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Between 1854 and 1861, the struggle between pro- and anti-slavery factions over Kansas Territory captivated Americans nationwide and contributed directly to the Civil War. Combining political, social, and military history, Bleeding Kansas contextualizes and analyzes pre-war and wartime clashes in Kansas and Missouri and traces how these conflicts have been remembered ever since. Michael E. Woods’s compelling narrative of the Kansas–Missouri border struggle embraces the diverse perspectives of white northerners and southerners, women, Native Americans, and African Americans. This wide-ranging and engaging text is ideal for undergraduate courses on the Civil War era, westward expansion, Kansas and/or Missouri history, nineteenth-century US history, and other related subjects. Supported by primary source documents and a robust companion website, this text allows readers to engage with and draw their own conclusions about this contentious era in American history. Michael E. Woods is Assistant Professor of History at Marshall University. He is the author of Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States (2014), which received the 2015 James A. Rawley Award from the Southern Historical Association.
Critical Moments in American History Edited by William Thomas Allison, Georgia Southern University
The Homestead Strike Labor, Violence, and American Industry Paul E. Kahan The Flu Epidemic of 1918 America’s Experience in the Global Health Crisis Sandra Opdycke The Emergence of Rock and Roll Music and the Rise of American Youth Culture Mitchell K. Hall Transforming Civil War Prisons Lincoln, Lieber, and the Politics of Captivity Paul J. Springer and Glenn Robins The Battle of Fort Sumter The First Shots of the American Civil War Wesley Moody The WPA Creating Jobs and Hope in the Great Depression Sandra Opdyck The California Gold Rush The Stampede that Changed the World Mark Eifler Bleeding Kansas Slavery, Sectionalism, and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas Border Michael E. Woods
Bleeding Kansas Slavery, Sectionalism, and Civil War on the Missouri–Kansas Border
Michael E. Woods
First published 2017 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2017 Taylor & Francis The right of Michael E. Woods to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Woods, Michael E., author. Title: Bleeding Kansas : slavery, sectionalism, and Civil War on the Missouri-Kansas border / Michael E. Woods. Description: New York, NY : Routledge, 2016. | Series: Critical moments in American history | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016010936| ISBN 9781138958500 (hardback) | ISBN 9781138958548 (pbk.) | ISBN 9781315661117 (e-book) Subjects: LCSH: Kansas—History—1854–1861. | Kansas—History— Civil War, 1861–1865—Social aspects. | Missouri—History—Civil War, 1861–1865—Social aspects. | Borderlands—Kansas—History— 19th century. | Borderlands—Missouri—History—19th century. | Slavery—Political aspects—Kansas—History—19th century. | Slavery—Political aspects—Missouri—History—19th century. Classification: LCC F685 .W84 2016 | DDC 978.1/02—dc23 LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2016010936 ISBN: 978-1-138-95850-0 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-138-95854-8 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-66111-7 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo and Helvetica Neue by Florence Production Ltd, Stoodleigh, Devon
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Series Introduction List of Figures Acknowledgments Timeline
viii ix x xi
Three Roads to Kansas
Bleeding Kansas and the Nation
The Civil War on the Border
Remembering the Bloodshed
Documents Bibliography Index
155 203 213
Welcome to the Routledge Critical Moments in American History series. The purpose of this new series is to give students a window into the historian’s craft through concise, readable books by leading scholars, who bring together the best scholarship and engaging primary sources to explore a critical moment in the American past. In discovering the principal points of the story in these books, gaining a sense of historiography, following a fresh trail of primary documents, and exploring suggested readings, students can then set out on their own journey, to debate the ideas presented, interpret primary sources, and reach their own conclusions—just like the historian. A critical moment in history can be a range of things—a pivotal year, the pinnacle of a movement or trend, or an important event such as the passage of a piece of legislation, an election, a court decision, a battle. It can be social, cultural, political, or economic. It can be heroic or tragic. Whatever they are, such moments are by definition “game changers,” momentous changes in the pattern of the American fabric, paradigm shifts in the American experience. Many of the critical moments explored in this series are familiar; some less so. There is no ultimate list of critical moments in American history— any group of students, historians, or other scholars may come up with a different catalog of topics. These differences of view, however, are what make history itself and the study of history so important and so fascinating. Therein can be found the utility of historical inquiry—to explore, to challenge, to understand, and to realize the legacy of the past through its influence of the present. It is the hope of this series to help students realize this intrinsic value of our past and of studying our past. William Thomas Allison Georgia Southern University
1.1 2.1 3.1 4.1 5.1
“Reynolds’s Political Map of the United States” (1856) Map: The Long Civil War on the Kansas–Missouri Border “Democratic Platform Illustrated” (1856) “The Destruction of the City of Lawrence, Kansas” (1863) “Reunion of William Quantrill’s Band” (ca. 1897)
24 31 78 110 125
I am grateful to everyone who made this book possible. At Routledge, I had the good fortune to collaborate with Genevieve Aoki, Daniel Finaldi, Kimberly Guinta, and Margo Irvin, and appreciate their invaluable assistance at every stage of the process. Many thanks to everyone at Routledge who worked to produce this book. Early in the project, two authors of Critical Moments in American History texts offered me suggestions on writing for the series; thanks to Alice George and Paul Kahan for your counsel and encouragement. Several colleagues read drafts of the book proposal and/or manuscript. Thanks to Joseph Beilein, Jr., Matthew Mason, Mark Smith, Tara Strauch, David Trowbridge, and the four anonymous readers for your insightful feedback. Of course, I am responsible for any errors. Special thanks to Joe Beilein for assistance in tracking down several vital primary and secondary sources. I am grateful for your help at a crucial stage in this project. My sincere thanks to the Library of Congress, the University of Kansas, and the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum for permission to reprint images from their collections. Thanks also to the people and institutions whose support has made possible the following online resources: Territorial Kansas Online, The Civil War on the Western Border, Kansas Memory, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, and the Secession Era Editorials Project. Your dedication to making historical sources accessible to the widest possible audience is appreciated. Last and certainly not least, heartfelt thanks to my family, and especially Beth Toyofuku, for everything.
Missouri Compromise forbids slavery in the Louisiana Purchase north of 36° 30´
Missouri admitted as a slave state
Shawnee Methodist Mission founded
Indian Intercourse Act includes modern-day Kansas in Indian Territory
Stephen Douglas introduces a bill to organize the Territory of Nebraska
Compromise of 1850; New Mexico and Utah Territories created with principle of popular sovereignty
Democrat Franklin Pierce elected President
December 14, 1853
“Dodge Bill” to organize Nebraska Territory introduced in U.S. Senate
January 19, 1854
“Appeal of the Independent Democrats in Congress to the People of the United States” issued
May 30, 1854
Kansas–Nebraska Act becomes law
New England Emigrant Aid Company (originally Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company) formally organized in Boston
Platte County Self-Defensive Association founded in Weston, Missouri
Andrew Reeder becomes first governor of Kansas Territory
First group of NEEAC settlers establishes Lawrence
November 29, 1854
John Whitfield elected Kansas’s first territorial delegate to Congress
March 30, 1855
First election for Kansas territorial legislature
July 16, 1855
Proslavery territorial capital established at Shawnee Methodist Mission
Wilson Shannon becomes second governor of Kansas Territory
Free-state government established at Topeka and frames free state constitution
John Brown arrives in Kansas
January 24, 1856
President Franklin Pierce outlaws Topeka government
TIMELINE May 2, 1856
Buford Expedition reaches Kansas
May 21, 1856
Sack of Lawrence
May 22, 1856
Charles Sumner caned in U.S. Senate by Preston Brooks
May 24–25, 1856
June 2, 1856
Battle of Black Jack
June 17–19, 1856
First Republican National Convention held in Philadelphia
August 30, 1856
Battle of Osawatomie
John W. Geary becomes third governor of Kansas Territory
November 4, 1856
Democrat James Buchanan elected President
March 6, 1857
Supreme Court issues decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford
Robert J. Walker becomes fourth governor of Kansas Territory
Lecompton Constitutional Convention
October 5, 1857
Kansas territorial legislature election
December 21, 1857
Popular vote on Lecompton Constitution with or without slavery
January 4, 1858
Kansas voters reject Lecompton Constitution
Leavenworth Constitution drafted
April 30, 1858
Congress approves English Bill
James W. Denver becomes fifth governor of Kansas Territory [acting governor since December 1857]
August 2, 1858
Kansas voters reject Lecompton Constitution with English Compromise
Samuel Medary becomes sixth and final governor of Kansas Territory
December 20, 1858
John Brown frees 11 slaves in western Missouri raid
Wyandotte Constitution drafted
October 4, 1859
Wyandotte Constitution approved by voters
October 16–18, 1859
John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia
December 2, 1859
John Brown hanged
Abraham Lincoln gives speeches at Atchison and Leavenworth
Democratic National Convention in Charleston; party splits into rival factions
November 6, 1860
Republican Abraham Lincoln elected President
January 29, 1861
Kansas admitted as a free state
February 9, 1861
Charles L. Robinson sworn in as first governor of the state of Kansas
April 12, 1861
First shots of Civil War fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina
August 10, 1861
Battle of Wilson’s Creek
September 23, 1861
Kansas Jayhawkers sack Osceola, Missouri
October 29, 1862
First Kansas Colored Infantry fights at Battle of Island Mound
January 1, 1863
Emancipation Proclamation issued
August 21, 1863
William Quantrill leads raid on Lawrence
August 25, 1863
Order No. 11 evicts residents of four western Missouri counties
Sterling Price’s Missouri Expedition
TIMELINE January 11, 1865
Slavery abolished in Missouri
February 7, 1865
Kansas ratifies Thirteenth Amendment
John N. Edwards publishes Noted Guerrillas, or the Warfare of the Border
Exoduster migration to Kansas peaks
Reception for Mary Brown held in Topeka
Lawrence Massacre monument unveiled in Lawrence
William E. Connelley publishes Quantrill and the Border Wars
Semi-centennial commemoration of Lawrence Massacre
Final reunion of Quantrill’s men
John Steuart Curry paints “The Tragic Prelude” in Kansas state capitol
June 30, 1976
The Outlaw Josey Wales appears in theaters
November 26, 2011
Final Kansas–Missouri “Border War” football game
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Three Roads to Kansas
oseph Savage and Samuel Ralston shared much in common. Both were farmers. Both loved Greek and Roman literature. Both were keenly interested in politics. Despite their deep attachments to home, both wanted fresh land in the West, a region they associated with prosperity and progress. In 1854, both went to Kansas. Ralston arrived after a brief horseback ride. Savage had to travel over a thousand miles, but railroad and steamboat transportation made it reasonably quick and affordable. Upon arrival, both expected to determine the territory’s future. Its original motto was “Populi voce nata,” Latin for “Born of the voice of the people” or “Born of the popular will.”1 As white adult men, Savage and Ralston enjoyed the privilege of expressing their wills at the ballot box. Moving to Kansas meant they could transplant American self-government westward while improving their personal fortunes. It looked like a win-win. Events did not go according to plan. The harsh environment bred sickness and death; within three years, Savage buried his wife and four of his five children, and only half of Ralston’s eight children reached adulthood. Yet high mortality rates were common in 19th-century America. More remarkable were the political mayhem and violence that swept Kansas and spread eastward. Efforts to govern Kansas according to the “popular will” unleashed fraud, killing, and chaos. As participants in “Bleeding Kansas” and the catastrophic Civil War that followed, Savage and Ralston discovered that westward expansion was perilous. They barely escaped with their lives. Savage was threatened by pistol-packing rival settlers during an 1854 election. Ralston narrowly avoided execution by the Union army in 1861. Both reached old age, but at least 56 other migrants died in the fighting between 1854 and 1861.2 Many more perished during the Civil War, including Savage’s friend, Edward Fitch, who was killed in 1863.
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What went wrong? Given how antebellum Americans talked about it, we might assume that westward expansion boosted national unity and pride. Many northerners and southerners alike believed that it was their “manifest destiny” to “overspread the continent” which God had given to folks like Joseph Savage and Samuel Ralston.3 Why didn’t pursuing that destiny bring them together? Why couldn’t Americans’ talent for compromise allow them to govern Kansas without spilling blood and inflaming civil war? Savage and Ralston’s backgrounds help us begin to answer these questions. Kansas was to be governed by “the will of the people,” but different people had very different visions for its future. Savage hailed from Vermont, where he was born in 1823. By the 1850s, his farmland was failing and he struggled to make ends meet. He considered moving to Wisconsin, but in 1854, Savage stepped into the conflict over Kansas Territory, which was becoming a battleground over slavery’s expansion. New Englanders organized to migrate to Kansas, intending to mold the territory according to their will, which meant excluding slavery. Savage joined one of the earliest groups of antislavery settlers to head west, proclaiming that he “never felt a duty more clearly pointed out than that all lovers of freedom should stand by their posts in Kansas.”4 His companions were equally committed. Savage recalled that they completed their westward journey on foot, singing as they marched across the Plains: “We cross the prairie as of old, / The pilgrims cross the sea, / To make the West, as they the East, / The homestead of the free!”5 This wave of northern migration alarmed Samuel Ralston. Experience taught him that his freedom and prosperity were at stake in the struggle; that settlers like Savage threatened everything he valued; and that slavery must enter Kansas. Born in Ireland in 1809, Ralston immigrated to North Carolina as a boy and grew up in a world where westward migration bred success and where success was measured in land and slaves. Ralston acquired both types of property and hungered for more. In 1842, he moved his family and slaves to Independence, Missouri, a flourishing frontier town near the border with the future Kansas Territory. He bought several hundred acres of land, put his slaves to work, and lived comfortably.6 But Ralston never dropped his guard. He and his white neighbors soon instituted a patrol to recover runaway slaves and deter rebellions. Ralston hoped that it would “ensure perfect safety to the owners of Negroes” and encourage more of them to migrate to western Missouri.7 Even these precautions did not eliminate every danger. Ralston admitted having “a good deal of trouble lately with our Negroes” and had to draw his pistol against one who threatened him with an axe and a butcher knife.8 Though profitable, slavery was a devil’s bargain.
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Conflict between masters and slaves was inevitable, even if masters didn’t admit it. But the prospect of thousands of outsiders like Joseph Savage settling in Kansas distressed Ralston and other proslavery Missourians. What if Kansas became a sanctuary for runaway slaves? What if northern neighbors encouraged slaves to resist? What would become of Ralston’s life in Missouri? Anticipating the arrival of antislavery emigrants, Ralston joined what he called “a Secret Society,” an offshoot of the Platte County Self-Defensive Association.9 Its goals were straightforward: defend slavery in Missouri; promote southern migration to Kansas; and make Kansas a slave territory, and eventually a slave state. Its methods were ferocious: members vowed to vote in Kansas elections, kill “negro thieves” and “abolitionists,” and “shoot, burn & hang” to achieve their aims.10 Late in 1854, Ralston and nearly 600 associates crossed the border to vote in an election for a territorial representative to Congress. This expedition first brought Ralston to Kansas, and it was a success. As Ralston reported, his allies “triumphantly elected” their man. He admitted that Missourians cast most of the proslavery candidate’s votes, but boasted that 10,000 more were ready to intervene in Kansas “whenever necessity requires their services.”11 The fate of Kansas was too important to be left to the wills of northern migrants. If Savage and Ralston ever met, it would have been a hostile encounter. Savage would have regarded Ralston as a Missouri “Border Ruffian,” a treacherous, bloodthirsty brute prepared to destroy northerners’ lives and liberties in order to force slavery into Kansas. Ralston would have viewed Savage as a Yankee “fanatic,” a spiteful, self-righteous radical hell-bent on undermining the safety and prosperity of Missouri and the entire South. There was little room for compromise. By votes or by the force of arms, slavery either would or would not develop in Kansas. Whose will would prevail? * * * This book explores the conflict that erupted when migrants like Savage and Ralston collided in Kansas. Between 1854 and 1861, “Bleeding Kansas” captivated Americans’ attention as a battle for the future of the nation. The subsequent Civil War was a much more devastating struggle, but Bleeding Kansas propelled the country toward the war of 1861–1865. Bleeding Kansas was not the war’s sole cause, but it was the major collector in the 1850s of arguments, the most important focus for the complex sectional argument, the issue that drew in the most elements that concerned people about the nature and
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survival of the Union, and the single matter to which the most ink was devoted by the national press and the congressional reporters
in the 1850s.12 The origins, course, and consequences of Bleeding Kansas are the subjects of this text and the accompanying documents. Historians should begin by asking careful questions. Why was the creation of Kansas Territory so controversial? Why did territorial self-government spawn violence? What motivated people like Ralston and Savage to fight? How did non-voting Kansas inhabitants, including Native Americans, African Americans, and white women, influence the territory’s fate? What effect did Bleeding Kansas have on people throughout the nation? Why did so many of them care whether slavery entered a faraway territory that most would never visit? What are the connections between Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War? How did that war affect people in Kansas and the surrounding region? How did they remember these struggles afterward? This book offers a framework for answering these questions. The immediate trigger for conflict in Kansas was Congress’s passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854. By formally organizing Kansas Territory, this law started the race to determine its future. But the controversy did not appear out of thin air. To understand the origins of Bleeding Kansas, it is helpful to think of it as a crossroads where three paths converged: debate over slavery’s expansion; ethnic conflict along a moving western frontier; and the internal development of Missouri. This chapter traces each path to explain the roots of Bleeding Kansas and bring its history into clearer focus. * * * Territorial expansion and the conflict it provoked are intertwined threads running through early U.S. history. When the Revolutionary War concluded in 1783, the country’s western border was the Mississippi River, and most of the land west of the Appalachian Mountains was controlled by Native Americans. 70 years later—within a lifetime—U.S. territory reached the Pacific Ocean and encompassed all of the modern-day lower 48 states. Through purchase, conquest, and diplomacy, early American leaders forged a continental republic. The process was not smooth. It took whites several more decades to wrest control of the land from Native Americans. And that was only one of several conflicts over America’s breathtaking growth. As they battled indigenous people, white Americans also clashed with each other over the rewards of expansion. How should the land be distributed? Who should benefit from it? How should the territory be governed? Who should make all of these decisions?
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Slavery’s presence intensified these debates. When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, African slavery existed in every state. But the northern and southern regions soon diverged sharply and the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland, surveyed in the 1760s by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, became the famous frontier between slave and free soil. At the Constitutional Convention (1787), James Madison already noticed that the “real difference of interests lay . . . between the N. and Southn. States,” with the “institution of slavery and its consequences form[ing] the line of discrimination” between them.13 That difference grew in the following decades. North of the Mason-Dixon Line, where slave populations were small and plantations rare, slavery faded away. Between 1780 and 1804, every northern state outlawed slavery. Emancipation was painfully slow. In Pennsylvania, for instance, no slaves were immediately freed under the abolition law passed in 1780. Liberation began with the children subsequently born to enslaved mothers, who had to serve as indentured servants until their 28th birthdays.14 But the northern trend away from slavery was clear. By the mid-19th century, northerners took pride in their “free labor” society. They celebrated the dignity and upward mobility available, in theory, to every worker. They believed that this was the foundation of a moral, prosperous, and progressive society. They wanted to recreate that society in the West. And they suspected that the absence of free labor explained why things were so disturbingly different in the South.15 In many ways, there were actually two Souths. In the early 1800s, the southernmost states, eventually reaching from the Carolinas to Texas, developed into the “Cotton Kingdom,” thanks to the cotton gin and the forced westward migration of hundreds of thousands of enslaved people. Here in the Deep South, slave populations were high—over 50 percent in many counties—and slaveholding households were common. By midcentury, nearly half of white families in South Carolina and Mississippi owned slaves. Profits from cotton, the fiber that fueled the industrial revolution, tempted planters to seek fresh land in places like Mississippi and Arkansas, and taught them that westward movement meant progress. In the Upper South, from Virginia to Missouri, slavery was important, though little cotton was grown and fewer large plantations appeared. Upper South farmers used slave labor to grow tobacco, hemp (used for making rope), wheat, and corn. But these masters tended to own fewer slaves and fewer white families owned any slaves at all. Cotton planters eyed these states nervously, wondering how committed they were to the “peculiar institution.” But slavery was alive and, for whites, doing well in the Upper South, and its presence defined the South as a distinctive region with
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unique political interests.16 Despite obvious diversity within both sections, few observers doubted that there were significant differences between “North” and “South.” Residents of both regions were keenly interested in the West. Beyond the Appalachians, the line between North and South was not foreordained: environmental factors like climate mattered, but did not automatically determine whether slave or free labor would prevail. Take Missouri and Illinois: they lie on roughly the same line of latitude but followed different historical paths. Despite efforts to cement slavery in Illinois, it became a free state, thanks in part to Governor Edward Coles’s determination to block a proslavery revision of the state constitution.17 Despite efforts to bar slavery from Missouri, it became a slave state after intense Congressional deliberation.18 Slavery’s status depended on political power and human decision-making. So it was throughout the West. Early on, the practice of dividing the West in half, with slavery barred from the northern portion and accepted in the southern, prevailed. The partition grew out of the Northwest Ordinance (1787), an enormously important law which established a procedure for managing the territories—lands owned by the U.S. that were not states— and for creating new states from them. It applied to the realm north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, encompassing all of modern-day Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. Statehood would follow several stages of territorial governance. Initially, Congress would appoint a governor who would manage the territory until its population of free, white, adult males reached 5000. Then, these voters could elect a representative assembly empowered to pass laws, though they could be vetoed by the governor. This second, more democratic, phase lasted until the territorial population reached 60,000, at which point the territory could enter the Union as a state equal to the original 13. Crucially, the Ordinance also banned slavery from the entire Northwestern Territory. Years later, debates over Congress’s power to prohibit slavery in a territory were fierce, but it sparked no controversy in 1787. South of the Ohio, territorial policy was similar except that slavery was not excluded. Slaveholders already inhabited the areas that became Kentucky and Tennessee, lands once attached to Virginia The Northwest Ordinance was passed and North Carolina, respectively. unanimously by the eight states Those states relinquished their represented in Congress in 1787. western domains on the condition Five were southern and only one— that Congress would not outlaw Massachusetts—had abolished slavery there. Congress complied in slavery by that time. the Southwest Ordinance of 1790,
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which established the same procedure for forming states as in the northwest, while saying nothing about slavery. With slaveholders already there, it was clear that these territories would become slave states, as Kentucky did in 1792 and Tennessee in 1796. In effect, the Southwest Ordinance turned the Ohio River into a new Mason-Dixon Line, with slavery allowed to expand south of the boundary.19 Subsequent expansion triggered new debates about slavery’s growth. The next political battleground was Louisiana Territory, the vast domain west of the Mississippi River acquired through the Louisiana Purchase (1803). Slavery had been legal there under French rule, and the state of Louisiana entered the Union with slavery in 1812. But the fiercest controversy over Louisiana Purchase lands erupted seven years later when Missouri applied for statehood.20 Most of its white inhabitants hailed from Virginia and Kentucky and they sought admission as a slave state. Many northern congressmen objected to this. They were not racial egalitarians, but they did worry about slaveholders’ political power. After all, a Virginia slaveowner had been president for the last 18 years; admit Missouri and the Electoral College would tilt further in the South’s favor. There was a balance between slave and free states in the Senate, with 11 of each; admit Missouri and the South would gain a two-seat majority. Northern critics also opposed expanding slavery within a republic founded on ideals of natural rights and equality. Was slavery compatible with republican government? Was it consistent with the Declaration of Independence? Opponents of slavery expansion backed a proposal by James Tallmadge of New York to admit Missouri under conditions that would transform it into a free state. No new slaves could be introduced into Missouri and all children born to enslaved mothers would be emancipated at age 25. Through another agonizingly slow process, this eventually would have ended slavery in Missouri. Southern Congressmen, with some northern allies, denounced this plan as insulting and unconstitutional. What right had Congress to place conditions on the admission of a new state? What right had representatives from one region to pass judgment on another? As the debate intensified, the focus shifted from Missouri to the deeper issue of slavery in the American republic. Antislavery Congressmen who previously held their tongues now vented their feelings. They expressed their constituents’ “hatred of slavery in every shape” and demanded that the government work “never to encourage, but always to control” the “evil” of slavery. It was absurd for a country which declared that “all men are created equal” with “inalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to promote slavery.21 Opponents of the restriction also shifted into a higher gear. Mainly they denied that Congress could force Missouri to abandon
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slavery. But they also made more aggressive claims. Slaves were happy and well treated, they declared, and if slavery expanded widely, lower population densities would make rebellions less likely.22 Most stopped short of deeming slavery a beneficial institution, a “positive good”—though that argument would soon flourish—but they did claim that opposition to it would do more harm than good. The debate was fierce. Congressmen traded insults and spoke of secession and war. But peacemakers settled the dispute with a familiar formula: division of the Louisiana Purchase in two, with slavery outlawed in the northern portion and accepted in the southern. According to the Missouri Compromise, Missouri became a slave state in 1821, but was balanced by the admission of Maine (previously part of Massachusetts) as a free state. The rest of the Louisiana Purchase was split along the 36° 30′ line of latitude (which formed Missouri’s southern border), with slavery prohibited north of it. Some observers worried about carving the country in half. Thomas Jefferson warned that “a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political,” could “never be obliterated,” but would be “mark[ed] deeper and deeper” in future quarrels.23 He may have been correct, but his warning came late; the Ohio River had marked a similar line for 30 years. The Missouri crisis brought an old policy into a new area. A generation later, a third era of expansion provoked another bitter dispute, settled by another last-minute compromise.24 At stake was the enormous realm, covering more than half a million square miles in the southwest, conquered by the U.S. at the end of a two-year war against Mexico. Even before the war concluded in 1848, American territorial ambitions—especially for the strategic harbor of San Francisco—indicated that victory would bring new acreage under the U.S. flag. Those who remembered history recognized the danger. The United States might win, warned New England philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, “but it will be as the man swallows the arsenic, which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us.”25 He was right. Debate over slavery began during the war. It followed familiar patterns, with some new twists. Opponents of slavery expansion united behind a proposal, introduced in 1846 by Representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, to ban slavery from all territory acquired in the war. Slavery was illegal in Mexico; how would it look for the U.S. to capture land and then establish slavery in it? Free white workers needed the opportunity to move west; should they have to compete with aristocratic slaveholders or labor alongside slaves? Predictably, proslavery southerners rejected the so-called Wilmot Proviso. They insisted that slaveholders have equal access to territory for which they had paid a share of the cost in blood
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and treasure. Congress had no power to prohibit slavery from a territory, they argued. Indeed, because slavery was legal in some states, the federal government, acting on the states’ behalf, must uphold the rights of slaveholders in all western territories. After the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848) ended the war, debate over the newly-won Mexican Cession escalated. The discovery of gold in northern California and emigration of thousands of “Forty-Niners” raised the stakes by putting California on a fast track to statehood. A brewing border conflict between Texas and the future New Mexico added fuel to the fire. Finally, the status of slavery in new territories created out of the Mexican Cession provoked controversy. Whose interests should American expansion serve? Gold miners, slaveholders, free workers— Americans all, but deeply divided over the future of the continental republic. Attention fixated on Washington as Congress considered these issues for month after month. The debate was bitter and tempers flared in the summer heat. Vermont Senator William Upham introduced a petition against any expansion of slavery, described as “a crime against humanity, and a sore evil in the body-politic.”26 Southerners’ responses demonstrated their new tendency to endorse slavery as a positive good. They denounced slavery’s critics as rabble-rousing fanatics, and demanded that it expand throughout the West. Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi described slavery as “a blessing” which had brought Africans into a “Christian land” where “civilization would elevate and dignify” them. Why limit the spread of such a beneficial system? Slavery was ideal for mining and other frontier labor, he insisted. The South required an “extended territory” and must have access to the West. It had already been insulted by the North—so badly, Davis remarked, that it would have been “just cause for war” if they were separate countries—and must not be excluded from the Mexican Cession.27 Southern leaders heightened the tension by threatening to secede if California were admitted under its proposed freestate constitution. They were not so committed to local self-government where the locals opposed slavery. How could any compromise bridge the gap between Upham and Davis? Despite the difficulty, moderates from both sections scrambled to save the Union. There were two possible solutions for the territorial problem. One was to extend the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Ocean. This would have authorized slavery in Los Angeles, among other southwestern locales. The second was a clear favorite among northern Democrats who loved territorial expansion but dreaded sectional conflict. This was the doctrine of “popular sovereignty.” Remove the issue of slavery expansion from Congress, proponents argued. It is dangerously
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divisive and not properly under Congressional authority. Leave it up to voters in each territory to decide for themselves. As Michigan Democrat Lewis Cass put it, the federal government must allow territorial residents “to regulate their internal concerns in their own way.”28 Popular sovereignty resonated with American ideals of self-government. Why should western pioneers not have the same rights as easterners? And for political moderates who feared that debates over slavery endangered the Union, popular sovereignty offered a practical solution. The Union would be safe if territorial voters, rather than Congress, could decide. But there was a catch: the practical details of popular sovereignty were vague. Who exactly were “the people” of a territory? How long must a migrant live there before his (few politicians included women among “the people”) vote counted? And when exactly could voters decide? Could their territorial legislature ban slavery right away? Many northern supporters of popular sovereignty thought so. Or were they prohibited from blocking slavery until statehood, at the end of the territorial phase? Many southern supporters upheld this view. These discrepancies would prove disastrous. But this was in the future in the summer of 1850. As Congress wrapped up its exhausting session, moderates from North and South passed a series of laws known as the Compromise of 1850. Its terms highlighted the tremendous political importance of slavery. Two of them were victories for slavery’s foes: a ban on slave trading (though not slave ownership) in Washington, D.C., and the admission of California as a free state. To satisfy southerners, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which vastly expanded the federal government’s power to recover runaway slaves and punish northerners who assisted them. As for the Texas border issue, the Lone Star State’s modern boundaries were established. This was less land than Texans had claimed, but Congress sweetened the deal by paying the debts Texas incurred when it had been an independent republic (1836–1845). Finally, the vague principle of popular sovereignty was applied to two new territories—New Mexico and Utah—created out of the rest of the Mexican Cession. Congress neither established nor prohibited slavery in them, evidently allowing local voters to decide. Supporters of Congress’s power to ban slavery in a territory, a power acknowledged in the Northwest Ordinance and Missouri Compromise, were on the defensive. Popular sovereignty, not the Wilmot Proviso or the extension of the 36° 30′ line, had won. But the procedures for popular sovereignty remained uncertain, and northerners and southerners alike believed that their own versions would prevail. Some people hated the compromise. Proslavery southerners felt cheated out of the chance to establish slavery in California. Antislavery
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northerners detested the Fugitive Slave Act for violating states’ rights. But moderates saw the compromise as a triumph of patriotism over extremism. When Congress approved the final bills, they celebrated with speeches, bonfires, and cannon salutes. Word went around that it was “the duty of every patriot to get drunk” in honor of the occasion—and many Congressmen did their duty.29 Many people hoped that the compromise was a final settlement of sectional difficulties, and with good reason. Every square foot of U.S. soil was spoken for as far as slavery was concerned. And when both major political parties, Whig and Democratic, endorsed the compromise in their 1852 platforms, the case appeared closed. The peace was short-lived. But when conflict erupted four years later, it came from a surprising direction. It wasn’t the acquisition of new land that sparked the crisis, but a new battle over old territory. The crisis centered in Kansas, a name few white Americans had heard prior to 1854 and a place few ignored afterward. * * * Kansas was not a blank slate for white Americans to write on. Settlers like Joseph Savage and Samuel Ralston knew little about its pre-1854 history, but that history mattered. It was rooted in the ongoing conflict between Native Americans and Euro-Americans for control of the continent. Whites who fought in Kansas were not contending for an empty wilderness; they were competing for other people’s land. Their arrival following the Kansas–Nebraska Act was a turning point, not a starting point, in Kansas history.30 The region that became Kansas Territory in 1854 was home to tens of thousands of people. They included around 1,400 Euro-Americans, mostly missionaries, merchants, and soldiers, and at least 17,000 Native Americans.31 Far to the west lived Cheyenne and Comanche people who ranged widely on horseback, hunting and trading across their extensive domain. During and after the Civil War, they clashed with the U.S. government in wars and massacres that have been enshrined in the history and mythology of the West. Less well-remembered are the more sedentary Indians of eastern Kansas—including Osages, Pottawatomies, Delawares, Kickapoos, and others—who farmed the lands coveted by white migrants. For them, 1854 marked a new, but not unprecedented, period of Kansas was named for the Kansa struggle, adaptation, and loss. (or Kaw) Indians, whose name probably Native American history is means “Wind People” or “People often viewed as a static and timeof the South Wind.” less story until whites arrive on the
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scene, but people in the future Kansas Territory experienced wrenching changes long before 1854. Ironically, early migrants into the region included Indians displaced from eastern homes and relocated to what was then called Indian Country. Early U.S. officials assumed that there would always be western lands where Indians could be sent to isolate them from whites, prevent ethnic conflict, and, of course, open vast new regions to Euro-Americans. Thomas Jefferson envisioned the Louisiana Purchase as a destination for eastern Indians. Rapid white migration to Missouri meant that the Mississippi River would not be a perpetual ethnic boundary. But the region beyond Missouri’s western border became the next site of an allegedly permanent Indian settlement. During and after Andrew Jackson’s presidency (1829–1837), forcible relocation accelerated as thousands of southwestern Indians—Choctaws and Chickasaws from Mississippi, Cherokees from Georgia, and others—joined thousands more from the northwest in a sometimes fatal westward journey. Their destination was Indian Country. According to the Indian Intercourse Act (1834), Indian Country stretched from the northern border of Texas to Canada, and from Missouri and Illinois in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west. The federal government pledged that this would be the last involuntary migration and that these lands would remain forever in Indians’ hands. The creation of Kansas Territory in 1854 violated this promise. By passing the Kansas–Nebraska Act, the government abandoned the concept of a large, permanent Indian domain out west. Relocation to Indian Country was only the beginning of the story. The influx of thousands of eastern Indians provoked tension with local tribes. Pawnees, Kaws, and others struggled to protect their homelands as the new arrivals rebuilt their lives in an unfamiliar environment. As both groups adjusted to living in close proximity, they also faced pressure to assimilate. White Baptists, Methodists, and Quakers established missions in Indian Country to promote conversion to Christianity and the adoption of Euro-American ways, from language and clothing to the individual ownership of land. Missionaries often targeted Indian children for assimilation by opening schools on the mission grounds. Methodist missionary Thomas Johnson, a Virginian who had worked among whites on the Missouri and Arkansas frontiers, aggressively pushed assimilation. With federal approval, he opened the Shawnee Manual Labor School in 1838 in what later became eastern Kansas. It quickly filled with students and became the spearhead of an effort to “civilize” the Shawnee in their new home.32 An especially controversial component of Johnson’s “civilization” was African-American slavery. Like the rest of the future Kansas Territory, the Shawnee Mission lay north of the 36° 30′ line and within the Louisiana
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Purchase, where the Missouri Compromise banned slavery. But it was difficult to enforce this on the Great Plains, so far from the center of U.S. power, and Johnson was ardently proslavery. As early as 1832, he brought several slaves into Indian Country, and he was not alone. U.S. Army officers, federal Indian agents, and other whites took slaves into Indian Country. This provoked conflict among missionaries, especially as American churches split into northern and southern wings over slavery in the 1840s. Church members also bickered within Indian Country. Antislavery missionaries thought it was the “climax of inconsistencies” to bring slavery into the mission field and argued that slaves’ presence at Indian schools would make the pupils lazy. Subsequent struggles between northern and southern missionaries for the right to preach to Indians brought conflict to Kansas well before 1854. Native Americans also debated slavery. It was especially divisive among the Shawnee, some of whom purchased slaves, while others specifically requested antislavery northern missionaries to replace Johnson. These responses exemplified Indians’ varied but selective adoption of EuroAmerican customs. Men like Johnson pressured Indians to abandon their own ways entirely. Most Indians instead chose acculturation, adapting some Euro-American practices while retaining their tribal identity and cultural autonomy. The Kickapoo, who were forcibly relocated from Illinois to Kansas in the 1830s, provide a good example. Among their leaders was a prophet named Kenekuk who blended Protestant, Catholic, and traditional Kickapoo beliefs into a new worldview. He urged his people to cultivate friendly ties with whites because he knew that pressure for relocation would return in the future, and the Kickapoo would need allies. Kenekuk also urged them to abstain from alcohol and confess their sins. He welcomed white missionaries because they might put in a good word for his people with the federal government. But the Kickapoo continued to speak their own language, and instead of Bibles used wooden prayer sticks inscribed with traditional symbols to guide them through their blended Indian and Christian worship. The Kickapoo continued to follow Kenekuk’s example long after his death in 1852. Despite tremendous pressure to leave Kansas and relocate a second time, to modern-day Oklahoma, the Kickapoo preserved some of their land. By the late 1870s, they were among the only Indians left in Kansas.33 But in 1854, much of this story was in the future. Up to that point, Indian Country, including the future Kansas, was solidly in Indians’ hands and had a large Indian-majority population. Already the site of migration, adaptation, and change, pre-1854 Kansas was a dynamic and sometimes dangerous place. Its history of cultural conflict, disagreement over slavery, and ineffective law enforcement offered signs of things to come.
