convicted traitor John Brown appeared in the doorway.  He wore a wrinkled black suit over a white shirt. On his feet he wore faded red bedroom slippers. A slouched black hat, its brim turned up, gave him a strange jaunty look. His hands tied in front of him, Brown paused. With a quick glance his dark eyes surveyed the soldiers, the street, the wagon and the coffin.  Then with deputy sheriff John Avis on his left and sheriff John Campbell on his right he descended the stairs and climbed into the wagon. His long white beard billowed in a puff of breeze as he sat on the coffin. Avis and Campbell took up positions on either side of him. With a flick of the reins the wagon driver slowly guided the horses towards the field.  A file of 300 armed soldiers marched alongside the wagon. 

   Brown showed no emotion as the wagon trundled towards its destination.  The undertaker, seated in the front of the wagon, turned to him and remarked, "Captain Brown, you are a game man."  Brown replied, "Yes, I was so trained up; it was one of the lessons of my mother, but it is hard to part with friends though newly made." As the wagon passed through the field Brown gazed at the undulating farmland and gentle hills around him. The Blue Ridge Mountains shimmered in the distance.  He turned to Sheriff Avis and said, "This is beautiful country, I have never had the pleasure of seeing it before."  For the next few minutes they rode in silence.  Then the wagon stopped in front of the gallows. Escorted by Avis and Campbell, Brown climbed the steps and stood on the  trapdoor. Avis tied Brown's arms behind him and placed a hood over his head.  Sheriff Campbell placed a cotton noose around Brown's neck. No minister tended the condemned man. Avis asked Brown if he had anything to say. "I am ready", Brown replied, "but don't keep me waiting more than necessary."  However all the troops were not yet settled in their formations. Brown stoically stood on the trapdoor for 15 minutes while officers barked orders and soldiers rushed to their positions. A Virginia officer, Colonel Preston, watched Brown from behind the gallows.  Preston hoped to see signs of fear or cowardice. There was none.  Once he thought he saw Brown's knees tremble, but it was only the wind blowing his loose trousers.

    When the troops were settled Campbell descended the stairs. He walked behind the gallows, hefted the hatchet, and cut the rope that held the trap door in place.  Brown dropped three feet. The noose jerked. His  hands clenched and his body went rigid. After a few minutes his body relaxed and began to sway in a gentle breeze.  John Brown, leader of a bloody, ill conceived raid on the Harper Ferry Virginia arsenal was dead. No one cheered. No one jeered.  No one spoke.   Then Colonel Preston's voice rang out, "So perish all such enemies of Virginia!  All such enemies of the Union! All such foes of the human race!"

     Like many other Southeners Colonel Preston believed the execution of  John Brown was a righteous example for those who would free the slaves and in the process cleave the cultural and economic fabric of the south.  An editorial in the December 21 in the North Carolina Raleigh Register made it clear that for the South there would be no compromise on the issue of slavery.

    "The affair at Harper's Ferry marks a new and most important era in our country's history. It will bring to an immediate solution the question as to whether the Union can be preserved, and the right of the South to hold property in slaves be maintained. This is the issue to be tried now. The trial can no longer be deferred. The issue has been forced upon the South, and let the result be what it may, her skirts will be clear of all responsibility. There has been one gratifying fact developed by the Harper's Ferry raid. The promptness and ease with which large numbers of troops were brought together from different quarters of Virginia, and the alacrity with which the call to arms was obeyed, will prove to the Abolitionists at the North that although they make an occasional foray into a Southern State, and commit a few murders and arsons, they can never maintain a foothold on Southern soil for more than forty-eight hours. Virginia has showed conspicuously that she was able to take care of herself. Had she not been, had she stood in need of aid from her sister States of the South, she would have received it to an amount more than equal to her necessities, as the prompt tender of aid from all quarters of the South most abundantly proves."

To be continued

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Happy Fourth of July

Iva and Fred Toguri

Iva Toguri was born on the Fourth of July, 1916

Iva Toguri's story is a captivating tale of isolation, persecution, and patriotism.  Throughout her "Tokyo Rose" ordeal she was steadfast in the belief that someday she would be vindicated.
Iva's story in total will appear in my soon to be released book "Scoundrels Who Made America Great".  I will post the publication date on this blog.  If you are disappointed that I am not continuing with Iva's story post a comment at the bottom of this page.  If I don't hear from my readers I am going to begin blogging the story of another "scoundrel" who made America great - his name is John Brown.  He was an abolitionist and one of the most controversial figures in American history. 
So let me know about your preference.  Iva Toguri "Tokyo Rose" or John Brown, the mystical abolitionist.    

