John Henry Kagi

Last updated

John Henry Kagey, also spelled John Henrie Kagi (March 15, 1835 – October 17, 1859), was an American attorney, abolitionist and second in command to John Brown in Brown's failed raid on Harper's Ferry. He bore the title of "Secretary of War" in Brown's "provisional government." At age 24, Kagi was killed during the raid. [1] He had also been active in fighting on the abolitionist side in 1856 in "Bleeding Kansas".

Abolitionism in the United States Movement to end slavery in the United States

Abolitionism in the United States was the movement which sought to end slavery in the United States, active both before and during the American Civil War. In the Americas and western Europe, abolitionism was a movement which sought to end the Atlantic slave trade and set slaves free. In the 17th century, enlightenment thinkers condemned slavery on humanistic grounds and English Quakers and some Evangelical denominations condemned slavery as un-Christian. At that time, most slaves were Africans, but thousands of Native Americans were also enslaved. In the 18th century, as many as six million Africans were transported to the Americas as slaves, at least a third of them on British ships to North America. The colony of Georgia originally abolished slavery within its territory, and thereafter, abolition was part of the message of the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in the Thirteen Colonies.

John Brown (abolitionist) American abolitionist

John Brown was an American abolitionist. Brown advocated the use of armed insurrection to overthrow the institution of slavery in the United States. He first gained national attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis of 1856. He was dissatisfied with the pacifism of the organized abolitionist movement: "These men are all talk. What we need is action—action!" In May 1856, Brown and his supporters killed five supporters of slavery in the Pottawatomie massacre, which responded to the sacking of Lawrence by pro-slavery forces. Brown then commanded anti-slavery forces at the Battle of Black Jack and the Battle of Osawatomie.

John Browns raid on Harpers Ferry 1859 effort by abolitionist John Brown to initiate an armed slave revolt in Southern states

John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was an 1859 effort by abolitionist John Brown to initiate an armed slave revolt in Southern states by taking over a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. It has been called the dress rehearsal for the Civil War.


Early life

John H. Kagi John H Kagi.jpg
John H. Kagi

John Henry Kagi was born in Bristolville, Ohio, in 1835, the second child of blacksmith Abraham Neff Kagy (as spelled on his gravestone) and Anna Fansler, who were of Swiss descent. John Henry Kagi adopted the Swiss spelling of the family name.

Bristolville, Ohio human settlement in Ohio, United States of America

Bristolville is an unincorporated community in central Bristol Township, Trumbull County, Ohio, United States. Although it is unincorporated, it has a post office, with the ZIP code of 44402. It lies at the intersection of State Routes 45 and 88. The community is part of the Youngstown–Warren–Boardman, OH-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Though largely self-taught, he was the best educated of Brown's raiders. Several of his letters to national newspapers survive, including those to the New York Tribune , the New York Evening Post , and the National Era. He was an able businessman, totally abstained from alcohol, and was agnostic.

Teetotalism Abstinence from alcoholic beverages

Teetotalism is the practice or promotion of complete personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices teetotalism is called a teetotaler or is simply said to be teetotal. The teetotalism movement was first started in Preston, England, in the early 19th century. The Preston Temperance Society was founded in 1833 by Joseph Livesey, who was to become a leader of the temperance movement and the author of The Pledge: "We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine."

In 1854-55 he taught school in Hawkinstown, Shenandoah County, Virginia near his father's birthplace, but he was compelled to leave due to his anti-slavery views. A relative, the Virginia historian Dr. John W. Wayland, wrote the most complete monograph on Kagi and his activities.

Hawkinstown is an unincorporated community in Shenandoah County, in the U.S. state of Virginia.

Shenandoah County, Virginia U.S. county in Virginia, United States

Shenandoah County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 41,993. Its county seat is Woodstock. It is part of the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia.

A monograph is a specialist work of writing on a single subject or an aspect of a subject, often by a single author, and usually on a scholarly subject.

Abolitionist activities

In 1855, Kagi traveled west and stayed at the cabin of his sister Barbara Kagy Mayhew and her husband Allen in Nebraska City. He helped them create a cave under their cabin to be used by fugitive slaves as a station of the Underground Railroad. Today the Mayhew Cabin is the only site in Nebraska recognized by the National Park Service as part of that escape system. [2]

Underground Railroad network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century, and used by African-American slaves to escape to freedom

The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-1800s, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states and Canada. It was helped by abolitionists and others sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists, both black and white, free and enslaved, who aided the fugitives. Various other routes led to Mexico, where slavery had been abolished, or overseas. An earlier escape route running south toward Florida, then a Spanish possession, existed from the late 17th century until Florida became a United States territory in 1821. However, the network now generally known as the Underground Railroad was formed in the late 1700s. It ran north to the free states — in 1776 there were no free states — and Canada, and grew steadily until the Civil War began. One estimate suggests that by 1850, 100,000 slaves had escaped via the "Railroad".