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* * * Most outsiders overlooked the complexity of Indian Country and its inhabitants. They concurred with Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas that it was simply an “Indian barrier,” a “howling wilderness,” a “barbarian wall” blocking “the onward march of civilization, Christianity, and free government.”34 Within twenty years of Indian Country’s establishment as a permanent home for Native Americans, powerful voices demanded that the federal government break its promises, eliminate Indians’ legal right to their land, and open the acreage to white settlement. The Kansas– Nebraska Act, which organized Kansas Territory and authorized white migration into it, fulfilled these requests. Among those who looked most eagerly, and warily, at Indian Country were white Missourians. Part of the boundary between Missouri and Indian Country followed the Missouri River, but much of it was merely a line in the dust. Keenly aware of the rich lands lying just across this border, western Missourians impatiently waited to see the Indian domain organized into a territory, like Utah or New Mexico, and opened for white migration. But one concern held them back: under the Missouri Compromise, the land was closed to slavery. If white Missourians had the most to gain from expansion into this area, they also had the most to lose. Without slaveholders living across that unguarded border, it was likely to become an antislavery outpost, a haven for abolitionists and runaway slaves. One Missourian wrote that if slaveholders could not enter that land, “I say let the Indians have it forever. They are better neighbors than the abolitionists, by a damn sight.”35 Unlike distant California or Utah, Kansas was adjacent to a slave state, making its fate and Missouri’s deeply intertwined. Missourians who coveted its rich farmland had to make sure they gained access to it on terms that did not destabilize their slave society back home. Proslavery Missourians had reason to worry about their neighbors. Since the 18th century, slavery had had a significant presence in their region, which increased after statehood.36 By 1720, French settlers had begun to import African slaves into the southeastern portion of the future state of Missouri, primarily to labor in silver and lead mines. At the turn of the nineteenth century, black slaves comprised nearly 20 percent of the people in what the French called Upper Louisiana. Most lived in the Mississippi River valley, but they also worked on farms and trading posts along the western frontier, including Independence, the famous outpost for migrants departing to seek gold in California or farms in the Oregon Territory.37 With slavery well established when Missouri applied for statehood, most white residents condemned Congressional proposals to mandate gradual emancipation. Politicians proclaimed that Congress had
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no right to interfere with slavery in Missouri. White residents held public meetings to express similar views; of course, neither slaves nor free blacks were allowed to attend, and the few whites who endorsed restrictions on slavery were quickly silenced.38 The state of Missouri was born amid the controversy over slavery’s expansion, and its politically empowered residents overwhelmingly supported the institution. After statehood, slavery became more deeply embedded in Missouri, though it was very different from the cotton states further south. There were few large plantations or fabulously wealthy planters; most Missouri masters owned only a few slaves. But this did not make slavery less important. Most white migrants to Missouri came from the Upper South, especially Virginia and Kentucky. Some, including Samuel Ralston, brought slaves with them, while others brought a desire to become slaveholders. Missouri’s enslaved population grew quickly, from 10,222 in 1820 to 114,931 by 1860, an increase of more than 1000 percent. High slave prices reflected Missouri masters’ confidence in the future profitability of the system.39 Slavery’s presence was even larger in specific portions of the state. In a number of counties along the Missouri River, slaves represented a quarter or more of the population. The area’s nickname— “Little Dixie”—demonstrates how slavery strengthened white Missourians’ identification with the South. Even here, most masters owned about five slaves.40 But that extra labor could make the difference between a profitable harvest and a losing one, between upward mobility and financial failure. It might release a white woman from household drudgery or increase a family’s disposable income. The purchase of even one slave was an enormous investment, and the wide distribution of slave property in Missouri increased the number of white families that were directly invested in the institution.41 Moreover, focusing solely on slave ownership underestimates the breadth of whites’ interest in slavery because it ignores the common practice of slave “hiring.” Under this system, a nonslaveholder rented one or more slaves for a set period of time. This allowed masters to earn extra cash and nonslaveholders to exploit the labor of slaves whom they could not afford to purchase. Thus, a small farmer might expand his labor pool at harvest time, or give his wife a break from chores during an illness or pregnancy.42 Many of Missouri’s most heavily slaveholding counties were in the central and eastern portions of the state, but slavery flourished in the western border region as well. In 1860, slaves comprised at least 5 percent of the population in seven of the 14 counties that touched Kansas Territory. Counties with especially large slave populations included Platte, Clay, and Jackson, all of which became centers of proslavery activity after 1854.43 In this area, hemp production yielded large profits. Hemp planters used
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Little Dixie Is Missouri a Southern state or a Midwestern state? In the early 1800s, most white Missourians considered themselves westerners. But during the Kansas conflict, many of them felt threatened by antislavery northerners and began to identify with the South. This sense of “southernness” appeared even earlier in the region known as Little Dixie. Its name and history show how regional identity was shaped by the political, economic, and social effects of slavery. The term “Little Dixie” usually refers to the belt of counties lining the Missouri River across the center of the state, including Boone, Callaway, Clay, Cooper, Howard, Lafayette, and Saline. In 1850, a quarter or more of Little Dixie’s residents were enslaved, and the counties led the state in tobacco and hemp production. Slavery and staple-crop agriculture went together. As the nickname suggests, they also encouraged local whites to identify closely with the South. Most of the region’s early white migrants came from Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. They did not seek to escape into frontier isolation; they wanted to make money, and Little Dixie was the place to do it. Its rich soil and easy access to river transportation made it ideal for commercialized agriculture. Exploiting a growing number of enslaved laborers, farmers and planters in Little Dixie raised cash crops and shipped them down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. It was a profitable arrangement, and local whites were determined to defend it. When northern migrants began to pour into Kansas in 1854, citizens of Little Dixie vowed to defeat them. As residents of Boone County put it, they had to “prevent the foul demon of abolitionism from planting a colony of Negro thieves on our frontier, to harass our citizens and steal their property.” Proslavery participants in Bleeding Kansas were fighting to extend Little Dixie’s domain further west.
slave labor to grow and process the crop, and the top hemp-producing counties were among those with the largest slave populations. The sale of hemp to the Deep South—where it was used to bind cotton bales— strengthened economic ties between “Little Dixie” and its namesake.44 Tobacco also flourished in Missouri, with production expanding westward over time, until Clay County became a leading center of tobacco cultivation—and the most heavily enslaved of the border counties.45 It was also home to David R. Atchison, one of Missouri’s most zealous proslavery politicians. Masters bragged that slavery in Missouri was uniquely mild and benevolent, creating a persistent myth. Slavery on the Missouri frontier, insisted historian John G. Haskell in 1902, was “much more a domestic than a commercial institution.” Masters and slaves worked in the same
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fields and lived in the same houses. This familiarity, he argued, “cultivated between the races strong personal and reciprocal attachments,” for “negroes were members of the family.”46 A white historian, Haskell relied on sources written by white masters. One wonders what enslaved Missourians would have thought of his thesis, or whether Haskell would have traded places with them. In any case, Haskell’s argument depended heavily on numbers: the smallness of the average Missouri slaveholding household made relations between masters and slaves close and, he assumed, kindly. But did proximity to a master ensure happiness to a slave? Small households enhanced masters’ power to monitor and interfere in slaves’ lives. Relatively isolated on scattered farms, enslaved Missourians lacked the community support that slaves on Deep South plantations relied on. Moreover, ties of family and friendship among Missouri slaves were fragile. Husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and neighbors, always faced the possibility of separation, either by sale or a master’s migration. Nearly one third of Missouri’s enslaved children were sold away from their families during the 1850s. Masters used the threat of sale “down the river” to the notorious cotton plantations of the Lower Mississippi Valley to coerce obedience from their slaves.47 Close, inherently unequal relationships could facilitate appalling abuse. The lives of Celia, an enslaved teenager, and her master, Robert Newsom, make this disturbingly clear. Newsom was a Missouri success story: born in Virginia, he moved with his wife and children to Callaway County, built a thriving farm, and became a respected gentleman. By 1850, he owned five male slaves. That summer, he purchased a sixth, a 14-yearold girl named Celia. Newsom’s motives were revealed when, during the return trip to his farm, he raped her. He did not need additional field or house laborers, but Newsom did want a new sexual partner—willing or not—after his wife’s death the previous year. Celia lived in a separate cabin for five years, during which time Newsom raped her regularly and fathered two children by her. The cruelty continued until one night in June 1855, when Newsom forced his way into Celia’s cabin, ignoring her pleas to leave her alone. Celia was pregnant again and very unwell. But she had prepared to defend herself by hiding a large stick in her cabin. When Newsom approached her, she smashed his head, killing him, and burned his body in the fireplace. After Newsom’s family recovered some of his remains, Celia was charged with murder. The jury consisted of 12 white men—Newsom’s peers, not Celia’s—and her violent resistance was among their worst nightmares. Missouri law allowed women to defend themselves against rape but the jurors refused to extend this right to a slave. Celia was hanged on December 21.48
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Celia’s story demonstrates that Missouri slaves did not passively accept abuse or oppression. Resistance was varied, continuous, and politically important. Slaves worked slowly, feigned illness, broke tools, and stole provisions. Always present was the possibility of overt, even violent, resistance. Samuel Ralston clashed with a well-armed slave in 1844. In 1850, a group of 30 slaves in western Missouri armed themselves and attempted to escape, surrendering only after their captain’s death in a shootout with a white posse. That same year, an enslaved Clay County woman wounded her owner with an axe. By 1859, a St. Louis newspaper reported that murders of masters by slaves had become “alarmingly frequent.”49 White Missourians responded to these dangers with overwhelming force. State and local laws prohibited the circulation of antislavery texts, outlawed assemblies of slaves or free blacks, required slaves to carry a pass when they traveled, and authorized law enforcement officers and private citizens to physically punish them. Concerned citizens organized patrols to maintain slave discipline. Where the legal system failed, mobs carried out lynch law, as when an enslaved man was hanged in 1853 for allegedly attempting to rape a white lady.50 The most regularly alarming slave resistance was running away. Slaves all over the South fled, but those living along the northern border were most likely to run because their odds of success were better. Missouri slaves ran in unusually large numbers. In 1860, around one in every 5000 southern slaves escaped from servitude; in Missouri, the rate was one in 1100.51 Geography was key: with Iowa and Illinois bordering Missouri on two sides, free soil was comparatively close. Two great rivers—the Mississippi and the Missouri—also facilitated slaves’ flight. Readers of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn know that rivers helped Missouri slaves flee. Escapes were politically significant because white Missourians accused meddling northerners of “enticing” slaves to run or “stealing” them. They believed their own claims about slaves’ contentment, so they blamed outsiders. In fact, most Missouri slaves departed on their own initiative and received assistance only upon reaching free soil. But there were cases of whites entering Missouri to assist escaping slaves. In 1841, an Illinois divinity professor and two students were convicted of violating Missouri’s law against slave stealing. Under considerable northern pressure, the governor reduced their sentences, but between 1837 and 1865, forty-two people served time in the state prison for stealing slaves. Others were never caught, but rumors of their activities spread like wildfire, leaving proslavery whites angry and suspicious. A group dubbed the “Iowa Apple Men” became notorious for crossing Missouri’s northern border, ostensibly to gather apples, and helping slaves escape. An 1857 report blamed them for the loss of several slaves in central Missouri and warned the intruders that
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they “had better look sharp” or they would find themselves arrested and sentenced to hard labor.52 Persistent escapes convinced some masters to leave Missouri altogether. In 1851, one disgusted slaveholder relocated to Mississippi because “his negroes became two [sic] troublesome runing [sic] over to Illinois and he had trouble getting them again.”53 By 1854, slavery in Missouri was thriving but fragile. Only with this in mind can we understand white Missourians’ views of Kansas. Deeply invested in slave labor, they yearned to use it to exploit the lands to the west. Deeply troubled by threats to slavery, they feared that a third free state on Missouri’s borders would leave them nearly surrounded by enemies. Many Missourians found a solution to this dilemma in popular sovereignty. If applied to the new territory organized in the Indian Country, popular sovereignty could give proslavery Missourians both land and security. They assumed that popular sovereignty would extend slavery westward because most of the early migrants would be proslavery Missourians who lived nearby. During the early 1850s, growing numbers of Missourians called for the organization of a new territory, open to whites, and demanded that the Missouri Compromise ban be removed and replaced by popular sovereignty. In November 1853, citizens of Andrews County urged the organization of a territory called “Nebraska” and insisted that “the people who settle it should determine for themselves” whether it became a slave or free state.54 Senator David Atchison, a fierce advocate of slavery expansion, was more emphatic, vowing to see Nebraska “sink in hell” before voting to organize it as a free territory.55 During his successful bid for re-election in 1853, he promised constituents in Platte County that he would neither “vote for any bill that makes Nebraska a freesoil Territory” nor “yield one inch to the spirit of freesoilism and abolitionism.”56 When Congress met in December 1853, Atchison put these ideas into action. * * * As members of Congress gathered in Washington, informed observers expected that the western territories would be “one of the most exciting topics of discussion.”57 Missourians’ ambitions were well known, and interest in organization had surfaced in Iowa and elsewhere. Proslavery southerners’ hostility to the Missouri Compromise was also common knowledge, as was antislavery northerners’ determination to prevent slavery’s expansion. Another round of divisive debate was on the horizon. At the epicenter of the debate was Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Born in Vermont, Douglas experienced, firsthand, upward mobility through westward migration. Determined to promote the development
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of the West, Douglas feared that slavery’s divisiveness would derail his plans. Previously, he had supported bills to organize Indian Country into territories, only to see them defeated by proslavery southerners uninterested in creating territories where slavery was illegal. Douglas worried that sectional conflict would prevent Congress from enacting other measures he deemed necessary for western growth, especially the construction of a transcontinental railroad. And he knew that sectional debates threatened the Union: in 1850, he had led the moderates who patched together a compromise. Douglas believed that western expansion could unite the country, but only if northerners and southerners avoided bickering about slavery every time there was a new territory to organize or a new state to admit.58 Douglas saw popular sovereignty as the solution. In 1850, he supported popular sovereignty for the Utah and New Mexico territories and remained committed to what he called the “great principle of self-government”: that adult, white male voters should determine their own political and social institutions.59 Douglas defined popular sovereignty as the principle for which the Patriots fought the American Revolution, and now it was the key to unlocking the great West. By applying it to all western territories, Congress could avoid bogging down in conflict, offending southerners by banning slavery, and outraging northerners by promoting slavery’s expansion. Douglas anticipated that popular sovereignty would yield an antislavery result in the territories carved out of Indian Country, but what mattered to him was the principle itself, not the outcome.60 As chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, Douglas was well positioned to push for territorial organization. And he was prepared to use popular sovereignty to unite northerners and southerners behind his dream of unfettered white expansion. In the end, this doctrine would tear them apart. Congress started down the twisted path toward the Kansas–Nebraska Act when Senator Augustus Dodge of Iowa introduced a bill for the organization of a single “Nebraska Territory” on December 14, 1853.61 It left the Missouri Compromise ban in place, so David Atchison, among other southern senators, opposed it. Atchison reminded Douglas that he needed southern votes to get any territorial bill through the Senate. Douglas responded by drastically amending Dodge’s bill while it was under consideration by the Territorial Committee. When Douglas reported it back to the Senate on January 4, 1854, the bill authorized the territorial legislature to allow or disallow slavery in Nebraska. Effectively, this replaced the slavery ban with popular sovereignty, though the Missouri Compromise was still in force and it would be up to the courts to settle things if a territorial law clashed with the old restriction. Still, Douglas
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Stephen A. Douglas Now best remembered as Abraham Lincoln’s opponent in the 1858 Illinois senate election, Stephen Douglas was by far more famous than “Honest Abe” throughout the 1850s. He was widely known as a crusader for popular sovereignty, a doctrine on which Douglas staked his reputation, his career, and the fate of his Democratic Party. Douglas was so personally identified with popular sovereignty that contemporaries often referred to the Kansas–Nebraska Act as “the Douglas bill.” Douglas was short and stocky, overly fond of whiskey, and fiercely racist. He also had a financial stake in slavery: his first wife inherited a Mississippi cotton plantation which Douglas managed on behalf of their sons after her death in 1853. But Douglas was no proslavery ideologue. Devoted to white men’s equality, Douglas believed that they, as voters, should determine slavery’s fate in each state and territory. This led him to oppose southern efforts to use federal authority to plant slavery throughout the West. By the late 1850s, some southern leaders considered Douglas as bad as an abolitionist. Most southern Democrats refused to support Douglas as their candidate for the presidency in 1860, leading to a split in the party and a battle between Douglas, backed by most northern Democrats, and John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, supported by most southern Democrats. For Douglas, popular sovereignty was much more than a clever way to deal with the problem of slavery expansion. It was, he insisted, the foundation of American politics; indeed, he believed it was what the Patriots had fought for in the American Revolution. In Douglas’s view, the only alternative to it was federal authority. Whether that power was used to ban slavery (as Douglas’s northern critics wanted) or to protect it (as his southern rivals demanded), Douglas believed that federal control would deprive territorial voters of the right of self-government. This made him tremendously popular from the Great Plains to the Pacific Coast, where many white settlers regarded Douglas as “the champion of popular rights and the friend of the hardy pioneer.” Ironically, the explosion of violence in Bleeding Kansas ruined popular sovereignty’s reputation, turned many northerners and southerners against the doctrine, and shattered Douglas’s dreams of becoming president.
offered a major concession to proslavery southerners by opening a crack in the wall against slavery in Nebraska Territory. But it wasn’t enough. Douglas’s bill would not create a safe home for slaveholders. Would they take valuable property into Nebraska if a court might uphold a ban on slavery? Could they count on local judges and law enforcement officers to return runaways or punish “slave stealers”? Slaveholders wanted guarantees, not opportunities, for expansion. Proslavery senators demanded outright repeal of the Missouri Compromise restriction and specific
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authorization for masters to take slaves into Nebraska. They wanted federal protection for slavery in the territories. Douglas did not go this far but he did seek southern support. On January 23, he introduced a new bill that sweetened the deal for slaveholders in two ways. First, it created two territories, not one: Kansas Territory, extending westward from Missouri to the Rocky Mountains, and a much larger Nebraska Territory stretching from Kansas to the Canadian border. It was never officially stated, but some observers believed this was designed to provide sectional balance, with Nebraska likely to become a free state and Kansas a slave state. Second, the bill stated that the Missouri Compromise restriction had been superseded by the Compromise of 1850 and made “inoperative.” Douglas argued that when Congress applied popular sovereignty to New Mexico and Utah, it intended that principle to apply to all future territories, including Kansas and Nebraska. This was a bizarre claim: in 1850, no one suggested that the compromise would replace existing legislation. The 1850 law applied to the Mexican Cession only, not the Louisiana Purchase. In any event, Douglas understood that tampering with the Missouri Compromise would infuriate many northerners. He knew this bill would “raise a hell of a storm” in the North.62 But Douglas was determined to promote westward expansion and genuinely believed that popular sovereignty was the answer, so he forged ahead. Formal debate on Douglas’s bill began in January. Tension soared, tempers flared, and congressmen clashed over slavery’s past, present, and future in the republic. Southerners argued that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and insulting. They demanded repeal as an act of justice to the South. Antislavery northerners charged them with violating a sacred agreement and forcing slavery onto lands that had been reserved for freedom for over thirty years. Some accused Douglas of supporting slavery expansion in exchange for southern backing in the 1856 presidential election. The most famous protest was a public letter signed by six congressmen and printed in several northern newspapers. Known as the “Appeal of the Independent Democrats,” it combined outrage against the breach of the Missouri Compromise with charges of conspiracy against the Kansas–Nebraska Bill’s supporters. Appealing to longstanding northern fears that southern slaveholders—collectively called the “slave power”— dominated the federal government, the Appeal denounced Douglas’s bill as “a gross violation of a sacred pledge” and part of an “atrocious plot to exclude from a vast unoccupied region immigrants from the Old World, and free labourers from our own States, and convert it into a dreary region of despotism, inhabited by masters and slaves.” It called upon all freedom-
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loving people, Christians, and opponents of slavery expansion to unite against the bill.63 The Appeal ignored tens of thousands of Native Americans living in the “unoccupied region.” But it was a masterful document because it could convince even deeply racist white northerners that slavery expansion was wrong. A voter who cared little about enslaved people would care a great deal about an aristocratic plot against his liberty and economic opportunity. The battle lines were drawn. Most southern leaders backed the Kansas–Nebraska Bill, despite being wary of popular sovereignty. Since slaveholders were a minority even within the South, putting slavery up to a vote offered far less government protection than they wanted. But they accepted the bill as their best chance to establish slavery in Kansas. Antislavery northerners, including Whigs and some dissenting Democrats, opposed the bill. Caught in between were Douglas and most other northern Democrats, who still hoped that popular sovereignty would allow the country to get on with removing Indians, building railroads, and heading west. President Franklin Pierce, a New Hampshire Democrat and southern sympathizer, urged Democrats to toe the party line and support the bill. Many did, and the bill passed the Senate on March 4 and the House on May 22. President Pierce signed the Kansas–Nebraska Act into law on the 30th. In its final form, the “Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas” created the two territories named in its title.64 It promised to respect Indians’ land claims but in practice incited white encroachment from the start. Territorial organization made conflict between Native Americans and whites inevitable and it was obvious which side the government would take. White settlers, however, enjoyed more self-government than residents of other territories, because their territorial legislatures were more autonomous. They could pass legislation over a governor’s veto and their laws did not require Congressional approval. In both territories, the Legislative Assembly consisted of two houses, a Council and a House of Representatives, elected by free, white males over twenty-one years old. A voter had to be “an actual resident” of the territory. Crucially, it appeared that the Assemblies could regulate slavery as they chose. The Act left “the people” of the territories “perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.” Exactly when they could make these decisions was not specified; nor were voting requirements. What made someone an “actual resident”? Precisely what power did the territorial legislature have over slavery prior to statehood? The seeds of Bleeding Kansas were planted in the Kansas–Nebraska Act itself.