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Return to the U.S.

A GI's Fantasy of Tokyo Rose

Toguri thought that her troubles were over. She and Felipe made plans for their trip back to the States. But U.S. newspapers would not let go of the Tokyo Rose story. “Iva Toguri d’Aquino, one of four bedroom -voiced girl broadcasters the Allied soldiers called ‘Tokyo Rose,’ wants eventually to return to her native country, she said today,” warned the August 1, 1947, Long Beach Press Telegram. The November 6,1947, Cumberland Ohio Evening Times stated, “Tokyo Rose, the wartime radio broadcaster who sank more fleets that America built, wants to go home to the U.S.”

    Meanwhile, Toguri continued to be stymied in her attempt to get a U.S. passport. She was trapped in a revolving bureaucratic paradox. First, despite Tokko harassment, she refused to give up her American citizenship. Then American authorities imprisoned her for a year on suspicion of treason as a U.S. citizen—but Toguri’s passport application was rebuffed because she could not prove her U.S. citizenship. There seemed no end to this nightmare merry-go-round. Desperate, Toguri wrote a letter to the syndicated columnist Walter Winchell. She asked him to help with her passport application. When Winchell did not reply, Toguri believed she had run into another dead end. What she didn’t know was that Winchell was hell-bent on getting Toguri returned to the States, but not in the way she imagined.

    In 1947 Walter Winchell was one of the most powerful men in America. His newspaper columns, “On Broadway” and “Man About Town,” mixed right-wing political opinion with entertainment-world gossip. His Sunday evening radio show, which opened with the incessant tapping of a telegraph key and his trademark introduction, “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea,” had an audience of nearly twenty million. He was feared by politicians and admired by gangsters. President Roosevelt tried to stay on his good side. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was one of his best friends. Winchell’s favorite targets were liberals and communists, but what he loved best was a good crusade. After he read Toguri’s letter, Winchell launched a mission of righteous indignation. Winchell wanted Iva Toguri d’Aquino to return to the United States, but not to join her family. He wanted “Tokyo Rose” to stand trial for treason.

     On April 14, 1948, Winchell published an open letter to Tokyo Rose from Captain Frank Farrell, a veteran who had served in the Pacific with the 1st Marine Division. Saturated with sarcasm, the letter accused Tokyo Rose of convincing Marines that the atabrine tablets they took to prevent malaria made them sterile. Many Marines died of malaria, said Farrell, because of Tokyo Rose. The political pressure to prosecute Toguri gained steam when, in a public statement, James F. O’Neil, commander of the American Legion, demanded that the Justice Department prosecute Iva Toguri d’Aquino for treason. On June 9, 1948, Winchell claimed that Clark Lee had in his possession an eighteen-page document in which Iva Toguri confessed to being Tokyo Rose. In later years the journalist Bill Kurtis described the campaign to prosecute Iva Toguri d’Aquino as the persecution of a person in order to exact revenge on a myth. (Encyclopedia of World Biography).

    As far as the U.S. Department of Justice was concerned, the myth Tokyo Rose and the person Iva Toguri d’Aquino were one and the same. On August 26, 1948, Toguri was once again arrested for treason. Under military guard she was put aboard the U.S.S. General Hodges and transported to the United States to stand trial. Iva Toguri d’Aquino was finally going home. Three weeks later, her odyssey complete, Toguri set foot on American soil. Instead of the homecoming with family and friends that she had yearned for, she was whisked to the San Francisco jail, where she was incarcerated until the end of her trial

To be continued

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sugamo Prison

Behind Bars

Brundidge contacted his editor at Cosmopolitan. He told her he was writing a 5,000-word story about Tokyo Rose. Then he asked for the $2,000 to pay Toguri. His editor refused.  She wasn’t interested in the story. Stuck with a deal he couldn’t keep, Brundidge needed a way out.  He contacted Eighth Army intelligence and told the commanding officer that he had the signed confession of the traitor Tokyo Rose. The next day Toguri was arrested. Lacking hard evidence of treason, the army released her, but as the media spread the news of her interview, political pressure to prosecute Tokyo Rose increased. On October 18,1945, the U.S. Justice Department ordered General MacArthur to take Toguri into custody on suspicion of treason. She was arrested and taken to Yokohama Prison. Six weeks later she was transferred to the notorious Sugamo Prison.

