30 April 2009

Kent Courtney Performs with Past Players for Civil War Trails Inauguration

Kent Courtney (on guitar) and members of the Past Players in Chambersburg, PA
Photograph courtesy Randolph Harris

Kent Courtney performed for the opening of Pennsylvania's Civil War Trails program on 28 April 2009, in Chambersburg, PA. According to a press release from the Commonwealth, the Civil War Trails experience tells the story of the Civil War from a northern state's perspective and shares the experiences of participants who did not wear a uniform.

"We are stepping off of the battlefield to tell the untold stories of citizens and the communities who were forever changed by the Civil War," said Mickey Rowley, the Department of Community and Economic Development's deputy secretary of tourism. "In doing this, we are fulfilling our responsibility to present Pennsylvania's rich Civil War heritage in an easy and accessible way for future generations to explore."

The Pennsylvania Civil War Trails program educates people about the women and children under siege; African-American contributions in the defense of the state; and the endurance of ordinary citizens during a time of great unrest.

The stories are told through 40 new "story stops," which are living history presentations, and at more than 25 historic sites in and between communities of Gettysburg, York, Hanover, Chambersburg, Carlisle, Harrisburg, and Wrightsville.

"By following the trails throughout the Dutch Country Roads region, visitors will finally get to hear the stories that have been passed on from generation to generation," Rowley said. "In addition to a greater understanding of the effect the Civil War had on the people of Pennsylvania, visitors will see a different side of the communities embroiled in the conflict."

Two distinct trails were developed in a partnership among the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission:

  • The Road to Gettysburg: Defending the Commonwealth tells of the Union effort to hold off approaching Confederate forces from overtaking the northern state.
  • The Road to Harrisburg: The Pennsylvania Breadbasket looks at the Civil War from the Confederate side, detailing General Lee's strategy and attempt to capture Pennsylvania's capital city and the detour that led both sides to meet at Gettysburg.

The companion brochure, which is available at the state's Welcome Centers and at destinations featured along the trail, includes additional stories and a map to guide visitors along the trail route.

For more information, visit: www.visitPA.com/civilwar.

The Pennsylvania Civil War Trails program is lead by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office and includes participation by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, tourism and promotion agencies, county historical societies, Civil War heritage attractions, park service interpreters and area colleges and universities.

For five years, Kent Courtney has been a part of the Civil War Trails Program and has been an evangelist for the benefits of heritage tourism. His message has been, "The Civil War was the pivotal experience that shaped our country - politically, militarily, industrially and culturally."

In the words of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War truly "brought a new birth of freedom.". Shelby Foote said, "We are what we are, today, both good and bad, because of the Civil War".

The Civil War Trails program is a fun way to explore our cultural heritage in Pennsylvania.

Here are links that go to some of the coverage associated with the Civil War Trails program:

NBC25, Hagarstown, Maryland video:

WGAL, Channel 8, Lancaster, PA slideshow:

Article on Civil War Trails Partner Program:

20 April 2009

Kent Courtney at the reenactment at Neshaminy State Park, PA

Lenwood Sloan, Director of the Cultural and Heritage Tourism Program, has invited Kent Courtney to perform for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to officially inaugurate its Pennsylvania Civil War Trails on Tuesday, April 28th 2009 at the Chambersburg Heritage Center, starting at 9:30am.

17 April 2009

Kent Courtney with Dale Gallon

Kent Courtney and Dale Gallon

Kent Courtney made a personal appearance at Dale Gallon's Art Gallery as part of History Meets the Arts in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on 17 April 2009. The meticulously researched historical art of Dale Gallon has driven the Civil War Art market for over 28 years. The Gettysburg Times, Mr. Gallon's hometown newspaper, said, "Dale Gallon continues to provide collectors of limited edition prints with the reality of the Civil War that is unmatched by other artists." Each of Dale's paintings is an historical lesson on canvas. He is known for his attention to detail & historical accuracy. Kent Courtney is an art collector, as well as historian, author, lecturer and producer.