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Figure 1.1 Maps can be used to make political statements as well as transmit geographic information. Published during the 1856 presidential election, this map highlights Kansas territory as a key battleground between the free states and the ominous-looking, darkly-colored, slave states. Both Kansas and Nebraska Territory were opened to the possibility of slavery expansion by the KansasNebraska Act, but the artist spotlighted Kansas. Note also the emphasis on the Missouri Compromise line, also colored white, which had been overturned by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Source: “Reynolds’s Political Map of the United States, Designed to Exhibit the Comparative Area of the Free and Slave States and the Territory Open to Slavery or Freedom by the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise” (1856). Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Available at https://loc.gov/item/2003627003
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Congressional votes on the Before the midterm elections of 1854, fateful bill revealed terrible strain northern Democrats held ninety-one on both the Whig and Democongressional seats. Afterward, they had cratic parties and the disturbing only twenty-five trend toward sectional divisions. Southern Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the bill, while northern Democrats were split; in the House, they were evenly divided, forty-four in favor and forty-four against. Most southern Whigs supported the bill, though they were more likely than southern Democrats to oppose it, reflecting their generally more moderate stance on slavery. Northern Whigs voted unanimously against the bill. In sum, while Democrats were more favorable to the Act—partly because of presidential pressure to support it—both parties divided along sectional lines.65 Still, Douglas interpreted the result as a triumph for his cherished principle of popular sovereignty. He didn’t know that this victory would shatter his presidential hopes along with the Democratic Party and the Union. Signs of trouble appeared even before the bill became law. Northern outrage against the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was immense. Many northerners agreed with the Appeal of the Independent Democrats and resolved to challenge slavery’s expansion. They organized to resist through the ballot box, and on the ground out west. Politically, northerners punished supporters of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. In the 1854 midterm elections, northern voters blasted the Democratic Party. Of the 44 northern Democratic representatives who voted for Douglas’s bill, only seven won re-election. Opponents of the Kansas–Nebraska Act also began to cooperate across old party lines to build a new political coalition opposed to slavery expansion and slaveholders’ national power. Former Whigs, Democrats, and others held “anti-Nebraska” meetings across the north to protest the Kansas–Nebraska Act and plan a response. Many of them decided that a new political party was needed. Free-state voters, wrote one editorialist in June 1854, must “forget their party differences, and unite in a Party of Freedom, with a fixed purpose to regain possession of the Federal Government, and subvert the Slave Power.”66 Out of this determination, the Republican Party was born. Precisely where and when the first Republican meeting was held is disputed, but between 1854 and 1856, party branches sprang up across the northern states. Conceived as a measure to strengthen the Democratic Party, the Kansas–Nebraska Act created a dangerous rival.67 Simultaneously, many northerners also organized to ensure that popular sovereignty produced a free-soil outcome in Kansas. If there was to be a race for the West, the North would simply have to win it. Referring
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to his home state’s rapidly-growing population, New York Senator William Seward warned southerners that steadfast northern migrants would soon pour into Kansas and Nebraska. Friends of free labor, they would be “libertyloving, slavery-fearing citizens.” Seward accepted his southern colleagues’ challenge “in behalf of the cause of freedom. We will engage in competition for the virgin soil of Kansas,” he resolved, “and God give the victory to the side which is stronger in numbers as it is in right.”68 Seward recognized that a new phase of the territorial struggle was beginning. Congress debated Kansas for many more years, but much of the political action now shifted to the Great Plains. Proslavery and antislavery migrants, like Savage and Ralston, were rapidly converging. The race was on.
2 3 4
7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Craig Miner, Seeding Civil War: Kansas in the National News, 1854–1858 (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2008), 21; Robert Hay, “The Great Seal of Kansas,” Transactions of the Kansas Historical Society 8 (1904), 293. Dale E. Watts, “How Bloody Was Bleeding Kansas? Political Killings in Kansas Territory, 1854–1861,” Kansas History 18, no. 2 (Summer 1995): 116–129. [John L. O’Sullivan,] “Annexation,” United States Democratic Review 17, no. 85 ( July–August 1845), 5. Quoted in Shelley Hickman Clark and James W. Clark, Eds., “Lawrence in 1854: Recollections of Joseph Savage,” Kansas History 27, no. 1/2 (Spring-Summer 2004), 33. For biographical information, see Ibid, 31–33. Quoted in Ibid, 36. W. Darrell Overdyke, “A Southern Family on the Missouri Frontier: Letters from Independence, 1843–1855,” Journal of Southern History 17, no. 2 (May 1951), 216–218. S[amuel] R[alston] to My dear Sir, January 8, 1844, in Ibid, 223. Ibid, 224. Saml Ralston to Valued & Respected friend, December 9, 1844, in Ibid, 233. William E. Parrish, David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Border Politician (Columbia: University of Missouri, 1961), 163–164. Saml Ralston to Valued & Respected friend, December 9, 1844, in Overdyke, “Southern Family,” 233. Miner, Seeding Civil War, 3. Quoted in Jack N. Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (New York: Vintage Books, 1997), 77. Arthur Zilversmit, First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967). Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War (New York: Oxford University, 1970); Susan-Mary Grant, North over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2000).
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17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34 35
Adam Rothman, Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2005); William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion, 2 vols. (New York: Oxford University, 1990–2007); William J. Cooper, Jr., The South and the Politics of Slavery, 1828–1856 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1978). Suzanne Cooper Guasco, Confronting Slavery: Edward Coles and the Rise of Antislavery Politics in Nineteenth-Century America (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, 2013). Robert Pierce Forbes, The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath: Slavery and the Meaning of America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2007). Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics (New York: Oxford University, 1978), 74–89; Christopher Childers, The Failure of Popular Sovereignty: Slavery, Manifest Destiny, and the Radicalization of Southern Politics (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2012), 10–28. On the Missouri crisis and compromise, see Forbes, Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath, 33–120. Annals of Congress, 15th Cong., 2nd Sess., 1204, 1211. Ibid, 1184–1191. Quoted in Matthew Mason, Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2006), 187. On the conflict and Compromise of 1850, see: Fehrenbacher, Dred Scott Case, 124–177; Childers, Failure of Popular Sovereignty, 102–199; and John C. Waugh, On the Brink of Civil War: The Compromise of 1850 and How It Changed the Course of American History (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 2003). Quoted in James M. McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University, 1988), 51. Congressional Globe, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., 120. Ibid, appendix, 153–156. William Carl Klunder, Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation (Kent, OH: Kent State University, 1996), 168. Waugh, On the Brink of Civil War, 187. On Native Americans and Kansas, see: Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009), esp. 9–32; Kevin Abing, “Before Bleeding Kansas: Christian Missionaries, Slavery, and the Shawnee Indians in Pre-Territorial Kansas, 1844–1854,” Kansas History 24, no. 1 (March 2001): 54–70; Joseph B. Herring, The Enduring Indians of Kansas: A Century and a Half of Acculturation (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1990); and H. Craig Miner and William E. Unrau, The End of Indian Kansas: A Study of the Cultural Revolution, 1854–1871 (Lawrence: Regents of Kansas, 1978). Pearl T. Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell: The Political Crisis in Territorial Kansas (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, 2014), 39. On Johnson’s mission, see Abing, “Before Bleeding Kansas.” Herring, Enduring Indians of Kansas, 1–54. Congressional Globe, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., appendix, 337. Quoted in Nicole Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2004), 11.
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37 38 39 40
41 42 43 44 45 46
47 48 49
50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58
On slavery in Missouri, see: Kristen K. Epps, “Before the Border War: Slavery and the Settlement of the Western Frontier,” in Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border, Eds. Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti Burke (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2013): 29–46; Diane Mutti Burke, On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small-Slaveholding Households, 1815–1865 (Athens: University of Georgia, 2010); and R. Douglas Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery in Missouri’s Little Dixie (Columbia: University of Missouri, 1992). Epps, “Before the Border War.” Stephen Aron, American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State (Bloomington: Indiana University, 2006), 177–184. Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery, 222–223. Ibid, ix, xi-xii, 221. On Missourians’ regional identity, see Christopher Phillips, “‘The Crime against Missouri’: Slavery, Kansas, and the Cant of Southernness in the Border West,” Civil War History 48, no. 1 (March 2002): 60–81. Burke, On Slavery’s Border, 52–141. Ibid, 107–118; Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery, 238–243. Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery, xii. Ibid, 103–124. Ibid, 99. John G. Haskell, “The Passing of Slavery in Western Missouri,” Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society 7 (1902), 31. On the origins and persistence of this myth, see Burke, On Slavery’s Border, 1–4. Burke, On Slavery’s Border, 93–267; Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery, 261–264. Melton A. McLaurin, Celia, a Slave (Athens: University of Georgia, 1991). Ibid, 46–48; S[amuel] R[alston] to My dear Sir, January 8, 1844, in Overdyke, “Southern Family,” 224; Burke, On Slavery’s Border, 160–186; Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery, 248–254. Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery, 246–254. Ibid, 257–258. Ibid, 254–260; Burke, On Slavery’s Border, 173–182; “Iowa Apple Men,” Glasgow (MO) Weekly Times, November 12, 1857. Quoted in Burke, On Slavery’s Border, 28. Quoted in P. Orman Ray, The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise: Its Origin and Authorship ( Boston: J.S. Canner, 1965), 165. Quoted in McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 122. Quoted in Ray, Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 135. Quoted in Ibid, 179. Robert W. Johannsen, Stephen A. Douglas (New York: Oxford University, 1973); Martin H. Quitt, Stephen A. Douglas and Antebellum Democracy (New York: Cambridge University, 2012). Congressional Globe, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., 277. Ibid, 279; James L. Huston, “Democracy by Scripture versus Democracy by Process: A Reflection on Stephen A. Douglas and Popular Sovereignty,” Civil War History 43, no. 3 (September 1997): 189–200. On the Act’s legislative history, see: Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 9–10; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 13–34; and Robert R. Russel, “The Issues in the
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64 65 66 67 68
Congressional Struggle over the Kansas–Nebraska Bill, 1854,” Journal of Southern History 29, no. 2 (May 1963): 187–210. Quoted in McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 122. Congressional Globe, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., 281–282. On the slave power, see Leonard L. Richards, The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780–1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2000). For the text of the Act, see The Avalon Project, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_ century/kanneb.asp. Russel, “Issues in the Congressional Struggle,” 208–209; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 20. National Era, June 1, 1854. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 23–25; William E. Gienapp, The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852–1856 (New York: Oxford University, 1987), esp. pp. 69–271. Congressional Globe, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., appendix, 769.
articipants in Bleeding Kansas spoke in terms of freedom and rights that can seem very familiar to us today. When free-state settler Joseph Savage called the Kansas conflict “the great struggle between freedom and slavery,” he expressed an idea shared by many other antislavery northerners, who saw themselves as defenders of liberty.1 But proslavery leader David Atchison championed a type of freedom, too: white Missourians’ freedom to take slaves across their western border and recreate their slaveholding society in Kansas without interference.2 He therefore accused antislavery activists of being “aggressors upon our rights,” and vowed that Missourians would never “be driven or deprived of any of our rights” in Kansas.3 Savage and Atchison spoke the same language but meant very different things. For some Kansas migrants, “freedom” might mean economic opportunity, particularly through land ownership, or the right to free speech. Or it could mean the ability to build institutions, like public schools and Protestant churches, which many white Americans wanted to take into the West.4 Atchison’s definition also included the freedom to deny freedom to other people, a contradiction that persisted long after the Civil War. And northern and southern migrants alike generally ignored Native American freedom when they raced to Kansas. In sum, 19th-century views of freedom were strictly limited by modern standards—but also fiercely contested. Settlers on both sides considered themselves freedom-loving people and when their goals and interests collided, the stage was set for a violent showdown. * * *
Figure 2.1 This modern map highlights many of the important sites and events of the Bleeding Kansas and Civil War periods, on both sides of the Kansas– Missouri line. Source: “The Long Civil War on the Kansas-Missouri Border.” Map by Robert L. Beck, from Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti Burke, eds., Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border (University Press of Kansas, 2013), xiv.
Soon after the Kansas–Nebraska Act’s passage in May 1854, antislavery northerners responded to William Seward’s call and began to migrate to the Great Plains. Most traveled on their own, but some joined one of the emigrant aid societies founded to sponsor northern settlement. Part business venture and part political movement, these organizations highlighted Kansas’s uniquely divisive influence. Group migration into the West was not unusual, but the controversy provoked by the Kansas aid societies was. The most famous society was the New England Emigrant Aid Company (NEEAC).5 Founded by Massachusetts businessman, educator, and politician Eli Thayer, the group, initially called the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company, was launched in March 1854 and formally organized in July. The following year, the NEEAC received a charter from the Massachusetts legislature which allowed it to issue stock and operate like other businesses. Thayer and other investors, including Boston philanthropist Amos A. Lawrence, hoped to make money. The NEEAC would encourage migration, secure cheap tickets for settlers, found towns, and construct schools and churches. Sales of increasingly valuable land would generate revenues. But the Company also had a political goal: help New Englanders win the race for Kansas. As Thayer wrote, the Kansas–Nebraska Act showed that “the contest between Freedom and Slavery” was not limited to Congress, but extended to “the prairies” of the west. Power was the prize for the winner, who would “govern the country.”6 His Company sought to tip the balance in favor of the antislavery side. Among those who benefited from its support was Joseph Savage, who learned about Kansas from the Company’s promotional materials. He bought discounted tickets with Company help and asserted that many northerners could not have reached Kansas without them.7 However, the NEEAC usually teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, with wealthy investors buying stock for charitable and political reasons rather than financial ones. The vast majority of northern migrants, moreover, did not emigrate with NEEAC aid; it directly assisted around 3000 settlers, a small minority of the 107,000 people living in Kansas Territory by 1860.8 Nor was the NEEAC unique, as northern communities of all kinds organized similar groups. The Wisconsin Kansas Emigrant Aid Society, for example, was founded in early 1856 by Republicans and abolitionists. By year’s end, it had helped 300 settlers reach Kansas while raising awareness about Kansas among many other people within Wisconsin.9
One of the most unique emigration organizations was the Vegetarian Kansas Emigration Company, founded in 1855 to provide vegetarians with a community where they would not be tempted to “sink into flesh-eating habits.”
But the NEEAC’s influence far exceeded its financial resources or its personnel. The Company laid a foundation for antislavery activity in Kansas by establishing outposts that grew into prominent towns which attracted northern migrants and runaway slaves.10 The first wave of NEEAC settlers arrived in August 1854 and founded Lawrence, named for the company’s benefactor. It quickly became a free-soil base and home to the Herald of Freedom, a newspaper that relayed information, with a strong antislavery spin, to readers across the continent. Denounced as an “abolition hole” by proslavery enemies, Lawrence attracted fugitive slaves on their way to Iowa or Canada. Within five years, some 300 runaways had passed through.11 Given its reputation, residents knew Lawrence would provoke a hostile response and made preparations for defense. Especially impressive was the fortress-like Free State Hotel, with walls several feet thick and gun-ports that could be opened to shoot through.12 Similarly important was Topeka, the second NEEAC-sponsored town, founded in the winter of 1854. It hosted the antislavery territorial government, organized in 1855 to oppose the official, proslavery, administration. Equally significant was the effect that NEEAC settlers had on their opponents. White Missourians had expected to dominate Kansas. When they heard reports, often vastly exaggerated, of NEEAC activity, they felt cheated and threatened by the approaching hordes of northeastern abolitionists and slum-dwellers. Whites in Lexington, Missouri, warned that slave values would plummet “if Kansas is made the abode of an army of hired fanatics, recruited, transported, armed, and paid for the special and sole purpose of abolitionizing Kansas and Missouri.”13 In reality, most NEEAC settlers did not intend to challenge slavery where it already existed; like most antislavery activists, they simply wanted to block its expansion. And most northern migrants to Kansas came from Midwestern states like Ohio, not from New England.14 But what people believe to be true often shapes history more than the actual facts. The image of the NEEAC as an abolitionist conspiracy informed later decisions made by proslavery Missourians. Some northerners, moreover, did express opinions that fit southern stereotypes. One resident of Kansas City, Missouri, heard an Iowa-born settler vow to loan his horse to any runaway slave who needed it.15 More threatening were migrants, reputedly NEEAC settlers, who boasted they would make Kansas a free state and then trigger abolition in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas, perhaps in just twenty years.16 The fact that the NEEAC helped settlers purchase firearms, including deadly accurate Sharps Rifles, added to its sinister reputation.17 Proslavery Missourians earned their reputation for violence, but many antislavery settlers were ready for battle. One northerner who stopped to buy guns,
knives, and blankets in Kansas City said that if any Missourians gave him trouble, he “would put a pistol ball through them, or knife them.”18 These armed, determined, and supposedly abolitionist outsiders threatened Missourians’ plans for establishing a slave territory on their western flank. Missouri newspaper editors sounded the alarm: “It is very important to Missouri that Kansas should be a slave State,” one wrote. A free Kansas threatened Missouri masters, who would soon find “our slaves decoyed off by abolitionists.”19 These predictions seemed to come true when four slaves escaped to Kansas from Platte County on July 8, 1854.20 The arrival of thousands of northerners would only make things worse. Proslavery Missourians prepared to resist this onslaught, first by cracking down on internal dissent. In July 1854, residents of Weston, in Missouri’s northwestern corner, held extralegal hearings to investigate alleged antislavery sentiment among their northern-born neighbors. One native of Massachusetts, guilty of free-soil sympathies, was banished to Iowa. Another man, suspected of forging passes for runaway slaves, had his head shaved and was warned to leave the county. More defiant was Frederick Starr, a northern-born Presbyterian minister who had lived in Weston since 1850. Chewing on a large plug of tobacco, Starr boldly confessed to teaching slaves to read and riding with a black woman in his carriage, and dared the “court” to convict him. Instead, he was asked to leave town. Brave but not foolish, Starr returned to New York.21 Policing slavery required restricting the liberties of free people. Expecting abolitionists to arrive soon, proslavery Missourians also organized to control Kansas. Platte County, which led the state in hemp production, was a hotbed of proslavery preparation. In July 1854, residents formed the Platte County Self-Defensive Association. Participants included David Atchison and Benjamin Stringfellow, a zealously proslavery Virginian who moved to Missouri in 1838. Proclaiming that abolitionists would undermine slave discipline and slave prices in western Missouri, the Association asserted its right to investigate antislavery activities, expel free blacks, and extend slavery into Kansas. The group conducted the interrogations of alleged subversives in Weston. The Association began to dissolve by year’s end, but Stringfellow traveled across western Missouri urging locals to form “Blue Lodges,” which would carry on its mission.22 Samuel Ralston joined one of these. As another Missourian put it, these “secret societies” were organized to “counteract the influences” of groups like the NEEAC. “We thought we had the right to fight the devil with fire.”23 Within Kansas itself, early Missouri migrants established “squatters’ associations” to protect members’ claims to land. Many participants endorsed slavery expansion, urged slaveholders to migrate, and pledged never to guard claims made by “abolitionists.”24
David R. Atchison “We will have difficulty with the Negro heroes in Kansas,” David Atchison told his friend Jefferson Davis in September 1854. Referring to antislavery settlers, he continued: “they are resolved they say to keep the slaveholder out, and our people are resolved to go in and take their ‘niggers’ with them.” He was convinced that northern migrants sought to “abolitionize Kansas” and would “not hesitate, to steal our slaves,” so Atchison publicly encouraged Missourians “to hang a negro thief or Abolitionist, without judge or jury.” He proudly reported that these words “met with almost universal applause.” Atchison is often remembered for the amusing controversy over whether he was technically President for one day (between the terms of James Polk and Zachary Taylor) in 1849. But his role in Bleeding Kansas was far more important and reveals much more about his life and times. Born near Lexington, Kentucky, into a family of small slaveholders, Atchison studied at the prestigious Transylvania University. (Other alumni include Stephen Austin, the “Father of Texas”; James Speed, Abraham Lincoln’s confidant and Attorney General; and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Atchison’s classmate.) Like many other ambitious youngsters from the Upper South, Atchison moved west, settling in Clay County, Missouri, in 1830. His law practice flourished, and despite owning only one slave, he was determined to protect slavery in Missouri and beyond. Atchison’s commitment was not diminished by his comparatively small financial stake in human property. Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, Atchison battled for territorial expansion, and for slavery’s extension, in many different ways. As a U.S. Senator from 1843 to 1855, Atchison allied with John C. Calhoun and other proslavery crusaders. In Congress, Atchison pushed for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Back home in northwestern Missouri, he urged his constituents to secure Kansas for slavery by any means necessary. Throughout the South, he urged proslavery whites to mobilize men and money for service in Bleeding Kansas. And in Kansas itself, Atchison led several expeditions of “Border Ruffians” in 1855 and 1856. During the Civil War, Atchison supported the Confederacy and served briefly in the Confederate army, before relocating to Texas. After the war, Atchison returned to Missouri, where he died in 1886. Atchison was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians in 1991; his biographical sketch details his “President for a Day” credentials but does not mention Bleeding Kansas.
With antislavery migrants ready to shoot or stab their foes and their proslavery rivals determined to “fight the devil with fire,” confrontation seemed inevitable. In fact, contending settlers clashed even before reaching Kansas. Many migrants traveled to Kansas on Ohio River and Missouri River steamboats, skirmishing verbally and physically on the way. When
Joseph Savage’s friend and fellow NEEAC migrant Edward Fitch was crossing Missouri on a steamboat, he encountered “Southern folks” who insulted his group “in every possible way,” including by blocking passages and telling them that “the second class did not belong” in that area of the ship.25 More serious was an attack on a Maine minister during a similar voyage. Angry proslavery passengers beat him with a chair while others shouted “kill the abolitionist nigger stealer.”26 After witnessing scenes like these, newcomers reached Kansas in a tense mood. Pennsylvania journalist William Hutter had been in Kansas only a few weeks when he wrote, on November 29, 1854: “The vexed question of slavery will cause some trouble before Kansas becomes a State.”27 * * * If asked 24 hours later, Hutter might have agreed that this was an epic understatement. He wrote it on the day of Kansas’s first territorial election, held to choose a delegate to Congress. (Territorial delegates did not vote on legislation but could participate in debates.) As the first expression of the will of “the people” of Kansas, the election was symbolically and politically important. It also established a clear precedent: popular sovereignty was messy.28 Certainly, 19th-century elections were always unruly. In many states, voters made their choices verbally or used ballots color-coded by party. Neither method was private, so voter intimidation was easy. And without consistent standards for voter qualifications, ballot printing, and other basic procedures, fraud was commonplace.29 It was difficult enough to identify the people’s will in New York or Virginia. To rely on popular sovereignty to address a hot-button issue like slavery expansion, in a raw and unruly place like Kansas, invited trouble. Territorial governor Andrew Reeder reached Kansas in October 1854 and ordered that the territorial delegate election take place the following month. A Pennsylvania Democrat, Reeder was poorly prepared for this job, having been chosen more for party loyalty than experience or ability. Even his attempt to explain territorial “residence,” which was a requirement for voting, was vague. He defined it as: “the actual dwelling or inhabiting in the Territory to the exclusion of any other present domicil or home, coupled with the present bona fide intention of remaining permanently for the same purpose.”30 Did this mean that settlers recruited by the NEEAC counted? Many Missourians thought not. But they often staked land claims in Kansas, perhaps outlining the foundation of a house with a few logs, and then went home to Missouri. Were they acting in good faith when they returned to vote? Many northerners thought not.31 The choice facing voters was clear: John Whitfield was
the proslavery candidate favored by most Missourians; opposing him were two free-state candidates, John A. Wakefield and Robert P. Flenneken. But the process of determining voter eligibility was as clear as mud. Not willing to risk defeat, the proslavery Blue Lodges mobilized to ensure Whitfield’s victory. One Missourian recalled that messengers covered the western part of the state to spread the word as men gathered for the journey to Kansas. In wagons and on horseback, they poured across the border on the eve of the election.32 Among them was Samuel Ralston. Several Kansas eyewitnesses identified him by name: one said that Ralston pointed out where he had staked a claim, perhaps to strengthen his case for voting, but was unsure whether Ralston actually lived there.33 An Iowan named Peter Bassinger recalled that when he expressed antislavery views, Ralston “hooted at me, and said they were bound to have Kansas a slave state, if they did it at the point of the sword.”34 Estimates of the number of Missourians who voted on November 29 varied, but an official investigation determined that more than 1700 ballots—most for Whitfield—were fraudulent, and even Ralston admitted that most of Whitfield’s votes came from Missourians.35 There were also cases of voter and even candidate intimidation. When Wakefield encountered a group of Missourians returning home to Westport and Kansas City after the polls closed, one of them grabbed his collar and denounced him as a “damned abolitionist.”36 But none of these illicit activities were necessary to secure Whitfield’s victory. He received 2258 votes against Wakefield’s 248 and Flenneken’s 305. Even with 1700 fewer votes, Wakefield would have won. Ralston’s side had triumphed, largely because at that point, most actual Kansas settlers were Missourians. The election highlighted their grim determination that freestaters would never have Kansas. The next election made popular sovereignty’s tendency to degenerate into trickery, fraud, and bloodshed even more obvious.37 Governor Reeder had ordered that Kansas voters select a territorial legislature on March 30, 1855. The stakes were immensely high because the first legislature might determine the territory’s slave or free status. As David Atchison wrote, “if we win we carry slavery to the Pacific Ocean if we fail we lose Missouri Arkansas and Texas and all the territories.” This “game,” he concluded, “must be played boldly.”38 Once again, proslavery Missourians intervened to guarantee a favorable outcome. And once again, this may not have been necessary. A census taken early in 1855 reported around 8000 whites, 151 free African Americans, and 192 slaves living in Kansas. Nearly half of the whites came from Missouri and another 7 percent from other slave states, compared with only 4 percent from New England, and most of the rest from the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions.39 But Missourians were taking no chances. Proclaiming that “Kansas Territory belonged to
Missouri,” hundreds of them entered Kansas just before March 30, determined to “elect a legislature to suit themselves” rather than leave it up to northern migrants, whose right to rule Kansas they considered no better than their own.40 One Missourian met 300 men from Clay County whose travel expenses were paid by slaveholders in exchange for voting in Kansas. They planned to cast 1500 ballots, tricking election officials by changing clothes and voting in multiple locations.41 On March 30, voters massed at polling places, shoving, trading insults, and blocking rivals from voting. One Lawrence resident estimated that 700 strangers, armed with shotguns, revolvers, and knives, had set up camp near town. On election morning, they crowded around the polls, preventing free-soilers from casting ballots. Some antislavery voters had to climb to the roof of the building to get inside and vote. When a prominent NEEAC migrant named Edwin Bond arrived, the cry went up to “shoot the damned abolitionist,” and several proslavery men fired at Bond and chased him along a riverbank until he escaped.42 At another polling place, a log cabin south of Lawrence, Missourians led by Samuel J. Jones of Westport demanded to be allowed to vote. Harrison Burson, an Illinoisan and local election judge, replied that they would have to take an oath. Jones refused and threatened to tear down the cabin and kill the judges. Suddenly, several of Jones’s companions stormed the house, breaking a window and prying up one corner of the building. Another darted inside, grabbed the ballot box, and “hurrahed for Missouri.” Jones gave the judges five minutes to resign or be killed. They resigned and fled, though Burson smuggled out some of the election records in his pockets.43 When J.N. Mace tried to vote at the same location, he was mobbed by men who shouted that “no damned Yankee should vote there that day” and threatened to slit his throat. Mace held up an American flag and denounced his attackers as traitors, but eventually fled for his life. Neither Mace nor his six companions managed to vote.44 Fraud was widespread. Some participants evidently voted early and often, because in a territory with 2905 legal voters, more than 6000 ballots were cast. The vast majority—5427—were for proslavery candidates. Freesoil Kansans complained directly to Congress, arguing that Missourians had violated popular sovereignty in order to oppress legitimate settlers and make Kansas a “vassal province” of Missouri.45 But protest was hazardous. After a lawyer named William Phillips signed an affidavit describing fraud, proslavery men warned him to leave the territory. When he refused, they abducted him by boat to Weston, Missouri, where Phillips was tarred and feathered, ridden on a rail, and “sold” in a humiliating mock slave auction.46 Proslavery Missourians and Kansans defended their actions as necessary to preserve life and property and counteract scheming abolitionists, particularly
those affiliated with the NEEAC. The election results delighted them. “The triumph of the Proslavery party is complete and overwhelming,” announced a proslavery Kansas newspaper. “Come on, Southern men! Bring your slaves and fill up the Territory. Kansas is saved!”47 * * * In truth, the election had settled nothing. But the legislators chosen in March 1855 worked quickly to ensure that slaveholders who moved to Kansas would enjoy all the legal protections they had in the slave states. They expressed this intention in their mottoes. “Negro Slavery for Kansas,” vowed one. “Kansas for the South, now & forever,” echoed another.48 They also clashed openly with Governor Reeder, whom many proslavery leaders suspected of free-soil sympathies. In July 1855, legislators insisted on meeting at the Shawnee Methodist Mission—site of Thomas Johnson’s Indian school and a slaveholding center very close to Missouri—rather than at Pawnee, Reeder’s preferred capital. Reeder retaliated by vetoing every bill they passed, declaring that they were not legally in session. But the legislature overrode his vetoes and demonstrated that Reeder could not govern the territory alone. By August, Reeder, discredited and powerless, was fired by President Franklin Pierce, who appointed Wilson Shannon to replace him.49 The legislature’s main task was to write basic laws, including a territorial slave code. Slavery required a solid legal foundation. Few migrants would bring slaves to Kansas without judicial and police mechanisms for regulating slaves and maintaining masters’ property rights. And without slaveholders, Kansas would not become a slave state. So, from the proslavery perspective, it was essential that the legislature take concrete steps to establish slavery. Led by Benjamin Stringfellow’s brother, John, and Thomas Johnson himself, Kansas legislators passed a law entitled “An Act to Punish Offences Against Slave Property.” The punishment for aiding a slave rebellion was death, regardless of the offender’s color or status. Capital punishment was also prescribed for people convicted of uttering, writing, or circulating statements that might provoke a slave revolt. Assisting runaways brought a sentence of five to ten years at hard labor. Perhaps most threatening to civil liberties was Section 12, which outlawed all verbal or written statements which asserted “that persons have not the right to hold slaves in this Territory,” under penalty of two years of hard labor. This, and the provision barring those who were “conscientiously opposed to holding slaves” from jury duty in cases related to slavery, nearly criminalized antislavery opinions.50 Benjamin Stringfellow bragged that Kansas had “laws more efficient to protect slave property than any other [sic] state in the Union.”51
Already angry at the “Bogus Legislature” for seizing power through “a gigantic and well planned fraud,” free-state Kansans were appalled by this law.52 They denounced it as a “damning outrage upon freedom,” meant to “enslave” free American citizens to a tyranny worse than any European monarchy. Free-state leaders pledged to resist. They condemned slavery as “a usurpation of authority” which violated “natural rights” and “human and divine laws,” and defied proslavery officials to stop them. “We come to Kansas, to live or die a freeman!” proclaimed the Herald of Freedom.53 Antislavery leaders across the North echoed these sentiments. Abolitionist minister Henry Ward Beecher of New York attacked the legislature for stifling discussion of slavery “by binding a law around every free throat like a halter.”54 In this view, opposing Kansas’s proslavery government meant protecting the rights and liberties of free people. One need not be a racial egalitarian, or even sympathetic to suffering slaves, to support this cause. Outraged free-state settlers responded by rejecting the proslavery government as unlawful and organizing a rival territorial government which, they argued, represented the will of “the people” of Kansas.55 While the proslavery legislature was in session, NEEAC migrant and antislavery leader Charles L. Robinson urged all free-state settlers to participate in a convention at Big Springs in early September that would unite opponents of the “bogus” legislature.56 Attendees formed a FreeState Party, denounced the proslavery territorial government, nominated Andrew Reeder for territorial delegate to Congress, and planned another convention at Topeka to write a state constitution. Their strategy was to secure popular approval for this constitution and then swiftly apply for admission as a free state in 1856. Delegates denied any intention to meddle with slavery in Missouri and emphasized that they were not abolitionists. But they were determined to make Kansas a free state. They decided that direct resistance to the territorial legislature—including boycotting its elections and ignoring its laws—was the only way to achieve this goal. When thirty-seven free-state leaders convened at Topeka on October 23, 1855, to write a state constitution, they knew they were taking a massive risk. By defying the territorial government, they enabled proslavery opponents to call them outlaws. But because they considered it illegitimate, they considered it a risk worth taking. Free-staters also knew it was imperative that they remain united, for they were deeply divided over issues of race: some were fiercely racist, while others were not. One group, predominantly New England migrants like Charles Robinson, believed
Between its organization as a territory in 1854 and statehood in 1861, Kansas had six different governors—and another five acting governors.