Felipe was right. By passing herself off as “Tokyo Rose,” Toguri put herself squarely in the crosshairs of all those who sought retribution for  war crimes real or imagined. She gambled and lost and she never saw a dime of the promised interview payment.

Sugamo Prison was a dreary fortress of barbed wire and barracks, surrounded by concrete walls. It was spread out over twelve acres of center-city Tokyo. Built in the 1920s for political prisoners, it was untouched by Allied bombs. The U.S. Eighth Army took over the prison and incarcerated some 5,000 Japanese war criminals, including General Homma, the Japanese officer who had ordered the Bataan death march. Premier Hideko Tojo was hanged in Sugamo on December 23, 1948. In total 4,400 Sugamo prisoners were convicted of war crimes, 475 were given life sentences and 984 were hanged.
Toguri was kept in Blue Block, a special section designated for women criminals. For a year she lived in a six-by-nine-foot cell equipped with a toilet, a water basin, and a straw mat. She was allowed to bathe every three days. The army considered her a Japanese national; as a result, she could not send letters to her family in the United States. Her only luxury was the steam radiator in her cell that helped ward off the harsh Tokyo winter chill. During her incarceration, she was denied her due process rights as a U.S. citizen - she was denied legal counsel lawyer, there was no indictment, and no bail was set.

Toguri kept telling herself it was all a mistake. She stubbornly clung to the belief that her Orphan Ann version of Tokyo Rose was a popular figure among American GIs. Her inability to grasp the severity of her situation led to some stupid mistakes. She signed autographs for prison guards “Iva Toguri/Tokyo Rose,” and she was flippant with FBI interrogators. Of course, she had no way of knowing how the U.S. media was orchestrating the legend of an insidious Tokyo Rose. In the States political cartoons, movies, and newspaper editorials embellished the myth of “Tokyo Rose” as a malevolent seductress who preyed on the loneliness of American fighting men. Her interview with Lee and Brundidge had sealed Toguri’s fate. As far as the U.S. public was concerned, there was only one Tokyo Rose, and she was Iva Toguri d’Aquino.

To be continued


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Iva Toguri Becomes Tokyo Rose

Reporters Encircle "Tokyo Rose"



The cash-for-interview offer was stunning, but Felipe was dubious. He thought there was was something fishy about the offer. Why, he asked, were correspondents offering such a huge sum of money to interview a female radio broadcaster? He told his wife that the money might be a lure to snare a propaganda broadcaster. Maybe the American military did not view Tokyo Rose in the same favorable way Toguri thought of herself. Tokyo Rose was a melded personality made up of several different individuals, how could Toguri be sure that the reporters would accept her rather than June Suyama or Ruth Hayakawa? Despite Felipe’s concerns, Toguri was determined to do the interview and collect the money.  There were other female announcers who could claim the title “Tokyo Rose”.  As far as Toguri was concerned, there was no risk. She and Major Cousens had labored over scripts and her on-air delivery to mold Orphan Ann into a non-threatening buddy, who at worst teased GIs and at best boosted their morale.

    Toguri was wrong, and her husband was right. To some, Tokyo Rose was a propaganda caricature. On August 7, 1945, the Navy had issued a tongue-in-cheek citation to Tokyo Rose for entertaining American troops—for consistently providing “...excellent state-side music, laughter, and news about home.” (Duus, p. 11) But for every solicitous opinion of Tokyo Rose there was a counter sinister point of view. Toguri had no way of knowing that the legend of Tokyo Rose had morphed into a bigger-than-life siren who slept with Prime Minister Tojo, predicted Allied troop movements, and broke the hearts of young GIs with stories of wayward girlfriends. American correspondents scouring Tokyo for Rose weren’t searching for a wise-cracking comedian. They wanted a sensational siren of the Pacific like Mata Hari, the exotic dancer and German World War I spy.
Never the reflective sort, Toguri saw only the wonderful opportunity for her and d’Aquino to buy passage home, and they would have money left over to start a new life in the states. Naiveté and greed are a dangerous combination. Even though Toguri believed her broadcasts were harmless, she had been broadcasting enemy propaganda. Somewhere deep inside her, a caution light had to be blinking. But the hook was well-baited, and, suppressing any inner reservations, Toguri contacted the two correspondents, Clark Lee and Harry Brundidge. A meeting was arranged for the next afternoon at the swanky Imperial Hotel.
When the slight, decidedly unglamorous Iva Toguri walked into their hotel room, Brundidge and Lee were astonished. They were expecting a honey-voiced sexpot, and instead they got a chatterbox who wore her hair in pigtails tied with red ribbon. Years later Toguri said, “It should have been Ava Gardner, but instead it was me.” Disappointed but undaunted, the correspondents were not going to allow reality to spoil a good story. This was the scoop of a lifetime. Harry Brundidge, an associate editor of Cosmopolitan, and Clark Lee, a correspondent for the International News Service, were not about to let it slip away. Brundidge repeated the offer of a $2,000 contract for an exclusive interview with Tokyo Rose. She signed and spent the afternoon dictating her story. She talked about the subversive intent of The Zero Hour, smuggling supplies to POWs, and her experiences with the Japanese secret police.    

