His Truth Is Marching On~October, 1859

His Truth Is Marching On

In the fall of 1864 as fighting around Petersburg, Virginia, and in the Shenandoah Valley showed no signs of letting up and Sherman marched toward the sea, creating havoc in Georgia, soldiers, politicians, journalists and many others might have thought back to five years before when the threat of civil insurrection caused many to think that the Union was about to dissolve in a sea of blood.

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October– Rochester, New York– “Religion is fast becoming the Devil’s favorite weapon. He uses it on all great occasions, When no other weapon could serve him. In minor offenses against truth and goodness, he is content to refer to human weakness, and the influence of bad surroundings; but when some monstrous outrage against the just rights of man– such as slavery– is called in question, the Devil at once betakes himself to the Bible. Standing up in the name of Moses and the prophets, and bulwarking himself by the throne of the God of Israel, he is almost safe from attack, and may hold his place in repose. With one well chosen text he can confound and overwhelm all evangelical Christendom. No system of wrong ever more fully enjoyed this advantage than American slavery. The Bible has been ransacked for passages to sustain the relation of master and slave. Doctors of Divinity, North and South, both before and since the passage of the Fugitive Slave Bill, have been busy in thus defending the foul and haggard curse of human bondage from the assaults made upon it in the name of reason and humanity. Would that their labors had been less successful! For the slave’s sake, and the Bible’s sake, this religious support given to slavery is a sad calamity. Not only is the slave blasted and ruined by it, but the recognized foundations of religion, order and justice are all damaged. How shall mercy go to the Bible for succor, when cruelty and robbery, and every nameable and un-nameable villainy goes to the same Bible for protection, and finds there its amplest defense.” ~ Douglass’ Monthly.

October– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– “There is also another very injurious practice, not so extensively among our female adults since wearing the hair plain came into fashion, but sufficiently so among children, to call for animadversion, as being highly detrimental to its future growth and beauty. The use of tongs, curling and crimping irons, will prove most destructive agents to the nourishing property of hair. We all know that the application of a certain degree of heat destroys the animal nature of the hair, causing an offensive effluvia to escape, peculiar to hair when burnt; this arises from the action of the heat, in setting free the volatile oil, which has now become converted into a gas, while the living texture of the hair itself contracts and loses its identity if the heat be sufficiently great. It will be admitted that the proper use of the curling instruments has never done this when the heat has been regulated; but the objection is, nevertheless, still a powerful one. . . . We may as reasonably drink a cup of boiling tea without fear or danger of its injuring the coats of the stomach, as apply hot irons to the hair and not expect injury to follow. The least harmless mode of curling hair is to moisten it, with a solution of gum Senegal in water, turning it round paper squibs, and, after letting it so remain for a few hours, dressing the hair as usual, by which means it is kept in a perfectly natural condition.” ~ Godey’s Lady’s Book.

October 5– Wednesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– “Farewell. Whenever this solemn word must be pronounced, it carries with it sorrow and pain. Sometimes, and under one class of circumstances, the grief can scarcely be assuaged which arises from the cause that requires this word to be uttered. At other times the bitter cup is so well mingled with sweets that the paroxysm of grief is of short duration. It never can fall from the lips of parents upon a daughter about to leave the home of her childhood, without being attended with heartfelt anguish. No matter how good a match she may have made; no matter how happy may be the prospect before their loved one, she is lost to them– a vacant place is made at the family table. Sometimes a Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers are called upon to part with one whose voice has ever been gentle and kind in their midst– who has never been long absent at any one time– and whose place they all know can never be filled. Such was the case last Saturday morning when Mr. John L. Cooper, of Santa Cruz, California, left this place, with his young wife, the youngest daughter of our townsman, Mr. W. W. Paxton. She, the tender, beloved, amiable Alice, departed for her new home in the far off golden State with the husband of her confiding heart’s choice. The separation was too tender for the eye of the public; we will draw a veil over it. The happy couple are to set sail this afternoon, from the port of New York, for their home on the Pacific coast.” ~ The Repository and Transcript.

October 6– Thursday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– At the annual meeting of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions there is a protracted and at times heated debate about submitting a petition to Congress against the slave trade and calling for stricter enforcement of the ban against such trade.

