Lincoln’s Election, Southern Secession: 1860 to April 1861

John Brown’s Martyrdom

What was the scene at John Brown’s trial?

John Brown and five of his accomplices were tried in Charlestown, Virginia (today it is part of West Virginia). Under heavy guard, the defendants were brought to the courtroom and charged with treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia. There had been some question as to whether federal charges should be brought, but President Buchanan was pleased to have Virginia do the work.

The scene at the trial was intriguing and heart-rending at the same time. John Brown had never looked more “old” than when he appeared in court. The bayonet wounds he had received incapacitated him to the point that he spent much of the trial lying on a cot. One witness after another was produced to show Brown’s guilt, but he showed little interest in the proceedings. At times, he appeared to nap.


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