The Enigmatic John Brown–Villain or Martyr?


John Brown (1800-1859)


John Brown (1800-1859) was an American abolitionist who believed in and advocated armed insurrection as the only means to end slavery in the United States.
John Brown lived as he died; as an enigmatic character in our American history. His enigmatic personality was described as, ambiguous, equivocal, and double edged. Added to this a wicked, haughty, and obstinate temper, and you have John Brown the man. The question that begged to be answered– was he a villain, or a martyr?

John Brown 1856

The Inquiry:

Did John Brown use Christianity to politically masquerade his use of violence? In general, did Brown and the slave owners use the moral authority of the Bible to serve their agendas? More specifically, was John Brown a type of Machiavellian leader (where the ends justify the means)? Putting things into a historical context gives the story of John Brown a better understanding.

Historical Context:
John Brown’s place in history was amplified by the chaotic times in which he lived. A brief background of the times follows. The country and its people struggled with questions surrounding slavery and secession. Briefly, it was about the abolition of slavery and the right of states to use slave labor to fuel their economy. In the following paragraph, opposing perceptions of Brown described the polarizing attitudes of many Americans.
To the people living in the North or South; John Brown was known as either as a hero or a villain, as a crusader or a madman, or as a liberator or a traitor. In his own mind, he desired to be remembered as a martyr who fought against the sins of slavery.
Legally, he was remembered as a criminal of the state. He was charged with treason against the state of Virginia, where he sat in prison and waited his fate.
Furthermore, while awaiting his trial and sentencing, news of his violent raid on Harper’s Ferry and insurrection against the government had spread like wild fire across the country.

If you stare into his eyes, he appears to be smiling; but in you stare at his mouth, you see his anger. Therein lies the truth.

The Pulse of the Nation:

Clues to the country’s future Civil War were unfolding, as evidenced by colliding social and political forces. For example, the fear of future slave uprisings in the South, coupled by the religious fervor against slavery in the North had reached a fever pitched crescendo. In addition, unbridled words of protest from lawmakers created a loss in the public’s faith in government. The lost faith was due to a political impasse and no agreed upon compromise over slavery. Finally, the war of words became—words of secession!

John Brown’s Sentencing:

Consequently, it was his time to die, about 11:00 a.m. on December 2, 1859, in Charles Town, Virginia (Now West Virginia). Brown led an armed insurrection against the institution of slavery, he was captured and found guilty of treason, and was sentenced was to be hanged by the neck until death.

Harper’s Ferry, Virginia

The Flawed Plan:

He and twenty –one other men launched an attack of the Federal Arsenal at Martin’s Ferry, Virginia in hopes of triggering a violent liberation to free the slaves. He believed that slavery would only be abolished through violence, destruction, blood, crime, and sin. He had hoped that wide spread killing and violence would produce enough suffering and misery to give cause to an insurrection against slavery.
His plan failed for two reasons; first, he was unable to recruit enough slave participation for the raid, and second, his holding of the engine house was attacked and stopped by the U.S. Marines quickly and decisively.

A Revealing Letter –The Early Years:

Below is a letter of self- examination from his early years which offers some clues into his enigmatic personality and his growing self-importance.
Brown described his early years in a letter written by John Brown to Mr. Henry L. Stearns, dated 15th of July, 1857. Below are a few highlights, as he described himself in the third person:
“…quite skeptical he had always by turns felt much serious doubt as to his future well- being; & about this time became to some extent a convert to Christianity & ever after a firm believer in the divine John had been taught from earliest childhood to “fear God and keep his commandments;” & though authenticity of the Bible.”
Later in his adult life his strict following of his Christian upbringing became confused by his egotistical ways. He admitted to his egotistical defects of character as he wrote “….he came forward to manhood quite full of self-conceit; & self-confident; notwithstanding his extreme bashfulness.”
In the later years to come, he developed an unbridled sense of self-importance that played to his sense of martyrdom.
His personality was affected by his first marriage about the age of twenty. He settled down and was greatly influenced by his wife and her excellent character. He wrote,” her very consistent conduct… kind admonitions had the right effect; without arousing his haughty obstinate temper.”
With an honest desire for your best good, I subscribe myself,
Your Friend, J.Brown.


Frederick Douglass was against Brown’s plan, he refused to join in the raid.

A Life Changing Moment:

John Brown’s early life did not foretell his eventual infamous deeds or legend. His life took a turn as his wife, Dianthe Lusk, who bore him seven children died in 1832. A year later, he remarried Mary Ann Day, who gave him 13 children. His life was unstable, as he moved his family around the northeastern United States experiencing financial difficulties and working odd jobs.
Upon hearing of the murder of abolitionist, Elijah P Lovejoy, Brown dedicated his life to the destruction of slavery. He joined the Stanford Street “Free Church,” founded by Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. Brown felt that he had found a purpose for his life—the abolition and destruction of slavery. His views were supported by Douglass who believed that slaves had the right to rise up and kill their masters. He sympathized with Brown, yet he refused to join him at the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Douglass told Brown that his plan was ill-conceived and foolish.

The Path to Violence:

According to Brown’s biography, between 1849 and 1850, two events occurred which put him on the path to the insurrection and the raid at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. One was a failed attempt to compete with large wool producers that bankrupted his business and the other was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. The law imposed penalties on those that aided runaway slaves and mandated that authorities in” free states” must return slaves who tried to escape. In response, John Brown formed a militant group dedicated to prevent slaves’ capture.

The U.S. Marines use a fire house ladder to breakdown the door and caputure John Brown.

The Last Hours of the John Brown Raid:

David H. Strother, an eyewitness in part to the raid, had his narrative printed in Harper’s Weekly on November 5, 1859, just a short time after the actual raid of October 16 of the same year. A few highlights of the raid will follow showing its destructive use of violence.
Strother wrote…during the day of the 16th, four townspeople were killed, including the mayor.

