Media: Slideshow

Execution of John Brown

Broadside Concerning John Brown's Execution

This November 30, 1859, broadside issued by Thomas C. Green, the mayor of Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia), urges all the local citizens to remain inside their houses for three nights until after the execution of abolitionist John Brown. Brown was convicted of treason following his unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West West Virginia), and sentenced to be hanged in Charles Town on Friday morning, December 2, 1859. The mayor feared that "the streets may be dangerous" during that time period, as many soldiers, journalists, and out-of-towners had come to the town for Brown's execution.

Original Author: Thomas C. Green

Created: November 30, 1859

Medium: Broadside

Courtesy of Virginia Museum of History and Culture

The Last Moments of John Brown

Abolitionist John Brown, en route to his execution after being convicted of treason, pauses to kiss a baby in the arms of an African American woman. At left, a soldier wielding a bayoneted rifle holds back another African American onlooker. Thomas Hovenden, an Irish-born American artist, recreated this historic scene in a painting he made over twenty years after Brown was hanged on December 2, 1859.

Original Author: Thomas Hovenden

Created: 1882–1884

Medium: Oil on canvas

Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Stoeckel, 1897.

The Execution of John Brown

A detachment of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (seen in the foreground wearing flat caps called wheel hats) stand at attention as the abolitionist John Brown awaits execution on December 2, 1859, after his unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). To help quell the fear of another uprising, the superintendent of VMI sent a select group of cadets to provide additional security at the hanging in Charles Town.

Original Author: Unknown

Created: post-1859

Medium: Drawing

Courtesy of Virginia Military Institute Archives

Richmond Greys

Thirteen members of the Richmond Greys, a volunteer militia from that city, pose for a photograph in 1859. The men in front, perhaps in celebratory mode, pour the contents of a bottle into a cup. This image is believed to have been made in Charles Town, Virginia (later West Virginia), where the Greys had been dispatched to help with security during the execution of John Brown, the abolitionist who had led an unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Actor and rabid anti-abolitionist John Wilkes Booth, the man who would later assassinate United States president Abraham Lincoln, left the Richmond theater where he was performing and managed to buy a uniform from the Greys and secure a spot amidst them during the hanging.

Original Author: Unknown

Created: 1859

Medium: Ambrotype

Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society

John Brown's Scaffold

The inscription at the top of this photograph (and repeated on the verso) claims that this wooden structure was the scaffold on which John Brown was executed on December 2, 1859. Brown was convicted of the crime of treason for having led an unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in October of that year. This sepia-toned photograph mounted onto a stiff card is called a cabinet card, a style of photograph that became popular in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Original Author: Unknown

Created: Second half nineteenth century

Medium: Albumen silver cabinet card photograph

Courtesy of Virginia Museum of History and Culture

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  • Broadside Concerning John Brown's Execution

    This November 30, 1859, broadside issued by Thomas C. Green, the mayor of Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia), urges all the local citizens to remain inside their houses for three nights until after the execution of abolitionist John Brown. Brown was convicted of treason following his unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West West Virginia), and sentenced to be hanged in Charles Town on Friday morning, December 2, 1859. The mayor feared that "the streets may be dangerous" during that time period, as many soldiers, journalists, and out-of-towners had come to the town for Brown's execution.

    Original Author: Thomas C. Green

    Created: November 30, 1859

    Medium: Broadside

    Courtesy of Virginia Museum of History and Culture

  • The Last Moments of John Brown

    Abolitionist John Brown, en route to his execution after being convicted of treason, pauses to kiss a baby in the arms of an African American woman. At left, a soldier wielding a bayoneted rifle holds back another African American onlooker. Thomas Hovenden, an Irish-born American artist, recreated this historic scene in a painting he made over twenty years after Brown was hanged on December 2, 1859.

    Original Author: Thomas Hovenden

    Created: 1882–1884

    Medium: Oil on canvas

    Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Stoeckel, 1897.

  • The Execution of John Brown

    A detachment of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute (seen in the foreground wearing flat caps called wheel hats) stand at attention as the abolitionist John Brown awaits execution on December 2, 1859, after his unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia). To help quell the fear of another uprising, the superintendent of VMI sent a select group of cadets to provide additional security at the hanging in Charles Town.

    Original Author: Unknown

    Created: post-1859

    Medium: Drawing

    Courtesy of Virginia Military Institute Archives

  • Richmond Greys

    Thirteen members of the Richmond Greys, a volunteer militia from that city, pose for a photograph in 1859. The men in front, perhaps in celebratory mode, pour the contents of a bottle into a cup. This image is believed to have been made in Charles Town, Virginia (later West Virginia), where the Greys had been dispatched to help with security during the execution of John Brown, the abolitionist who had led an unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Actor and rabid anti-abolitionist John Wilkes Booth, the man who would later assassinate United States president Abraham Lincoln, left the Richmond theater where he was performing and managed to buy a uniform from the Greys and secure a spot amidst them during the hanging.

    Original Author: Unknown

    Created: 1859

    Medium: Ambrotype

    Courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society

  • John Brown's Scaffold

    The inscription at the top of this photograph (and repeated on the verso) claims that this wooden structure was the scaffold on which John Brown was executed on December 2, 1859. Brown was convicted of the crime of treason for having led an unsuccessful raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) in October of that year. This sepia-toned photograph mounted onto a stiff card is called a cabinet card, a style of photograph that became popular in the second half of the nineteenth century.

    Original Author: Unknown

    Created: Second half nineteenth century

    Medium: Albumen silver cabinet card photograph

    Courtesy of Virginia Museum of History and Culture