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permitted to demolish. It is now used as a storehouse for arms.
The first time I visited this scene of the first blood shed in the great civil war, which, although so few dreamed of it, was even then beginning, — for John Brown's flaming deed was as a torch flung into the ready-heaped combustibles of the rebellion, — while I stood viewing the spot with an interest which must have betrayed itself, a genial old gentleman, coming out of the government repair-shop close by, accosted me. We soon fell into conversation, and he told me the story of John Brown at Harper's Ferry.
“So they took the old man and hung him; and all the time the men that did it were plotting treason and murder by the wholesale. They did it in a hurry, because if they delayed, they would n't have been able to hang him at all. A strong current of public feeling was turning in his favor. Such a sacrifice of himself set many to thinking on the subject who never thought before; many who had to acknowledge in their hearts that slavery was wrong and that old John Brown was right. I speak what I know, for I was here at the time. I have lived in Harper's Ferry fifteen years. I was born and bred in a slave State, but I never let my love of the institution blind me to everything else. Slavery has been the curse of this country, and she is now beginning to bless the day she was delivered from it.”
Are there many people here who think as you do?” “ Enough to carry the day at the polls. The most of them are coming round to right views of negro suffrage, too. That is the only justice for the blacks, and it is the only safety for us. The idea of allowing the loyal colored population to be represented by the whites, the most of whom were traitors, – of letting a Rebel just out of the Confederate army vote, and telling a colored man just out of the Union army that he has no vote, – the idea is so perfectly absurd that the Rebels themselves must acknowledge it.”
I was hardly less interested in the conversation of an intelligent colored waiter at the hotel. He had formerly been held
acknowleso perfect the Uni
as a slave in the vicinity of Staunton. At the close of the war he came to the Ferry to find employment.
"There was n't much chance for me up there. Besides, I came near losing my life before I got away. You see, the masters, soon as they found out they could n't keep their slaves, began to treat them about as bad as could be. Then, because I made use of this remark, that I did n't think we colored folks ought to be blamed for what was n't our fault, for we did n't make the war, and neither did we declare ourselves free, just because I said that, not in a saucy way, but as I say it to you now, one man put a pistol to my head, and was going to shoot me. I got away from him, and left. A great many came away at the same time, for it was n't possible for us to stay there.
“Now tell me candidly,” said I, “ how the colored people themselves behaved.”
“Well, just tolerable. They were like a bird let out of a cage. You know how a bird that has been long in a cage will act when the door is opened; he makes a curious fluitering for a little while. It was just so with the colored people. They did n't know at first what to do with themselves. But they got sobered pretty soon, and they are behaving very decent now."
Harper's Ferry affords a striking illustration of the folly of secession. The government works here gave subsistence to several hundred souls, and were the life of the place. The attempt to overturn the government failed; but the government works, together with their own prosperity, the mad fanatics of Harper's Ferry succeeded easily enough in destroying. “ The place never will be anything again,” said Mr. B., of the repair-shop, “ unless the government decides to rebuild the armory, — and it is doubtful if that is ever done.”
Yet, with the grandeur of its scenery, the tremendous waterpower afforded by its two rushing rivers, and the natural ad. vantage it enjoys as the key to the fertile Shenandoah Valley, Harper's Ferry, redeemed from slavery, and opened to Northern enterprise, should become a beautiful and busy town.
A TRIP TO CHARLESTOWN.
Oxe morning I took the train up the Valley to Charlestown, distunt from Harper's Ferry eight miles.
The railroad was still in the hands of the government. 'There were military guards on the platforms, and about an equal mixture of Loyalists and Rebels within the cars. Furloughed soldiers, returning to their regiments at Winchester or Staunton, occupied seats with Confederate officers just out of their uniforms. The strong, dark, defiant, self-satisfied face typical of the second-rate “chivalry," and the good-natured, shrewd, inquisitive physiognomy of the Yankee speculator going to look at Southern lands, were to be seen side by side, in curious contrast. There also rode the well-dressed wealthy planter, who had been to Washington to solicit pardon for his treasonable acts, and the humble freedman returning to the home from which he had been driven by violence, when the war closed and left him free. Mothers and daughters of the first families of Virginia sat serene and uncomplaining in the atmosphere of mothers and daughters of the despised race, late their slaves or their neighbors', but now citizens like themselves, free to go and come, and as clearly entitled to places in the government train as the proudest dames of the land.
