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SharePrint Media File

Type: Video

Series Title West Virginia: A Film History

Filmmaker Mark Samels

Company West Virginia Humanities Council

Format DVD


In the Jefferson County Courthouse in Charles Town, Brown and his four surviving followers were put on trial for murder, treason against Virginia and inciting slaves to riot.

Special prosecutor, Andrew Hunter, vowed to have Brown tried, sentenced and hung all within ten days. Three days later Brown was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death.

Virginia Governor Henry Wise received hundreds of letters requesting clemency for Brown. Fearing a revolt, Wise declared martial law in Charles Town and ordered strangers arrested on sight.

Brown’s wife, Mary, arrived from Kansas. In his jail cell they talked for several hours. Then Mary left to await delivery of her husband’s body.

On December 2nd, reporters from across the country, including David Hunter Strother, joined fifteen hundred soldiers around the gallows outside Charles Town.

Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute were issued new muskets from the Harpers Ferry arsenal and told to prepare for any emergency. Their commander was Major Thomas J. Jackson, a pious, eccentric West Point graduate from western Virginia.

At 11:30 A.M. a sheriff cut the trap door rope with a hatchet and John Brown fell to his death.

“This will be the date of the new revolution,” wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “quite as much needed as the old one.”

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