Jeremiah Goldsmith Anderson was born April 17, 1833, in Indiana, and was therefore in his twenty-seventh year when killed at Harper's Ferry. He was the son of John Anderson, and was the grandson of slaveholders; his maternal grandfather, Colonel Jacob Westfall, of Tygert Valley, Virginia, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War; he went to school at Galesburg, Illinois, and Kossuth, Iowa; was a peddler, farmer, and employee of a saw-mill, before emigrating to Kansas in August, 1857, where he settled on the Little Osage, Bourbon County, a mile from Fort Bain. He was twice arrested by proslaveryites, and for ten weeks imprisoned at Fort Scott; he then became a lieutenant of Captain Montgomery, and was with him in the attack on Captain Anderson's troop of the First U. S. Cavalry. He also witnessed the murder on his own doorstep of a Mr. Denton by Border Ruffians. He was with John Brown on the slave raid into Missouri, and thereafter followed Brown's fortunes. Writing July 5, 1859, of his determination to continue to fight for freedom, he said: "Millions of fellow-beings require it of us; their cries for help go out to the universe daily and hourly. Whose duty is it to help them? Is it yours? Is it mine? It is every man's, but how few there are to help. But there are a few who dare to answer this call, and dare to answer it in a manner that will make this land of liberty and equality shake to the centre."
Oswald Garrison Villard, John Brown, 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910), 681-82.