Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Heyward Shepherd

Ironically, the first man to die in John Brown’s raid was a free black man and B&O employee, Heyward Shepherd. On the evening of October 16, 1859, John Brown led a small group of raiders into Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown, a fanatical anti-slavery adherent, intended to incite a slave revolt and capture much needed weapons in the federal arsenal located in town. As the attack began, Brown’s men captured the bridge that carried the B&O Railroad tracks over the Potomac River. In the early morning, the raiders stopped an approaching passenger train short of Harper’s Ferry station. Heyward Shepherd, a free black who worked for the B&O as a baggage handler, went to investigate. Heyward was met by two of the raiders who demanded his surrender. He turned to run and was shot.  Although mortally wounded, Shepherd was able to crawl away, and warn officials that the bridge was in the hands of armed men. 

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