Alex Hawes was a free state guerilla fighter who fought beside John Brown in Kansas Territory.

Hawes offered a physical description of John Brown and commented on his perception of John Brown’s demeanor and actions when he was active in Kansas Territory from 1854 to 1858.

Haws wrote an article in “The Californian,” published in July of 1881, titled “In Kansas with John Brown.” In the article, he says: “And let me remark that not one of the later pictures of Old John Brown that I have ever seen gives me the slightest impression of the man. All these depict him with the entire lower face covered with a heavy grey beard. Doubtless this was correct when his likeness was taken in Virginia for he allowed his beard to grow substantially about the time of which I speak; but this was not John Brown of Osawatomie. Beardless as a priest, hollow cheeked as a hermit, he stood that morning with eyes as gray as the glinting of the dawn and a single barreled spy glass slung over his shoulder it was evident that his vigil had never been broken. That was the first time that I ever saw old John Brown.”

Hawes also described John Brown as “A tall slender quick eyed, iron gray, erect, close shaven, intense looking man with that peculiar shaped face we call lantern-jawed, and a nasal intonation from time immemorial associated with puritanism greeted the recruits.”

Hawe’s description of John Brown as “intense looking” is common in physical descriptions of John Brown, for Brown’s mind was mostly active with serious thought, though he was in possession of a sarcastic sense of humor that would either make an individual laugh or take offense, depending on the individuals he with whom he interacted.

Brown was brusque to the point that many individuals found him to be difficult to interact with, and unless an individual was able to separate his sarcastic humor from his serious statements, they tended to either be confused or offended.

John Brown inspired great loyalty from those whom chose to follow his abolitionist crusade. Hawes stated: “And John Brown was the head, heart, and soul of that little band.”

Brown was in his 50s when he came to Kansas Territory. During his raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), most of the free state and abolitionist guerillas who followed him were much younger, and he still had more energy than they did, which contributed to his ability to inspire loyalty from his followers.

Add to that John Brown was cool under pressure to an astonishing degree, which motivated young abolitionists and free state advocates to fight by his side in Kansas Territory.

John Brown’s dedication to the abolitionist cause was the primary foundation of the reason that Brown inspired others to follow him, for he firmly believed that the abolitionist cause was just. Unlike many other abolitionists, he was willing to take real action to facilitate the abolition of slavery. Alex Hawes was just one of many whom John brown inspired to work to abolish slavery.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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