The Fugitive Tragedy in Pennsylvania

The Fugitive Tragedy in Pennsylvania

A correspondent of the New York Tribune writes from Philadelphia, of date Friday, the 12th, giving the following account of a late tragic occurrence at Christiana, Lancaster county, Pennsylvania. It differs in several particulars from the statement telegraphed to the presses in this city. The writer is understood to be an eminent divine of Philadelphia:

Sept. 12, 1851. I write in great haste, eager to correct, as I have the means of doing, in a measure, the accounts just published in our morning papers of the bloody battle which took place yesterday morning at Christiana, in this State, twenty miles this side of Lancaster. From an individual just from that place, we learn that a slaveholder, with his son and nephew, from Maryland, accompanied by U. S. officers of this city and Baltimore, went to Christiana after two fugitive slaves. The blacks, having received notice of their coming, gathered, a considerable number of them, in the house which the slave-catching party were expected to visit. The door was fastened, and the blacks retired to the upper part of the house. When the slaveholder and his company approached, they were warned off. A parley was held, the slaveholder declaring, as it is said and believed, I will go to h—l or have my slaves. The door was broken in, a horn was sounded out of one of the upper windows, and after an interval, a company of blacks, armed, gathered on the spot, and the negroes in the house made a rush down, and crowded the whites out.

Here the parley was resumed, the spokesman of the blacks telling the white men to go away; they were determined, he said, to die rather than go into slavery, or allow any one of their number to be taken. He declared, moreover, that the blacks would not fire, but if the whites fired, they were dead men. Shortly, first the nephew, then the slave-owner and his son fired revolvers, wounding a number of the blacks, but not seriously—one man had his ear perforated by a ball. The clothes of others were pierced and torn, but, as the blacks said afterward, the Lord shook the balls out of their clothes. The fire fire of the whites was returned. The slave-owner fell dead, and his son very dangerously wounded. The whites then retired. One of the U. S. officers summoned the posse, but in vain. Some of the neighbors, Quakers and anti-slavery persons, went and took up the wounded man and carried him to one of their homes, where, while they told him, in Quaker phrase, that they had no unity with him in his acts, and abhorred the wicked business in which he had been engaged, every attention was paid him, and medical aid instantly sent for. The effect of this treatment upon the young man, as our informant told us, may easily be imagined. He wept, and vowed, if he lived, to correct the impression people had at his home about the abolitionists. The doctor pronounced his wounds mortal.

People soon gathered in large numbers at this scene of blood. The excitement was intense. Opinions and feelings conflicted, of course, but there was a strong feeling in behalf of the blacks. While the crowd were talking, and during the ferment, two blacks (brick-makers) passed. One of the crowd exclaimed, There go two fellows who should be shot! The black men paused and faced the crowd, and said calmly something to this effect:—Here we are; shoot us, if you choose; we are a suffering people, any how. God made us black; we can't help that; shoot us if you will. The revulsion was instantaneous and strong, and any man who had muttered a word against the blacks would have been knocked down on the spot.

It is not true that the blacks had been counselled to resist. They had been repeatedly advised not to fight, but to flee to Canada.

Our informant, an aged and eminent member of the Society of Friends, does not profess to give the testimony of an eye-witness. He had seen the dead body of the slaveholder. He knew the people who took charge of the wounded man. He knew that the blacks had been counselled against resistance. The friends of the slave and the fugitive in that neighborhood are Quakers. Further than this, the above is the account of a resident in that vicinity, who gives us what is the most probable truth of the cause, according to the statements of those in the neighborhood best acquainted with the circumstances. In a few days, it is to be hoped that the truth will be ascertained with more certainty. Although by some questioned at first which fired first, the settled belief at the place is that the whites fired first, as stated above.

Yours, for truth's sake, W. H. F.

In addition to the facts contained in the above statements, (says the Tribune,) we learn from another correspondent, that the warrant in the case was issued by Commissioner Ingraham of Philadelphia, and that the person deputed to execute it was John Egan, commonly known as Hoss Egan, formerly a notorious member of the gang of Killers, and now equally notorious as a slave-catcher under the new law.

There were twenty-five in the colored party, and fifteen whites. Several of the whites were wounded, one, a Baltimore officer, severely, by balls through both of his shoulders. There were eighteen shots fired by the slaveholder's party.

☞ So much for Slavery! so much for the accursed Fugitive Slave Law! They who are responsible for this bloody transaction are the upholders of that law and that foul system,—Fillmore, Webster & Co. The blacks are fully justified in what they did, by the Declaration of Independence, and the teachings and examples of Washington, Warren and Kossuth.

The Christiana Tragedy. The following is the finding of the Coroner's Jury on the body of Mr. Gorsuch:—

Lancaster County, ss: An inquisition indented, taken at Sadsbury Gap, in the County of Lancaster, the 11th day of September, A. D. 1851, before me, Joseph D. Pownall, Esq., for the County of Lancaster, upon the view of the body of a man then and there lying dead, supposed to be Edward Gorsuch, of Baltimore County, Md., upon the affirmation of Geo. Whitson, John Rowland, Osborne Dare, Hiram Kennard, Samuel Miller, Lewis Cooper, Geo. Firth, Wm. Knott, John Ellis, William Milhouse, Joseph Richwine, and Miller Knott, good and lawful men of the county aforesaid, who, being duly affirmed and charged to inquire, on the part of the Commonwealth, when, where and how the said deceased came to his death, do say, upon their affirmations, that on the morning of the 11th inst., the neighborhood was thrown into an excitement by the above deceased, and some five or six persons in company with him, making an attack upon a family of colored persons living in said Gap, near the Brick Mill, about 4 o'clock in the morning, for the purpose of arresting some fugitive slaves, as they alleged. Many of the colored people of the neighborhood collected, and there was considerable firing of guns and other firearms by both parties. Upon the arrival of some of the neighbors at the place, after the rioted had subsided, they found the above deceased lying upon his back, or right side, dead. Upon a post mortem examination of the body of the said deceased, made by Drs. Patterson and Martin, in our presence, we believe he came to his death by gun shot wounds, that he received in the above mentioned riot, caused by some person or persons to us unknown.

☞ The Governor of Pennsylvania has issued the following


In and by the authority of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I, WILLIAM F. JOHNSTON, Governor of said Commonwealth, do hereby issue this


Whereas, it has been represented to me that a flagrant violation of the public peace has occurred in Lancaster county, involving the murder of Edward Gorsuch, and seriously endangering the lives of other persons; and whereas, it has also been represented to me that some of the perpetrators of this outrage are yet at large; now, therefore, by virtue of the authority in me vested by the Constitution and laws, I, WILLIAM F. JOHNSTON, Governor of Pennsylvania, do hereby offer a reward of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS for the arrest and conviction of the persons guilty of the murder and violation of the public peace aforesaid.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the great seal of the State, this fifteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one.

Attest, A. L. RUSSELL,
Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Meeting in Baltimore.—An immense meeting was held in Monmouth Square, on the evening of the 15th inst., presided over by Mayor Gerome, to condemn the proceedings of the Christiana outrage. Several eloquent speeches were made, and resolutions were passed condemning the outrage, and expressing a determination to carry out the Compromise Laws.

Philadelphia, Sept. 15. The U. S. Marshal, District Attorney Ashmead, and Commissioner Ingraham, attended by 50 U. S. troops, went to Christiana yesterday, and made 24 arrests, in addition to 12 before reported. Bail to a large amount had been offered, but refused. One white man, named Joseph Scarlet, and six negroes, are charged with treason!!