16 April 2009

Plans for John Brown Farm - Location and Site Plan

Site Plan for John Brown's Farm in North Elba, NY, near Lake Placid
Click on this image for an easily-read, large view.

John Brown Farm is the last home and burial site of abolitionist John Brown, who was hanged for treason in 1859 after an attempt to raid the arsenal at Harper's Ferry Virginia to obtain weapons with which to liberate the slaves. This modest mid-nineteenth century Adirondack Farm became a New York Historic site in 1893.

15 April 2009

John Brown Gets Married

John Brown's Farm, North Elba, New York

At the age of 16, John Brown left his family and went to Plainfield, Massachusetts, where he enrolled in a preparatory program. Shortly afterward, he transferred to the Morris Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut. He hoped to become a Congregationalist minister, but money ran out and he suffered from eye inflammations, which forced him to give up the academy and return to Ohio.

In Hudson, he worked briefly at his father's tannery before opening a successful tannery of his own outside of town with his adopted brother.

In 1820, John Brown married Dianthe Lusk. Their first child, John Jr, was born 13 months later. In 1825, Brown and his family moved to New Richmond, Pennsylvania, where he bought 200 acres (81 hectares). He cleared an eighth of it and built a cabin, a barn, and a tannery. Within a year the tannery employed 15 men.

John Brown also made money raising cattle and surveying. He helped to establish a post office and a school. During this period, Brown operated an interstate business involving cattle and leather production along with a kinsman, Seth Thompson, from eastern Ohio.

In 1831, one of his sons died. Brown fell ill, and his businesses began to suffer, which left him in terrible debt. In the summer of 1832, shortly after the death of a newborn son, his wife Dianthe died.

On June 14, 1833, Brown married 16-year-old Mary Ann Day (April 15, 1817—May 1, 1884), originally of Meadville, Pennsylvania. They eventually had 13 children, in addition to the seven children from his previous marriage.

14 April 2009

Young John Brown

John Brown was born May 9, 1800, in Torrington, Connecticut. He was the fourth of the eight children of Owen Brown (February 16, 1771 – May 8, 1856) and Ruth Mills (January 25, 1772 – December 9, 1808) and grandson of Capt. John Brown (1728–1776).[1]

In 1805, the family moved to Hudson, Ohio, where Owen Brown opened a tannery. Brown's father became a supporter of the Oberlin Institute (original name of Oberlin College) in its early stage, although he was ultimately critical of the school's "Perfectionist" leanings, especially renowned in the preaching and teaching of Charles Finney and Asa Mahan. Recent suggestions that the Browns were heavily influenced by dissenting Presbyterians and other forms of neo-Calvinism at this period are incorrect. Although Brown withdrew his membership from the Congregational church in the 1840s and never officially joined another church, both he and his father Owen were fairly conventional, conservative evangelical Calvinists throughout their lives. Brown's conservative personal religion is fairly well documented in the papers of the Rev Clarence Gee, a Brown family expert, now held in the Hudson [Ohio] Library and Historical Society.

As a child, Brown lived briefly in Ohio with Jesse R. Grant, father of future general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.[2]

At the age of 16, John Brown left his family and went to Plainfield, Massachusetts, where he enrolled in a preparatory program. Shortly afterward, he transferred to the Morris Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut. He hoped to become a Congregationalist minister, but money ran out and he suffered from eye inflammations, which forced him to give up the academy and return to Ohio. In Hudson, he worked briefly at his father's tannery before opening a successful tannery of his own outside of town with his adopted brother.

