Charles Town in Jefferson County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)
John Brown Hanging Site
Creation of a Martyr
— Prelude to War —
This is where seven men were hanged in December 1859 and March 1860 for their part in John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry. The scaffold stood here in a large field.
A month after the trial, on December 2, 1859, John Brown was the first to die. He rode here in a wagon, sitting on his casket, with his arms tied. His last message, which he gave to a jail guard, read: “I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done.”
Eight hundred militiamen under Col. John T. Gibson stood guard to prevent any attempt to free Brown. Brown’s body was returned to his wife in Harpers Ferry and taken home to North Elba, New York, for burial. Many Northerners regarded him as a martyr.
Among those present at Brown’s execution were Thomas J. (later “Stonewall”) Jackson, then an instructor at Virginia Military Institute, John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, and Edmund Ruffin, who fired one of the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter.
In 1892, Gibson, the militia commander, built the Victorian house that stands here today.
Erected by West Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the West Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical month for this entry is March 1860.
Location. 39° 17.147′ N, 77° 51.388′ W. Marker is in Charles Town, West Virginia, in Jefferson County. Marker is at the intersection of South Samuel Street and East Hunter Street on South Samuel Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Charles Town WV 25414, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. John Brown Scaffold (here, next to this marker); Site of the Execution of John Brown (within shouting distance of this marker); Samuel Washington House (approx. 0.2 miles away); George Upshur Manning (approx. 0.2 miles away); George Washington Turner (approx. 0.2 miles away); Sergeant Littleton Tazewell Cordell (approx. 0.2 miles away); Happy Retreat (approx. ¼ mile away); Etter Hall (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Charles Town.
More about this marker. Library of Congress pictures of John Brown being read his death warrant and John Brown ascending the scaffold are at the lower left and upper center of the marker. A third picture of John Brown’s execution by Porte Crayon, courtesy of Richard A. Wolfe, appears at the lower right.
The right side of the marker contains a map which highlights significant Civil War Sites in Jefferson County, WV, many of which are interpreted by Civil War Trail signage.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 22, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 12, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 9,130 times since then and 967 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on April 12, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. 2. submitted on May 21, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 3, 4. submitted on April 12, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.