Mayhew Cabin United States historic place

The Mayhew Cabin, in Nebraska City, Nebraska, is the only Underground Railroad site in Nebraska officially recognized by the National Park Service. It is included among the sites of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

National Park Service United States federal agency

The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. It was created on August 25, 1916, by Congress through the National Park Service Organic Act and is an agency of the United States Department of the Interior. The NPS is charged with a dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places entrusted to its management while also making them available and accessible for public use and enjoyment.

Kagi was admitted to the Nebraska bar that year, but he soon went south to join the fighting in Bleeding Kansas on the abolitionist side with General James H. Lane. New settlers were coming in on both sides of the slavery issue before the state voted for admission to the Union. Later Kagi enlisted in Aaron Stevens's ("Captain Whipple's") Second Kansas Militia, and met the abolitionist John Brown in Lawrence. Deeply influenced by the man, Stevens and Kagi became two of Brown's closest advisers. [3]

Bleeding Kansas Violent political confrontations in the United States centered around slavery

Bleeding Kansas, Bloody Kansas or the Border War was a series of violent civil confrontations in the United States between 1854 and 1861 which emerged from a political and ideological debate over the legality of slavery in the proposed state of Kansas. The conflict was characterized by years of electoral fraud, raids, assaults, and retributive murders carried out in Kansas and neighboring Missouri by pro-slavery "Border Ruffians" and anti-slavery "Free-Staters".

Aaron Dwight Stevens was an American abolitionist and chief military aide to John Brown during Brown's failed raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. For his role in the raid, Stevens was executed on March 16th, 1860 at the age of 29.

Lawrence, Kansas City and County seat in Kansas, United States

Lawrence is the county seat of Douglas County and sixth-largest city in Kansas. It is located in the northeastern sector of the state, astride Interstate 70, between the Kansas and Wakarusa Rivers. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 87,643; though by 2017 the population rose to 96,892. Lawrence is a college town and the home to both the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University.

On August 16, 1856, Kagi participated in the attack on "Fort Titus," the homestead of pro-slavery leader Henry Theodore Titus, a mile from Lecompton, Kansas. He was captured a month later by United States Army troops along with 100 men of Col. Harvey's company, who had just attacked Hickory Point. Kagi was charged with eight counts, including arson, manslaughter and murder. [4] He was imprisoned in Lecompton, then at Tecumseh, both in Kansas, escaping from the later place with other indicted Freestate prisoners. Kagi was slightly wounded in the chest in a gun fight with pro-slavery Judge Rush Elmore on January 31, 1857, but shot Elmore in the thigh. Later that year Kagi tried to help Brown organize a military school in Tabor, Iowa. He undertook military training in the Quaker community of Pedee, in Cedar County, Iowa.

Brown and his group went to Upper Canada to organize their effort. On May 8, 1858 in a black church in Chatham, Ontario, they adopted Brown's "Provisional Constitution and Ordinances for the people of the United States", and Kagi was named Secretary of War. [3]

Kagi and Brown returned with their men to Kansas, where they lived in a reinforced cabin on Little Sugar Creek, near Mound City. In November 1858, Kagi and others defended the cabin from an armed posse while Brown was away. On December 20, 1858 Brown led twelve men, and Kagi led another party of eight men, into Missouri to free slaves. Brown's party freed ten slaves, but Kagi's freed only one and killed the slave's owner. [3] [5]

While they planned the raid on Harper's Ferry, Kagi acted as the business agent of the Brown's group, buying and storing weapons in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. At Chambersburg he lived with Brown at the Mary Ritner house, which still stands at 225 East King Street. On August 19, Brown (using the name Isaac Smith) and Kagi met with Frederick Douglass and Shields Green at an abandoned quarry outside of Chambersburg to discuss the raid. [6] [7] According to Douglass's later account, Brown described the planned raid in detail and Douglass advised him against it.

Kagi was killed by militia forces during the Harper's Ferry raid as he tried to escape across the Shenandoah River from Hall's Rifle Works. [1] In 1899 the remains of Kagi and nine other raiders were reinterred in a common grave near John Brown's grave at North Elba, New York.

As a character in the novels:

Related Research Articles

<i>The Liberator</i> (newspaper) newspaper

Big text

In Kansas, Border Ruffians was the name applied to pro-slavery activists from the slave state of Missouri, who in 1854 to 1860 crossed the state border into Kansas Territory to force the acceptance of slavery there.