On the morning of October 18, Colonel Lee sent Lt. J. E. B. Stuart, serving as a volunteer aide-de-camp, under a white flag of truce to negotiate a surrender of John Brown and his followers. Brown refused to surrender, soon after, Lt. Greene led a detachment of Marines in an attack of the engine house, the fort of Brown. Greene found a wooden ladder, and he and about 10 Marines used it as a battering ram to force the front doors open.

The capture of John Brown and his near death experience.

Violence Comes with the Irony of Surprise:

Lieutenant, Greene later recounted the events:  Quicker than thought I brought my saber down with all my strength upon [Brown’s] head. He was moving as the blow fell, and I suppose I did not strike him where I intended, for he received a deep saber cut in the back of the neck. He fell senseless on his side, then rolled over on his back. He had in his hand a short Sharpe’s cavalry carbine. I think he had just fired as I reached Colonel Washington, for the Marine who followed me into the aperture made by the ladder received a bullet in the abdomen, from which he died in a few minutes. The shot might have been fired by someone else in the insurgent party, but I think it was from Brown. Instinctively as Brown fell I gave him a saber thrust in the left breast. The sword I carried was a light uniform weapon, and, either not having a point or striking something hard in Brown’s accouterments, did not penetrate.

The scene of John Brown having a near death experience resulting from the use of violence is truly ironic justice.

John Brown admitted his guilt and acquiesced to his punishment. He chastised the prosecutor for his support of slavery.

The Trial:

As a result of being captured, Brown was taken to the court house in nearby Charles Town for trial. He was found guilty of treason against the Commonwealth of Virginia and was hanged on December 2. His execution was witnessed by the actor, John Wilkes Booth, who would later assassinate President Abraham Lincoln.

“How do you justify your acts?” demanded Virginia senator James Mason.
“ I think, my friend, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity, replied Brown… and it would be perfectly right for anyone to interfere with you so far as to free those who willfully and wickedly you hold in bondage.” Beyond his self -importance, Brown had little insight into the effect his actions had on his family.

Brown’s Family Suffered Greatly:

Brown lacked the wisdom to understand the pain and suffering that came to his family. Brown’s execution threw his large family into turmoil. He left behind a total of eight children, four by his widow Mary Ann Day Brown and four by his first wife, Dianthe Lusk.
The honor and glory that members of the family saw in their father’s work did not fill the aching void that was left in their hearts after losing their loves ones to death.
Consequentially, the collateral damage to the Brown family was unimaginable, due to of the loss of family. Of his three sons who participated in the Harper’s Ferry attack, Watson was mortally wounded, as was Oliver, while Owen managed to escape.
His entire family suffered from the notoriety of his conviction and execution.

Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis in Agreement:

At the time, Brown’s death, it was necessary for the restoration of the rule of law because the dangers from abolitionism remained – of which had many opinions were aired. Two of the more important opinions came from future presidents.

Abraham Lincoln stated that Brown was wrong for two reasons:
One reason, was that  Brown’s method was against the law. The second reason was that the raid was useless as an attempt to get rid of a “great evil.” He called Brown a man of “great courage,” and “rare unselfishness,” but ultimately concluded that Brown was “insane.”

Jefferson Davis, a Mississippi senator, called Harper’s Ferry “a murderous raid,” and “a conspiracy against a portion of the United States, a rebellion against the constitutional government of a State.”

Lincoln and Davis were in relative agreement on the incident, excepting that Lincoln believed that the raid was an isolated incident while Davis worried that the Harper’s Ferry Raid was a sign of more slavery uprisings to come.
In the South the heightened level of fear over future slave uprisings may have rushed states to secede from the Union.

Final Thoughts:

In conclusion, the enigmatic John Brown thought that his violent means justified his moral ends. This idea appeared to have dominated his purpose, thoughts, and actions leading up to his execution. For example, he became a villain hoping to be heralded as a martyr. His misguided intentions produced ambiguous outcomes which contributed to his blurred legacy.

Most of all, John Brown’s seemingly absurd or self- contradictory behavior may give reason to compare and contrast him with today’s politicians– and their Machiavellian ideas.

It is hoped that this view of American history may serve as a way of seeing today’s political environment through the historical character of John Brown.

As our past history effects our present times, may we remember a famous quote: “There are no accidents in my philosophy. Every effect must have its cause. The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future. All of these links in the endless chain stretching from the finite to the infinite.”—Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln: A Caricature of His Time


Lincoln: A Cartoon Caricature

Lincoln and the Press


Abraham Lincoln believed that with public sentiment nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. He had a strong appreciation for the power of the press to influence public opinion. He manipulated public opinion and the press; as he leaked private letters to various editors which helped to create a personal loyalty with them. His strong attachment to the press wasn’t better exemplified than on the night he was mortally wounded at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.   Newspaper clippings were found in the wallet he carried in his pocket.

A Team of Rival

Lincoln had a favorite expression, “if you can’t lick’em, join’em.” He followed his own advice; as he managed his relationship with the newspapers by recruiting the loyalties of newspaper owners, editors, and reporters on a grand scale. After recruiting members of the press, Lincoln would offer jobs in his cabinet, or at the White House in exchange for favorable news reporting. For their loyalty, they were rewarded with positions like; ambassador, port inspector, revenue collector, postmaster, and White House staffer. Since this strategy was effective, during his presidency, “dozens and dozens of the ink” were brought in to save the Union.

Satirical Illustrations

President Abraham Lincoln enjoyed humor, and many Americans enjoyed poking fun at him, some good-natured and some politically charged. One of the most widely published in Harper’s Weekly was humorist and cartoonist, Thomas Nast. His satirical illustrations gave a voice to the feelings, emotions, and thoughts of the American, newspaper reader. Below are some examples of political cartoons that illustrated the life and times of President Lincoln’s presidency.