that slavery was sinful and ought to be abolished. They would welcome free African Americans in Kansas, and even endorse their right to vote. Others, principally Midwestern migrants like James Lane, wanted to reserve western territories for whites. This meant prohibiting slavery, but also enacting a “Black Law” banning all African Americans, slave or free, from Kansas. “They hate slavery,” abolitionist Samuel Adair wrote of this faction, “but they hate the negro worse.”57 By November 12, the delegates had drafted the so-called Topeka Constitution. Its bill of rights banned slavery from Kansas and guaranteed citizens the right to “speak, write, and publish” their “sentiments on all subjects.” If accepted by Congress, Kansas would be admitted as a free state and without restrictions on free speech. The document extended voting rights to all white men, as well as “civilized” Indian men who had “adopted the habits of the white man,” but not blacks.58 The Topeka Convention submitted this constitution for Kansas voters’ approval on December 15, along with the separate question of banning free African Americans. Voters accepted the Topeka Constitution 1731 to 46, and the exclusion of free blacks 1287 to 453. But proslavery settlers refused to participate. Just as free-staters declined to vote in elections called by the proslavery government, proslavery Kansans boycotted free-state elections. Nevertheless, in January, free-state voters chose men to hold office under the Topeka Constitution, including Charles Robinson for governor. They prepared to ask Congress to admit Kansas as a free state.59 By early 1856, Kansas had two rival governments. Each denied the other’s legality and used dubious election results to prove its own legitimacy. But it was clear which one the U.S. government favored. In a special message to Congress delivered in January, President Franklin Pierce denounced the Topeka movement as “revolutionary” and potentially “treasonable.” He blamed the Kansas conflict on northern migrants, especially those associated with emigrant aid societies, and justified the proslavery response as self-defense. He threatened to use the U.S. Army to crush resistance to the valid (proslavery) government.60 Having bet his presidency and the Democratic Party on popular sovereignty’s success, Pierce was determined to uphold the original territorial government, even if it meant deploying federal troops against American citizens. Pierce wanted to ensure order, but he also worried about the presidential election looming in November. The Democrats would lose if Kansas remained in uproar. Moreover, his loathing of abolitionists blinded Pierce to the violence and fraud perpetrated by proslavery forces. Predictably, the local proslavery press echoed Pierce, calling the Topeka convention an “act of revolt” and warning free-state settlers to obey Governor Shannon’s government. One writer called for every member of the Topeka convention to
be hanged. In February, Pierce put teeth into his threats by empowering Shannon to deploy federal troops against anyone who resisted his authority.61 By outlawing the Topeka convention, Pierce strengthened the proslavery territorial government, which could present itself as a federally-sanctioned protector of law and order. This stacked the deck against the free-state side, but also reinforced their argument that the “slave power” was using federal muscle to force slavery into Kansas. Supporters of the Topeka government would continue to seek statehood under their free-state constitution. * * * Meanwhile, the bloodiest phase of Bleeding Kansas had already begun and would last through most of 1856. Some contemporary observers, like some later historians, downplayed the political significance of this violence. They argued that all western territories endured periods of lawlessness and bloodshed, and that Kansans usually clashed over land claims and other mundane matters, not slavery.62 Certainly, not every settler was itching to fight over slavery expansion. And issues like land ownership were vitally important in a blossoming agricultural territory. But a mountain of evidence shows that it was slavery that made the Kansas conflict so intense locally and so important nationwide. Shootouts in Nebraska, New Mexico, or Colorado failed to attract similar attention. Bleeding Kansas captivated Kansans and other Americans because of its political implications for slavery expansion, an issue which easily insinuated itself into apparently unrelated conflicts. What began as a fight over land could escalate into a showdown between antislavery and proslavery expansionists.63 This was exactly what happened in the so-called Wakarusa War of November-December 1855.64 Throughout that year, free-staters prepared to protect themselves by organizing militia companies; in territorial Kansas, political movements tended to be militaristic. Charles Robinson vowed that if Kansas erupted into war, “every man from the north will be a soldier & die in his tracks if necessary to protect and defend our rights.”65 Some joined the Kansas Legion, which blended military organization with the secret signs and passwords common to fraternal organizations. Members identified themselves by wearing black ribbons or rubbing their eyes with the little finger of their left hand. They were also well-armed, thanks to regular shipments of Sharps rifles and other weapons, many purchased with funds raised by the NEEAC, other aid societies, and even college students. By year’s end, free-state militia companies flourished, particularly around Lawrence.66 Governor Shannon, the territorial government, and supporters of the proslavery Law and Order Party denounced them as rebels, and
Shannon was ready to respond with force. He was empowered to call out the territorial militia, and could count on enthusiastic, if less disciplined, help from proslavery Missourians. By late 1855, Kansas was a powder keg. Even a minor incident could trigger an explosion. As it happened, the incident was a murder which swiftly grew in political significance. Since timber was scarce and valuable, early white settlers in Kansas gravitated towards heavily forested land. One such location was the aptly-named Hickory Point, a few miles south of the Wakarusa River in Douglas County. Antislavery migrants, mainly from Indiana, staked claims there first. But proslavery Missourians soon challenged them, sometimes acting legally, and other times with fraud or force. Among them was Franklin Coleman, who squatted on land owned by Jacob Branson.67 Coleman threatened Branson with a gun when the Indianan tried to drive him away in 1854. By the next year, Branson had joined a free-state militia and invited other antislavery northerners, including Charles Dow of Ohio, to live nearby. After an altercation on November 21, 1855, Coleman shot Dow in the chest, killing him. Coleman claimed self-defense, but outraged free-state settlers met at Branson’s home to plot revenge. They drove away several proslavery families and burned Coleman’s house. Disorder spread, and elsewhere, free-staters stole from proslavery settlers; more than seventy pigs, worth over $1000, were pilfered from Samuel Ralston’s Kansas farm around this time.68 Like other conflicts in Bleeding Kansas, free-state resistance to proslavery law enforcement turned this tragic incident into a political battle.69 As a purely local episode, Dow’s murder was not an overtly political issue, but the participants’ regional and ideological affiliations allowed it to become one. The trouble escalated when the Douglas County sheriff, Samuel Jones, arrested Branson for retaliating against his proslavery neighbors. Jones, of course, had attacked a polling place during the March elections; now he held office under the proslavery territorial government headquartered at Lecompton. Free-state settlers were not inclined to respect his authority. Armed with Sharps rifles, several of them swooped in to liberate Branson and hide him in Lawrence. Infuriated, Jones told Governor Shannon that free-staters were in “open rebellion” and asked for 3000 men to help recapture Branson.70 Shannon did not want the situation to spiral out of control. He called on citizens to assist in upholding the law, but ordered Jones to apprehend Branson with as few men as possible. Proslavery partisans across western Missouri, however, saw this as a chance to defeat their free-state enemies and shatter the “abolitionist” stronghold of Lawrence. Encouraged by their governor, hundreds of them entered Kansas and camped along the Wakarusa River, within striking distance of Lawrence. Meanwhile, free-state militia-
men mobilized to resist the expected assault. “There is now no kind of question but that there will be the biggest kind of a fight,” wrote C.K. Holliday to his wife in Pennsylvania. He worried he might never see her or their daughter Lillie again.71 Lawrence residents built fortifications and chose James Lane, a Mexican War veteran from Indiana, to command the defense force. He made his headquarters at the Free State Hotel.72 Proslavery forces laid siege to Lawrence to prevent reinforcements and weapons from entering the town. But Lawrence was not isolated. Foreshadowing their prominent role throughout the territorial struggle, free-state women smuggled arms and ammunition across the lines. As gunpowder reserves ran low, Margaret Wood and Lois Brown offered to retrieve munitions stored several miles away. Wood was married to an Ohio-born abolitionist who frequently assisted runaway slaves and Brown’s husband edited the Herald of Freedom. They left town in a buggy and returned with two barrels of gunpowder hidden under the seat, lead for making bullets concealed under their skirts, and other munitions stashed in their sleeves. Proslavery men chivalrously let them pass unsearched. Other Lawrence women made cartridges and reportedly practiced with firearms. Wood, Brown, and other women worked within, but also expanded, nineteenth-century norms for their conduct. They used their white femininity as a shield, trusting that no gentleman would arrest or harm them. But they also crossed the boundaries of ladylike behavior by participating in military operations.73 Some of them arrived in Kansas prepared to do whatever it took to make it a free state. Back in 1854, Wood violated gender norms by speaking at a public reception for the governor. Agreeing that women had a unique “sphere” of activity, she declared that “Woman’s sphere is wherever there is a wrong to make right,” including slavery. On behalf of all “lady pioneers,” she vowed to make Kansas’s “institutions and society good and happy.”74 Like other women, Wood used popular beliefs about women’s elevated moral and religious status to enter the supposedly masculine public sphere. Particularly in the North, middle- and upper-class women had begun to transform their roles as nurturing mothers and dutiful wives into platforms for political activity. They joined reform crusades for temperance, poor relief, and abolition, justifying these activities by linking them to women’s responsibilities to maintain healthy homes, raise good citizens, and protect community morality.75 Antislavery women brought these ideas to Kansas and found that rough frontier conditions and manpower shortages promoted their participation in public events. Wood and Brown’s adventure was only the tip of the iceberg. Sara Robinson, wife of Charles Robinson, became a prominent political author, publishing a book in 1856 on behalf of the “oppressed people” trying to save Kansas from slavery.76
Clarina Nichols Clarina Nichols knew from painful experience that women needed the vote—and much more—to achieve freedom and equality. Born in Vermont in 1810, Nichols’s struggle for reform took her to New York, Kansas, and California, where she died in 1885. Her career demonstrates the close ties between the antislavery and women’s rights campaigns. It reminds us that women’s exclusion from public life was more complete in theory than in practice. And it reveals the intriguing ways that women used oppressive social norms to demand change. Like Margaret Wood, Nichols transformed assumptions about “womanhood” into powerful arguments for women’s rights. Raised in a pious household and educated at a coeducational school, Nichols never abandoned her Baptist faith or her devotion to progressive reforms. Equally influential was her disastrous first marriage. Nichols’s husband bounced from career to career, but failed to support his family. Instead, he squandered Nichols’s dowry and the money she earned by sewing and renting out rooms. Because married women lacked control of their dowries and wages, Nichols was burdened with the duties of motherhood without the means to fulfil them. After getting a divorce in 1843 (she later married newspaper editor George Nichols), she devoted herself to the uphill battle for reform. Nichols championed the “politics of motherhood.” Rather than argue for equal rights on the basis of men and women’s similarities, Nichols used women’s capacity for motherhood to argue for their rights as citizens and propertyowners. “I want to have this power because I am deprived of the power of protecting myself and my children,” she proclaimed. “I do not possess the power which ought to belong to me as a mother.” She encountered fierce opposition in the northeast, however, and decided that Kansas was a better place to accomplish her goals because its legal system was still developing. She joined the fourth NEEAC expedition to Kansas in October 1854, determined to make it a free state and a model of gender equality. Nichols later helped organize the Moneka Woman’s Rights Association, aided fugitive slaves, and participated in the territorial convention at Wyandotte in 1859, where she worked to shape Kansas’s first state constitution. When Kansas achieved statehood under the Wyandotte Constitution in early 1861, its white female residents enjoyed property rights and the right to vote in school elections. By tying women’s rights to the antislavery movement, Nichols strengthened both.
Clarina Nichols moved to Kansas as an NEEAC migrant in 1854 and aided runaway slaves. She also publicly appealed to northern women to help suffering free-state settlers by sending provisions.77 Other Kansas women entered the fighting. One woman frightened proslavery Missourians away from her home with a shotgun, while another tried (in vain) to save her
husband’s life by shielding him with her body.78 Both sides usually avoided harming women, but not always. In August 1856, four proslavery men kidnapped a young free-state woman, tied her arms, pulled her tongue out as far as they could, and evidently raped her.79 Less is known about proslavery women, but one of them died when a hail of bullets, intended for her husband, riddled her cabin and struck her while she was in bed. She was seventeen.80 Much of this activity was still in the future as the tension rose in Lawrence. On December 6, Missouri militiamen intercepted three antislavery men leaving town, ordered them to halt, and brandished weapons. One of the free-staters, Robert Barber, tried to draw his revolver but it caught on the flap of his holster; he was too slow to stop a Missourian from killing his brother, Thomas.81 This was the climactic moment of the Wakarusa War; in fact, Barbour was the only fatality. His death convinced leaders on both sides that the rowdy volunteers under their command were losing control. By December 8, Charles Robinson and Governor Shannon signed a treaty which defused the dangerous situation. Free-staters agreed to support legal prosecution of criminals, though they did not formally recognize the legitimacy of proslavery territorial officials or laws. Shannon absolved Lawrence citizens of complicity in Branson’s rescue and pledged not to call on residents of other states—meaning Missouri—to intervene in Kansas.82 Both sides were willing to stand down, but neither accepted the legitimacy of the other’s position. The peace that followed the Wakarusa War was only temporary. The late 1855 conflict was not much of a war. Combatants numbered in the hundreds and the death toll was one. But it was important. Locally, it was the first time that masses of combatants took the field against each other and they were obviously willing, even eager, to fight. Scuffling at the ballot box had been replaced by large-scale mobilization.83 Nationally, reports of the Wakarusa War polarized public opinion. Journalists referred to “forts” and “battles” when they meant “houses” and “shootings.” These military terms inflamed readers’ imaginations.84 The reports also encouraged readers to take sides. A Virginia newspaper reflected on the Wakarusa War by proclaiming: “Every impulse of pride, every instinct of interest, every calculation of policy, urges us to measures of prompt and effective aid to the slaveholders of Kansas.”85 Meanwhile, a New York editorialist praised the free-staters for having “rolled back the tide of barbarian invasion,” at least for now.86 But participants and observers on both sides were already preparing for another round of conflict. * * *
Popular sovereignty had failed. Two rival governments—at Lecompton and Topeka—claimed to represent “the people” of Kansas. Fraud, violence, and boycotts made every election result questionable. Self-government had nearly triggered a territorial civil war. By early 1856, participants and outside observers sensed that the struggle had reached a tipping point; one more push from either side might settle things. Supporters of the Topeka Constitution prepared to ask Congress for admission as a free state. Supporters of the Lecompton government prepared to defend their authority and protect slavery. And more migrants arrived every day. So far, most proslavery settlers had come from Missouri. But by late 1855, many Missourians concluded that they could not win the battle by themselves. After fighting on the South’s behalf, they now turned to the rest of the region for help. As spokesmen for a Missouri-based proslavery emigration society put it: “The time has come for action—bold, determined action. Words will no longer do any good; we must have men in Kansas, and that by tens of thousands. . . . Let all them who can come do so at once.” Warning that antislavery forces would wage “war upon the institutions of the South” until slavery was abolished everywhere, they stated that every proslavery southerner had a stake in the conflict and a duty to participate.87 Other prominent Missourians made the same point. David Atchison told North Carolinians that “the prosperity or the ruin of the whole South depends on the Kansas struggle.”88 In August 1856, Atchison, Benjamin Stringfellow, and other leaders printed a similar appeal in DeBow’s Review, an influential proslavery periodical. They asserted that the Kansas controversy was more than a “mere local question.” The real issue was whether slavery would exist anywhere in the United States. Kansas was an “outpost in the war now being waged between the antagonistic civilizations of the North and the South.” Calling slavery “the African’s normal and proper state” and the foundation of the global economy, the authors asked for men and money to ensure that the “garden spot” of Kansas became a slave state.89 Proslavery southerners sympathized with these appeals, but practical responses were mixed. Congressional leaders like Andrew P. Butler of South Carolina passionately defended Atchison and warned that the South might secede if attacks on slavery continued.90 Societies were organized in Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, and elsewhere to raise funds and recruit settlers for Kansas. Legislators in several states talked of taxing slave property to pay for Kansas migration.91 But there were always more promises and proposals than actual settlers. This was partly due to the South’s inherent disadvantages in the race for Kansas. Its smaller free population meant fewer potential migrants. Its lower population density meant there was still plenty of land within the southern states for farmers and planters to cultivate.
And slaveholders’ peculiar concerns about the security of their property made them especially wary of moving west. As long as Kansas bled, it would not attract many slaveowners.92 As a result, northern migration to Kansas swiftly overcame Missourians’ early head start. By late 1856, northern-born settlers probably outnumbered southerners, and their lead continued to grow thereafter.93 But it was not for a lack of southern effort. The most famous attempt at large-scale, organized migration—a proslavery response to the NEEAC—began in early 1856, following Missourians’ pleas for aid. This was the Buford Expedition.94 During the Wakarusa War, Alabama newspaper readers saw advertisements placed by a lawyer named Jefferson Buford, asking “Who will go to Kansas?” Buford wanted to recruit “reliable men capable of bearing arms” to migrate. He would use donations and his own money to give each of them free passage and a homestead. In a cruel twist, Buford auctioned off forty of his slaves to finance the crusade. By April, 400 men, mostly from Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, gathered at Montgomery under Buford’s command. Organized military-style into companies, they carried flags inscribed with revealing slogans: one simply read “Kansas,” while the other read “Kansas, The Outpost” and, on the reverse side, “The Supremacy of the White Race.” During their journey westward, Buford’s battalion was warmly welcomed by residents of Mobile, New Orleans, and other southern towns. On May 2, they reached Kansas. Yet by the end of the year, the expedition had disbanded and most of the volunteers returned home. Financially, the expedition was a flop; costs exceeded revenues by more than $10,000. But Buford’s followers bolstered the proslavery cause in one key way. They arrived in time to participate in a notorious episode that triggered months of bloody fighting: the Sack of Lawrence. The proslavery raid on Lawrence occurred more than five months after the Wakarusa War, but it grew directly out of the war’s unfinished business. Antislavery Kansans continued to reject the Lecompton government’s questionable authority, favoring the territorial government established at Topeka. And once again, Sheriff Samuel Jones and the freestaters of Lawrence were at the center of the story.95 Jones repeatedly visited Lawrence in April 1856, trying to arrest Samuel Wood—Margaret’s husband and a prominent abolitionist who had welcomed Joseph Savage to Kansas in 185496—for his role in rescuing Jacob Branson. On his first attempt, Jones found Wood and declared him under arrest by the Sheriff of Douglas County. “I do not recognize such authority,” Wood replied, and walked away.97 Jones returned the next day but could not locate Wood, receiving no help from Lawrence’s free-state inhabitants. But he could count on support from Governor Shannon, who was authorized to deploy U.S. Army personnel to enforce the laws. Jones vowed to return with
federal troops. When he did so several days later, it put Lawrence Between 1854 and 1856, nearly threeresidents in a difficult situation. quarters of white children born in Kansas They considered the Lecompton had at least one southern-born parent. government to be fraudulent, but But as more northerners arrived in the they respected national authority. territory, this trend shifted dramatically. Unwilling to resist federal soldiers, More than half of white children born in they watched Jones arrest six freeKansas between 1857 and 1861 had freestate men for refusing to assist his state parents. investigation. But the non-resistance did not last long. That night, while Jones was sitting in a tent just outside Lawrence, an unknown gunman shot him in the back. Jones quickly recovered, but the attempted assassination outraged proslavery Kansans and Missourians, who considered it yet another example of free-state treachery. Proslavery newspapers urged members of the “pro-slavery party” to retaliate against those “thieving paupers of the north, who are shipped to Kansas to infringe upon the rights of southern settlers.” Most ominous was their preference that proslavery partisans, not U.S. soldiers, enforce the law.98 Meanwhile, proslavery officials continued to clamp down on the freestate movement. Samuel Lecompte, the Maryland-born chief justice of the territorial supreme court (and namesake of the proslavery capital, Lecompton) led the way. In early May, he instructed a grand jury to indict free-state leaders for treason. Since the federal government recognized the Lecompton government, Lecompte argued, participation in the Topeka movement was treason against the United States. Prominent free-staters were to be arrested and tried under these charges. Lecompte’s strategy was to use territorial and federal legal power to squash the Topeka movement once and for all. In theory, this process could have been nonviolent, but theory and reality were usually very different things in Bleeding Kansas. And as Jones’s wounding revealed, proslavery law enforcement might trigger a bloody cycle of retribution. On May 10, the grand jury indicted several free-state leaders, including Governor Charles Robinson, senators-elect Andrew Reeder and James Lane, Herald of Freedom editor George Brown, and Samuel Wood. It also declared that the fortress-like Free State Hotel and printing presses used by antislavery newspapers, all located in Lawrence, were public nuisances that must be eliminated. Free-staters saw this as an assault on their freedom. “White servitude is the order in Kansas,” wrote Sara Robinson.99 Some antislavery leaders fled to avoid arrest. Reeder, disguised as a laborer, made it to Illinois. Robinson tried to escape with documents which detailed proslavery electoral fraud, but was apprehended in Missouri and jailed.