Gerrit Smith American abolitionist and politician

Gerrit Smith, also spelled Gerritt, was a leading American social reformer, abolitionist, politician, and philanthropist. Spouse to Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, Smith was a candidate for President of the United States in 1848, 1856, and 1860, but only served 18 months in the federal government—in Congress as a Free Soil Party Representative, in 1853–4.

Pottawatomie massacre Violent Attack by Abolitionists during the American Civil War

The Pottawatomie massacre occurred during the night of May 24 and the morning of May 25, 1856. In reaction to the sacking of Lawrence, Kansas by pro-slavery forces, John Brown and a band of abolitionist settlers—some of them members of the Pottawatomie Rifles—killed five pro-slavery settlers north of Pottawatomie Creek in Franklin County, Kansas. This was one of the many violent episodes in Kansas preceding the American Civil War, which came to be known collectively as Bleeding Kansas. Bleeding Kansas involved conflicts between pro- and anti-slavery settlers over whether Kansas Territory would enter the Union as a slave state or free state.

The Pottawatomie Rifles was a group of about one hundred abolitionist Kansas settlers of Franklin and Anderson counties, both of which are along the Pottawatomie Creek. The band was formed in the fall of 1855, during the Bloody Kansas period, as an armed militia to counter growing proslavery presence in the area and along the Missouri border.

Battle of Black Jack United States historic place

The Battle of Black Jack took place on June 2, 1856, when anti-slavery forces, led by the noted abolitionist John Brown, attacked the encampment of Henry C. Pate near Baldwin City, Kansas. The battle is cited as one incident of "Bleeding Kansas" and a contributing factor leading up to the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865.

The Battle of Osawatomie took place on August 30, 1856 when 250-400 Border Ruffians led by John W. Reid attacked the town of Osawatomie, Kansas. Reid was intent on destroying the free state settlement and then moving on to Topeka and Lawrence to do more of the same. John Brown first learned of the raiders when they shot his son Frederick. With 40 or so men, Brown tried to defend the town against the pro-slavery partisans, but had to withdraw; the town of Osawatomie was then looted and burned. This was one event in series of clashes between abolitionists and pro-slavery Missourians in what has been known as Bleeding Kansas.

Lewis Sheridan Leary American activist

Lewis Sheridan Leary, an African-American harnessmaker from Oberlin, Ohio, joined John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, where he was killed. He was the first husband of Mary Patterson. By her second marriage to Charles Henry Langston, she became the future maternal grandmother of poet Langston Hughes.

John Anthony Copeland Jr. American rebel

John Anthony Copeland Jr. (1834–1859) was born a free black in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 1843 when he was a child, his family moved north to Oberlin, Ohio, where he later attended Oberlin College. He became involved in abolitionist and antislavery activities, and participated in the successful Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Copeland joined John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, was captured, convicted of murder and conspiracy to incite slaves to rebellion, and hanged on December 16, 1859.

Osborne Perry Anderson African/American abolitionist

Osborne Perry Anderson (1830–1872) was an African-American abolitionist and the only surviving African-American member of John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, and later a soldier in the Union army of the American Civil War.

Shields Green man enslaved in United States

Shields Green (1836?-1859), also known as "Emperor," was an ex-slave who participated in John Brown's unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry. Though he had a chance to escape capture, he returned to the fighting and was captured with Brown. For their parts in the raid, Green and John A. Copeland were hanged on December 16, 1859, in Charles Town, West Virginia. Green may also have been known as "Esau Brown."

The history of slavery in Nebraska is generally seen as short and limited. The issue was contentious for the legislature between the creation of the Nebraska Territory in 1854 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861.

James Redpath American journalist and abolitionist

James Redpath was an American journalist and anti slavery activist.

The Battle of Fort Titus was a battle that occurred during conflicts in the Kansas Territory between abolitionist and pro-slavery militias prior to the American Civil War. The era is known as Bleeding Kansas.


  1. 1 2 Karen Whitman, "Re-evaluating John Brown's Raid at Harpers Ferry" Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine , West Virginia Culture, accessed April 12, 2007
  2. Mayhew Cabin [ permanent dead link ] accessed April 12, 2007
  3. 1 2 3 William G. Cutler, "Old John Brown", In Memoriam, Era of Peace: Part 40, History of the State of Kansas, Chicago, Illinois: A. T. Andreas, 1883, accessed 27 January 2011
  4. "Washington-National-Era_11-27-1856-191.pdf" (PDF). 1856-11-05.
  5. "John Brown in Linn County" Archived 2007-04-21 at the Wayback Machine accessed April 12, 2007
  6. "John Brown House", Aboard the Underground Railway, National Park Service, accessed 3/25/2007
  7. excerpt from The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, (1881, reprint New York: Pathway Press, 1941), pp. 350-354 accessed 3/25/2007