Lincoln’s First Inaugural viewed by North and South

This cartoon foreshadowed the “Lady of Liberty” becoming the “Caesar of War,” just months after his Presidential Inauguration. Lincoln’s powers as president were in question by many, just as the “War of the Rebellion” was to begin.





Copperheads were Northern sympathizers, dissenters of the war, who supported a truce to end the conflict. Hence during the election of 1864, they supported former General George McClellan for president as he ran against Lincoln.  Their influence inconsequently  waned with the ebb and flow of the Union’s success against the South. Furthermore, his detractors were not limited to Southern critics;  Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd said, the constant attacks caused him, “a great deal of pain.”

New York Draft Riots, July 13-16, 1863.

The significance of the riots was that it showed the anti-war attitudes of many protestors. Most noteworthy were the Irish immigrants, who violently protested being drafted into a war whose cause was the emancipation of slaves.

England’s View of Lincoln’s Problems

The United Kingdom’s press viewed the fragmented republic as being a failed experiment.  The cartoon showed a foreshadowed society of civil disobedience  with a disregard  for law and order. Foreign governments watched and hoped that the American people would lose faith in their government and  consequently weaken their democracy.  Foreign governments used the newspaper to spread divisive propaganda while they attempted to gain political influence by manipulating  public opinion.


Lincoln’s Last Card

Lincoln’s shown playing cards with a southern soldier.  He raised his last card which showed the racist image of a black man.  The card game sat on a barrel of gunpowder–that raised questions about whether the military draft instituted by the president was a real card or just a bluff.




Columbia confronts Lincoln

Columbia was the Goddess of Liberty, which stems from classical symbolism. She is the country’s conscience talking: “Where are our sons?  Who is to blame?”  As an aside, Columbia was the unofficial national anthem, sung and hummed by soldiers from both north and south.  It originated around 1796. Due to the overwhelming number of fallen soldiers  the will of the people to wage war was severly tested.


Lincoln’s Dream

Because it was known that Lincoln believed in the prophetic importance of dreams.  A newspaper  cartoon  depicted him dreaming about the past failures of various battles and the decapitation of members from his cabinet.  His dreams tormented him, causing him great pain and suffering, as a result he suffered some form of depression.  This illustration predicted that good times were coming.

The cartoons depicted the rowdiness of democracy; and the political abuse inflicted upon President Lincoln.  Throughout the war, saving the Union at all costs was his primary goal.  He united the nation against racism, hatred, and bigotry.

A Message from the President

Much as he was ridiculed, Lincoln was also praised during his presidency for his part in the Civil War.  Lincoln’s words during his first inaugural address were most revealing: “…we are not enemies, but friends… through passion we may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection…”

 A History Lesson

What can be learned from this time in our history?  During Lincoln’s presidency the country had consequently lost faith in its democracy;  and therefore,  it  turned to division and violence in a self-destructive manner.  It was due to the  greatness of Lincoln that our nation was saved.  Today, we face similar challenges that have divided us.

Lincoln’s Greatness

Most of all, Abraham Lincoln demonstrated a strong character with purpose, vision, and truth.  He took ownership of an emotional nation while he self-regulated his emotions, thoughts, and behavior.  His social awareness and self-awareness provided him with wisdom to govern.  He used reflection, introspection as he contemplated his military and political decisions.  Most especially, his social awareness showed respect, compassion, and positive communication to all Americans regardless of their support for him.  As he demonstrated these qualities with a moral compass; he became known,  as the president of all Americans, both North and South.



Howard Pyle: Illustrator



Howard Pyle (1853-1911) an American artist, illustrator, author, and teacher was declared at the time of his death by the New York Times—“the father of American magazine illustration.”
Howard Pyle asked in Harper’s Monthly magazine in 1897, “Why have we no national art?” So, he began the discussion and creation of an American historical identity through his art.
Today, Howard Pyle is not nearly as well known, as are his magnificent images. However, back in the day, he was America’s most popular illustrator and storyteller. In effect, he was like a “movie star” in modern times. His illustrations appeared in magazines like Harper’s Monthly, Colliers Weekly, St. Nicholas, and Scribner’s Magazine—this exposure gained him national and world wide acclaim. Evidence of such recognition came from an unlikely source. In a letter to his brother, Vincent Van Gogh wrote, “Do you know an American magazine—Harper’s Monthly? There are wonderful sketches in it… which strike me in admiration…by one Howard Pyle.” Today, many Americans have admired his images without knowing his name.

A short discussion of Pyle’s background and style follows. Americans had seen his work in school books, in art galleries, and in the study of the American Revolution. Many are struck by the style, force and vivacity of his images. His art spoke with a compelling, emotional force. Further examination of his style found that his heroes were depicted with a lively, animated quality of realism. In support of his legacy, there was evidence that he collaborated with renowned writers, politicians, historians, and poets. His most noteworthy colleagues were; Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Cabot Lodge, Woodrow Wilson, William Dean Howells, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Our discussion will be limited to a few of his paintings and an illustration of the American Revolution. Pyle’s work transformed American’s individual perceptions of the American Revolution into a collective set of national ideals. In effect, he shared his values with Americans by making us privy to historical moments between our American heroes and their supreme moments. Second, he took us back into history to experience an emerging moment that resonated through their animated faces and actions. Finally, he had the ability to consistently look for what he called the “supreme moment,” the phase of action that conveyed the most suspense. In a nutshell, Pyle’s art helped our nation to visualize and value its authentic history.
A brief description of his work will help us to discover or rediscover his masterful depictions of the American Revolution.

General Washington–Retreating through the Jerseys

“Retreating through the Jerseys,” showed the strong relationship between Washington and his men. The orderliness of their retreat exemplified a unity and strength, even as the outcome of the war was doubtful. Washington’s confidence and leadership in retreat gave his men a sense that their lives mattered; such was evidenced by the General’s careful strategy for engaging with the enemy. He defended his troops against annihilation and decimation by using retreat to save their lives. As a result, when he commanded them into battle, they trusted his leadership. Pyle captured the dramatic retreat and the esprit d’ corps of the army marching in step with General Washington leading the way. United we stand, divided we fall appeared to be the valued expressed in his painting.