Sara carried the papers to Washington.100 With leaders absent or incarcerated, free-staters in Lawrence were “dispirited, discouraged & undone,” and once again dreading an attack.101 They had reason to worry: U.S. Marshal Israel B. Donelson had ordered the “law-abiding citizens” of Kansas to assemble at Lawrence to enforce the law,102 and among those who joined the posse were numerous Missourians and Buford’s volunteers. Fearing a lawless assault, Lawrence residents asked for military protection, but Governor Shannon replied that as long as they resisted his government, he would not help them. Seven hundred proslavery men converged on Lawrence, led by Marshal Donelson, Sheriff Jones, and the tireless David Atchison. On a sweltering Wednesday, May 21, 1856, proslavery forces unleashed the so-called “Sack of Lawrence.”103 That morning, Marshal Donelson arrested several Lawrence residents peacefully and actually ate lunch at the Free State Hotel before returning to the proslavery encampment. But Sheriff Jones was not satisfied. He entered town with a large number of men, including Buford’s volunteers with their distinctive flags, determined to destroy the “nuisance” buildings that were important to the free-state movement. His men burned down the Robinsons’ house and threw antislavery editors’ printing presses into the Kansas River. The Free State Hotel was a tougher nut to crack. Jones’s men blasted it with cannon and kegs of gunpowder, but only shattered the windows. Eventually, they set it on fire. Free-state residents offered no resistance and none were killed; the only fatality was a proslavery man who was struck by a falling chunk of the hotel. Not all proslavery leaders sanctioned this destruction; Buford and Atchison tried to calm Jones down. But proslavery men had gotten their revenge. News of the incident electrified antislavery activists from Kansas to the Atlantic Ocean. To them, it was proof of the barbarity of slavery’s supporters and the danger that slavery posed to whites’ lives, liberties, and property. Lawrence residents described the attack as “the grossest outrage ever perpetrated under the cover of war” and vowed to retaliate.104 NEEAC settler Edward Fitch asked his father to send him a revolver and 1000 cartridges from Massachusetts, promising to reimburse him “if I am not killed.” Fitch believed that Kansas had “reached its turning point” and if northerners did not stand and fight, Kansas would become a slave state.105 But there were signs that northerners were waking up. The one-sided attack inspired sympathy for the free-staters, who looked more like victims of the slave power than traitors against the United States. Across the North, people held “indignation meetings” at which they denounced proslavery violence, pledged to resist proslavery policies, and raised money and recruits for Kansas. At a typical meeting in Worcester, Massachusetts,
outraged citizens condemned the invasion of Kansas “by numerous bands of armed ruffians, led on by the propagandists of human slavery” and donated more than $4000 for the free-state cause.106 In Kansas, free-staters showed that they could be as ferocious as their foes. Most notorious was Connecticut-born abolitionist John Brown. A longtime enemy of slavery, Brown married twice, raised eleven children to adulthood, and moved to southeastern Kansas in 1855 to help several grown sons who were free-state settlers. In May 1856, one of them, John Brown, Jr., captained a militia company that mobilized to defend Lawrence. The antislavery militiamen failed to arrive in time, but the elder Brown admired their fighting spirit, for he rejected the pacifism preached by many abolitionists and saw Bleeding Kansas as a showdown between good and evil. These convictions were strengthened by quarrels with proslavery neighbors, who threatened to kill Brown’s sons and harm their families. Outraged by the Sack of Lawrence and concerned for his kinfolk’s safety, Brown preemptively attacked proslavery settlers living near Pottawatomie Creek. On the night of May 24, 1856, Brown and a small band of men, including four of his sons, forced their way into cabins owned by James Doyle, Allen Wilkinson, and James Harris, interrogated the occupants, and killed five of them: Doyle and two adult sons, Wilkinson, and a man named William Sherman. The killings were not indiscriminate—Harris was spared, as were Doyle’s wife and sixteen-year-old son, among others—but they were gruesome. Some of the victims were shot, others stabbed, and all were slashed with swords. None owned slaves but they supported the proslavery party. Wilkinson was a proslavery legislator, for example, and all five had threatened antislavery settlers with murder and rape. Brown did not directly participate in the slaughter but he condoned it as “God’s service.”107 Free-staters debated the Pottawatomie Massacre. Some justified it as righteous retaliation and a means of preventing future attacks. Others, including Charles Robinson, lamented that a free-state man had provoked a “war of midnight assassination.”108 Previously, free-staters had armed and organized for defense but tried to claim the moral high ground by avoiding violence. Right or wrong, the Pottawatomie Massacre changed this: free-staters had blood on their hands. Not surprisingly, it also sparked a new season of strife in Kansas. Conflict among neighbors and families again mingled with the politics of slavery to produce a cycle of attacks and counterattacks. Bleeding Kansas entered its bloodiest phase. * * * Before May 1856, angry threats far outnumbered bloody deeds. Kansas had seen no politically-motivated killings in 1854 and only four in 1855.
In the peak year of political butchery, 1856, there were thirty-eight deaths directly related to the conflict over slavery expansion.109 Both sides rallied to defend their particular notions of freedom, law, and order, and Kansas descended into chaos. The Sack of Lawrence and Pottawatomie Massacre unleashed pent-up hatred, launching pro- and antislavery paramilitary groups into a vicious guerrilla war. John Brown and his family remained at the center of the struggle. In early June, two small companies of antislavery fighters, one led by Brown, attacked proslavery militiamen at Black Jack, near the historic Hickory Point. Following a three-hour shootout in which several of Brown’s sons were wounded, twenty-nine proslavery men surrendered. Though small, the Battle of Black Jack revealed the deadly seriousness of both sides. It also suggested that territorial militias could not restore peace, being too partisan to win the respect of all Kansans.110 The fighting continued throughout the summer of 1856. Bands of proslavery and antislavery warriors roamed widely, helping themselves to food and horses belonging to enemy settlers. They murdered and terrorized, looted and burned. They fought over weaponry, including a cannon nicknamed “Old Sacramento” after its capture by U.S. forces in California during the Mexican War. Proslavery fighters had stolen it from a federal arsenal in Missouri and used it to bombard the Free State Hotel in Lawrence. Free-state militiamen tried several times to seize it but failed until a successful effort in August. The fighting peaked that same month. On August 16, antislavery forces captured Titus’s Fort, a proslavery stronghold west of Lawrence. Some of the cannon balls they fired were made from printer’s type from the Herald of Freedom press destroyed during the Sack of Lawrence. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but freestaters enjoyed blasting their enemies with this “second edition” of the newspaper. Proslavery men responded on August 30, attacking Brown’s company at Osawatomie. Outnumbered and outflanked, Brown’s men retreated and watched as proslavery guerrillas burned the town. Among the dead was Brown’s son, Frederick. John Brown, Jr. mourned but took comfort in his brother’s having “perished in a good cause,” whose success “will yet bring joy to millions.”111 It was difficult to be moderate or neutral in Bleeding Kansas. Mildly antislavery residents of Leavenworth learned this when their town was pillaged by proslavery raiders on September 1. Most of the victims were neither New Englanders nor abolitionists and opposed slavery for economic reasons. But a force of 700 proslavery men from Missouri and the Deep South looted and burned their homes and businesses, driving away one third of Leavenworth’s inhabitants.112 Settlers from all regions and of all political persuasions lived in fear. Peaceful pursuits like farming and
commerce were suspended as men scrambled to protect themselves. As a result, crops went untended and goods unsold, leaving many families destitute. Many migrants gave up and returned home. Some settlers, wrote a resident of Osawatomie, “from being robbed, being sick, and from want of business, are in great need of pecuniary aid . . . Many, I fear will leave,” for he doubted whether they could remain “amid drought, robbery, burning, plundering, and driving.”113 But Kansans endured the hardship because they believed in their mission. “The question of the predominance of slavery or liberty in this country is . . . to be tested on the fields of Kansas,” wrote a free-stater in Lawrence, “and for one I am ready for the issue.” He predicted that the whole nation might soon be “be embroiled in civil war.”114 Proslavery Kansans and Missourians defined liberty very differently but were equally resolute. After John Brown’s men attacked a proslavery settlement in August 1856, Missouri leaders warned that men, women, and children in Kansas might be “butchered by the abolitionist” at any moment. And more than just Kansas Territory was at stake. If proslavery southerners failed, Kansas would be “lost to the South forever, and our slaves in upper Missouri will be useless to us—and our homes must be given up to the abolition enemy.”115 Partisans on both sides claimed to defend life, liberty, and property against barbaric enemies. Caught in between were the federal troops stationed in Kansas and, after February 1856, available for deployment by Governor Shannon. Throughout the guerrilla war of 1856, they conducted a peacekeeping mission rather familiar to 21st-century observers: stationed in a distant and lawless land, federal troops struggled to disarm and pacify a deeply divided population. They faced many obstacles. Army officers had limited manpower with which to police a massive territory. The tiny pre-Civil War army numbered only around 10,000 men in 1853. The two major Kansas outposts were Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley, with only 210 and 217 soldiers, respectively. Moreover, their distance from Washington made command and control a major challenge. Communications were slow and circuitous: requests for military assistance had to travel eastward to the telegraph at Kansas City (no telegraph reached Kansas until 1859) and then up the chain of command to Washington, where the President and Secretary of War could issue orders and send them back down to field commanders. This could take weeks, so the situation often changed by the time soldiers took the field. And in a polarized place like Kansas, most actions by federal troops appeared unjust to one side. Kansans were inclined to respect the army, but they denounced it if it did not directly support their aims. The fact that army officers had their own interests in land speculation, slave property, and sectional politics, added to the difficulty of keeping the peace impartially. It was a thankless task.116
Soldiers stationed in Kansas in 1856 were to obey Governor Shannon, should he need them to uphold the federally-recognized Lecompton government’s authority. President Pierce’s secretary of war, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, had ordered field commanders to defer to Shannon in case of insurrection by free-staters, though the orders were vague about what counted as an “insurrection” or what the soldiers could do in response. Despite this ambiguity and the risks associated with domestic military deployments, Shannon was eager to use federal force against resistant freestaters. In June, he ordered Colonel Edwin Sumner of the First Cavalry Regiment to disperse the antislavery Topeka legislature. Elected by defiant free-staters, the legislature looked to Shannon like an illegitimate and revolutionary organization. Colonel Sumner, a Massachusetts-born professional solder, Mexican War veteran, and distant relative of antislavery senator Charles Sumner, was reluctant to act without direct orders from Washington but agreed that something must be done to prevent civil war. On July 4, 1856, Sumner led soldiers to Topeka, entered the hall where the legislators had assembled, and ordered them to return home. He accomplished the mission without bloodshed, but the free-state response was predictable: it looked to them like the slave power, acting through the territorial government and the army, had crushed democracy underfoot —and on Independence Day. Pierce deflected criticism by hypocritically claiming that Sumner had exceeded his authority.117 If used effectively, however, the Army remained the best hope for restoring peace. Frustrated by Shannon’s incompetence, Pierce removed him in late July, and on September 9, 1856, John W. Geary became Kansas’s third territorial governor. Widely praised by historians as a uniquely capable leader, Geary was determined to use the military to end the fighting and let popular sovereignty work properly, no matter the outcome regarding slavery. This dedication to protecting the process, rather than the result, of popular sovereignty was rare.118 Born in Pennsylvania, Geary was a loyal Democrat, committed to stabilizing Kansas and protecting the image of popular sovereignty and Democrats who endorsed it. He shared these goals with President Pierce. But he also understood how to use the Army to accomplish them. He began by disbanding the proslavery territorial militia, which had provoked so much resistance by free-staters, and calling for a new militia composed only of real Kansas settlers; no Missourians allowed. He also responded quickly and evenhandedly to reports of paramilitary activity. In September, he sent hundreds of soldiers to disarm and disperse a proslavery band gathering to threaten Lawrence and, almost simultaneously, dispatched troops to stop free-state fighters under James Lane from attacking Hickory Point. Rather than waiting for
bloodshed to begin, Geary worked to prevent violence from erupting. By October, the territory had calmed down and the bleeding had stopped, at least temporarily.119 In the fall of 1856, the bloodiest months in Kansas’s territorial history were over, but the underlying issues of slavery expansion, popular sovereignty, and political legitimacy remained unsettled. Proslavery and free-state Kansans alike viewed Geary with suspicion, even if they respected his firmness. They also had more immediate concerns, including surviving the coming winter. Nationwide, attention still fixated on Bleeding Kansas as a struggle between proslavery and antislavery visions of freedom, progress, and the country’s future. As one outside observer put it, “the mutual spirit of the two halves of the nation grows more repulsive every year, and both sides take higher opposing ground. Kansas, in fact, is already the literal battle-ground of this unquenchable contest, where streams of blood have flowed on both sides.”120 He feared that the fighting would spread beyond the Great Plains, and with good reason. During and after 1856, events showed that the struggle over Kansas could not be contained within its borders.
NOTES 1 Quoted in Shelley Hickman Clark and James W. Clark, Eds., “Lawrence in 1854: Recollections of Joseph Savage,” Kansas History 27, no. 1/2 (Spring-Summer 2004), 34. 2 Nicole Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2004), 30–35, 46–47; Bill Cecil-Fronsman, “‘Death to All Yankees and Traitors in Kansas’: The Squatter Sovereign and the Defense of Slavery in Kansas,” in Kansas and the West: New Perspectives, Ed., Rita Napier (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2003): 140–156. 3 “Letters in Relation to Kansas,” Abbeville (SC) Banner, July 10, 1856. 4 Gunja SenGupta, For God and Mammon: Evangelicals and Entrepreneurs, Masters and Slaves in Territorial Kansas, 1854–1860 (Athens: University of Georgia, 1996), 14–27; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 41–42. 5 On the NEEAC, see: Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 35–38; Samuel A. Johnson, The Battle Cry of Freedom: The New England Emigrant Aid Company in the Kansas Crusade (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1954). 6 Eli Thayer, The New England Emigrant Aid Company and Its Influence, Through the Kansas Contest, Upon National History (Worcester, MA: Franklin P. Rice, 1887), 6. 7 Clark and Clark, “Lawrence in 1854,” 34–35. 8 Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 296. 9 Juliet A. Lee, “Badgers for a Free Kansas: The Wisconsin Kansas Emigrant Aid Society,” Milwaukee History 2, no. 3 (September 1979): 65–84. 10 Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 79–82, 89–91.
11 Richard B. Sheridan, Ed., Freedom’s Crucible: The Underground Railroad in Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1998), 52–53. 12 Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 102. 13 Address to the People of the United States, Together with the Proceedings and Resolutions of the Pro-Slavery Convention of Missouri, Held at Lexington, July, 1855 (St. Louis: Printed at the Republican Office, 1855), 23. 14 Albert E. Castel, Civil War Kansas: Reaping the Whirlwind, 1854–1861 (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1997), 2–3. 15 Testimony of Milton J. Payne, in U.S. House of Representatives, Report of the Special Committee Appointed to Investigate the Troubles in Kansas; With the Views of the Minority of Said Committee, Report No. 200, 34th Cong., 1st Sess. (Washington: Cornelius Wendell, Printer, 1856), 847–848 (hereafter cited as Howard Report). 16 Testimony of Charles E. Kearney, in Ibid, 853. 17 Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 124–128. 18 Testimony of Isaac M. Ridge, in Howard Report, 861. 19 Quoted in James C. Malin, The Nebraska Question, 1852–1854 (Lawrence: n.p., 1953), 374. 20 Lester B. Baltimore, “Benjamin F. Stringfellow: The Fight for Slavery on the Missouri Border,” Missouri Historical Review 62, no. 1 (October 1967), 16. 21 Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 32–33; William W. Freehling, The Road To Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant: 1854–1861 (New York: Oxford University, 2007), 68–69. 22 Baltimore, “Benjamin F. Stringfellow,” 15–22. 23 Testimony of E.C. McCarty, in Howard Report, 856. 24 Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009), 44–45. 25 Edward Fitch to Dear Friends, July 30, 1855, in John M. Peterson, Ed., “From Border War to Civil War: More Letters of Edward and Sarah Fitch, 1855–1863, Part One,” Kansas History 20, no. 1 (March 1997), 5. 26 Melton A. McLaurin, Celia, a Slave (Athens: University of Georgia, 1991), 63. 27 Quoted in Louise Barry, “Scenes in (and En Route to) Kansas Territory, Autumn, 1854: Five Letters by William H. Hutter,” Kansas Historical Quarterly 35, no. 3 (Autumn 1969), 336. 28 On this election generally, see Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 53–55; and Pearl T. Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell: The Political Crisis in Territorial Kansas (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, 2014), 44–45. 29 Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 50–53. 30 Quoted in Ibid, 53. 31 Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 4. 32 Testimony of H. Miles Moore, in Howard Report, 36. 33 Testimony of Matthias A. Reed, in Ibid, 11–12. 34 Testimony of Peter Bassinger, in Ibid, 6. 35 Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 54; Saml Ralston to Valued & Respected friend, December 9, 1844, in W. Darrell Overdyke, “A Southern Family on the Missouri Frontier: Letters from Independence, 1843–1855,” Journal of Southern History 17, no. 2 (May 1951), 233. 36 Testimony of John A. Wakefield, in Howard Report, 2.
37 On the March 1855 election, see Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 56–61; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 46–47; and James A. Rawley, Race and Politics: “Bleeding Kansas” and the Coming of the Civil War ( Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1979), 87–90. 38 Quoted in James C. Malin, “The Proslavery Background of the Kansas Struggle,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 10, no. 3 (December 1923), 288. 39 Howard Report, 72; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 29; SenGupta, For God and Mammon, 41–47. 40 William B. Hornsby testimony, in Howard Report, 129 (first quotation); William Yates testimony, in Ibid, 128 (second quotation). 41 E.P. Vaughn testimony, in Ibid, 130. 42 Erastus D. Ladd testimony, in Ibid, 114–117. 43 Testimony of Harrison Burson, in Ibid, 168–169. 44 Testimony of J.N. Mace, in Ibid, 174–176. 45 Quoted in Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 59. 46 Testimony of R.R. Rees, in Howard Report, 972; William Phillips, The Conquest of Kansas by Missouri and Her Allies: A History of the Troubles in Kansas from the Passage of the Organic Act until the Close of July 1856 (Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Co., 1856), 86–87. 47 Quoted in Malin, “Proslavery Background,” 298. 48 “Members and Officers, First Legislative Assembly of Kansas Territory,” July 2, 1855, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgibin/index.php?SCREEN=view_image&document_id=100108&file_name=k3019 20 (August 2, 2015). 49 Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 50–51. 50 An Act to Punish Offences against Slave Property, Passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Kansas August 14, 1855 (Shawnee M.L.S.: John T. Brady, 1855). 51 Quoted in Floyd C. Shoemaker, “Missouri’s Proslavery Fight for Kansas, 1854–1855 [Part 2],” Missouri Historical Review 48, no. 4 (July 1954), 340. 52 Quoted in Jeremy Neely, The Border between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas–Missouri Line (Columbia: University of Missouri, 2007), 47. 53 “Reduced to Serfdom,” (Lawrence, KS) Herald of Freedom, August 25, 1855. 54 Henry Ward Beecher, Defence of Kansas (Washington: Buell & Blanchard, 1856), 3. 55 On the free-state movement and Topeka convention, see: Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 69–75; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 57–58; Rawley, Race and Politics, 93–96; Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 104–109; and SenGupta, For God and Mammon, 98–101. 56 “Free State Convention!” Summer, 1855, Territorial Kanas Online, www.territorial kansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=view_image&document_ id=100648&file_name=h002672 (August 2, 2015). 57 Quoted in SenGupta, For God and Mammon, 64. 58 “Topeka Constitution,” Kansas Memory, Kansas Historical Society, www.kansas memory.org/item/221061/text (August 4, 2015). 59 Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 72–76; Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 144–145.
60 Franklin Pierce, “Message Regarding Disturbances in Kansas (January 24, 1856),” Miller Center, http://millercenter.org/president/pierce/speeches/message-regardingdisturbances-in-kansas (August 4, 2015). 61 Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 91–92 (first quotation p. 92); George W. Martin, The First Two Years of Kansas (Topeka: State Printing Office, 1907), 18 (second quotation); Tony R. Mullis, Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas (Columbia: University of Missouri, 2004), 42–45, 194–219. 62 Malin, Nebraska Question; Paul W. Gates, Fifty Million Acres: Conflicts over Kansas Land Policy, 1854–1890 (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1954). 63 Rawley, Race and Politics, 98–99; Mullis, Peacekeeping on the Plains, 154n1. 64 On the Wakarusa War, see: Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 79–88; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 59–64; SenGupta, For God and Mammon, 101–109; and Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 138–144. 65 Charles Robinson to Eli Thayer, April 2, 1855, Territorial Kansas Online, www. territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show_docu ment&document_id=102359&SCREEN_FROM=keyword&selected_keyword= Militia&startsearchat=0 (August 5, 2015). 66 Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 76–78. 67 Phillips, Conquest of Kansas, 151–152. 68 Sworn petition from Samuel Ralston, December 31, 1855, in Claims of the Citizens of the Territory of Kansas. U.S. House of Representatives, Miscellaneous Document No. 43, 35th Congress, 2d Session (Washington: James B. Steedman, 1859), 247–248. 69 Nicole Etcheson, “The Goose Question: The Proslavery Party in Territorial Kansas and the ‘Crisis in Law and Order,’” in Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border, Eds. Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti Burke (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2013): 47–63, esp. p. 56. 70 Quoted in Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 139. 71 C.K. Holliday to My Dear Wife [Mary Holliday], December 6, 1855, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php? SCREEN=show_transcript&document_id=101498SCREEN=search&submit= search&search=holliday&startsearchat=15&searchfor=authors&printerfriendly= &county_id=&topic_id=&document_id=101498&selected_keyword= (August 5, 2015). 72 Phillips, Conquest of Kansas, 203–204. 73 Oertel, Bleeding Borders, 76–84; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 83–84; Phillips, Conquest of Kansas, 208–209; Nicole Etcheson, “ ‘Labouring for the Freedom of This Territory’: Free-State Kansas Women in the 1850s,” Kansas History 21, no. 2 (June 1998): 68–87. 74 (Lawrence, KS) Herald of Freedom, October 13, 1854. 75 Lori D. Ginzberg, Women and the Work of Benevolence: Morality, Politics, and Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States (New Haven: Yale University, 1990). 76 Sara T.L. Robinson, Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life (Boston: Crosby, Nichols, 1856), iii. 77 Marilyn S. Blackwell and Kristen T. Oertel, Frontier Feminist: Clarina Howard Nichols and the Politics of Motherhood (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2010). 78 Oertel, Bleeding Borders, 81, 82.
79 Robinson, Kansas, 328. 80 Dale E. Watts, “How Bloody Was Bleeding Kansas?: Political Killings in Kansas Territory, 1854–1861,” Kansas History 18, no. 2 (Summer 1995), 122–123. 81 Testimony of Robert F. Barber, in Howard Report, 1121–1124. 82 “Wakarusa Treaty,” Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/ ~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show_transcript&document_id=102 377SCREEN=keyword&submit=&search=&startsearchat=0&searchfor=&printer friendly=&county_id=&topic_id=&document_id=102377&selected_keyword= Wakarusa%20War,%20November-December%201855 (August 5, 2015). 83 Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 63. 84 Miner, Seeding Civil War, 131. 85 Quoted in Ibid, 139. 86 Quoted in Ibid, 140. 87 Quoted in Walter L. Fleming, “The Buford Expedition to Kansas,” American Historical Review 6, no. 1 (October 1900), 38–39. 88 Quoted in William E. Parrish, David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Border Politician (Columbia: University of Missouri, 1961), 178. 89 David R. Atchison, et al., “The Voice of Kansas—Let the South Respond,” DeBow’s Review 21, no. 2 (August 1856): 187–194. 90 Congressional Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., 584–587. 91 Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 95. 92 Malin, “Proslavery Background,” 292–293. 93 Neely, Border between Them, 63–65. 94 This account, including quotations, is from Fleming, “Buford Expedition.” 95 On the background to the Sack of Lawrence, see: Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 100–104; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 76–79; and Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 155–159. For contemporary accounts, see: Robinson, Kansas, 196–228; and John H. Gihon, Geary and Kansas (Philadelphia: J.H.C. Whiting, 1857), 73–83. 96 “Recollections of 1854 by Joseph Savage,” Territorial Kansas Online, www. territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=transcripts/ savage_joseph (August 9, 2015). 97 Robinson, Kansas, 197. 98 Gihon, Geary and Kansas, 74–75. 99 Robinson, Kansas, 228. 100 Charles Robinson, The Kansas Conflict (Lawrence, KS: Journal Publishing, 1898), 236–240. 101 Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott], May 15, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN= show_document&SCREEN_FROM=border&document_id=101966&FROM_ PAGE=&topic_id=69 (August 8, 2015). 102 Robinson, Kansas Conflict, 243. 103 On the events of May 21, see: Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 104–107; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 79–80; SenGupta, For God and Mammon, 109–111; and Fleming, “Buford Expedition,” 44–46. 104 O.E. L[earned] to Dear Friends, May 23, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online, www. territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show_transcript &document_id=100232SCREEN=border&submit=&search=&startsearchat=&
105 106 107 108 109 110 111
115 116 117 118 119 120
searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=69&document_id=100232 &selected_keyword= (August 8, 2015). Edward Fitch to Dear Father, May 26, 1856, in Peterson, “More Letters,” 6–7. “Aid for Kansas,” (Worcester, MA) National Aegis, June 11, 1856. Robert E. McGlone, John Brown’s War against Slavery (New York: Cambridge University, 2009), 73–142; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 107–112. Robinson, Kansas Conflict, 273. Watts, “How Bloody Was Bleeding Kansas,” 124. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 114; Johnson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 185–186. John Brown, Jr. to Dear Father & Brother, September 8, 1856, in Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN= show_transcript&document_id=102548SCREEN=border&submit=&search=& startsearchat=&searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=75&document _id=102548&selected_keyword= (August 10, 2015). Rita G. Napier, “Origin Stories and Bleeding Kansas,” Kansas History 34, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 28–39. W.W. Updegraff to William Hutchinson, August 5, 1856, in Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN= show_transcript&document_id=100175SCREEN=border&submit=&search=& startsearchat=&searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=65&document _id=100175&selected_keyword= (August 10, 2015). O.E. Learned to Dear Friends, June 6, 1856, in Territorial Kansas Online, www. territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show_transcript &document_id=100233SCREEN=border&submit=&search=&startsearchat=& searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=65&document_id=100233 &selected_keyword= (August 10, 2015). History of Lafayette County, Mo. (St. Louis: Missouri Historical Company, 1881), 285. Mullis, Peacekeeping on the Plains, 18–19, 23–25, 28, 119–152. Ibid, 155–183. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 131–133; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 86–95, 97–98; Rawley, Race and Politics, 159–160. Tony R. Mullis, “John Geary, Kansas, and the 1856 National Election,” Heritage of the Great Plains 25, no. 1 (Winter 1992): 13–23. Samuel Gilman to My Dear Children, August 1856, Samuel Gilman Papers, South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, SC.
