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Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 11, page 236, ca. 1859 [newspaper clipping]

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Identifier: DX03199384

Title: Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 11, page 236, ca. 1859 [newspaper clipping]

Description: Newspaper clipping regarding the activities of Hugh Forbes in connection to John Brown the abolitionist.




A certain Mr. H. Forbes—sometimes (I know not why) called “Col. Forbes”—fills a close page of The Herald with what are there characterized as “Most “Important Revelations” respecting Old [John] Brown and the complicity of leading Republicans in his recent operations. Into this labored and successful attempt at self-exposure by “Col. Forbes,” I find my name most wantonly dragged. My only reason for noticing the performance is a belief that the public may infer from the facts in my case what is the probable truth with respect to others whose names have been dragged into these “Most Important Revelations.”

This Forbes appeared in our City sometime after the explosion of the European Revolutionary Uprising of 1848, and claimed to have borne an important part in that movement. Of course, he was needy, and The Herald says he was “at one times a reporter “or translator on THE TRIBUNE.” This is quite probable, though I do not recollect it.

Some time late in 1856, (I think it was) I was apprised that he was going out to Kansas to help the Free-State men, then threatened with annihilation by the Border Ruffians of Missouri, backed by Federal functionaries and troops. Lawrence had then been twice beleaguered and once sacked; Osawatamie had been twice ravaged and burned; Leavenworth had been just before swept clean of Free-State men by a Missouri raid—William Phillips being butchered while defending his own house, his brother badly wounded and captured, while those who made no resistance were sent down the river at an hour’s notice. As Forbes professed to be a capable and experienced military officer, especially qualified for guerilla or border warfare, and as he had always claimed to be an earnest Red Republican and foe of every form of Human Slavery, I thought his resolution natural and commendable. Knowing him to be poor, I gave him $20 as he was starting; others gave him larger sums; how much in all, I do not know; but I think his total receipts from friends of Free-Kansas on account of his resolve cannot have fallen below $700. He went—was absent some months—came back—that is all I know of his services to the Free-State cause in any shape. Whether because he was not needed, or was not trusted, or was found incompetent, I do not know—I only know that he did nothing, and was practically worth nothing. I believe he spent part of the money given him in printing a pamphlet embodying his notions of guerilla or partisan warfare—of course, no dollar ever came back. I think I heard of him before his return, clamoring for more money.

In due time, he reappeared in New-York, and came to me (as to others) with complaints that he had been deceived, misled, swindled, beggared, his family (in Paris) turned into the streets to starve, &c., &c. I tried to ascertain who had deceived him, what promises made to him had been broken, &c., but with little success. All I could make out was that some one—he now says it was Old Brown—had promised him something in the way of pecuniary recompense for his services, which had not been made good, and that his family were consequently reduced to the brink of starvation.

To this hour, I have never learned what Brown (or any one else) promised Forbes, nor how far the promiser professed to have the right to commit others. I do not believe that John Brown ever willfully deceived him or any one else. I am very sure that no one was ever authorized to engage the services of “Col. Forbes” in behalf of the Free-State men of Kansas on condition that said Forbes should be authorized to charge his own price for. . . .

Rights: NoC-US


Dates: ca. 1859

Type(s): Clipping, Newspaper


Subjects: Diaries
Missouri-Kansas Border War, 1850s
Guerrilla warfare


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