Baron Von Steuben & General Washington at Valley Forge

Baron Von Steuben, a Prussian military officer, arrived at General Washington’s encampment at Valley Forge in 1778, he brought with him a renewed sense of spirit to Washington and the Continental Army. He commenced training soldiers in close order drill, instilling new confidence and discipline in the demoralized army. The painting of “General Washington and Baron Von Steuben at Valley Forge,” stimulated one’s senses and feelings for the chilling outdoors. It was the dead of winter with freezing temperatures; blowing winds, and the sound of crunching snow was heard beneath army boots. The drawing invited Americans into the picture to share the enduring hardships with every soldier who served at Valley Forge. The importance of self-sacrifice in the name of freedom was implied.
Baron Von Steuben established standards of sanitation which included the order by General Washington to vaccinate his troops against smallpox. It was a decision that saved his army from disease and death, which became pivotal to the outcome of the war—the bonding between the generals was a dramatic moment in the history of the American Revolution.

John Paul Jones at the Battle of Flamborough, 1779

The Battle of Flamborough Head of 1779, featured a favorite American naval hero of Pyle. John Paul Jones raised his sabre in defiance of the British commander’s request to surrender. He defied the request with his famous reply, “I have not yet begun to fight.” If you allow yourself to be drawn into the painting,  one’s senses become overwhelmed with its sights and sounds; Cannons ablaze, muskets a fire, smoke filled the air, as Jones fought with desire. Jones transformed the naval battle with his bravery and determination to  overcome the odds and achieve victory. Pyle made us a part of that moment by depicting Jones as a hero. Jones’ hero like qualities were expressed through an intense facial expression and strong body posture. Furthermore, his image of Jones was rebellious, defiant, and unshaken in the face of the enemy.

Washington’s Refusal to be King

In a sketch of “General Washington’s Refusal to be King, Colonel Lewis Nicola presented him with a written document to declare Washington as King.  Washington fiercely refused, as he discarded the document to the floor. The mood in the drawing is defined by Washington’s unemotional rejection of the proposal in a room filled with silence. It appeared that the importance of loyalty to country  was his underlying message.



British Charge on Bunker Hill

The Battle of Bunker Hill,” pictured the British troops commanded by Major  General William Howe; they were directed to make a second charge up Bunker Hill. They were accompanied by the sounds of fife and drum with a stern determination to retake the hill. The painting expressed the bravery and resolution of the colonists as they had to…wait until the last minute to fire. “Wait ‘til you see the whites of their eyes,” shouted Colonel William Prescott to his troops. The British generals were astonished by the bravery of the colonists that day on Bunker Hill in 1775. Pyle painted the British army as a mass of military humanity, disciplined, battle tested, and as a fearless fighting machine. His illustration dramatized the moment of truth.

Howard Pyle’s genius as a man was never in doubt, but it was Pyle’s visual storytelling that  was remembered more than the man himself, and that was his legacy.

He helped the people of our nation to see —what it meant to be an American.

The Last Voyage of John Paul Jones


John Paul Jones, “The Father of the U.S. Navy.”

Finding The Lost Grave of John Paul Jones:

In 1792, the story of the lost legacy of John Paul Jones began. John Paul Jones died on July 18 at the age of 45 years old from acute inflammation of the kidney. He lived and died in Paris as a forgotten man. Although he once was a naval hero of the American Revolution, a confirmed admiral in the Russian navy, and later dubbed the “Father of the U.S. Navy,” he sadly fell into obscurity. He lived out his final days with a few loyal friends, a servant, and his chambermaid, as he died a  lonely man.

Less than two weeks after his 45th birthday; he was found in his Paris apartment, lying face down on his bed, with his feet on the floor. Although not a religious man, the position of the body led to speculation that he was attempting to kneel, as he took his last breath.  In retrospect,  Jones’ final years were filled with frustration, sickness, and solitude amid the chaos of the French Revolution; he died far from the country that he had fought so valiantly to free.

Anticipating that American authorities would transport their legendary naval hero back to the U.S., the French laid his body to rest in a lead coffin that was filled with alcohol and sealed to preserve the remains. Within three weeks of the funeral, armed Revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace, where Louis XVI and his family were being held. Many of the 600 Swiss Guard died defending the king. Their dead bodies  were tossed into a mass grave next to Jones’ burial site. In the chaos, madness,  and  fanatical beheadings of the French Revolution;  John Paul Jones died swiftly, quietly, and  without fanfare.

To further complicate finding his final resting place,  came the sale to a private developer of the Saint Louis Cemetery property.  The new owners   regraded and covered over the graveyard which  made way  for urban redevelopment.  The former cemetery  site was  covered and hidden forever by city life.

Decades passed, then one man;  who possessed an extraordinary degree of  intestinal  fortitude, an undying duty to  persistence, and a dedication to his own personal need,  rediscovered the site.  How?  It was through his tireless  investigation and discovery that he uncovered the resting place of John Paul Jones.   Who was this incredible man who solved the mystery of the lost grave of John Paul Jones?

Louis XVI awarded Jones the Order of Military Merit and title of Chevalier(knight) with a gold hilted sword, note Benjamin Franklin and escorts.

One Man’s Quest to Find– John Paul Jones:

Just over a century later, in 1897, Horace Porter;a Civil War Medal of Honor winner, a former member of U.S. Grant’s staff, and the current Ambassador to France  arrived in Paris.  Here he began to ask questions regarding the lost grave of John Paul Jones. Two years later, he began a search that would consume six years and a great deal of his own money. He along with a number of Americans were distraught that the remains of their early naval hero was buried on foreign soil. Horace Porter’s motivation for taking on the task of finding Jones was personal. In addition, Porter feared that Jones’  heroism  would be forgotten,  and that his memory   would  be relegated to fiction.