Bleeding Kansas and the Nation
ydia Maria Child was miserable. For an abolitionist and woman’s rights activist, the fall of 1856 was a discouraging time. Kansas had bled profusely but free-staters were no closer to victory over a federally-backed proslavery territorial government. The upcoming presidential election might help, but voting was reserved almost exclusively for white men. Would they support black freedom? Still worse was Child’s isolation in Massachusetts, far from Kansas and Washington alike. She used her pen to champion the free-state cause, and her money to assist free-state settlers, but she longed to do more. Late in October, Child vented her frustration in a private letter. “This is the death-grapple between Slavery and Freedom . . . and one or the other must go down!” she wrote. “Oh, what a misery it is, to feel in such a fever-heat of anxiety as I do, and yet be shut up . . . where I cannot act!”1 Many Americans shared this anxiety over Kansas, despite the fact that most, like Child, never traveled there. But the controversy, and even the violence, from Bleeding Kansas came to them. Newspaper subscribers couldn’t avoid reading about it. Politicians couldn’t avoid discussing it. Anyone interested in the future of free labor, slave labor, and the American republic, had a deep interest in Kansas. Even those who tried to ignore politics had to cope with the bitterness that spread eastward across the entire country. And despite their distance from Kansas, thousands of northerners and southerners participated in the conflict. With their money, their voices, their votes, and sometimes their own weapons, pro- and antislavery Americans nationwide battled over Kansas just as fiercely as territorial settlers did. * * *
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Kansas settlers aggressively sought outside help. Public lecturers thrilled audiences with tales of bravery and betrayal on the plains. Articles, letters, pamphlets, and books poured from the territory, captivating readers across the continent. These were deeply partisan accounts, but their role as propaganda made them important. Many were written to solicit outside aid, in the form of money, supplies, manpower, and votes. But in order to enlist this support, Kansas writers had to prove that outsiders had a personal interest in the struggle. So, they presented it not merely as a clash over one territory, but as part of a grand battle for control of the entire republic. Folks who never visited Kansas noticed, and many agreed with Child that this was indeed “the death-grapple between Slavery and Freedom.” William A. Phillips wrote a typically one-sided but immensely powerful account of Bleeding Kansas. Like Samuel Ralston, Phillips was an immigrant, but he was opposed to slavery expansion. As a young teenager, Phillips moved from Scotland to Illinois, where he became a farmer, journalist, and lawyer. Phillips eventually settled in Lawrence, Kansas, practiced law, and wrote for the widely influential New York Tribune.2 In 1856, as Kansas bled and Americans geared up for a presidential election, Phillips published The Conquest of Kansas by Missouri and Her Allies.3 The book’s argument, reflected in its title, was simple: Kansas would have been safe for free northerners, except for the wicked proslavery conspiracy by Missourians and their southern supporters, who schemed to spread slavery throughout the west and thereby strengthen their political and economic power over the North. “With covert and cunning movement the plot progressed,” Phillips wrote of slavery’s initial entrance into Kansas at the Shawnee Methodist Mission. Eventually, it might “throw open the whole national territory to [slavery’s] embrace.”4 The conspiracy continued with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, the dishonest organization of a proslavery territorial government, and the violence of 1855–1856. A witness to some of these episodes, Phillips used firsthand knowledge to tell a horrifying tale. He wrote that the proslavery Blue Lodges threatened the liberties of free-state Kansans and many nonslaveholding Missourians.5 He described Missouri raiders engaging in “wild and reckless pillage” as they sacked Lawrence.6 He criticized the federal government for supporting the conspiracy by using the military to disperse the free-state legislature at Topeka; the soldiers’ “flashing sabres” mocked the American flag that waved over them.7 Bleeding Kansas, he concluded, was a showdown between the incompatible systems of freedom and slavery. Only one could prevail. The stakes were incredibly high: “If slavery triumphs, the principle on which our government is founded is virtually overthrown. If freedom triumphs, the greatest evil in our country is kept in bounds.”8
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Other writers outlined what their readers could do for the free-state cause. Among the most eloquent and politically savvy was Clarina Nichols, the enemy of slavery and friend of women’s rights. Her appeals directly targeted northern women, who, despite being disfranchised, could contribute much to the Kansas crusade. Writing as a mother, wife, and sister, to her peers, Nichols urged women to join Margaret Wood and Lois Brown in taking an active role in the conflict. Even women who couldn’t move to Kansas could still raise funds to furnish needy Kansas settlers with basic supplies like food and clothing. More than simple humanitarian appeals, Nichols’s writings invited women to join the battle against slavery expansion. Suffering Kansas migrants were not just western pioneers; they were “struggling for freedom.” They were not just building homesteads; they were fighting against “waves of oppression.” Free-state settlers’ presence in Kansas was politically important and they could only remain there if northerners provided desperately-needed aid.9 Northern women responded eagerly to these requests. Some joined all-female organizations affiliated with emigrant aid societies and pooled their resources to support free-state migrants. The wives of leading members of the Wisconsin Kansas Emigrant Aid Society, for example, founded the Milwaukee Ladies’ Kansas Aid Society. They met to sew clothing and cook food to send to impoverished free-state families. They also hosted public picnics and dinners where they sold meals and handicrafts to raise thousands of dollars on behalf of Kansas migrants. Cooking and sewing might be “women’s work,” but northern ladies were putting their domestic skills to political use by supporting antislavery settlers.10 These efforts made a difference on the ground in Kansas, especially in wintertime, when migrants battled against cold and hunger as well as political foes. NEEAC migrant Edward Fitch explained this in a letter to folks back home in Massachusetts. Noting that numerous free-state migrants were left impoverished, and sometimes homeless, by proslavery raids, he emphasized their dependence on donations for survival. Among them were Joseph Savage and his wife and three children. Calling Savage “a hard working good honest man but poor,” Fitch reported that his children required constant medical care and his household lacked basic necessities like food and warm clothing. Contributions from Massachusetts provided Savage with an overcoat, dresses and undergarments for his wife, and boots and a coat for his sickly eldest son.11 These relief efforts blurred the line between charity and political activism. Migrants like Savage faced typical frontier hardships, but they were also victimized by political rivals. By relieving their suffering, northern donors allowed Savage and thousands like him to remain in Kansas, where their presence—and their ability to vote and fight—was politically meaningful. When George Draper of Massachusetts
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gave $100 to support Kansas migrants, he felt he had done “something towards promoting the cause of Liberty & of God.”12 Other northerners contributed their intellectual abilities to the freestate cause. Among them was Lydia Maria Child. In 1833, Child had used her literary talent to support abolitionism by publishing An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans.13 She also edited the National Anti-Slavery Standard, the official newspaper of the American Anti-Slavery Society, for several years. Despite feeling powerless to make a difference in Kansas, Child was well-prepared to support the free-state movement with her words. Shortly before the 1856 presidential election, Child published a serialized story entitled “The Kansas Emigrants” in the New York Tribune. Its timing was not coincidental—the final installment appeared on election day—and its content was overtly political. Through the story of a northern family attacked by proslavery Missourians, Child dramatized the territorial contest as a clash between good and evil. She highlighted the actions of Kansas women, who fought back against their assailants. She made Bleeding Kansas deeply personal by focusing on a few relatable characters. But Child also explored broader political themes. She argued that southerners wanted to force slavery into Kansas in order to gain additional electoral votes and seats in Congress, increasing their national power. The only way to save Kansas, and the whole republic, was to beat the slaveholders in the upcoming election. Child could not vote, but her message reached thousands of voters across the North.14 Antislavery northerners were not alone in their efforts to influence the distant Kansas struggle. Southerners mobilized as well, in response to anxious pleas from proslavery Missourians. Throughout 1856, the avidly proslavery New Orleans periodical DeBow’s Review published letters and essays arguing that the fate of slavery throughout the South depended on winning Kansas. In May, DeBow’s Review printed an “Appeal to the South” which stated that Missourians had done all they could, and now it was up to the other slave states to save Kansas from meddling abolitionists. If proslavery forces won, “Kansas would be a slave State” and the larger conflict over slavery would end. But if northerners made “an abolition State of Kansas, the whole south must submit to be governed by the north.” This was unacceptable. The authors advised southerners to form aid societies and migrate to Kansas; those unable to move should donate money.15 The following month, DeBow’s Review announced that slavery was profitable in Kansas, refuting claims to the contrary. Casting the struggle in stark terms of good versus evil, but of course reversing the antislavery viewpoint, the author argued that Kansas would either become a “slave or an abolition state”—there was no middle ground. Speaking on behalf of proslavery settlers already in the territory, the author asked for
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southern help: “Send your hardy sons, with their wives and children and slaves, to settle and live with us, and vote with us, and fight with us, if necessary,” until Kansas was “saved to the south.”16 In July, another author offered a glowing description of slave-grown hemp and promised that Kansas slaves rarely ran away.17 The flurry of appeals culminated in August with a hair-raising account of abolitionist violence and a heartfelt appeal for men and money to combat the growing wave of northern settlement. Northern “fanatics” would not stop once they had conquered Kansas, and the abolitionist onslaught must be defeated before it swept across the entire South.18 Like Child and Phillips, these proslavery authors depicted their own side as under attack by an aggressive and fanatical enemy that was conspiring to rule the nation. Proslavery southerners took this message to heart. A few, like Jefferson Buford, donated tremendous amounts of time and money to organize migration companies. Smaller-scale efforts were more typical. In June 1856, for instance, fifteen men from Newberry, South Carolina, relocated to Kansas after a political rally where they burned a prominent abolitionist in effigy.19 Other southerners contributed money to support proslavery organizations, such as the Blue Lodges. One intoxicated planter allegedly gave $1000 in cash, proclaiming: “I’ve just sold a nigger for that, and I reckon it’s about my share towards cleaning out the dog-gauned Yankees.”20 Yet southern assistance for Kansas migration was never as robust or well-organized as the northern campaign. With plenty of land available in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, where slavery was already solidly established, ambitious emigrants had many attractive alternatives to Kansas. The lack of sustained support frustrated many Missourians. David Atchison complained that southern politicians would fight tooth and nail over the theoretical rights of territorial slaveholders, while doing nothing to promote the migration of actual southern people. Abstract constitutional debates were meaningless if living, breathing southerners didn’t move west.21 However much they participated in the struggle, northerners and southerners alike were influenced by the news from Kansas. It usually strengthened their regional identities: during the 1850s, “northerners” and “southerners” increasingly saw themselves as distinctive and mutually hostile peoples, and Bleeding Kansas promoted this dangerous trend. One reason was the prevalence of negative regional stereotypes in accounts of Kansas. In order to vilify and dehumanize their enemies, northern writers crafted the image of the “Border Ruffian,” the physically and morally degenerate Missourian who fought for slavery in Kansas. Lydia Maria Child’s story provided a standard description: dressed in filthy, ragged clothing, the ruffians constantly chewed tobacco, drank whiskey, swore,
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and fought. Easily identified by their coarse, improper speech and White Missourians were commonly called violent temperaments, they re“pukes.” This may have been a mocking spected neither the law, nor the reference to the prevalence of malaria, dignity of women, nor the rights which causes vomiting, in early Missouri of northern settlers. Upon hearing settlements. Or, it may come from Gold Rush California, where so many one of Child’s heroines speak in Missourians flocked that it was as if their favor of a free state, an outraged home state had spewed them westward. Border Ruffian spat tobacco juice in her face and shouted: “Dam yer imperdence! . . . I should like to see you chained up with one of our niggers. I’ll be cussed if I wouldn’t help to do it.”22 According to antislavery settlers and their allies across the North, Border Ruffians were vicious animals, incapable of the manly selfcontrol, civilized behavior, and love of liberty that ostensibly characterized northerners. They fought like “wolves,” acted like “wild beasts,” and lived like “savages.” Labeling their enemies in this way made it easier for freestaters to slay them. Newspaper correspondent Charles B. Stearns was committed to nonviolence until he came to Kansas and decided that “we had not human beings to contend with,” but “tigers” attacking them from Missouri. “I made up my mind that our invaders were wild beasts,” he wrote, “and it was my duty to aid in killing them off.”23 White southerners counterattacked with their own demeaning stereotypes about northerners. One Virginia newspaper praised Missouri migrants as chivalrous knights, “the noblest type of mankind,” who were “planting a master race” on fresh Kansas soil. Their opponents were not so worthy. Two images of northerners predominated in southern writings about Kansas: the crazed abolitionist fanatic and the lowly, slavish worker, recruited from overseas or from northern slums to do abolitionists’ bidding. White southerners mocked both as unmanly, cowardly, and barely human. The editor of one proslavery Kansas newspaper found it “amusing” to see groups of “sharp-eyed, thin-nosed, poaked-stemmed bipeds . . . constantly gathering like spawn in a frogs pond” to discuss insane schemes like abolition. And when antislavery settlers did fight back, southerners denounced them as bloodthirsty extremists who robbed slaveholders, encouraged rebellions, and murdered innocent whites. John Brown defied the stereotype of the cowardly northern weakling. Instead, he provoked southern outrage as a fanatical “negro stealer,” a “ferocious and bloody savage,” and a wild beast in human form.24 Whether they scorned their rivals or feared them, proslavery southerners tended to denigrate and dehumanize their opponents.
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These insulting stereotypes spread far beyond Kansas. Before setting foot in the territory, Massachusetts-born migrant Milton Howe already hated proslavery men, whom he considered intellectually and morally inferior, whether they were northern or southern. Writing from Iowa, he described local supporters of popular sovereignty and the Democratic Party as “whiskey drinkers and ignorant country people who live on corn cake, and pork, and do not see a newspaper once in three months, and when they do get it cannot read.”25 As for Missouri “Border Ruffians,” Howe had already decided that they “disgrace[d] the earth they tread upon” and that it was “right for any man to shoot them.”26 The hatred was mutual. A proslavery writer in Washington, D.C. referred to antislavery migrants as “insects” who swarmed to Kansas to lay eggs and “generate a brood of crawling political maggots.”27 Bleeding Kansas convinced northerners and southerners that their rivals were not only different, but wicked and inferior. This reinforced their determination never to yield Kansas to such a degenerate enemy. Charles Robinson vowed to plant northern “enterprise, intelligence, skill, morality, sobriety, and universal thrift” in Kansas and keep out the “indolence, ignorance, vice, and whiskey” that he associated with the slave states.28 For slavery’s supporters, the idea of extending northern institutions into Kansas was equally disgusting: “Free society! we sicken at the name,” wrote one Deep South editorialist. “What is it but a conglomeration of GREASY MECHANICS, FILTHY OPERATIVES, SMALL-FISTED FARMERS, and moon struck THEORISTS! . . . This is your free society which the Northern hordes are endeavoring to extend into Kansas.”29 * * * This cultural and ideological divergence was reflected in the polarized politics of the 1850s. The Kansas–Nebraska Act and the territorial conflict promoted a dramatic realignment in American politics and widened the gulf between the two sections. The more that Bleeding Kansas captivated Americans’ attention, the sharper the division between northerners and southerners became. In the South, the Kansas struggle promoted the rising supremacy of the Democratic Party, which became increasingly proslavery and southern-oriented after 1854. Partly this was because so many northern Democrats deserted the party in protest against the Kansas–Nebraska Act and the apparent failure of popular sovereignty. In terms of membership and leaders, this tilted the Democracy further southward. In 1845, around 30 percent of Congressional Democrats were southerners; by 1858, that figure had nearly doubled, approaching 60 percent.30 At the same time,
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the party grew more dominant within the South, particularly the Deep South, because Democrats seemed to be the last best hope for protecting slavery within the Union. So long as Democrats controlled the federal government, and so long as southerners controlled the Democratic Party, slavery would be safe in the United States. Not surprisingly, this trend drove even more northerners away from the Democratic Party. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, later Abraham Lincoln’s vice president, denounced his old Democratic Party as “the party of slavery” which cared about nothing but protecting and expanding the institution.31 He joined thousands of other northerners in building a new party to oppose it. This was the party of Lincoln, of restricting slavery’s expansion, of making Kansas a free state: the Republican Party. It emerged in 1854 amid northern backlash against the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Many northerners viewed the Act as evidence that slaveholders dominated both the Whig and Democratic parties and controlled the federal government. This theory, which identified a “slave power” conspiracy to rule the whole country, convinced many northerners that they must either form a new party or live under southern domination forever. As one journalist wrote, northerners must “unite in a Party of Freedom, with a fixed purpose to regain possession of the Federal Government, and subvert the Slave Power.”32 First in local meetings, then in state and national conventions, like-minded northerners banded together and built the Republican Party. In 1856, Republicans would make their first run for the presidency. Republicans cared about more than just keeping slavery out of Kansas. As members of an almost exclusively northern party, they celebrated the North’s free-labor society. They believed that its productivity, opportunities for upward mobility, and respect for working people made it morally and economically superior to the South’s stifling slave society. Republicans therefore tended to support policies that promoted northernstyle economic development, including higher tariffs to protect American manufacturing; investment in railroads and harbors; and homestead legislation to give urban workers a chance to become western farmers. But at heart, the Republican Party was an antislavery party, dedicated to taking federal power away from proslavery Democrats. Republicans wanted to block slavery’s expansion; abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; prevent the federal government from using its power to catch runaway slaves; and keep slavery strictly confined until it eventually died out. This agenda attracted almost no support in the South, beyond a few BorderState locations like Wheeling and St. Louis. But Republicans appealed to a diverse northern constituency, from ex-Whigs and dissenting Democrats, to veterans of older antislavery parties, and even some abolitionists.33
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Free Soil What made racist white northerners care about slavery? Why did people in Boston or Cleveland pay attention to Kansas? How did Republicans become so powerful, so quickly? To answer these complex questions, we have to understand the term “free soil,” one of the mightiest political slogans of the nineteenth century. As long as slavery threatened to expand, opponents tried to block it. As seen in Chapter 1, battles over slavery’s expansion erupted regularly throughout early U.S. history. Debate intensified in the 1840s as the United States swallowed huge chunks of northern Mexico, first by annexing Texas and then by conquering California and the southwest. Foes of slavery’s expansion rallied around Pennsylvania Democrat David Wilmot’s proposal to ban slavery from all territory taken from Mexico. When both major parties refused to endorse the Wilmot Proviso in 1848, Wilmot’s allies bolted, formed the Free Soil Party, and nominated expresident Martin Van Buren for the presidency. The Free Soilers won only 10 percent of the popular vote, but made a lasting impression. To northerners who associated the West with progress, prosperity, and upward mobility, the notion of preserving western lands for free people was deeply appealing. Republicans (who included many former Free Soilers) later adopted Free Soilers’ ideas and vocabulary. When Republicans ran John C. Frémont for the presidency in 1856, they used the slogan “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, Frémont!” Together, the Free Soil and Republican parties gave antislavery politics a moderate, mainstream image. One reason for free soil’s mass appeal was its compatibility with racism. White northerners who were indifferent or hostile to enslaved African Americans could accept many free-soil arguments. After all, keeping slavery out of western territories could easily mean keeping black people out. Saving the West for free workers could mean reserving it for white workers. As Wilmot put it, “I would preserve to free white labor a fair country . . . where the sons of toil of my own race and color can live without the disgrace which association with negro slavery brings upon free labor.” Not all free soilers were racist. Many believed that preventing slavery’s expansion would slowly destroy slavery itself and thereby liberate millions of people. Some even championed black suffrage. Nevertheless, “free soil!” was an effective slogan because it united racist and non-racist critics of slavery.
Bleeding Kansas promoted the Republican Party’s incredibly rapid growth between 1854 and the Civil War’s outbreak in 1861. Given that Kansas was the primary battlefield in the struggle over slavery expansion, it was natural for Republicans to focus on it closely. Their opponents, North and South, complained that Republicans manipulated Kansas troubles for partisan gain. “Kansas! Kansas! was all that was heard,” wrote a bitter New Yorker.34 But the more that Kansas bled, the more that
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Republicans appealed to voters. Violence by “Border Ruffians,” chaotic elections, and other Kansas troubles reinforced many northerners’ belief that Republicans represented their interests and would lead them to victory over the slave power. Pledging to support “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, [and] Free Men,” Republicans made Kansas the centerpiece of their state campaigns in 1855 and their presidential campaign in 1856. Their 1856 party platform called for the prohibition of slavery expansion and Kansas’s immediate admission as a free state.35 In fact, long before election day in 1856, Kansas already dominated national politics. A key issue was whether to admit Kansas as a state under the antislavery Topeka Constitution, and the venue for the debate was Congress. This dispute showed just how much the controversy, passion, and violence of Bleeding Kansas had flooded the nation’s capital.36 When James Lane, the militia leader recently elected senator by freestate Kansans, brought the Topeka Constitution to Washington in March 1856, Congress was erupting into political uproar. Democrats wanted to pass a law authorizing Kansans to write a constitution and apply for statehood. (Admission would wait until the territorial population reached 93,420, roughly twice the current count.) Republicans argued that this had already happened when Kansas voters (at least those who participated) endorsed the Topeka Constitution in December 1855. Kansas should be admitted under that constitution right away. Which was the legitimate path to statehood? It was hard to say. The U.S. Constitution clearly empowers Congress to admit new states. But Congress never established a uniform standard for statehood; instead, it evaluated applications case by case. Because the Topeka Constitution was written in defiance of the recognized territorial legislature, the Kansas case was especially controversial. But free-staters yearned to achieve statehood as swiftly as possible. Their leaders sent a message to Congress in which they justified their opposition to the territorial government as resistance to tyranny. Convinced that proslavery officials sought to “enslave the people” of Kansas, freestaters protected their “inalienable rights” as “freemen” by drafting a state constitution. They admitted that this was a bit hasty: Kansas was a young territory with a small population. But statehood under the Topeka Constitution was the only alternative to proslavery oppression.37 Americans divided along predictable lines over this issue. Antislavery northerners signed petitions supporting Kansas’s admission under the Topeka Constitution. Congressional Republicans pushed hard for the same goal. Leaders like Joshua Giddings (Ohio) and Galusha Grow (Pennsylvania) argued that admission as a free state was the only way to restore peace in the blood-soaked territory. They reasoned that a majority of Kansas settlers must have wanted a free state, or else the proslavery side
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would not have used trickery and violence to seize power.38 Senator William Seward of New York compared free-staters to the Patriots in the American Revolution and President Franklin Pierce to King George III. If free-state settlers had disobeyed the law, it was because they were exercising their natural right to replace an unrepresentative government with one that respected their liberties. The fact that they were also resisting the “poisonous” institution of slavery made them even more deserving of support. Seward demanded the admission of a free state of Kansas.39 Northern Democrats and southerners rejected these arguments. They joined President Pierce in dismissing the free-state movement as treasonous and the Topeka Constitution as unlawful. Stephen Douglas accused free-staters of attempting “to subvert, by violence and fraud, the government which Congress had established in the Territory,” meaning the Lecompton-based government. Condemning the Topeka convention as a “revolutionary proceeding,” he denied that it spoke for Kansas. Free-state radicals violated popular sovereignty when they rebelled against the territorial legislature.40 Like other northern Democrats, he knew that statehood under the Topeka Constitution would be a major victory for the Republicans. Southerners hated that idea, too; they also saw it as a victory for the North’s rising antislavery sentiment. Congressman Felix Zollicoffer was not a Democrat, but he was a proslavery Tennessean (and future Confederate general) and united with other southerners against admission under the free-state constitution. Zollicoffer raised every objection he could think of: Kansas’s population was too small; the Topeka convention was illegal; there was no precedent for admitting a new state under these conditions. The antislavery background of the Topeka movement also alarmed him. It was the culmination of an “active and noisy” crusade to ship northern voters to Kansas and force it to be a free state. Emigrant aid societies had started a “vociferous agitation against slavery” but, thankfully, had been “beat[en] . . . at their own game” by Missourians. To admit “the rebellious new State” would be a terrible mistake.41 Congressional debate revealed the depth of the division between supporters and opponents of slavery. At the surface were matters of constitutional law. But deadlier issues lurked just below: questions about slavery’s expansion and its future in the American republic. Seward applauded free-staters for resisting tyranny and for opposing slavery’s westward expansion. Zollicoffer objected to Kansas’s small population and to northern settlers’ antislavery agenda. Without the slavery issue, Congressmen would have compromised on Kansas statehood. But since Bleeding Kansas appeared to be a battle for continental power, compromise was unattainable. It was not, however, for a lack of effort. Many Democrats of both regions eagerly supported a settlement offered by Senator Robert
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Toombs of Georgia in June 1856. The “Toombs Bill” would have authorized a territorial census to identify legal voters, followed by the election of delegates to a new constitutional convention. Federal officials would make sure the election was fair. The convention would write a fresh constitution and apply for statehood. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed the Toombs Bill in July but it was defeated by Republicans in the House of Representatives. They held out for admission with the Topeka Constitution and passed a bill to that effect, which died in the Senate.42 The seemingly simple process of popular sovereignty had divided North and South, Republicans and Democrats, and the two houses of Congress. Meanwhile, Kansas kept bleeding. It would definitely be a major issue in the presidential election that fall. The chances of compromise dwindled as the debate grew increasingly heated. Statesmen lost their tempers, traded insults, and made threats. The line between political statement and personal slur was razor-thin. Nothing demonstrated this more powerfully than the lengthy speech, entitled “The Crime against Kansas,” by Massachusetts Republican Charles Sumner. Boston born, Harvard educated, and utterly convinced of his moral superiority, Sumner was elected senator in 1851 as a champion of free soil. He subscribed to The Liberator, a leading abolitionist newspaper. But he preferred to attack slavery by blocking its westward expansion. Not surprisingly, Sumner hated the Kansas–Nebraska Act’s repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and he became a Republican. Bleeding Kansas strengthened Sumner’s conviction that popular sovereignty was a proslavery trick and that Congress must bar slavery’s expansion. He expressed this view, and much else, in his “Crime against Kansas” speech of May 19 and 20, 1856.43 The speech is best known for the personal insults hurled at supporters of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Sumner called Stephen Douglas the “squire of Slavery,” a contemptible pawn of slaveholders. He mocked a proslavery oration given by Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, ridiculing Butler’s “incoherent phrases” and the “loose expectoration of his speech.” Sumner described the “Slave Power” and its northern allies as a disgusting snake, “coiled about the whole land,” North, South, and West alike. The speech was laced with sexual innuendos and metaphors, which built on a long tradition of abolitionist criticism of masters’ exploitation of female slaves. (Sumner did not mention Celia, but her sufferings would have supported his thesis.) He condemned Butler for making “the harlot Slavery” his “mistress.” Though “polluted,” she was “always lovely to him,” so Butler lashed out wildly at slavery’s critics.44 Most provocative was Sumner’s definition of the crime that slaveholders and their northern Democratic allies were perpetrating upon Kansas: rape. The immoral and
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economically backward institution of slavery would ravish Kansas unless Congress stopped it: It is the rape of a virgin Territory, compelling it to the hateful embrace of Slavery; and it may be clearly traced to a depraved longing for a new slave State, the hideous offspring of such a crime, in the hope of adding to the power of slavery in the National Government . . . FORCE—has been openly employed in compelling Kansas to this pollution, and all for the sake of political power.45
Sumner intended to shock his audience. But his speech contained a sophisticated political argument. Look past the crude insults, and what emerges is a thorough statement of Republicans’ multilayered antislavery doctrine. Sumner incorporated the abolitionist critique of slavery as an evil institution that fostered sexual abuse. He made the free-soil argument that slavery expansion robbed white workers of the opportunity to move west. He warned that the “slave power” was tightening its grip on the federal government in order to make Kansas a slave state. And he reminded listeners of the violence perpetrated in Kansas on slavery’s behalf. By weaving these diverse arguments together, Sumner sought to enhance Republicans’ appeal to radical and moderate foes of slavery. Whether they were inclined to see enslaved blacks or nonslaveholding whites as slavery’s principal victims, Sumner demonstrated that they should care about Kansas. His timing was perfect: Sumner concluded “The Crime against Kansas” one day before the Sack of Lawrence.46 The speech also provoked one of the most notorious acts of violence ever committed in the nation’s capital, an act which proved that Bleeding Kansas was not confined to the Great Plains. The perpetrator was a previously obscure South Carolina representative named Preston Brooks. As a proslavery politician, a South Carolinian, and a cousin of Andrew Butler, Brooks had many reasons to object to Sumner’s speech. On May 22, Brooks entered the Senate chamber, approached Sumner as the senator was working at his desk, and beat him with his cane. Brooks struck dozens of blows, continuing the beating after the stick shattered and Sumner, who ripped his desk from the floor in an effort to stand and protect himself, fell to the ground. Critics accused Sumner of exaggerating his injuries, but he had suffered a head injury and did not return to his Senate seat for several years. Brooks narrowly avoided being expelled from the House of Representatives but defiantly resigned his seat, only to be immediately reelected by his admiring constituents. His only punishment was a $300 fine imposed by a District of Columbia court.47
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Preston Brooks Variously called a “gallant gentleman” and a “cowardly scoundrel,” Preston Brooks was one of the most polarizing figures of his time. It is tempting to caricature him as a hot-headed aristocrat. But if we take Brooks’s ideas seriously, we can better understand how Bleeding Kansas shaped his career, including his infamous attack on Charles Sumner. Brooks knew that southern voters demanded an aggressive defense of slavery, and he dared not disappoint them. Born into a wealthy slaveholding family in the rich cotton-planting region of Edgefield District, Brooks studied at South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) until he was expelled for threatening a law enforcement officer with a handgun. Brooks was known as an affectionate husband and father, but he was no stranger to violence. In 1840, he was wounded in a duel, which left him with a limp, and nearly fought another duel against his own cousin. When the Mexican War began, Brooks eagerly volunteered, but he saw little action because he was often disabled by sickness. Having failed to make his mark as a soldier, he entered politics, winning a seat in Congress in 1853. Like David Atchison and other allies, Brooks believed it was essential to make Kansas a slave state. Two months before the caning, he asserted that “the fate of the South is to be decided with the Kansas issue.” If Kansas were admitted as “hireling state”—that is, a free state—then abolitionism would triumph in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. Nevertheless, some of Brooks’s constituents criticized him for being too moderate on issues of sectionalism and slavery. Lacking the combat record and congressional reputation that he craved, Brooks was desperate to prove himself a worthy champion of the South. Sumner’s “Crime against Kansas” speech gave Brooks the opportunity to show what he could do. Certainly, he was offended by Sumner’s insulting language. But Sumner was more than a personal enemy; he was a political rival in the showdown over slavery’s future in the United States. In his post-caning letters, Brooks emphasized the broader struggle against “Abolitionists” and “Black Republicans.” And after Brooks died prematurely in 1857, admirers praised him as a powerful opponent of those who were “determined to exclude slavery from the public domain altogether.” Brooks had finally won the acclaim that he had longed for.
Americans divided along party and sectional lines in their reactions to the caning. Most white southerners applauded Brooks for defending their rights and honor against an ungentlemanly coward. They sent Brooks dozens of canes—some inscribed with slogans like “Hit Him Again” or “Use Knock-Down Arguments”—along with other gifts, including a silver goblet presented by South Carolina’s governor. Brute force seemed to be the only way to silence northern extremists. As a Virginian put it,
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Brooks’s deed was “good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequence,” for the “vulgar Abolitionists in the Senate” had become “impudent to gentlemen. . . . They must be lashed into submission.”48 Many observers noticed direct connections between the caning and Kansas. Brooks’s hometown newspaper pointed out that the sack of Lawrence occurred shortly before Brooks gave Sumner his “handsome drubbing.” Perhaps “a passing breeze” had “wafted the spirit of combat to the Capitol at Washington,” just in time for Brooks to carry on the work of proslavery Missourians. In any case, he had done “exactly right.”49 Most northerners, particularly Republicans, disagreed. To them, Brooks was a personification of the “slave power,” a bully who expected to rule the country like he lorded over his slaves. The assault proved that slaveholders threatened northerners’ freedom. After all, Brooks had attacked a senator for expressing his political beliefs. If freedom of speech wasn’t protected in Congress, where was it safe? The caning was more than just a private quarrel; it was an attack on the dignity and liberty of every northerner and a natural extension of the proslavery campaign in Kansas. As an Ohioan put it: The arguments of Mr. Sumner have aroused the anger of the Slavedrivers. They could answer them only in one way, by brute force, in the same way they hold arguments on their plantations. . . . What cannot be done by Fraud and shallow presence is to be accomplished by violence, by brute force. Witness the scenes that are now enacting in Kansas. Witness the personal violences in Washington, all intended to suppress evidence—to silence complaint—to subdue resistance. . . . Shall we become Slaves to the Slavedriver? Shall the population, the Free Laborers and Free Thinkers of the Free States, surrender like cowards to a handful of Aristocrats? We say, No! most emphatically.
