Entry by Edmund Ruffin, October 19, 1859

    Source citation
    William Kauffman Scarborough, ed., The Diary of Edmund Ruffin (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972), 1: 348-47.
    Date Certainty
    Transcription adapted from The Diary of Edmund Ruffin (1972), edited by William Kauffman Scarborough
    Adapted by Zak Rosenberg, Dickinson College
    The following transcript has been adapted from The Diary of Edmund Ruffin (1972).

    Oct 19. A letter from Willoughby Newton stating his consent to deliver the Address – of which I am very glad. – The papers bring news of remarkable events, for our usually quiet & calm population in Va. An insurrection occurred at Harper’s Ferry, on the night following last Sunday. The insurgents overawed the people of the village, compelled them to remain within their houses, if not made prisoners—took forcible possession of the U.S. Armory, & public property, killed & wounded some of the functionaries, stopped the railroad trains, cut the telegraph wires, & made prisoners (as if for hostages,) of respectable neighbors, on their farms, several miles off. They were enlisting or forcing others, both white & black, into their ranks. The insurgents were reported to be 250 or 300 – greatly exaggerated, I suppose. Who they were, or what their object, was only guessed at. Armed forces were ordered to move, as soon as the outbreak was heard of, by both the governor of Va, & the President of U.S. The neighboring militia & volunteers son recaptured the village; & when reinforced, the strong-hold of the insurgents, the U.S. Armory, was stormed, & all the insurgents killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. There were only about 20, of which 15 were killed, & of the remaining prisoners, 2 only were not wounded. Several of the assailants were killed & more wounded. Some few of the insurgents had previously gone northward, taking some negroes with them But of all yet known of those engaged, their number & their means were as contemptible, as the effort was remarkable for boldness & temerity. And incredible as it seemed at first naming, by rumor, it really seems now most probable that the outbreak was planned & instigated by northern abolitionists, & with the expectation of thus starting a general slave insurrection. I earnestly hope that such may be the truth of the case. Such a practical exercise of that of abolition principles is needed to stir the sluggish blood of the south. – Wrote some additional items of statistics for my before published article on “Slavery & Free Labor, defined & compared,” in case there should be another publication.

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