Porter is the same man who personally undertook the massive task of fund raising, constructing, and co-designing  Grant’s Tomb in 1892, as well as,  seeing its historic dedication along the Hudson River  in New York’s Riverside Park in 1897.

Finding John Paul Jones’ burial site; gaining access to the grave, and proving the recovered remains were those of John Paul Jones was a challenge for the most sophisticated forensic investigators of the day. The task began,  as  Porter reviewed hundreds of records to find evidence of a burial site and cemetery. It was  rumored at the time that a Protestant cemetery was used,  After exhaustive research; the mystery was solved, when Porter discovered the minutes of Jones’ funeral oration.  The contents of  the minutes confirmed that he was buried at a different site–the Saint Louis Cemetery in Paris. Further investigation found that the land hand been sold in 1796, and the location of the graves rested about eight feet below ground level, beneath a courtyard, shacks, and buildings.

Paris, France, graves buried eight feet below the earth. Tunneling and drilling using miners was used to locate former cemetery and grave of J.P.J.

A  Risky Excavation Below a City Street:

To proceed with excavation at the former site of the Saint Louis Cemetery, Porter had many hoops to jump; political, economic, as well as  technical challenges. Exorbitant amounts of money were needed to gain the rights to tunnel under the site, in addition, the miners’ working conditions of noxious odors and poor ventilation were a concern. Finally in 1905, he started the excavation, after Porter had obtain an agreement to tunnel for a period of no more than three months.
The first shaft found the remains of many skeletons of destitute individuals buried in inexpensive wooden coffins that had long since rotted away. As the excavation continued, a mass grave of skeletons piled helter-skelter was discovered. This was apparently the trench where the bodies of the Swiss Guards had been dumped.

On March 31st, a third and final lead coffin was found. The decision was made to open this coffin, the others had identifying markings. A preliminary examination determined that the uncovered corpse was 5 feet 7 inches, the exact height of the former admiral. The remains were taken to the Paris School of Medicine for examination.

For six days and in the presence of a dozen French and American officials, they attempted to identify the body. Head and facial measurements were compared to a three quarter size bust by famed French sculpture Jean Antoine Houdon. The measurements and facial features of the corpse were consistent with the features displayed on the bust. An autopsy further revealed the left lung displayed signs of pneumonia of which Jones had been diagnosed in late 1788. Indications of kidney disease were found to be consistent with symptoms he displayed just prior to his death. Formal documents were signed by all in attendance that attested to the finding: that the exhumed body was that of John Paul Jones.


Bust of John Paul Jones by Jean-Antoine Houdin

Exhumed remains of John Paul Jones after a century.


Our Hero’s  Last Voyage 

Notified of the panel’s findings, President Theodore Roosevelt immediately dispatched a squadron of four cruisers to escort the casket of the admiral home. The American squadron left Cherbourg, France on July 8th flying the American ensign at the fore and the French ensign at the main. Arriving at Chesapeake Bay on July 22nd, the squadron was joined by seven battleships to convoy the final leg of the journey to Annapolis, Maryland, and the U.S. Naval Academy. As the  Brooklyn passed with his remains, four of the battle wagons fired a 15 gun salute.

On April 24th 1906, John Paul Jones was ceremoniously honored by President “Teddy” Roosevelt, with Horace Porter, at the Naval Academy. John Paul’s final interment was designated in an elaborate crypt beneath the transept of the Naval Academy Chapel on January 26th 1903.



John Paul Jones was interred with military honors that befitted his status as the spiritual “Father of the U.S. Navy.” America and its naval hero were reunited after one hundred and fourteen (114) years and two burials with his final resting place at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland.

John Paul Jones, “Father of the U.S. Navy.”


This great American, Horace Porter, made it all possible.  Like so many unhearlded Americans who gave their life and limb for mother country, they go nameless.  Horace Porter played a role in perpetuating the legacy of U.S. Grant and John Paul Jones.

I wrote this article to pay homage to Horace Porter and John Paul Jones for their service, as well as, their role  in protecting and defending the freedoms of all Americans.



Horace Porter was U.S. Ambassador to France from 1897 to 1905, he was responsible for  finding and for  paying to  recover the body of John Paul Jones.  He lived as he died; a true man among men.

Mark Twain–Perils of a Steamboat Pilot


Mark Twain–Steamboat Pilot 1857-1861

What’s in a Name?

Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain) first attempts at writing found his pen names to be descriptive, comic illusions, such as; “Son of Adam, “ “Josh,” “Thomas Jefferson Snodgras,” “Rambler,” and finally a pen name of “Mark Twain.” “Mark Twain” was a riverboat term measuring two fathoms (12 feet) in depth: mark (measure) twain (two) which meant a safe navigational depth to travel measured at twelve feet or—“safe water.” He became familiar with the term during his years as a steamboat pilot and as an apprentice on the Mississippi River (1857-1861). In 1861, things changed with the onset of the Civil War, which made commercial passage on the Mississippi River an impossibility– you might say that Mark Twain was a steamboat pilot up a stream without a paddle wheel.

Samuel Clemens Pens Mark Twain in Nevada

Coincidently at the time,  Orion, Samuel’s brother, was rewarded for his campaign support in the 1860 election of President Lincoln, as he was appointed secretary to the territory of Nevada. Orion left Hannibal, Missouri to fulfill his duties as secretary for Carson City, Nevada with Samuel in tow. Upon his arrival, Samuel found employment with a newspaper as a journalist in Virginia City, Nevada, it was there that Samuel Clemens first penned his famous pseudo- name “Mark Twain.” In retrospect, it was during his time as a steamboat pilot and young boy that his mind and imagination were cultivated and developed on his road to becoming a successful writer. How did Mark Twain learn his craft?