  1. 1. There has been some speculation that the grandfather was the same John Brown who was a Loyalist during the American Revolution and spent time in jail with the notorious Claudius Smith (1736–1779) allegedly for stealing cattle, which he and Smith used to feed to the starving British troops. However, this runs against the grain of the Brown family history as well as the record of the Humphrey family, to which the Browns were directly related (abolitionist John Brown's maternal grandmother was a Humphrey). Brown himself wrote in his 1857 autobiographical letter that both his and his first wife's grandfather were soldiers in the Continental Army [which he established in his, The Humphreys Family in America (1883)], which notes that abolitionist John Brown's grandfather, Capt John Brown (born November 4, 1728) was elected Captain of the 8th Company, 18th Regiment of Militia in Connecticut Colony in the Spring of 1776. He was commissioned on May 23, 1776 by Governor Trumbull. Capt John Brown's company marched from Connecticut, joining the Continental Army at New York, but Brown died of dysentery while in command, on September 3, 1776 (p.302, n.). His son, Owen Brown, the father of abolitionist John Brown, was a tanner and strict Calvinist who hated slavery and taught his trade to his son.
  2. 2. Ulysses S Grant, Memoirs and Selected Letters, (The Library of America, 1990)

13 April 2009

A Firehouse becomes a Fort

On October 16, 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown led a group of 21 men in his raid on the Arsenal. Five of the men were black: three free blacks, one a freed slave, and one a fugitive slave. During this time, assisting fugitive slaves was illegal under the Dred Scott decision. Brown attacked and captured several buildings; he hoped to use the captured weapons to initiate a slave uprising throughout the South. He then wanted to establish a new country.

He had been working on this plan since at least 1847, when he had first shared it with the noted Maryland-born former slave and Abolitionist leader, Frederick Douglass.
The plan called for striking at the very heart of the slave South by launching a guerrilla war in the Appalachian mountains.

The federal census returns from 1850 were analyzed county by county to establish black populations, free and slave, throughout the South.
Maps were carefully studied and annotated, and financial backers and recruits were enlisted throughout New England, the West, and Canada.

Brown selected Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, as the first point of attack in his projected war of slave liberation. Situated on the Potomac River, Harper’s Ferry seemed to offer everything Brown could hope for. It was in Virginia, the largest slaveholding state in the Union. It was on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. Harpers Ferry had the federal arsenal and the large gun factory that produced rifles for the U.S. government.

Once in control of Harper’s Ferry, the guns from the federal armory and the gun factory, as well as pikes, would be distributed to the slaves and sympathetic whites whom Brown was certain would flock to him in support of his cause. Once the new recruits were armed, the revolution would be carried further south along the Appalachian chain, with points of attack concentrating on other towns with federal arsenals, until the army of slave liberators reached the Gulf.

In Chatham, Canada,
a convention was called, where a constitution was adopted for the proposed new country for freed slaves. It would be located in the southern Appalachian Mountains, and taken by force by the army of the provisional government.

Brown was confident that people held in bondage would join his guerrilla force. John Brown also elected by the delegates to the Chatham Convention as commander-in-chief of the provisional forces, since
Brown was the mastermind of the plan and architect of the constitution and projected state.

Brown’s plan got off to an auspicious start, as he and eighteen followers left their rented Maryland farm, some four and one-half miles from Harper’s Ferry, on the evening of Sunday, October 16. Shortly after 10:30 that night they crossed the Potomac River bridge into the town, and quickly overpowered the lone man guarding the gates to the federal arsenal. The rest of the night was spent rounding up prominent men from the town and surrounding countryside to hold as hostages. By daybreak, Brown and his men had secured themselves in the small but sturdy brick engine house on the grounds of the federal arsenal.

The first shot mortally wounded Heyward Shepherd. Shepherd was a free black man who was a night baggage porter for the B&O Railroad that ran through Harpers Ferry near the armory.

The noise from that shot roused Dr. John Starry from his sleep shortly after 1:00 a.m. He walked from his nearby home to investigate the shooting and was confronted by Brown's men. Starry stated that he was a doctor but could do nothing more for Shepherd, and Brown's men allowed him to leave. Instead of going home, Starry went to the livery and rode to neighboring towns and villages, alerting residents to the raid.