The writer advised northern Congressmen to go to Washington armed and ready to fight.50 Northern statesmen, like free-state settlers with their Sharp’s rifles, had to prepare for battle against the slave power. By the spring of 1856, the violence of Bleeding Kansas had reached the capital and threatened to engulf the entire nation. * * * As Americans fought over Kansas with words and weapons, they also prepared for November’s presidential election. Two things were clear: the Kansas controversy would be a leading issue, and this was good news for
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Republicans. The violence of 1856 gave them two major talking points, “Bleeding Kansas” and “Bleeding Sumner.” In their first-ever presidential campaign, Republicans used both to win votes from their predominantly northern constituency. In response, their opponents had to downplay Kansas in order to undercut Republicans’ appeal in the North, while emphasizing the seriousness of the Republican threat to slavery in order to win in the South. It was a complex election, and many Americans felt that the fate of the Union was at stake.51 Republicans took a firm stand against slavery expansion, the Kansas– Nebraska Act, Border Ruffians, and the caning of Charles Sumner. Their 1856 party platform made their position crystal clear. Its first sentence asked for support from all Americans, of all political parties, who were “opposed to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise; to the policy of the present Administration; to the extension of Slavery into Free Territory; [and] in favor of the admission of Kansas as a Free State.” They argued that the Founding Fathers had not wanted slavery to spread into U.S. territories and that a free-soil policy would return the government to its original principles. It was not only the right but the “imperative duty” of Congress to bar slavery from Kansas and every other territory. Republicans denounced the bloody repression perpetrated by the proslavery Kansas government and the Border Ruffians, and accused Pierce’s administration of supporting these crimes. They also demanded the immediate admission of Kansas under the free-state Topeka Constitution.52 Republicans wanted to grow beyond the North, and their presidential candidate reflected their desire to attract support in the West and the South. John C. Frémont was born in Georgia, raised in South Carolina, and became a national celebrity for his expeditions across the Rocky Mountains, which gained him the nickname “The Path Finder.” A dashing and relatively young (only 43 in 1856) army officer and explorer, Frémont had led a renowned California independence movement that helped to detach it from Mexico during the U.S.–Mexican War.53 His wife, Jessie Benton Frémont, added to his campaign’s romantic aura; unlike most other politicians’ wives of the era, Jessie was a public figure. Like Clarina Nichols and Sara Robinson, Republicans appealed to supporters of a more progressive view of women’s roles. Through their portrayals of Jessie Frémont as a knowledgeable and determined foe of slavery expansion, Republicans encouraged antislavery women to participate in politics even without the vote. Northern women had already contributed to the freestate crusade in Kansas. Now they and like-minded men were invited into the growing Republican movement.54 In banners, buttons, parades, and songs, Republicans promised that the Frémonts would protect liberty from the slave power and free soil from slaveholders. One campaign song
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announced; “Our standard bearer then, / The brave path finder be! / Free speech, free press, free soil, free men, / Frémont and victory.”55 Republicans rarely missed opportunities to remind voters about Bleeding Kansas. Their campaign literature stated that the southern “slave oligarchy” plotted to spread slavery throughout the territories, recounted the fraud perpetrated in Kansas elections, and condemned Preston Brooks as a cowardly assassin.56 Despite their appeals to nonslaveholders nationwide, Republicans’ rhetoric and platform were effective almost exclusively in the free states. Their opponents worked hard to denounce Republicans as abolitionists, and some southern leaders threatened that a Frémont victory would provoke the slave states to secede. Senator James Mason of Virginia proclaimed that if Frémont won, the South’s only option would be “immediate, absolute, and eternal separation.”57 Republicans’ rivals used these threats to frighten voters. In the North, they argued that a vote for Frémont was a vote for disunion. In the South, they presented themselves as the only alternative to a Republican victory and the destruction of the Union. These appeals were important because there was not one major candidate opposing Frémont, but two. Democrats and supporters of the anti-immigrant American (or Know-Nothing) Party competed for antiRepublican votes. Members of the American Party tried to build an electoral base by linking their ongoing campaign against immigrants, particularly against Irish Catholics, to the dying Whig Party. They lamented the escalating sectional conflict and presented themselves as a safe, moderate alternative to antislavery and proslavery extremism. Know-Nothings avoided taking a stand on specific issues like Kansas statehood or popular sovereignty. Instead, they appealed to nativism and patriotism and accused Republicans and Democrats of endangering the Union.58 Their candidate was ex-president Millard Fillmore. The Democrats, as the party of popular sovereignty and the Kansas– Nebraska Act, could not avoid adopting a clear position on Kansas, but they did it carefully. Their strength was mainly in the South, but because of the North’s power in the Electoral College, Democrats could not win without some northern support. Their strategy was to downplay Bleeding Kansas (and accuse Republicans of exaggerating it) and insist that popular sovereignty was the best way to handle slavery expansion. Democrats’ 1856 platform denounced abolitionists for endangering the Union, declared that popular sovereignty would end “agitation” of the slavery issue, and congratulated Franklin Pierce on his presidency.59 But Democrats didn’t support his re-election. Instead, they nominated another northerner who sympathized with the South, James Buchanan of Pennsylvania. A bachelor who had served as a congressman, senator, secretary of state, and diplomat
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Figure 3.1 Political cartoons shaped popular views of Bleeding Kansas. This one, published during the 1856 presidential race, denounced the Democratic Party as a proslavery party that was responsible for the violence out west. On the right are chained slaves, a slaveholder threatening to “subdue” his opponents, and a mocking reference to possible territorial expansion in the Caribbean. On the left, Preston Brooks is shown attacking Charles Sumner. In the background is a town being raided and burned, probably an illustration of the Sack of Lawrence. “Squatter Sovereignty” is a derogatory reference to popular sovereignty. Source: “Democratic Platform Illustrated” (1856). Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Available at http://loc.gov/item/2008661581
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to Russia and Great Britain, Buchanan had been in London when the Kansas–Nebraska Act was passed and was not personally associated with the controversial law. Democrats hoped that this candidate and platform combination would win over skeptical northerners while reassuring southerners that the party was sound on the slavery issue. In the North, Democrats blended Unionism with racism to win votes. They labeled the so-called “Black Republicans” as radicals who would wreck the Union rather than give up their wild schemes of racial equality. Race-baiting was a key campaign strategy. In Indiana, Democrats paraded a group of young ladies, dressed all in white, under a banner reading: “Fathers, save us from nigger husbands!”60 In the South, Democrats depicted Republicans as threats to everything worth preserving: white supremacy, slave property, and life itself. Only in four slave states (all in the Upper South) did Frémont’s name even appear on the ballot, and throughout the region he was denounced as the leader of a growing movement to demolish southern civilization. “These Black ‘Republicans,’” wrote a North Carolina Democrat, would “destroy the Constitution, destroy the Union, destroy our liberties, destroy everything we cherish and revere.”61 The contest between southern supporters of Buchanan and Fillmore boiled down to a debate over who could better protect slavery. In a typical speech, Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana claimed that voting for Fillmore would actually help Frémont. Southerners must unite behind the Democrats or else submit to a Republican victory.62 As territorial residents, Kansans could not vote for a president, but they were hardly apathetic about the election. Most free-staters supported Frémont. Their struggle against President Pierce convinced them that they must have an ally in the White House. As Marc Parrott wrote from Lawrence, “if Frémont is defeated our cause in this part of the world will have to be abandoned.”63 “[O]ur trust is in God,” reported another free-stater, “our hope in the Northern people, and the election of Frémont.”64 Most proslavery settlers, on the other hand, rallied behind Buchanan. Kansas Territory’s fiercest proslavery newspaper, the Squatter Sovereign, endorsed Buchanan for his “love of the Union” and ability to beat the Republicans. The editor urged Democrats to unite against the “allied forces of the abolitionists” and “crush them into the earth, past resurrection.”65 The election’s short- and long-term results were quite different. Buchanan won with 174 electoral votes, including those of every slave state except Maryland, over Frémont’s 114 and Fillmore’s eight. But Buchanan received only 45 percent of the popular vote and carried just five free states; the rest went for Frémont, who won more northern votes than either of his rivals.66 Republicans considered the outcome a “victorious
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defeat,” and with good reason: they had established themselves as the Democrats’ primary rivals and as North’s leading party. They had a long road ahead to win the White House, block slavery’s expansion, or admit Kansas as a free state, but they resolved to do all three. Free-staters in Kansas were equally determined. Caleb Pratt reported from Lawrence that very few antislavery settlers had departed the territory after Buchanan’s election. Most were prepared to “struggle on” toward a long-term victory. Indeed, he asked, whether they won through “quick and manly resistance, or by long policy . . . who can doubt of our ultimate success?”67 Other free-staters renewed their calls for aid, declaring that the battle for Kansas wasn’t lost, so long as northerners remained committed to the cause. “Mr. Buch[anan] can’t make it a Slave State,” wrote Edward Fitch, “if the men of the Free States do their duty and send us help enough money, clothes, & men.”68 So, like earlier elections, this presidential race, though widely seen as a decisive battle between slavery and freedom, settled very little. By the end of 1856, Governor Geary had put down the worst of the violence and Democrats had retained the presidency. But the end of the struggle was nowhere in sight.
Victories in a couple of key states would have given Frémont the presidency. Had he won Pennsylvania and either Illinois (which he lost by fewer than 10,000 votes) or Indiana, the White House would have been his.
* * * President James Buchanan gloated a bit in his inaugural address of March 4, 1857. He regarded his election as an endorsement of the “simple rule” of popular sovereignty as the solution to “the question of domestic slavery in the Territories.” Now that twenty years of controversy had ended with a smashing Democratic victory, Americans could move on to matters “of more pressing and practical importance.” All that remained was to tie up a few loose ends and admit Kansas as a state whenever its population was large enough. Buchanan admitted that there was still a “difference of opinion” over popular sovereignty’s timing. When exactly would “the people” of Kansas decide on slavery? Buchanan sided with southern Democrats, arguing that the decision should be made at the moment of statehood. But this was a question for the Supreme Court, which would soon answer it.69 Buchanan anticipated a quiet and effective term. Kansas would be admitted into the Union, Democrats would be praised for resolving the conflict, and the Republicans would fall apart. Things were looking good.
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But if recent history was any guide, Buchanan’s optimism was misplaced. Had popular sovereignty actually proven to be a “simple rule”? If the U.S. Army struggled to keep the peace in Kansas, would a Supreme Court decision really pacify the territory? Could northern and southern Democrats politely resolve their “difference of opinion” over popular sovereignty’s operation? In practice, the answer to all these questions was a booming “no!” Buchanan relied on three allies in his quest to end the Kansas controversy: the Supreme Court, another new governor, and the proslavery territorial government at Lecompton. But all three provoked renewed conflict between northerners and southerners, Republicans and Democrats, and competing factions of Buchanan’s Democratic Party. So, despite its hopeful start, Buchanan’s presidency ended four years later with the Democratic Party broken apart, the Union fragmented by secession, and civil war looming on the horizon. In his inaugural, Buchanan placed high hopes on a pending Supreme Court decision. The case he had in mind was Dred Scott v. Sandford and the Court came through for him: its ruling, issued two days after the inauguration, echoed the president’s views on territorial policy. (In fact, Buchanan’s promise to abide by the decision was devious at best and conspiratorial at worst. He had corresponded with justices, influenced their vote, and already knew their decision when he gave his inaugural speech.) The case had its roots in Missouri. Born in Virginia, Dred Scott, like so many other southeastern slaves, moved west with his master. He wound up in St. Louis, where he was sold to an army surgeon, Dr. John Emerson. In 1836, Emerson took Scott with him to Illinois, a free state, and then to Wisconsin Territory, where slavery was prohibited by the Missouri Compromise. After returning to St. Louis, Scott sued for his freedom, arguing that his long residence on free soil made him a free man. Missouri courts had ruled in slaves’ favor in similar cases, and Scott’s lawyers expected to win. After years of legal wrangling the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.70 Five of the nine justices were southerners, including Chief Justice Roger Taney of Maryland. They faced two questions: Could Scott, a slave, sue in federal court? Did living in a territory where Congress had outlawed slavery make him free? In a seven–two decision, the Court ruled against Scott on both questions. What made the case so inflammatory was Chief Justice Taney’s effort to write the most forcefully proslavery legal opinion possible. Intended to resolve several constitutional questions in favor of slavery’s supporters, Taney’s decision only fueled more controversy. Taney began by declaring that Scott could not sue, but not simply because he was a slave; it was Scott’s race that mattered. Taney held that African Americans, whether slave or free, could not be U.S. citizens. They had never been included among “We the people” and were considered so
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inferior that they “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”71 Never mind the fact that free black men could vote in six states in 1857, or that they once had voted in others, including Tennessee and North Carolina. Taney believed that white Americans had always uniformly agreed with him that theirs was a white man’s government. Taney might have stopped here, throwing out the case because Scott couldn’t sue in court. But Taney wanted to rule on the territorial issue in order to undercut Republicans’ free-soil program. So, Taney ruled that the Missouri Compromise ban on slavery north of 36° 30′ was unconstitutional because it deprived slaveholders of their property without due process of law, thus violating the Fifth Amendment. Of course, the Kansas–Nebraska Act had already repealed this restriction. But now any Congressional prohibition of slavery in a territory was ruled out, leaving Republicans without a leg to stand on. Taney should have ended here because he had addressed every issue involved in the case. Instead, he ruled on a question that wasn’t before the Court at all, but tended to divide northern and southern Democrats: whether a territorial legislature could bar slavery prior to statehood. Taney reasoned that since Congress couldn’t outlaw slavery in a territory, it couldn’t delegate this power to a territorial government, either. Thus, territorial legislatures couldn’t ban slavery. This meant that the view of popular sovereignty held by Stephen Douglas and most northern Democrats was also unconstitutional. According to Taney, slaveholders had the right to hold slaves within any territory up to the moment of statehood. From here, it was a short step to the argument that Congress must actively protect that right. Southern leaders who made that argument revealed their support for federal intervention in local affairs, if it helped slaveholders. Responses to the Dred Scott decision were predictable. Proslavery partisans hailed it as a final victory over antislavery agitators. A Georgian rejoiced that “Southern opinion upon the subject of southern slavery . . . is now the supreme law of the land,” and that opposition to it amounted to treason.72 Republicans denounced the ruling as evidence that the slave power controlled the Supreme Court and vowed to disregard a decision that covered issues not involved in the case. Morally and legally, they argued, the decision was not binding. More complex were the responses of northern Democrats. They certainly benefitted from the decision, which could demolish the Republican platform and end the nagging Kansas controversy. But if local voters couldn’t stop slavery from automatically entering every territory, then popular sovereignty (as most northern Democrats understood it) was worthless. Given Republican outrage and northern Democratic discomfort, Buchanan’s hopes for Dred Scott’s calming effect were not realistic.
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Buchanan appeared to be on firmer ground when he appointed a new governor for Kansas Territory. Despite Governor Geary’s success in suppressing violence, critics accused him of favoring free-staters, partly because he opposed some proslavery territorial laws, including one making it a felony to deny that slavery was legal in Kansas. Disgusted, Geary resigned around the time of Buchanan’s inauguration. Buchanan’s choice of a replacement looked like a stroke of genius. He appointed Robert J. Walker, whose Pennsylvania roots and long-term residence in Mississippi made him seem naturally impartial. Walker arrived in Kansas in May 1857, determined to carry out popular sovereignty fairly, facilitate the writing of a state constitution, and peacefully accomplish Kansas statehood.73 But Walker’s stormy, and ultimately very short, term as governor showed how easy it was to alienate both sides at the same time. He immediately got into trouble with his inaugural speech. Walker sensibly called for honest elections. But he offended free-staters by denouncing their activities as illegal and arguing that the Topeka Constitution’s ban on black immigration was an endorsement of Taney’s views of black citizenship. He also infuriated proslavery settlers, and whites across the South, by arguing that Kansas’s climate was unsuitable for slavery because it was too cold for the “tropical constitution of the negro race.” Laws of climate would probably make Kansas a free state.74 Antislavery activists criticized Walker’s speech but proslavery crusaders were outraged by it. Many of them assumed that Buchanan had sent Walker to make Kansas a slave state, so Walker’s public doubts about slavery’s future in Kansas left southern Democrats feeling betrayed. “[T]he Southern heart is stirred to its depths” by Walker’s “intermeddling,” wrote an Alabamian. Southerners wanted to support Buchanan but, not if Walker “is permitted to thwart the South in Kansas.”75 In a territory where every decision was quickly construed as favoring or opposing slavery, neither side was inclined to give Walker the benefit of the doubt.76 Despite the controversy, Buchanan’s hopes for resolving Bleeding Kansas through statehood were raised by progress toward a new state constitution. In June 1857, elections were held to choose delegates to a constitutional convention scheduled to meet three months later. Walker promised everyone a fair vote. But antislavery Kansans were still committed to the Despite Taney’s decision, Dred Scott Topeka Constitution and refused actually became free in May 1857, when to participate in an election called he and his family were manumitted by by the Lecompton government. their master in St. Louis. Unfortunately, As a result, voter turnout was disScott enjoyed his liberty for only a short mally low. Only 10 percent of time before dying of tuberculosis in potential voters, mostly proslavery September 1858. residents living along the Missouri
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River, cast ballots. Not surprisingly, the sixty delegates they chose were mostly men like themselves: young settlers from the South or the Midwest, including a few slaveholders, who supported slavery.77 Among them was Samuel J. Kookogey, a twenty-eight-year-old Democrat from a prosperous family of Georgia cotton planters. An eager expansionist who wanted to annex the slaveholding Spanish colony of Cuba to the U.S., Kookogey disliked violence but was determined to establish slavery in Kansas. One supporter described him as a “fearless vindicator of the rights of the South” and a “bitter opponent of the Abolitionists.”78 Buchanan trusted that Kookogey and fellow delegates would stop the territorial bleeding by writing a constitution under which Kansas would join the Union. Delegates to the Lecompton Convention, named for the territorial capital where they met, gathered in September 1857 but then adjourned until after another election scheduled for October 5. This election, for seats on the territorial legislature, marked a turning point. It was the first time free-staters participated in an election that they didn’t call, and they won a major victory. Antislavery Kansans had debated the decision to participate. Some, like Charles Robinson, preferred to continue their boycott. But others argued that there was no reason not to vote, win, and take control of the legislature. They won the debate and free-state settlers were encouraged to vote. Federal troops ensured that Governor Walker’s promise of a fair vote was generally carried out. In a few areas where fraud was suspected, Walker threw out the tainted returns and thereby guaranteed a free-state victory. Marcus Parrott was elected as Kansas’s delegate to Congress by a two-thirds majority, and free-staters gained control of the territorial legislature.79 Proslavery partisans were appalled by Walker’s actions and demanded that Buchanan fire him. But the election was especially disturbing for delegates to the Lecompton Convention. As they reconvened on October 19, they sensed that this was their last chance to make Kansas a slave state. They did their best. Article 7 of the Lecompton Constitution, as their work became known, declared that property rights were “before and higher than any constitutional sanction,” and that “the right of the owner of a slave to such slave and its increase [children born to enslaved mothers] is the same and as inviolable as the right of the owner of any property whatever.” It forbade the state legislature from emancipating slaves without masters’ consent or preventing emigrants from bringing slaves into Kansas. To ensure that free-staters didn’t immediately alter these provisions, the Lecompton Constitution prohibited amendments until 1864.80 Wary of putting slavery’s fate up to a vote, some delegates suggested that they send their constitution to Congress without popular approval. Others thought it would look bad for proponents of popular sovereignty to do this.
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Eventually, the delegates compromised by agreeing to submit the slaveryrelated portion of their constitution for a vote on December 21. Voters could choose between “Lecompton Constitution with slavery” and “Lecompton Constitution without slavery.” Choosing the second option would not make Kansas a free state, because nothing would happen to the slaves already living there or to their descendants; it would simply be illegal to import more.81 Free-staters were horrified by this policy, since Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state either way. The Lecompton Constitution, vowed Charles Robinson, “cannot be forced upon us without the shedding of blood.”82 Free-staters resumed their boycott. This resulted in low turnout at the December 21 election, but the proslavery voters who did participate supported the Lecompton Constitution with slavery by a large majority.83 Free-staters responded by overwhelmingly voting the Lecompton Constitution down in their own election held on January 4, 1858.84 By that time, the Lecompton controversy had already begun to devastate the Democratic Party and further polarize public opinion nationwide. A key reason for this was Buchanan’s fateful decision to endorse the Lecompton Constitution. Bowing to southern pressure, Buchanan accepted Walker’s resignation and replaced him with James W. Denver, who became the territory’s fifth governor. He also told Congress that Kansas should be admitted under Lecompton as soon as possible. This triggered massive protest by a majority of northern Democrats, who joined with Republicans against Kansas’s admission under the dubious document.85 Stephen Douglas led the anti-Lecompton forces in the Senate, proclaiming that he didn’t care whether slavery entered Kansas or not, but that he did care about popular sovereignty. The sneaky methods used by the Lecompton Convention violated the ideals of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. “[Y]ou cannot have a fair and honest decision,” Douglas declared, “without submitting it to the popular vote.” If Buchanan’s supporters attempted to force Lecompton on the people of Kansas “in violation of the fundamental principle of free government . . . I will resist it to the last.”86 AntiLecompton Democrats, and their Republican allies, resisted throughout early 1858. Northerners who had hated Douglas now hailed him as a hero, a guardian of self-government and foe of the slave power. A few Republicans even considered nominating him for the presidency in 1860. Douglas wouldn’t abandon his beloved Democratic Party, but he knew that if Democrats admitted Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution, their party would be obliterated in the North. Only by defeating Lecompton would northern Democrats have a chance. Most southern Democrats, however, joined Buchanan in supporting the Lecompton Constitution. They felt betrayed by Douglas and many of
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them turned against the Illinois senator with a ferocity that would have been unbelievable in 1854. One South Carolinian called Douglas a “selfseeking renegade” who was “truckling to the antislavery sentiment of his people” and had become “the great leader of the Black Republicans.”87 Many southern leaders recognized that if the anti-Lecompton forces won, Kansas would never become a slave state and that it was unlikely that slavery would expand into any other U.S. territory. Some talked of secession, and leaders in Alabama and Georgia were prepared to call secession conventions if Congress refused to admit Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution.88 Within Kansas, the proslavery minority sided with Buchanan, but free-staters supported the anti-Lecompton position. One warned that if Congress accepted the Lecompton Constitution, it would trigger a “civil war” within Kansas, since most residents would “resist the imposition of such a government upon us at all hazards.”89 In April, Congress endorsed a strange solution to the Lecompton conflict. According to the “English Bill,” named for an Indiana representative, the Lecompton Constitution would be returned to Kansas voters for their approval. But the official reason for resubmission was not slavery, but a change in the amount of public land that Kansas would receive. New states received millions of acres of land upon admission, which could be sold to pay for public education and other state-sponsored measures. Kansas had requested an unusually large grant of 23 million acres; under the English Bill, the grant would be only 4 million. The choice offered to Kansans was this: accept statehood with the Lecompton Constitution, slavery, and 4 million acres of land, or else wait for statehood, potentially for many years, until the population reached 93,000. Republicans and some northern Democrats, including Douglas, denounced this as an attempt to bribe Kansans into accepting Lecompton. But free-staters, who were clearly in the majority, refused to take the bait. On August 2, 1858, Kansas voters rejected the Lecompton Constitution by a vote of 11,300 to 1788. Some proslavery spokesmen remained hopeful, but most people on both sides recognized that Kansas would someday be a free state.90 Still, the downfall of the Lecompton Constitution in 1858 did not mark the end of Bleeding Kansas. Locally, violence along the MissouriKansas border continued. Nationwide, the rivalry between Republicans and Democrats remained sharp. The split between northern and southern Democrats widened. Sectional stereotypes grew more hostile and sectional identities solidified. For most people, civil war was still unthinkable. But many of the factors that converged in 1861 to make disunion and war possible had fallen into place. Others were still in motion, including the tireless John Brown, who was preparing to shift his attention from Kansas to Virginia.
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NOTES 1 2
4 5 6 7 8 9
12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Lydia Maria Child to Louise Loring, October 26, 1856, Lydia Maria Child Papers, Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. “William Addison Phillips,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=P000315 (August 25, 2015). William Phillips, The Conquest of Kansas by Missouri and Her Allies: A History of the Troubles in Kansas from the Passage of the Organic Act until the Close of July 1856 (Boston: Phillips, Sampson & Co., 1856). Ibid, 16. Ibid, 46. Ibid, 299. Ibid, 403. Ibid, 410. C.I.H. Nichols, “To the Women of the State of New York,” circular letter, ca. 1856, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgibin/index.php?SCREEN=view_image&document_id=100147&file_name=h000 416 (August 27, 2015). Juliet A. Lee, “Badgers for a Free Kansas: The Wisconsin Kansas Emigrant Aid Society,” Milwaukee History 2, no. 3 (September 1979), 75–76. Edward Fitch, “From Edward Fitch to Those Gentlemen and Ladies Who So Generously Responded to the Appeal for Help, From the Suffering Poor in Kansas,” December 17, 1856, Civil War on the Western Border, Kansas City Public Library, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/edward-fitch-thosewhoso-generously-responded-appeal-help (August 27, 2015). George Draper to Patrick T. Jackson, September 20, 1856, Massachusetts Kansas Aid Committee Records, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. Mrs. Child, An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans (Boston: Allen and Ticknor, 1833). Margaret M.R. Kellow, “‘For the Sake of Suffering Kansas’: Lydia Maria Child, Gender, and the Politics of the 1850s,” Journal of Women’s History 5, no. 2 (Fall 1993): 32–49. For the story itself, see New York Tribune, October 23, 24, 25, 28, and November 4, 1856. “Kansas Matters—Appeal to the South,” DeBow’s Review 20, no. 5 (May 1856): 635–640. “Kansas a Slave State,” DeBow’s Review 20, no. 6 (June 1856): 741–744. “Southern Development of Kansas,” DeBow’s Review 21, no. 1 (July 1856): 95–97. “The Voice of Kansas—Let the South Respond,” DeBow’s Review 21, no. 2 (August 1856): 187–194. Jennie to Dear Father, June 16, 1856, Papers of the Norris and Thompson Families, South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, SC. Leverett Wilson Spring, Kansas: The Prelude to the War for the Union (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1894), 44. William E. Parrish, David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Border Politician (Columbia: University of Missouri, 1961), 208–209.
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25 26 27 28
29 30 31 32 33
34 35 36
38 39 40
L. Maria Child, “The Kansas Emigrants [Part 2],” New York Tribune, October 24, 1856. Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009), 85–87, 98–100, 106–108. Ibid, 86–87, 90–94, 100–103; Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, “‘Nigger-Worshipping Fanatics’ and ‘Villan[s] of the Blackest Dye’: Racialized Manhoods and the Sectional Debates,” in Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border, Eds. Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti Burke (Lawrence; University of Kansas, 2013): 65–80, esp. pp. 71–72. M[ilton] G. Howe to Dear Parents, October 5, 1856, Joseph Howe Papers, Rubenstein Library, Duke University, Durham, NC. M[ilton] G. Howe to Dear Parents, July 8, 1858, Howe Papers. Quoted in H. Craig Miner, Seeding Civil War: Kansas in the National News, 1854–1858 (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2008), 87. Quoted in Gunja SenGupta, For God and Mammon: Evangelicals and Entrepreneurs, Masters and Slaves in Territorial Kansas, 1854–1860 (Athens: University of Georgia, 1996), 82. Reprinted in The Kansas Struggle, of 1856, in Congress and in the Presidential Campaign; With Suggestions for the Future (New York: American Abolition Society, 1857), 8. Joel H. Silbey, Storm Over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road to Civil War (New York: Oxford University, 2005), 168. Quoted in Mark Scroggins, Hannibal: The Life of Abraham Lincoln’s First Vice President (Lanham: University of America, 1994), 107. “The Condition of Things in Congress and in the Country,” National Era, June 1, 1854. Eric Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War (New York: Oxford University, 1970); William E. Gienapp, The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852–1856 (New York: Oxford University, 1987); Susan-Mary Grant, North over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, 2000); and James Oakes, The Scorpion’s Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War (New York: W.W. Norton, 2014). Quoted in Gienapp, Origins of the Republican Party, 352. “Republican Party Platform of 1856,” The American Presidency Project, www. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29619 (September 5, 2015). On Congress and the Kansas issue in the spring of 1856, see: Pearl T. Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell: The Political Crisis in Territorial Kansas (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, 2014), 99–129; and Nicole Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2004), 97–98, 126–128. U.S. House of Representatives, Memorial of the Senators and Representatives, and the Constitution of the State of Kansas; Also, the Majority and Minority Reports of the Committee on Territories on the Said Constitution (Washington: Cornelius Wendell, Printer, 1856), 5, 10. Ibid, 48. Congressional Globe, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., appendix, 404–405. Ibid, appendix, 358–361.