Steamboat Funk

As steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, he had full autonomy and decision making responsibility for the safety of his boat and passengers. From those lessons learned, he valued autonomy and self-expression; and in addtion, one might say that his time on the Mississippi River served as incubator for  his creativity and future career as a writer and humorist.
He observed that his  steamboat passengers were a traveling show of carnival acts; he wrote about them  using his  wicked imagination and sense of exaggeration.   Furthermore, he  created interesting stories with his amazing ability to bring his cast of characters to life with their own distinctive voices.  Finally,  he crafted a thoughtful portrait of the steamboat and the  river using an interplay between the contrasting qualities of good and evil.

During the interplay of these themes, he introduced many dangerous obstacles that faced the steamboat pilot in a sort of figurative tug of war with the pull of the rope being his sense of humor.
His understood the ways of the  river by listening to ghost tales and personal accounts that passengers shared; he would later embellish their stories using a mosaic of colorful and descriptive language and dialogue.

Such tales told of steamboat pilots and their floating palaces with tiers and filigree that made them as beautiful as a wedding cake.

Steamboat Travel:  Risky Business

By contrast, he heard and learned that these paddle wheelers were a dangerous means of transportation. Many steamboat pilots and their boats went to their death from recklessness, showboating speed, and commercial greed that made many boats mayflies of mortality. Aside from such reasons for causing the death of the boats; there were other dangerous hazards on the river that even an experienced steamboat pilot had difficulty trying to avoid: snags, sandbars, collisions, fires, and boiler explosions.

Steamboats Speeding


A steamboat’s cargo-cotton, hay, and turpentine


Smokestacks on open decks discharged the exhaust of open furnaces that belched cinders onto the wooden decks that contained cargo of cotton, turpentine, or hay. If a fire started on deck and spread to the boilers, a calamitous explosion ensued that hurled boat fragments and human bodies hundreds of feet into the air. When these fragments didn’t land back on deck or in the river, the victims’ bodies or body parts flew clear to shore and sometimes crashed through the roof of a building. One contemporary account said, “…shot like a cannonball through the solid wall of a house.”

1867, U.S.S. Quaker City, traveling to Holy Land.

“The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book—a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice.  And it was not a book to be read once and thrown to the aside, for it had a new story to tell everyday.” —Mark Twain, “Life on the Mississippi.”

Sam the Man

Samuel Clemens was superstitious and occasionally sentimental, but at the same time, he was intellectual, practical, and ultimately wiser than the many of the Americans who read his works. It was his inner voice which spoke to the consciousness of the nation. His outspoken voice was against social injustice.  Currently, we are a country that struggles with issues of prejudice, bigotry, and hatred. Mark Twain’s  humorous stories and his use of figurative language provided a delicate voice  for hope.  He hoped to start a conversation about  social injustice in America that  would be heard  around the country in the name of peace and harmony.

His humorous stories are desperately needed today to  build   bridges of enlightenment between races and  cultures; this may be accomplished by  engaging the people of our nation in  a back and forth narrative. A narrative of  humorous stories with moral endings to support ideas   of  tolerance and understanding.  The resulting laughter  could help to make America great again, when Americans can laugh  at themselves!

After the Civil War, Samuel Clemens called for Americans to mend their fences and stand united as a people. In summary, he wrote of his own personal history; while at the same time, he wrote about our country’s past, present, and unpredictable future .

Post Script:

Henry Clemens died aboard the steamboat– Pennyslvania.

Henry Clemens, Sam’s younger brother, died June 21, 1858 as a result of injuries received in the explosion of the PENNSYLVANIA on June 13, 1858. Sam related the incident in Chapter 20 of Life on the Mississippi. After an altercation with Pilot William Brown, Sam left the PENNSYLVANIA in New Orleans on June 5. Henry continued on in his capacity as a “mud clerk” with the PENNSYLVANIA and was on board when the boat exploded.

In his book, “Innocents Abroad”, he wrote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Ulysses S. Grant & Mark Twain–Friends Forever


Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
Mark Twain (1835-1910)


A plausible phone conversation between Ulysses S. Grant and Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens in 1885.

“Hello operator get me Sam Clemens pronto in Hartford Connecticut, this is Sam Grant calling.”
“Hello, Sam Clemens here, Mister President, it’s a pleasure to hear from you. How’s things in New York?’
“I will get to the point, things are dire; I have tongue squamous cell carcinoma, and it is highly aggressive, and in an advanced stage. I have little time to waste for my life is soon coming to an end. Compounding my life are some unfortunate circumstances surrounding my lost finances due to the bankruptcy of Grant and Ward (Grant & Ward Investments).
Sam, I’m broke and about to lose everything to creditors. I have one last battle to fight; it is the writing and the selling of my memoirs. I am doing this to save my family from embarrassment and financial ruin. I need your help.
“Mr. President, you know as a longtime friend, I am only too happy to help you. What is it you need?”
“I need your opinion. I am finishing up my memoirs and plan to sell them to a publisher for $25,000.
Grant is Interrupted by Clemens, “Hold your horses, don’t sign anything, you can make a better business deal with me.
“Sam, I have always known you to be honest and straightforward. You aren’t making humor out this are you?” queried Grant.
“Mr. President, these are the times that try men’s souls, hear me out.” You deserve fairness, truthfulness, and frankness regarding the publication of your memoirs. I will see you in the morning with a straight forward contract to sign that will benefit your family beyond your measure,” declared Clemens.
“Sam Clemens, you know, that I never wanted to write these memoirs, although it has come to a place where my family needs the financial support. It will be the last battle I fight. See you in the morning,” affirmed Grant.

The Last Photograph of Grant, taken just four days before his death.
This is a story of friendship. Over a period of just fifteen months, from Grant’s bankruptcy and diagnosis of terminal cancer in May 1884 until the former general and ex-president died in July 1885, Sam Grant and Sam Clemens became best of friends. In the end, the struggle of both men—Grant’s quest to retrieve his fortune and Twain’s to make his—was not about wars or books or even money. During their friendship Grant and Twain wrote the story of their country and ours.