When he reached nearby Charles Town, they rang the church bells and aroused the citizens from their sleep. John Brown's men were quickly pinned down by local citizens and militia, and forced to take refuge in the engine house adjacent to the armory.

The Secretary of War asked for the assistance of the Navy Department for a unit of United States Marines, the nearest troops. [1] Lieutenant Israel Greene was ordered to take a force of 86 Marines to the town. In need of an officer to lead the expedition, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee was found on leave nearby and was assigned as commander along with Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart as his aide-de-camp.

The whole contingent arrived by train on October 18, and after negotiation failed, they stormed the fire house and captured most of the raiders, killing a few and suffering a single casualty themselves.

Brown was tried for treason against the state of Virginia, convicted, and hanged in nearby Charles Town. Starry's testimony was integral to his conviction. Following the prosecution (by Andrew Hunter), "John Brown captured the attention of the nation like no other abolitionist or slave owner before or since." The Marines returned to their barracks and Colonel Lee returned to finish his leave. The raid was a catalyst for the Civil War.

1. Sullivan, David (1997). The United States Marine Corps in the Civil War - The First Year. White Mane Publishing Company, Inc.. pp. 1 to 27.

12 April 2009

The Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry

In 1796, the federal government purchased a 125-acre (0.5 km2) parcel of land from the heirs of Robert Harper and, in 1799, construction began on the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. This was one of only two such facilities in these United States, the other being Springfield, Massachusetts, and between them they produced most of the small arms for the US Army. The town was transformed into an industrial center: Between 1801 and its partial destruction in 1861 to prevent its capture during the Civil War, the Armory produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles, and pistols. Inventor Captain John H. Hall pioneered the use of interchangeable parts in firearms manufactured at his Rifle Works at the armory between 1820 and 1840; his M1819 Hall rifle was the first breech loading weapon adopted by the US Army.

This industrialization continued in when the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal reached Harpers Ferry linking it with Washington, D.C. A year later, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad began train service through the town.

09 April 2009

Beautiful Harpers Ferry

With or without the apostrophe - it's still the ferry bought by Robert Harper. About 1732, German immigrant named Peter Stephens (sometimes seen as Stephan) established a ferry at the lowest point where the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers joined. In 1747, Robert Harper bought the ferry and land surrounding it and renamed it for himself.

In 1751, Robert Harper was given a patent on 125 acres (0.5 km²) at the present location of the town. In 1761, Harper established a ferry across the Potomac, making the town a starting point for settlers moving into the Shenandoah Valley and further west. In 1763, the Virginia General Assembly established the town of "Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper's Ferry."

On October 25, 1783, Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry. He viewed "the passage of the Potomac though the Blue Ridge" from a rock which is now named for him - Jefferson Rock - the view from which is illustrated above.

Jefferson was on his way to Philadelphia and passed through Harpers Ferry with his daughter Patsy. Jefferson called the site "perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”

The Patowmack Company (which was formed to complete river improvements on the Potomac and its tributaries), inspected Harpers Ferry during the summer of 1785 to determine the need for bypass canals. In 1794, Washington's familiarity with the area led him to propose the site for a new United States armory and arsenal. Some of Washington's family moved to the area; his great-great nephew, Colonel Lewis Washington, was held hostage during John Brown's raid in 1859.

08 April 2009

Civil War Media Addresses Needs of the 150th Anniversary Series

With the approach of the 150th Anniversary of John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry, there will be an increasing need for traditional and multi-media examinations of Civil War history.

With this in mind, Kent Courtney has organized an information series that will cover most aspects of the American Civil War.

Film, Television and Video Producers have used Kent Courtney's talent and capabilities in a variety of ways, including the PBS documentary, Slavery in the Making of America, with Morgan Freeman as Narrator, A&E's In the Shadow of Cold Mountain, The History Channel, The Travel Channel and many others.