October 7– Friday– West Chester, Pennsylvania– The two day annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society concludes with the members passing a series of resolutions which include, among others, “That the first political duty of Pennsylvanians– a duty which they owe alike to their country and their kind– is to rock, by all reasonable means, the delivery of their State from its guilty complicity with slavery; and that, in order to this, they should oppose the election to office of any man not favorable to such deliverance, should, with tireless importunity, besiege the Legislature of this State with petitions to this effect” and “That so long as the Constitution of the United States requires the rendition of the fugitive slave, so long will a promise of allegiance to the Constitution be a great moral wrong, which finds no excuse or palliation in the fact that it is necessary to the use of the elective franchise, or that it is the first step in the paths of professional usefulness or political power.”

October 9– Sunday– Mulhouse, Alsace– Alfred Dreyfus, the youngest of nine children, is born to Raphael and Jeannette Dreyfus. Raphael Dreyfus is a self-made and quite prosperous Jewish textile manufacturer (At this time, Alsace is still French Territory. At the close of the century, the treason trial of Alfred Dreyfus, French military officer, will cause an international scandal).

October 10– Monday– Boston, Massachusetts– A public meeting, attended by hundreds of women and men, is held in Faneuil Hall to consider the condition and needs of “our Frontier Indians, and their claims for protection.” Encouraged by the eloquent abolitionist Wendell Phillips and other speakers the body passes a series of resolutions which includes, among others, “That a committee of seven be appointed by this meeting whose duty it shall be to use the necessary moans to promote a thorough interest in their condition. It shall be authorized to send agents to the distant tribes, to assure the Indians of friendship, and to gain correct information of their needs; to issue suitable publications, and to aid in getting up a service of mass meetings in various cities, and soon as practicable, convene a national Convention, which shall discuss the details for an improved Indian Department, to be presented for the section of Congress during the coming session.”

Harper's Ferry

Harper’s Ferry

October 11– Tuesday– Franklin County, Pennsylvania– “Many applications have been made to me for pecuniary aid to newspapers and for their editors, since my name has been officiated with the high office you connect with it. I have given but one answer and that is, that I can not with my sense of propriety give any money to aid my own political advancement. I have always had a strong sympathy with young men of talent and energy starting in the business to which I belonged in early life, and have very often aided them with my counsel and my money, and so I hope to do again, but not while any one considers me a candidate for the Presidency. If that high honor ever comes to me, it will come, as a free will offering from the people.” ~ Letter from Simon Cameron to a young newspaper editor.

October 14– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– “Marius R. Robinson, of Ohio, is an Agent of the American Anti-Slavery, and as such is commended to all friends of Society, and of uncompromising anti-slavery. As editor of the (Ohio) Anti-Slavery Bugle, and as a clear, earnest and impressive speaker, his services have been of the greatest value to the cause, and have entitled him to the fullest confidence and respect of its friends. In full apprehensions of the principles of Anti-Slavery, in faithful application of them, and in a fair and courteous spirit to opponents, he is surpassed by no one.” ~ The Liberator.


October 14– Friday– Staunton, Virginia– “The great political ball of 1860 is fairly opened, and the cauldron commenced its seething with more than ordinary virulence and intensity. Probably not since the inauguration of our system of government have the press and politicians of the country at large been more earnestly, if not wisely, engaged in the discussion of the claims of the various aspirants for the Presidency, and the issues which may enter into that momentous struggle. That freedom of thought and expression, which is one of the legitimate offsprings of our popular institutions, is being exercised with a liberality that might well institute an inquiry as to its propriety, and the various schemes and claims of politicians urged with a tenacity, which, to the unobservant, might savor of anything but harmony and oneness of action by the friends of individuals in each of the party organizations. But, while at this early day the elements of discord and contention seem prevalent, we have the history of the Democratic party as a satisfying assurance that the authorized action of its representatives at Charleston will calm the troubled waters, and present the country another evidence of that unity of sentiment which follows an abiding faith in the conservative cardinal principles which lie at the foundation of our organization. A simple reference to the agitation which preceded the contest of 1856, and the fears that loomed up in the minds of the timid, will justify the prediction that temporary breaks will be healed, the column closed, and the organization so consolidated, as to defy the enemy, and achieve another triumph as significant and glorious as that which crowned our efforts in the memorable conflict which elevated the present Chief Magistrate to the position he now occupies.” ~ Staunton Vindicator.