We passed through a region of country stamped all over by the devastating heel of war. For miles not a fence or cultivated field was visible.
" It is just like this all the way up the Shenandoah Valley," said a gentleman at my side, a Union man from Winchester. " The wealthiest people with us are now the poorest. With hundreds of acres they can't raise a dollar. Their slaves have
left them, and they have no money, even if they have the disposition, to hire the freed people.”
I suggested that farms, under such circumstances, should be for sale at low rates.
" They should be ; but your Southern aristocrat is a monomaniac on the subject of owning land. He will part with his acres about as willingly as he will part with his life. If the Valley had not been the best part of Virginia, it would long ago have been spoiled by the ruinous system of agriculture in use here. Instead of tilling thoroughly a small farm, a man fancies he is doing a wise thing by half tilling a large one. Slave labor is always slovenly and unprofitable. But everything is being revolutionized now. Northern men and northern methods are coming into this Valley as sure as water runs downhill. It is the greatest corn, wheat, and grass country in the world. The only objection to it is that in spots the limestone crops out a good deal. There was scarcely anything raised this season except grass ; you could see hundreds of acres of that waving breast-high without a fence."
At the end of a long hour's ride we arrived at Charlestown, chiefly interesting to me as the place of John Brown's martyrdom. We alighted from the train on the edge of boundless unfenced fields, into whose melancholy solitudes the desolate streets emptied theinselves — rivers to that ocean of weeds. The town resembled to my eye some unprotected female sitting sorrowful on the wayside, in tattered and faded apparel, with unkempt tresses fallen negligently about features which might once have been attractive.
On the steps of a boarding-house I found an acquaintance whose countenance gleamed with pleasure “at sight,” as he said, “ of a single loyal face in that nest of secession." He had been two or three days in the place, waiting for luggage which had been miscarried.
“They are all Rebels here, — all Rebels !” he exclaimed, as he took his cane and walked with me. “They are a pitiably poverty-stricken set; there is no money in the place, and scarcely anything to eat. We have for breakfast salt-fish,
fried potatoes, and treason. Fried potatoes, treason, and saltfish for dinner. At supper the fare is slightly varied, and we have treason, salt-fish, fried potatoes, and a little more treason, My landlady's daughter is Southern fire incarnate ; and she illustrates Southern politeness by abusing Northern people and the government from morning till night, for my especial edification. Sometimes I venture to answer her, when she flies at me, figuratively speaking, like a cat. The women are not the only out-spoken Rebels, although they are the worst. The men don't hesitate to declare their sentiments, in season and out of season.” My friend concluded with this figure : “ The war-feeling here is like a burning bush with a wet blanket wrapped around it. Looked at from the outside, the fire seems quenched. But just peep under the blanket, and there it is, all alive, and eating, eating in. The wet blanket is the prescnt government policy; and every act of conciliation shown the Rebels is just letting in so much air to feed the fire.”
A short walk up into the centre of the town took us to the scene of John Brown's trial. It was a consolation to see that the jail had been laid in ashes, and that the court-house, where that mockery of justice was performed, was a ruin abandoned to rats and toads. Four massy white brick pillars, still standing, supported a riddled roof, through which God's blue sky and gracious sunshine smiled. The main portion of the building had been literally torn to pieces. In the floorless hall of justice rank weeds were growing. Names of Union soldiers were scrawled along the walls. No torch had been applied to the wood-work, but the work of destruction had been performed by the hands of hilarious soldier-boys ripping up floors and pulling down laths and joists to the tune of " John Brown," — the swelling melody of the song, and the accompaniment of crashing partitions, reminding the citizens, who thought to have destroyed the old hero, that his soul was marching on.
It was also a consolation to know that the court-house and jail would probably never be rebuilt, the county-seat having been removed from Charlestown to Shepherdstown — " for