When Toguri left Lee turned to Brundidge and said, “This story is a bunch of baloney.” Nevertheless, the next day Lee cabled a story to the Los Angles Examiner. It was titled “Traitor’s Pay—Tokyo Rose 100 Yen a Month—$6.60.” The story was a sensation. 

"Tokyo Rose" now had a face and a name - Iva Toguri

Monday, June 3, 2013

Orphan Ann Scripts

Orphan Ann Broadcasts



 Orphan Ann, Sign In and Sign Off broadcast radio samples. 

Tokyo Rose (alternate spelling Tokio Rose) was a generic name given by Allied forces in the South Pacific during World War II to any of approximately a dozen English-speaking female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda. Their intent was to disrupt the morale of Allied forces listening to the broadcast near the Japanese mainland. (source internet)

Orphan Ann (Sign In): Hello you fighting orphans in the Pacific. Hows tricks? This is 'After Her Weekend Annie back on the air strictly under union hours. Reception okay? Why, it better be, because this is All-Requests night. And I've got a pretty nice program for my favorite little family, the wandering boneheads of the Pacific Islands. The first request is made by none other than the boss. And guess what? He wants Bonnie Baker in "My Resistance is Low". My, what taste you have, sir, she says.

Tokyo Rose

(Sign Off):Thank you, thank you, thank you. That's all for now enemies, but there'll be more the same tomorrow night.Until then, this is Orphan Ann, your number one enemy, reminding you GI -- always to be good! Goodbye now. 

Orphan Ann (Sign In): Greetings, everybody! This is your No. 1 enemy, your favorite playmate, Orphan Ann on Radio Tokyo--the little sunbeam whose throat you'd like to cut! Get ready again for a vicious assault on your morale, 75 minutes of music and news for our friends--I mean, our enemies!--in Australia and in the South Pacific. [Well how are my little darlings, my little (unintelligible)... it poisons the whole system. What you need is a good day, I mean song]. Just relax, all set? Okay, here's the first blow at your morale, here's him singing and singing, "Hey, Pop, I Don't Want to Go to Work." Thanks for listening.


Orphan Ann (Sign Off):That's all for now enemies,but there'll be more the same tomorrow night.Until then, this is Orphan Ann, your number one enemy, reminding you GI -- always to be good! Goodbye now. 

This is your little playmate Orphan Annie, and by the way, wasn't that a lousy program we had last night? It was almost bad enough to be the BBC, or its little sister ABC. (Following the news section read by Ince)…Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now, let's have some real listening music - you can have your swing when I turn you over to Zero Hour. Right now my little orphans, do what mama tells you. Listen to this, Fritz Kreisler playing 'Indian Love Call'…..boy oh boy, it stirs your memories doesn't it? Or haven't you boneheads any memories to stir? You have? Well, here's music 'In a Persian Market' played especially for you by the Boston Pops Orchestra…Orphan to orphan-over'


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

V-J Day

Times Square Celebration

August 14, 1945

Iva Toguri d'Aquino

      Secretly, Toguri took instruction in Catholicism. On a sunny spring day, April 19,1945, Iva Toguri married Felipe d’Aquino. The only hitch in the festivities was a bombing raid that forced the wedding party to take refuge in a shelter. Toguri and d’Aquino had little time for romance.  Death rained from the sky as B-29s unmercifully hammered Tokyo. Thousands perished.  Survivors prayed they would live one more day.