October 14– Friday– Lynchburg, Virginia– “On Sunday last, a crowd of not less than one thousand Negroes assembled on the basin to take leave of the Negroes belonging to the estate of the late Mrs. Frances B. Shackleford, of Amherst county, who, in accordance with the will of the deceased, were about to depart by way of the canal, for a free State. The whole number set free was forty-four men women and children, but only thirty-seven left, the balance preferring to remain in servitude in Old Virginia rather than enjoy their freedom elsewhere. Some of these who did leave, were thrown on the boat by main force, so much opposed were they to leaving, and many expressed their determination of returning to Virginia as soon as an opportunity offered. Many were the well wishes tendered the departing Negroes by the crowd assembled, and when the boats started from their wharves, the freed Negroes struck up ‘Carry me back to Old Virginny, which was joined in by one and all, and in a tone which indicated plainly that if left to their own free will, they would gladly spend the remainder of their days in servitude in the home of their birth.” ~ Lynchburg Republican.

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October 16– Sunday– Harpers Ferry, Virginia–Leaving three men behind at the Kennedy Farmhouse, 4 miles north of town, the militant abolitionist John Brown and 17 men enter the town. He sends one group to capture Colonel Lewis Washington, great grandnephew of George Washington at his nearby estate and to seize some relics of George Washington. Brown and the others capture several watchmen and townspeople. They cut the telegraph wire and stop a Baltimore & Ohio train passing through. An African-American baggage handler on the train, a freed slave named Hayward Shepherd, confronts Brown’s men and they shoot and kill him. Brown then lets the train continue. The conductor alerts authorities. Brown and his men seize the federal armory but some of the townspeople begin to fight back. As word of the attack circulates in the immediate area, no slaves rise in revolt.

October 17–Monday– Harpers Ferry, Virginia– Local militia, farmers and shopkeepers surround the armory and capture the bridge across the Potomac River, cutting off Brown’s escape route. Brown takes his men and nine hostages and moves into the smaller engine house. In periodic exchanges of gunfire with the militia and townsfolk, 3 of Brown’s men are killed and one wounded and captured. About 3:30 in the afternoon, President Buchanan orders a detachment of eighty-eight U.S. Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E Lee of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry to march on Harpers Ferry “to suppress insurrection.”

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October 18– Tuesday– New York City– “News from Harpers Ferry of a strange transaction. Some sort of insurrection, an armed gang getting possession of the United States Armory; railroad trains stopped, x+y hundred fugitive slaves under arms, government troops, marines, and other forces sent on. Seems to have been a fight this morning (and the rebellion quashed, of course), but the whole transaction is as yet most obscure, and our reports probably much exaggerated.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

October 18– Tuesday– New York City– “A most extraordinary telegraphic bulletin startled the whole country yesterday – one importing that an Insurrection had just broken out at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and that it was the work of Negroes and Abolitionists! That some sort of a disturbance has taken place in that locality is manifest; for it seems that the telegraphic wires are broken at that point, and the running of the trains on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad interrupted; but, as Negroes are not abundant in that part of Virginia, while no Abolitionists were ever known to peep in that quarter, we believe the nature of the affair must be grossly misapprehended. . . . If any such party has made a stand at that point, they will of course be crushed out at once; as a large force went down by train from Baltimore yesterday afternoon, while President Buchanan and Governor Wise are both preparing to hurl their thunders at the rebels. We suspect, however, that the nature of the trouble is misapprehended and its importance at the same time exaggerated.” ~ New York Tribune.

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October 18– Tuesday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– Frederick Douglass delivers a lecture on “Self-made Men” to a large audience of both black and white listeners. In a letter written afterwards a listener says, “Mr. Douglass occupied the stand until past the hour of 10 o’clock. He referred to many men who were self-made, and among them was Benjamin Banneker. He read a letter which was sent to Thomas Jefferson by Banneker, and was very eloquent in his allusions to both those personages. Near the close of his lecture Mr. Douglass alluded to the transactions at Harper’s Ferry as being the legitimate fruits of slavery, which, to my surprise, elicited deafening applause from the audience. It was a splendid effort of oratory, and it will no doubt be long remembered by those who heard it.”

October 18– Tuesday– Harpers Ferry, Virginia–Surrounded by the Marines, Brown refuses Robert E Lee’s call to surrender. In a quick assault, Brown and six others are captured. In an interview later in the day with several politicians, reporters and law officers, Brown declares, “Upon the Golden Rule. I pity the poor in bondage that have none to help them: that is why I am here; not to gratify any personal animosity, revenge, or vindictive spirit. It is my sympathy with the oppressed and the wronged that are as good as you and as precious in the sight of God.”

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