Grant writing his memoirs fighting his throat cancer.


On February 22, Grant signed a publishing contract with Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) and Charles L. Webster and Company to publish his memoirs. On June 8, Grant told Twain that he had completed volume II of his memoirs. Just a month later, July 23, 1885, Ulysses S. Grant died at 8:08 a.m.



Grant’s Memoirs were published in two volumes.


When Grant’s memoirs were published; they were the topic of intrigue and challenged by the contradictions in Grant’s life. Regardless of the fickleness of public opinion, Ulysses S. Grant was a man of personal integrity and honor which has stood the test of time.

Julian Dent Ward married Ulysses S. Grant on August 22, 1848.



The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant was a commercial success, Julia Grant, his wife, received about $450,000 in royalties. Grant’s successful autobiography pioneered a way for ex-presidents to earn money after their term of office. Mark Twain called the memoirs a “literary masterpiece.”

Theodore Roosevelt Jr — Sees the Light of Day


Teddy at the age of 11.



Theodore Roosevelt’s last words in his final moments were to his valet, “Turn out the light.” He died sometime during the night of pulmonary embolism. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was an American statesman, author, explorer, and naturalist, who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901-1908. During his years in office he greatly expanded the power of the presidency. He had many accomplishments and served the nation in many capacities; President of N.Y.C. Board of Police Commissioners, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 33rd Governor of New York, 25th Vice President of the U.S., and the 26th President of the U.S.
Roosevelt was born a sickly child, and was home schooled as a result of a debilitating asthma. As a child he was called, “Teedie” to distinguish him from his father, Theodore Sr. It wasn’t until his college days that he was called “Teddy” by his college friends at Harvard University. His father worked for Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to help improve the conditions of Union soldiers and their families.

Lincoln Funeral Procession, N.Y.C. April 25, 1865.

American presidents are influenced by all sorts of early experiences, but rarely are they captured in a photograph firsthand. History is full of coincidences, and the Civil War is no exception. In the 1950, Stefan Lorant, was researching a book on Abraham Lincoln when he came across an image of the President’s funeral procession as it moved down Broadway in New York City. The photo was dated April 25, 1865. The coincidence might have ended there, but upon a closer look, peering from a second floor window were two young boys. The house was the property of Cornelius van Schaack Roosevelt, the grandfather of future President Teddy Roosevelt and his brother Elliot. Lorant  wanted to verify his theory that Teddy and Elliot were the boys in the window. When he had the rare opportunity to confirm his finding; he spoke with Teddy’s widowed wife, Edith Roosevelt. Edith recollected, “…as I looked down from the window and saw the black draping, I became frightened and started to cry. Theodore and Elliot were both there. ..” An early camera caught a future president watching a dead one

Teddy and Eliot are peering from the second floor window watching the Lincoln funeral procession on April 25,1865. Teddy was at the age of seven.

As “Teedie” watched the remains of the president paraded past silent crowds and beating drums; he may have felt a kindle of inspiration and kinship with Lincoln’s greatness. His unfettered feelings were built from a mutual kinship; both had a fire of deep seeded ambition complemented with an undying resolution to strive for greatness. On that sobered day, Lincoln’s death  lit a fire under that seven year old lad,  that reflected Roosevelt’s  desire to emulate Lincoln.

For Roosevelt’s future adult life, he desired to serve his country. His personal flame of inspiration lit a path to a better life for many Americans. At the time of his death, his last request turned out the light; although by contrast the writings about Lincoln and Roosevelt have become a beacon of light to all. Their past lives have continued to be an example for all Americans to follow.



He along with the other faces of Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson look out from Mount Rushmore, as they remain as a source patriotism for us all.  In a bit of irony, the stone chiseled face of Roosevelt stares into the eyes of his childhood hero.







Clara Barton: An Angel of the Battlefield


Clara Barton: An Angel of the Civil War Battlefield

Clara Barton founded the Red Cross in 1881.

Clara Barton was born on December 25, 1821, in Oxford, Massachusetts. She became a teacher, worked in the U.S. Patent Office and was an independent nurse during the Civil War. As a result of her war experiences, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881, and became its first president.

Clara Barton –the young nurse.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, she independently organized relief for the wounded, often bringing her own supplies to the front lines. Her service to country began on April 19, 1861 when the Baltimore Riot, a civil protest between antiwar” Copperheads” Democrats, as well as Southern/Confederate sympathizers clashed in a violent, hostile action with the Massachusetts Militia. It produced the first death by hostile action in the American Civil War. The injured victims of the militia were transported to Washington D.C. after the violence, which happened to be Clara Barton’s home at the time. Barton went to the railroad station when the victims arrived and nursed about 40 men.
It was on that day that she identified herself with army work and began her efforts towards collecting medical supplies for the Union soldiers. In 1864, during one of her more harrowing experiences there was an incident in which a bullet tore through the sleeve of her dress without striking her and killed a man to whom she was tending in her arms. She was named, an “Angel of the Battlefield” by her supporters. She served troops at the battles of Fairfax Station, Chantilly, Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Charleston, Petersburg, and Cold Harbor.


Composite photo courtesy of the author

Matthew Brady photographed Colonel John Elwell and Clara Barton in Washington D.C. U.S. Army hospital in background.



In 1863, she began a romantic relationship with an officer, Colonel John J. Elwell. Union Brevet Brigadier General Elwell was a physician and an attorney. He met Clara Barton in Charleston, South Carolina in 1863, and they became inseparable companions, although he was a married man. For years and years after the war, Barton kept his photo on her desk for the rest of her life. Elwell wrote in a letter some years after the war: “I loved you to the extent that the law allowed… and perhaps a little more.”

Clara Barton age 76 in 1897

Clara Barton achieved widespread recognition for founding the American Red Cross, the Office of Missing Soldiers, and the First Aid Society. She continued to live in her Glen, Echo, Maryland home which served as the Red Cross Headquarters.