     On August 6, a single B-29 Superfortress, the Enola Gay, dropped an atom bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” on the industrial city of Hiroshima. Three days later “Fat Man,” a second atom bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki. Anybody within a mile radius of the each explosion was vaporized. Others burned to death, and still others succumbed to radiation sickness. In all, an estimated 300,000 Japanese, mostly civilians, were killed. Release of the most destructive weapon ever conceived had the desired effect. Emperor Hirohito declared that Japan must “endure the endurable” and surrender.  On September 2, 1945 Japanese officials signed a formal surrender document on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  World War II was over. 
     Toguri was elated. Finally, she could return to America with her husband. The troubles of the last four years receded into the background as she and d”Aquino made plans for their future together.  In the weeks following the Japanese  surrender Tokyo swarmed with American correspondents looking for a scoop. There were three stories everybody wanted to get—an interview with General Hideki Tojo, a description of the Tokyo destruction, and an interview with Tokyo Rose. On August 31, a friend showed Toguri a newspaper story stating that two American correspondents were willing to pay $2,000 to interview “Tokyo Rose.” In war-ravaged Tokyo this was a small fortune, equivalent to over $24,000 in today’s currency.

     Toguri had first heard the name “Tokyo Rose” in the spring of 1944.  Around Radio Tokyo opinions differed about which of several female broadcasters matched the GI nickname. Various descriptions of Tokyo Rose didn’t fit one person.  ‘She had a sultry voice’; ‘she broadcast on Sunday evening’; ‘she called herself Orphan Ann’. The Orphan Ann moniker fit Iva Toguri, but she did not broadcast on Sunday evenings; that was Ruth Hayakawa’s time slot. As for the voice, Toguri’s was decidedly not sultry. June Suyama, the Nightingale of Nanking, had a sultry voice, but she did news rather than music. No one at Radio Tokyo fully understood the heavy baggage that went with the name Tokyo Rose—least of all Toguri.  She considered her broadcasts an entertaining diversion for GIs.

     The cash-for-interview offer was stunning, but Felipe was dubious. He thought there was was something fishy about the offer. Why, he asked, were correspondents offering such a huge sum of money to interview a female radio broadcaster? He told his wife that the money might be a lure to snare a propaganda broadcaster. Maybe the American military did not view "Tokyo Rose" in the same favorable way Toguri thought of herself. Tokyo Rose was a melded personality made up of several different individuals, how could Toguri be sure that the reporters would accept her rather than June Suyama or Ruth Hayakawa? Despite Felipe’s concerns, she was determined to do the interview and collect the money.  There were other female announcers who could claim the title “Tokyo Rose”.  As far as Toguri was concerned, there was no risk. She and Major Cousens had labored over scripts and her on-air delivery to mold Orphan Ann into a non-threatening buddy, who at worst teased GIs and at best boosted their morale.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Rain of Fire

B-29 "Superfortress"

On November 1, 1944, a mammoth silver plane appeared high in the sky above Tokyo. Emblazoned in large red letters on the fuselage was the name “Tokyo Rose.” The newest addition to the Allied war arsenal the B-29 "Superfortress" cruised majestically over the Japanese landscape. Four 2,200-horsepower Wright Double Cyclone engines powered the 100 foot long aircraft. It’s airspeed of 350 miles per hour outpaced any other plane in the sky, including the deadly Japanese Zero. The B-29’s ability to fly up to 30,000 feet kept it out of range of surface anti-aircraft fire. Protected by four turrets, each equipped with two fifty-caliber machine guns, and a 20,000-pound bomb load the B-29 "Superfortress" was invulnerable.  The first over-flight by the “Tokyo Rose” on November 1 was a reconnaissance; the following flights were lethal. On November 24, 1944, sixty B-29's destroyed the Nakajima airplane works at Kichijoji. The next attack obliterated the Yokohama-Tokyo industrial area. From that point on, Tokyo was subjected to the most destructive siege in the history of warfare. On November 29 alone, 15,000 bombs rained down on the defenseless city. The raid reduced twenty-five hundred homes to rubble.

