Aaron Dwight Stevens, in many ways the most interesting and attractive of the personalities gathered around him by John Brown, ran away from home at the age of sixteen, in 1847, and enlisted in a Massachusetts volunteer regiment, in which he served in Mexico during the Mexican War. Later, he enlisted in Company F of the First United States Dragoons, and was tried for "mutiny, engaging in a drunken riot, and assaulting Major George A. H. Blake of his regiment," at Taos, New Mexico, in May, 1855. Stevens was sentenced to death, but this was commuted by President Pierce to imprisonment for three years at hard labor at Fort Leavenworth, from which post he escaped and joined the Free State forces. In these he became colonel of the Second Kansas Militia, under the name of Whipple. Thereafter his story is so intertwined with that of John Brown as to need no retelling here. Stevens came of old Puritan stock, his great-grandfather having been a captain in the Revolutionary army. He was a man of superb bravery and of wonderful physique; he was well over six feet, was blessed with a great sense of humor, and was sustained at the end by his belief in spiritualism. George B. Gill wrote of him in 1860: "Stevens — how gloriously he sang! His was the noblest soul I ever knew. Though owing to his rash, hasty way, I often found occasion to quarrel with him, more so than with any of the others, and though I liked Kagi better than any man I ever knew, our temperaments being adapted to each other, yet I can truly say that Stevens was the most noble man that I ever knew." George H. Hoyt, Brown's counsel, in a letter to J. W. Le Barnes, October 31, 1859, thus recorded his first impression of Stevens at Harper's Ferry: "Stevens is in the same cell with Brown. I have frequent talks with him. He 's in a most pitiable condition physically, his wounds being of the most painful and dangerous character. He has now four balls in his body, two of these being about the head and neck. He bears his sufferings with grim and silent fortitude, never complaining and absolutely without hope. He is a splendid looking young fellow. Such black and penetrating eyes! Such an expansive brow! Such a grand chest and limbs! He was the best, and in fact the only man Brown had who was a good soldier, besides being reliable otherwise." Stevens was executed March 16, 1860.
Oswald Garrison Villard, John Brown, 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910), 679-80.