Barton published her autobiography in 1907, titled: The Story of My Childhood. On April 12, 1912, at the age of 92, she died at her home from tuberculosis.

Clara never married,she chose independence and medical work to the more common  domestic life.  Her calling to the aid of injured soldiers created the  profession of nursing and a new career path  for women.


The Children of Lincoln


Wedding Day: November 4, 1842, Parents of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd – excepting Ann Parker.


The Lincoln Family consisted of Abraham Lincoln and his  wife, Mary Todd, and their four sons in order of birth; Robert Todd (1843-1926), Edward Baker (1846-1850), William Wallace (1850-1862) and Thomas, “Tad,” III  (1853-1871).

Robert Todd Lincoln, 1843-1926

Robert Todd Lincoln was Abraham and Mary’s oldest son and the only one to survive into adulthood. After completing his undergrad degree, he received a commission as a captain in the U.S. army, serving in U.S. Grant’s personal staff. He didn’t see much combat, although he did get a view of history, Robert was present as part of Grant’s junior staff at Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.

The most incredible series of events in Robert’s life were difficult for him to understand. He questioned:  why was I connected to all three events?    He was connected to  the assassination of three U.S. Presidents. In 1881, he became Secretary of War to newly inaugurated James A. Garfield. He stood and witnessed the shooting of President Garfield by one Charles Guiteau. Twenty years later in 1901, Lincoln traveled to Buffalo at the invitation of President William McKinley to attend the Pan Am Exposition. Robert was on his way to meet the President McKinley when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice at close range.
Finally, and  most traumatic, Robert was invited in April of 1865 to Ford’s Theater to see “Our American Cousin,” of which he declined.   Robert Todd did not witnessed the shooting of his father, although he was at his father’s bedside until he passed away the next morning.

On the brighter side, he was appointed as Secretary of War under Garfield and Chester A. Arthur,  and had a four year term as minister to Great Britain under President Benjamin Harrison. He made his fortune as general counsel to the Pullman Palace Car Company, and later became its president. He lived out his life living in Manchester, Vermont.

Edward Baker Lincoln-1846-1850

Little is known about the Lincoln’s second son, Edward “Eddie” Baker who died a month before his fourth birthday. Using modern medical knowledge, it is suggested that he died from thyroid cancer. Eddie’s thick, asymmetric lower lip is a sign of the cancer. Eddie was buried at Hutchinson’s Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.



William Wallace Lincoln, 1850-1862

William Wallace, “Willie” Lincoln was the third son of the Lincoln’s. He was named after Mary’s brother-in-law, Dr. William Wallace. Willie and Tad became ill in early 1862 while in the White House. Willie’s condition worsened, he had contracted typhoid fever from drinking contaminated water from the Potomac River. Willie gradually weakened, as his parents spent endless hours at his bedside. On Thursday, February 20, 1862, at 5:00 p.m. Willie died. Abraham said, “My poor boy. He was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so much. It is hard, hard to have him die!”

Thomas “Tad” Lincoln III, 1853-1871

Thomas “Tad” Lincoln III was the fourth and youngest son of the Lincoln’s. Tad was born with a form of cleft lip and palate, causing him speech problems throughout his life. He had a lisp and delivered his words rapidly and unintelligibly. For example, he called his father “Papa Day” instead of “Papa Dear.” During the time his father was alive, Tad was impulsive, unrestrained, and did not attend school, numerous tutors for Tad quit in frustration.

After the death of his father, Tad said, “…Pa is dead. I can hardly believe that I will never see him again….I must learn to take care of myself now. … I am not a president’s son now… ”

On Saturday morning, July 15, 1871,  Tad Lincoln died at the age of 18. The cause of death has been variously referred to as tuberculosis, a pleuristic attack, pneumonia, or congestive heart failure. Lincoln’s death occurred at the Clifton House hotel in Chicago.
The Lincoln’s made an unforgettable impression on the American people by being a living  example of a kind, loving, and considerate family.

Major General John F. Reynolds: The Highest Ranking Officer Killed at the Battle of Gettysburg


Major General John F. Reynolds





West Point Graduate




John Fulton Reynolds was born on September 20, 1820, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  In 1837, he was nominated to the United States Military Academy at West Point by future President James Buchanan, a friend of Reynolds’ father.

After the Battle at Gaines’ Mill, an exhausted Reynolds was captured while attempting to get some sleep.  Reynolds did not remain a prisoner for long; just weeks later he was involved in a prisoner exchange, soon after he received the  command of the entire division of Pennsylvania Reserves.

He commanded at several conflicts; Seven Days Battles, Second Battle of Bull Run, Battle of Fredricksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Kate was secretly engaged to Major General Reynolds.


Reynolds was engaged to Katherine May Hewitt, they were from different religious denominations–he was Protestant, Hewitt a Catholic–so their engagement was kept a secret.   Hewitt’s parents never learned about the engagement until after his death. She promised Reynolds  to enter  the convent should they never marry. As a result of his death she joined the Order of the Daughters of Charity.  She received her habit on October 2, 1864, as Sister Hildegardis.  She was sent on a mission to St. Joseph’s School in Albany, N.Y.


It was noted at her last address, St. Vincent’s home, Philadelphia, September 3, 1868 that she left the order.  No further records were found.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, he was commanding, as Confederate brigades approached on the Chambersburg Pike to the town of Gettysburg, Pa., In response from General Buford for reinforcements  Reynolds rode out to command the 2nd Wisconsin near Herbst’s Woods.  He yelled at them, ” Forward men!  For God’s sake forward!’

At that moment in time, he fell from his horse with a wound in the back of the upper neck, or lower head. and died almost instantly.  His command passed to Abner Doubleday.

Today, a monument marks the spot of his death on the Battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa

Monument sits on the exact place of the General’s death. See in composite’s background.


July 1, 1863 a fallen hero of the Civil War.