Despite the success of the B-29 raids, Army Air Force General Curtis Lemay was dissatisfied. Precision bombing was difficult from an altitude of 30,000 feet.  He decided to change tactics from high to low-altitude attacks. Additionally he ordered the five-hundred-pound bombs to be replaced with M-69 gasoline-jelly incendiary bombs. In order to inflict optimal devastation, the incendiary attacks required dry air and a good wind. With the proper conditions the M-69s, dubbed “Molotov fire baskets” by American flyers, created a firestorm. Upon impact the M-69s released 100-foot streams of fire accompanied by gale force winds. Walls of fire sucked the oxygen out of the air.

The evenings of March 9 and 10 provided ideal conditions for a "Superfortress" assault. In two nights, 300 B-29s dropped half a million M-69s on Tokyo. The main target was a patchwork of industrial buildings and workers’ homes adjacent to the harbor. Fragile wooden buildings provided kindling, and the Tokyo harbor area was set ablaze. Robert Guillain, a French reporter, described the scene he witnessed the evening of March 9:
"They set to work at once sowing the sky with fire. Bursts of light
flashed everywhere in the darkness like Christmas trees lifting their decorations of flame high into the night, then fell back to earth in whistling bouquets of jagged flame. Barely a quarter of an hour after the raid started, the fire ,whipped by the wind, began to scythe its way through the density of that wooden city." 

Like tornadoes, fire spouts jumped from one neighborhood to another. The most severe destruction took place in the Asakusa-Ku residential section of Tokyo. The densely populated area of 140,000 ldisappeared in a rain of fire. Some victims suffocated. Others died from seared lungs and smoke inhalation.  Many were instantly incinerated.  In all, sixteen square miles of Tokyo was leveled. Over 100,000 men, women, and children perished. More people died during the March 8th and 9th American B-29 raids over Tokyo than those immediately killed in the atom bomb attack on Hiroshima.

The firebombs did not leave behind the rubble typical of bomb-blasted European cities. Rather, the city resembled the aftermath of a massive forest fire. Like giant sequoias, industrial buildings stood intact on the outside, but inside only charred refuse remained. Residential areas were burned to the ground.  Chimneys, like forlorn sentinels, stood alone among the rubble. All animal life—dogs, cats, squirrels, and even birds—disappeared. Residents steeled themselves for the inevitable Allied invasion. Women and children fashioned bamboo spears to defend their homes.

Fearful of being buried alive in a bomb shelter, Toguri sat out the attacks in her small boarding house room. During each attack she prayed the fragile building would be spared. The bomb blasts cascaded around her like the footfalls of a malevolent giant. Peering out her small window it looked as if the world was on fire.

www.eyewitness to, retrieved 11/2/10

To be continued

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Orphan Ann" Loses Her Fellow Conspirators

Allies Invade Saipan

In early 1944 Toguri’s situation improved. She quit her part-time job at Domei and accepted a better paying full-time position as a secretary at the Danish legation. Her new job enabled her to add diplomatic rations of soap, sugar, and other scarce items to the supplies she smuggled to the Bunka POWs. Her friendship with Felipe d’Aquino evolved into a romance, and in May 1944 she moved to Felipe’s mother’s home. It was a two-and-half-hour commute to Tokyo, but Toguri was grateful for the opportunity to spend time in the countryside.

 In the spring a Bunka guard beat Ince merclessly.  His injuries were so severe that Tsuneishi removed him from broadcast. In late June Major Cousens suffered a heart attack. He was forty-one years old. He was hospitalized and never returned to the Zero Hour. With Cousens and Ince gone, Toguri faced a new challenge. The staff was now completely pro-Japanese, leaving her with no friends in the studio. She began skipping broadcasts. Although her absences provoked Major Tsuneishi, "Orphan Ann" had become so popular with Allied soldiers that he was reluctant to replace her.

As Allied forces moved closer to Japan, it became clear even to the most ardent Japanese patriot that losing the war was not a matter of “if” but “when.” In an effort to keep the growing audience tuned in to The Zero Hour, Major Tsuneishi minimized propaganda messages and increased music. Toguri was happy to comply. She encouraged her listeners to sing along with records, and she began referring to her boneheads as “you fighting GIs.” Although still in charge,  Tsuneishi stayed out of day-to-day operations. Overseeing production was left to the second-rate Japanese staffers who replaced Cousens and Ince. Lackadaisical censors didn’t notice when Toguri played “Stars and Stripes Forever” after the American invasion of Saipan.

Quote - Gunn, p. 61

To be continued