One of the most important aspects of information dissemination is the Internet. Kent Courtney continues to explore such leading areas of technology, such as downloads, twitter, podcasts, YouTube, and internet radio.

John Brown (May 9, 1800 – December 2, 1859) was an American abolitionist who advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to end all slavery. He led the Pottawatomie Massacre in 1856 in Bleeding Kansas and made his name in the unsuccessful raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859.

President Abraham Lincoln said he was a "misguided fanatic" and Brown has been called "the most controversial of all 19th-century Americans."[1] His attempt in 1859 to start a liberation movement among enslaved African Americans in Harpers Ferry, Virginia electrified the nation. He was tried for treason against the state of Virginia, the murder of five proslavery Southerners, and inciting a slave insurrection and was subsequently hanged. Southerners alleged that his rebellion was the tip of the abolitionist iceberg and represented the wishes of the Republican Party. Historians agree that the Harpers Ferry raid in 1859 escalated tensions that a year later led to secession and the American Civil War.

Brown first gained attention when he led small groups of volunteers during the Bleeding Kansas crisis. Unlike most other Northerners, who still advocated peaceful resistance to the pro-slavery faction, Brown demanded violent action in response to Southern aggression. Dissatisfied with the pacifism encouraged by the organized abolitionist movement, he reportedly said "These men are all talk. What we need is action - action!" [2] During the Kansas campaign he and his supporters killed five pro-slavery southerners in what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre in May 1856, in response to the raid of the "free soil" city of Lawrence. In 1859 he led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (in modern-day West Virginia). During the raid, he seized the armory; seven people (including a free black) were killed, and ten or more were injured. He intended to arm slaves with weapons from the arsenal, but the attack failed. Within 36 hours, Brown's men had fled or been killed or captured by local farmers, militiamen, and U.S. Marines led by Robert E. Lee. Brown's subsequent capture by federal forces, his trial for treason to the state of Virginia, and his execution by hanging in Charles Town, Virginia were an important part of the origins of the American Civil War, which followed sixteen months later.

When Brown was hanged after his attempt to start a slave rebellion in 1859, church bells rang, minute guns were fired, large memorial meetings took place throughout the North, and famous writers such as Emerson and Thoreau joined many Northerners in praising Brown.[3]

Historians agree John Brown played a major role in starting the Civil War.[4] His role and actions prior to the Civil War, as an abolitionist, and the tactics he chose still make him a controversial figure today. He is sometimes memorialized as a heroic martyr and a visionary and sometimes vilified as a madman and a terrorist. While some writers, such as Bruce Olds, describe him as a monomaniacal zealot, others, such as Stephen B. Oates, regard him as "one of the most perceptive human beings of his generation." David S. Reynolds hails the man who "killed slavery, sparked the civil war, and seeded civil rights" and Richard Owen Boyer emphasizes that Brown was "an American who gave his life that millions of other Americans might be free." For Ken Chowder he is "at certain times, a great man", but also "the father of American terrorism."[5]

Brown's nicknames were Osawatomie Brown, Old Man Brown, Captain Brown and Old Brown of Kansas. His aliases were Nelson Hawkins, Shubel Morgan, and Isaac Smith. Later the song "John Brown's Body" (the original title of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic") became a Union marching song during the Civil War.

  1. 1. Frederick J. Blue in American Historical Review (April 2006) v. 111 p 481-2.
  2. 2. Rhodes, James Ford (1892). History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850. Original from Harvard University: Harper & Brothers. pp. 385.
  3. 3. David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pages 378-379
  4. 4. David Potter, The Impending Crisis, pages 356-384 - Potter said the emotional effect of Brown's raid was greater than the philosophical effect of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and that his raid revealed a deep division between North and South.
  5. 5. David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist: The Man Who Killed Slavery, Sparked the Civil War, and Seeded Civil Rights (2005); Ken Chowder, "The Father of American Terrorism." American Heritage (2000) 51(1): 81+ online at [1] and Stephen Oates quoted at [2]