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47 48 49 50 51
52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63
Memorial of the Senators and Representatives, 51–57. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 126–128; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 118–120; James A. Rawley, Race and Politics: “Bleeding Kansas” and the Coming of the Civil War ( Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1979), 153–156. David Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1967). Charles Sumner, The Crime against Kansas. The Apologies for the Crime. The True Remedy. Speech of Hon. Charles Sumner, in the Senate of the United States, 19th and 20th May, 1856 (Boston: John P. Jewett, 1856), 13, 85, 8, 9. Ibid, 5. Michael D. Pierson, “‘All Southern Society Is Assailed by the Foulest Charges’: Charles Sumner’s ‘The Crime against Kansas’ and the Escalation of Republican Anti-Slavery Rhetoric,” New England Quarterly 68, no. 4 (December 1995): 531–557. Donald, Charles Sumner, chaps. 11–12; Stephen Puleo, The Caning: The Assault that Drove America to Civil War (Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, 2012). Quoted in James M. McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University, 1988), 151. “Capt Brooks’ Castigation of Senator Sumner,” (Edgefield, SC) Advertiser, May 28, 1856. “Club Law in the Senate!” (Columbus, OH) State Journal, May 23, 1856. On Kansas and the 1856 presidential contest, see Rawley, Race and Politics, 136–153, 160–172; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 128–131, 135–136; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 130–146. “Republican Party Platform of 1856,” The American Presidency Project, www. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29619 (September 5, 2015). Gienapp, Origins of the Republican Party, 316–317. Michael D. Pierson, Free Hearts and Free Homes: Gender and American Antislavery Politics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2003), esp. chap. 6. Roger A. Fischer, “The Republican Presidential Campaigns of 1856 and 1860: Analysis through Artifacts,” Civil War History 27, no. 2 (June 1981), 127. The Republican Scrap Book (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1856). Quoted in William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant: 1854–1861 (New York: Oxford University, 2007), 104. “Whig Party Platform of 1856,” American Presidency Project, www.presidency. ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25857 (September 5, 2015). “Democratic Party Platform of 1856,” American Presidency Project, www. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29576 (September 5, 2015). Foner, Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, 263. (Charlotte, NC) Western Democrat, September 2, 1856. John M. Sacher, A Perfect War of Politics: Parties, Politicians, and Democracy in Louisiana, 1824–1861 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2003), 256. Marc [Parrott] to Dear Edd [Edwin Parrott], September 29, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN =show_document&document_id=101971&SCREEN_FROM=keyword& selected_keyword=Fremont,%20John%20Charles,%201813–1890&startsearchat=10 (September 5, 2015).
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65 66 67
69 70 71 72 73 74
75 76 77 78
80 81 82 83 84 85
S.N. Simpson to Hiram Hill, October 3, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online, www. territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show_tran script&document_id=102161SCREEN=keyword&submit=&search=&startsearchat =10&searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=&document_id=102161 &selected_keyword=Fremont,%20John%20Charles,%201813-1890 (September 5, 2015). “Buchanan and Breckinridge,” (Atchison, KS) Squatter Sovereign, June 24, 1856. Gienapp, Origins of the Republican Party, 413–415. Caleb S. Pratt to [Thomas W. Higginson], December 1, 1856, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN= show_transcript&document_id=101885SCREEN=keyword&submit=&search=& startsearchat=0&searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=&document_ id=101885&selected_keyword=Buchanan,%20James,%201791–1868 (September 5, 2015). Edward Fitch to Dear Parents, November 30, 1856, in John M. Peterson, “From Border War to Civil War: More Letters of Edward and Sarah Fitch, 1855–1863, Part 1,” Kansas History 20, no. 1 (March 1997), 15. James Buchanan, “Inaugural Address, March 4, 1857,” American Presidency Project, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25817 (September 6, 2015). For an exhaustive study of the case, see Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics (New York: Oxford University, 1978). For Taney’s ruling, see www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/60/393#writingUSSC_CR_0060_0393_ZO (September 6, 2015). Quoted in Fehrenbacher, Dred Scott Decision, 418. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 139–144. “Inaugural Address of Hon. Robert J. Walker, Governor of Kansas Territory. Delivered in Lecompton, May 27, 1857,” (Lawrence, KS) Herald of Freedom, June 6, 1857. “The Administration and Kansas,” Montgomery (AL) Advertiser, June 24, 1857. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 146; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 154–156. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 141, 144–147, 151–152. Antonio Rafael de la Cova, “Samuel J. Kookogey in Bleeding Kansas: A ‘Fearless Vindicator of the Rights of the South,’” Kansas History 35, no. 3 (Autumn 2012): 147–163 (quotation from p. 158). Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 152–155; Rawley, Race and Politics, 213–214; David E. Meerse, “The 1857 Kansas Territorial Delegate Election Contest,” Kansas History 4, no. 2 (June 1981), 112. “Lecompton Constitution,” Kansas Memory, Kansas Historical Society, www. kansasmemory.org/item/207409/text (September 7, 2015). Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 155–156; Rawley, Race and Politics, 214–216. Quoted in Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 156. Ibid, 161. Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 170. On the Lecompton issue in national and congressional politics, see: Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 158–161, 168–189; Ponce, To Govern the Devil in Hell, 179–188, 195–197; Rawley, Race and Politics, 223–256. Congressional Globe, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., 15, 18.
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87 88 89 90
Quoted in Avery O. Craven, The Growth of Southern Nationalism, 1848–1861 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1953), 296. Fehrenbacher, Dred Scott Case, 480–481. R. McBratney to Stephen A. Douglas, January 26, 1858, Stephen A. Douglas Papers, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 179–185.
The Civil War on the Border
Napoleon Simpson was one of many warriors in Bleeding Kansas. But there was more at stake for him than for those who battled for political theories or rich farmland: Simpson was fighting, quite literally, for his freedom. Born a slave, Simpson escaped from his Missouri master in 1859 and made it to Iowa. Then he turned around. Unwilling to abandon his wife to a lifetime of servitude, Simpson snuck back into Missouri in May 1860, only to discover that she was seriously ill. Simpson withdrew to Kansas to allow his wife to recover before attempting another rescue. He was warmly welcomed by a Douglas County abolitionist named Joseph Gardner, who was famous for assisting fugitive slaves. Slaveholders considered him a criminal, and Gardner soon learned that proslavery leaders in Lecompton had recruited dozens of Missourians to “make war upon [his] house.”1 Gardner stockpiled weapons and fortified himself in his cabin with his wife, six children, Simpson, and another former slave. At 1:30 a.m. on June 9, Gardner’s dogs barked in alarm. Two men approached the door, which Gardner carefully opened while readying his revolver. When he saw that both strangers were armed, Gardner shot one and slammed the door shut. The Gardners and their guests traded shots with the attackers; Simpson fought with a borrowed Sharp’s rifle. But he made a tactical error. Unable to see anyone outside, Simpson stepped onto the porch, fired, and paused to reload. A hidden gunman was waiting with a double-barreled shotgun and blasted Simpson with a load of buckshot. Simpson stumbled back into the house and collapsed. When Gardner asked how he could help, Simpson replied: “Fight! Fight hard!” He died within minutes. In a letter written after the sun had risen and the smoke had cleared, Gardner documented Simpson’s sacrifice. “Talk about the death of great generals on the field of battle,” he reflected. “Never did a man die more nobly or in a better cause.”2
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Gardner’s teenage son, Theodore, had fought alongside Simpson. Decades later, he remembered this shootout as “The Last Battle of the Border War.”3 We might also consider it an early battle of the Civil War, and Simpson one of its first casualties. Either way, it showed how the Kansas struggle was evolving. Earlier, the fighting had revolved around white men battling over their own liberty. Sometimes it seemed like a quarrel between antislavery racists determined to seize Kansas for white workers, and proslavery racists seeking to take slaves into the territory. By the time of Simpson’s death, however, more and more white settlers had concluded that their liberty was tied to the fate of enslaved African Americans. “By 1858,” writes historian Nicole Etcheson, “the Kansas struggle had entered a new and distinct phase.” What began as a “struggle to secure the political liberties of whites” eventually “ended by broadening the definition of freedom to include blacks.”4 This gradual transformation sped up during the Civil War. Eventually, people throughout the Union joined in, as reflected in their widespread (though not unanimous) support for the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and slavery’s abolition in 1865. Abraham Lincoln spoke for them when he declared that by “giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free.”5 Kansans helped lead the way. Even before the war began in 1861, James Gardner and Napoleon Simpson were on the cutting edge of this radical trend. The battle at Gardner’s cabin showed where the antislavery cause was heading, in Kansas and across the Union. From the late 1850s until the Civil War’s end, the Kansas–Missouri borderland was a key battlefield in a bloody struggle for freedom. * * * Kansas free-staters had the advantage by 1858, but they did not simply declare victory. Many of them struck back, politically and militarily, against their enemies. Slaveholders’ worst nightmares came true as antislavery activity expanded. Kansas kept bleeding, and Missouri began to bleed as well. In April 1858, free-staters counterattacked politically by drafting a new state constitution, intended as an alternative to the hated Lecompton Constitution. Known as the Leavenworth Constitution, it showed how much the free-state movement had changed. Not only did it outlaw slavery, it also demolished proslavery theory by proclaiming that “all men” had the “inalienable” right to “control . . . their [own] persons.” Even more radical was the provision of voting rights to all male citizens over 21 years old. True, the Dred Scott decision had insisted that blacks could not be U.S. citizens. But by omitting racial criteria, the Leavenworth Constitution
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opened a path to black male suffrage. The document also endorsed key rights for women. Activists like Clarina Nichols won a victory in its protection of women’s property rights. Some free-staters disliked the Leavenworth Constitution, and Congress refused to consider it. But its existence revealed a growing concern for African-American rights among some free-staters.6 More threatening to slaveholders were the aggressive activities of antislavery guerrillas who operated on both sides of the border. Particularly in southeastern Kansas and nearby portions of Missouri, these partisans grew increasingly proactive in helping slaves escape. Motivated by idealism and vengeance, their antislavery campaigns intensified in the late 1850s. Among the most notorious was James Montgomery. Born in Ohio, Montgomery lived in Kentucky and Missouri before moving to Linn County, Kansas, in 1854. Montgomery disliked slavery, but was not an abolitionist. Bleeding Kansas changed that. In 1856, slaveholders ordered all antislavery residents to leave Linn County. When Montgomery refused, proslavery men burned his house. This transformed Montgomery from a free-soil homesteader into a diehard abolitionist. He bought guns. He rebuilt his home as a fortress. (Known as “Fort Montgomery,” it was constructed of bullet-resistant hardwood logs and had a secret escape tunnel.) And he recruited like-minded followers into an antislavery guerrilla company, with as many as fifty members by 1857. They warned proslavery Kansans not to use violence or fraud against their free-state neighbors. They blocked attempts to recover fugitive slaves by banishing several slave hunters from Kansas—and killing at least one. They also raided western Missouri, where they stole horses, burned barns, and liberated slaves. By December 1858, Montgomery was nationally famous. Critics denounced him as a greedy, murderous bandit. Supporters argued that he genuinely cared about victims of the slave power, including slaves and free-staters alike.7 By provoking Montgomery to fight, slaveholders made their fear of meddling abolitionists into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Montgomery’s enemies accused him of “stealing” or “kidnapping” slaves, implying that enslaved people were mere pawns, or even victims, of abolitionists. But most fugitive slaves gained freedom as Napoleon Simpson did: acting on their own initiative and fleeing to a free state or Canada. As one Lawrence resident recalled, “very few Kansas people ever enticed slaves away or incited them to escape. But when one did escape and came to their door, there were not many who would refuse him a meal or a helping hand.”8 So, liberation was usually a cooperative effort between enslaved people and antislavery Kansans, who developed a network of safe houses and escape routes throughout the territory. This increased Missouri slaves’ chances of escaping successfully, and they
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knew it. Between 1856 and 1860, perhaps 1000 fugitives received local aid as they passed through Lawrence and Douglas counties.9 Typical was Mrs. J.B. Abbott’s cooperation with a young AfricanAmerican man who arrived at her home in late 1857. He stayed for several days, earning his keep by doing chores and cooking. Mrs. Abbott appreciated his help; arm trouble made housework difficult for her, and the fugitive, who had been a cook on a riverboat, prepared delicious food. One evening, two slave catchers knocked at the door and demanded dinner. Abbott turned them away but the men prowled her property with a bloodhound, trying to catch the fugitive’s scent. The young man feared the worst, but Mrs. Abbott had a plan. She armed him with an axe and told him to flee toward a nearby creek, which would confuse the dog. The hound caught up with the man but he killed it with the axe and escaped. Mrs. Abbott never saw him again, but he later sent word to her that he was safely on his way to a free state.10 Even racists sometimes assisted fugitives. Benjamin Van Horn came to Kansas from Indiana determined not to interfere with slavery in Missouri. But he resented slaveholders’ privileges: they received local and federal assistance in recovering runaway property, while the owner of a lost horse was simply out of luck. So, when U.S. soldiers visited Van Horn’s boardinghouse in search of two fugitive slaves, Van Horn told the runaways to hide under the floorboards. Van Horn and his housemates placed their dining room table over the hiding place and slowly ate an “uncommonly hearty breakfast” until the soldiers gave up the search. Van Horn scornfully called the fugitives “niggers,” but he risked prosecution to help them.11 Conflict among whites created new opportunities for enslaved blacks to gain freedom and fostered powerful, sometimes surprising, alliances across racial lines. * * * One man personified the radical effects of Bleeding Kansas: John Brown. Brown continued his antislavery campaign after the bloody summer of 1856. Eventually, he brought the violence of Bleeding Kansas to Virginia. His 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry, wrote a contemporary, “was a fruit of the Kansas tree.”12 Brown always despised slavery, but didn’t become an abolitionist warrior until middle age.13 Born in Connecticut in 1800, Brown spent time in Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York. He raised a large family, fathering seven children with his first wife and thirteen with his second. Like many of his peers, Brown moved frequently to pursue new economic opportunities, working variously as a farmer, tanner, land speculator, and
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wool merchant. Some of his ventures failed miserably. But Brown drew strength from his Christian faith, which taught him to endure hardship, accept God’s will, and value righteousness over self-interest. Righteousness included resistance to slavery. Upon hearing about the murder of an abolitionist newspaper editor in 1837, Brown rose in church and vowed: “Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!”14 Over time, he began to fulfill his vow. In 1851, Brown helped free blacks in Springfield, Massachusetts, organize to protect themselves against being kidnapped by slave-catchers. Four years later, he moved to Kansas. The trauma of Bleeding Kansas made Brown an antislavery crusader. As seen in Chapter 2, Brown was horrified by the Sack of Lawrence and retaliated by leading a massacre of five proslavery settlers. This and the bitter guerrilla war of 1856 shaped his strategic thinking. Brown concluded that slavery could never be destroyed through normal party politics. He learned to distrust the federal government, which seemed to be controlled by slaveholders. He found that hit-and-run tactics could emancipate slaves and frighten their masters. He discovered that he could gain northern support by publicizing his adventures. In sum, Bleeding Kansas taught Brown how to “awaken the conscience of the righteous and terrify the wicked.”15 When Kansas quieted down, Brown switched temporarily from combat duty to public relations. In 1857 and early 1858, he toured the North, giving lectures, writing pamphlets, and raising funds. He described the smoking ruins of northern settlers’ homes and the “mangled & shockingly disfigured” bodies of murdered free-staters. He denounced the federal government for supporting slaveholders. He asked for thousands of dollars to support his crusade.16 Brown specifically sought assistance from women. In one public letter, Brown asked “all honest lovers of Liberty and Human Rights, both male and female,” to donate funds.17 He also recruited help from antislavery leaders, including Eli Thayer. Most importantly, Brown secured covert financial support from a group of wealthy New England abolitionists later known as the “Secret Six.” Publicly, Brown spoke of continuing the struggle in Kansas. But by early 1858, he was planning a new campaign in Virginia. Prior to his Virginia expedition, Brown temporarily returned to Bleeding Kansas. In December 1858, Brown liberated eleven slaves in a widely publicized hit-and-run raid. It began when an enslaved man named Jim Daniels fled from western Missouri and informed Brown that he, along with his wife, two children, and another slave, would soon be sold. Daniels pressed Brown to help them escape before the sale destroyed his family. Brown and Aaron Stevens led two teams of fighters into Missouri the next
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Was John Brown Insane? Abraham Lincoln and James Buchanan didn’t agree on much, but they agreed that John Brown was crazy. While speaking in Kansas in 1859, Lincoln sympathized with Brown’s “hatred of slavery” but disapproved the “proposed insurrection” at Harper’s Ferry and concluded that Brown was “insane.” Buchanan was more consistently critical. Brown, he wrote, was a “violent, lawless, and fanatical” man whose desire to destroy slavery “amounted almost to insanity.” Open almost any newspaper from late 1859 and you will find similar statements. As one Kansas newspaper put it, Brown had made an “insane effort to accomplish what none but a madman would attempt.” Was this correct? Anyone who attempts to prove Brown’s insanity based on his beliefs or his actions must answer some challenging questions. If Brown was crazy because he wanted to abolish slavery, were William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass crazy as well? If Brown was insane because he sanctioned violence, was David Atchison insane because he endorsed violence against antislavery Kansans? Were masters who whipped their slaves insane? Conclusive evidence about Brown’s mental health is scarce. More interesting is the history of debates about Brown’s sanity, debates which were more about Brown’s politics than his mind. Ironically, the first people to label Brown a lunatic were friends who wanted to prevent his execution. A sympathetic journalist from Akron, Ohio, sent Brown’s attorneys a report that insanity ran in the family of Brown’s mother. Other well-meaning supporters insisted that Brown was unbalanced. They wanted him to plead insanity. (Later historians, particularly those who saw the Civil War as a tragic mistake caused by fanatics, agreed that Brown must have been mad.) Many proslavery Southern leaders, however, rejected claims that Brown was insane. They wanted to try, convict, and execute him—and prosecute any and all co-conspirators in the North. Brown himself scornfully denied claims of insanity because they could undermine his cause. Committed to the destruction of slavery, he feared that people would dismiss his ideas if they believed him to be delusional. He refused to play along with the insanity story, even to save his life. In a published interview conducted just before Brown’s death, his wife Mary likewise rejected the rumors of mental illness. “His reason is clear,” Mary insisted. His deeds at Harper’s Ferry were “the result, as all others have been, of his truest and strongest conscientious convictions.”
day. Brown’s men liberated Daniels’s family and friend, and another five slaves. They also seized goods from his master to compensate Daniels for years of unpaid labor. Stevens’s men freed a woman on another farm and killed her master when he tried to stop them. Brown resented the outcry over the slaveholder’s death, pointing out that eleven people had been
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“restored to their natural & inalienable rights.”18 For the next month, Brown and his companions hid out in Kansas. Daniels’s wife gave birth to a baby girl—a child born free because of the alliance between her father and John Brown. In January, Brown escorted the freedpeople northward to Iowa, fighting blizzards and Missourians along the way. From there, they moved triumphantly onward to safety in Canada.19 Brown had helped enslaved Americans become free. But small raids could not unshackle 4 million people. Brown resolved to launch a wider war on slavery, but not in Kansas. Instead, he would shift his focus to the Appalachian Mountains. For a while, Brown considered using the rugged landscape as a base of operations for a guerrilla war. He read about slave revolts and learned that determined fighters could use hilly terrain to defeat powerful enemies. He imagined raiding plantations, fortifying in the mountains, and building an antislavery army. Brown drafted a Declaration of Liberty and a Provisional Constitution, modeled after the U.S.’s founding documents, in which he denounced slavery as a “barbarous, unprovoked, and unjustifiable war” against African Americans and asserted slaves’ right to rebel.20 He vowed to complete the work of liberation that the American Revolution had left unfinished. But Brown altered this strategy. Raids might chip away at slavery, but a more dramatic act could work more quickly. True, Brown struggled to recruit soldiers to fight in Virginia. The black abolitionist Frederick Douglass warned Brown that he was walking into a trap. But Brown wasn’t thinking about military tactics alone. What mattered was the publicity he could receive and the dread he could provoke among slaveholders. As a military campaign, his expedition looked like a blunder. As a political statement, it looked promising.21 Brown targeted Harper’s Ferry, a small northern Virginia town located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. Its federal arsenal housed weapons and gunsmithing equipment that could be used to arm slaves. The surrounding hills made the town difficult to defend, but Brown was determined to electrify the nation and terrify slaveholders, so he was willing to risk capture or death. On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown led eighteen men into town. They were a diverse group, united by a hatred of slavery that had multiple sources. Some had been slaves themselves. Shields Green was born into slavery in South Carolina but escaped to the North and was so determined to join Brown that not even Frederick Douglass could talk him out of it. Others were white men who had been radicalized by their experiences in Bleeding Kansas. John Cook narrowly escaped death there in 1856, and had a companion shot dead at his side. Jeremiah Anderson joined Brown’s guerrilla company to fight back against slaveholders, and participated in the December 1858
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Missouri raid. Even their weapons—Sharp’s rifles and bowie knives— reflected their Kansas backgrounds.22 The raid quickly became a tactical disaster. Brown seized the arsenal, informing the startled watchman, “I came here from Kansas, and this is a slave State; I want to free all the negroes in this State.”23 His men stopped trains, cut telegraph wires, and a few marched into the countryside to take slaveholders hostage and recruit slaves. But enslaved people knew better. They understood that their masters had mighty allies: local, state, and national police and military power were always available to protect slavery. Common sense, not contentment, kept slaves from joining Brown. This left him badly outnumbered as local militiamen surrounded him. By dawn on October 17, he was locked in a desperate firefight. With many of his men dead or wounded, Brown and his remaining companions retreated into a brick fire engine house. The next morning, a detachment of U.S. Marines arrived, commanded by an Army officer named Robert E. Lee, under orders from President James Buchanan to crush the uprising. The Marines stormed the engine house and captured Brown and his surviving comrades. The raid had failed. Brown’s capture, however, opened a new opportunity to gain sympathy from those who rejected his violent methods but admired his principles and his courage. Brown seized the chance to speak at his trial. Charged with murder, inciting a slave rebellion, and treason against Virginia, Brown addressed the court—and, through the press, the entire nation—on November 2. Proclaiming that he had intended only to liberate slaves, and not to kill anyone, Brown demanded that white Americans renounce their hypocritical acceptance of slavery. “The court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God,” Brown observed: I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me further to “remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them.” I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say, I am too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done . . . in behalf of His despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments.—I submit; so let it be done!24
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Condemning slavery as unChristian, Brown aligned himself with oppressed Americans against the rich and powerful. Not surprisingly, he failed to convince Virginia’s proslavery political elite. Brown was convicted and executed by hanging on December 2. Responses to Brown’s death reflected his close identification with Bleeding Kansas and his polarizing effect on public opinion. Newspapers frequently referred to him as “Brown of Kansas” or “Osawatomie Brown.” Kansans and Missourians watched Brown’s trial and execution closely. Antislavery Kansans, like many northerners, criticized Brown’s violent tactics, while applauding his ideals and unflinching courage. Brown “has many warm friends in Kansas,” wrote James Hanaway. They appreciated his resistance to Border Ruffians, and “however they may regret his late movement [at Harper’s Ferry], they admire his bold & heroic conduct during his imprisonment.”25 Across the border in St. Joseph, Missouri, George H. Hall labeled Brown a “coward” who was noteworthy only for his “assassination of unarmed families, and his great skill in running off negroes.”26 These conflicting views mirrored the divided sentiments of a divided nation. Brown’s life and death encouraged northerners and southerners to assume the worst about each other. Most antislavery northerners renounced Brown’s methods. But some explained his actions as a natural response to proslavery aggression. Missourians’ “lawless armed invasions” of Kansas, wrote northern Congressmen who investigated Harper’s Ferry, “tended strongly to suggest acts of lawless violence to destroy [slavery], especially in those who had witnessed and suffered by these collisions.”27 These comments alarmed proslavery southerners, who believed that Brown was part of a broad conspiracy that included the Secret Six and perhaps many other supporters. They failed to distinguish between antislavery moderates and radicals, and mourning for Brown seemed to prove that the entire North was “hopelessly abolitionized.”28 As an outraged South Carolinian put it, “Every village bell which has tolled its solemn note at the execution of Brown, proclaims to the South the approbation of that village of insurrection and servile war.”29 His state seceded within a year.
One witness to John Brown’s hanging was John Wilkes Booth. An ardent supporter of slavery, Booth hated Brown’s politics but admired his courage and kept a piece of Brown’s coffin as a souvenir. Booth made his own mark on history when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln in April 1865.
* * *
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When South Carolina seceded in December 1860, its leaders asserted that the recent presidential election had forced their decision. Northern voters had elected a president “whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.” He would take office in March 1861 at the head of a political party which had “announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.”30 But how did a Republican win the White House only six years after the party’s birth? Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election demonstrates the importance of the slavery expansion issue, particularly Bleeding Kansas, in provoking secession and war. Abraham Lincoln’s political career, like his party, was energized by the Kansas controversy. After serving one term in Congress in the 1840s, Lincoln had withdrawn from political office—only to reemerge in 1854 to oppose the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Thereafter, Lincoln denounced slavery expansion and the Democratic Party’s doctrine of popular sovereignty. He joined fellow Republicans in endorsing a policy of slavery restriction, which he attributed to the Founding Fathers. Lincoln emphasized these ideas during his one and only visit to Kansas in December 1859. In speeches at Atchison and Leavenworth, Lincoln argued that early American statesmen supported “free soil” because they believed slavery was immoral. Recently, however, advocates of popular sovereignty had deviated from this course. Lincoln contended that Kansas’s bloody history proved the superiority of Republicans’ free-soil policy. Denying that they sought to abolish slavery or provoke disunion, Lincoln presented Republican policies as safe and traditional. He closed by addressing proslavery leaders who threatened to secede if a Republican became president. If “you undertake to destroy the Union,” Lincoln warned, “it will be our duty to deal with you as old John Brown has been dealt with.”31 Many Kansans shared Lincoln’s views. One listener praised his “sound deep & logical speech” for making his opponents appear “ridiculous & Ludicrous.”32 In his Kansas speeches, Lincoln tested key ideas that he used throughout 1860, including in his Cooper Union address in New York City, which helped secure Lincoln’s nomination. As a place and a symbol, Kansas boosted Lincoln to national prominence.33 Republicans emphasized Kansas in the 1860 campaign. Their platform denounced James Buchanan’s “desperate exertions to force the infamous Lecompton Constitution upon the protesting people of Kansas” and advocated free soil. It also condemned Democrats for blocking the admission of Kansas as a free state and demanded that Kansas be admitted immediately.34 Republican songs also championed free soil in Kansas. In “Freemen Win When Lincoln Leads,” Republicans sang of a North
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“roused from long slumbers” by a “cry for aid” that came while slaveholders were “murdering Kansas while we slept.” The next verse resolved: But the North will not always submit to a wrong; Once roused from her sleep, she ne’er falters. To Kansas, despite the whole South, shall belong Free soil, and free speech, and free altars –35
Kansas Republicans joined in the fight, although Kansans could not vote in presidential elections until they achieved statehood. One writer hailed Lincoln’s nomination with “ten thousand cheers,” and 10,000 more “for the Constitution and the Union!”36 Bleeding Kansas usually united Republicans, but it shattered the Democratic Party. For years, Democrats advocated popular sovereignty while bickering over how it should actually work. As seen in Chapter 3, Stephen Douglas and most northern Democrats opposed the Lecompton Constitution because they believed it violated popular sovereignty. Southern Democrats, backed by the Buchanan Administration, denounced them as traitors. By 1860, the breach between these Democratic factions was complete. Still committed to popular sovereignty, northern Democrats wanted to nominate Douglas for president. Southern Democrats, convinced that popular sovereignty would produce free states, demanded that the federal government protect slaveholders’ property rights by enacting a territorial slave code. At their party convention in Charleston, South Carolina, Democrats could not compromise. The result was a bitter split within the party that produced two platforms and two candidates. Northern Democrats supported Douglas and popular sovereignty.37 Southern Democrats backed John Breckinridge of Kentucky for the presidency, denied that a territory could prohibit slavery, and deemed it the “duty of the Federal Government” to “protect, when necessary, the rights of persons and property in the Territories.”38 The party that had unleashed the Kansas debate was destroyed by it. Alarmed by the prospect of civil war, many political moderates rallied behind John Bell of Tennessee as a fourth presidential contender. Known as Constitutional Unionists, they avoided taking a clear stand on Kansas but presented themselves as a patriotic alternative to the other candidates. In the end, however, the number of contenders did not change the election’s outcome; even if all non-Republican votes had gone to a single candidate, Lincoln still would have won. Though he received only 39 percent of the popular vote, and did not even appear on the ballot in ten slave states, Lincoln won an impressive 59 percent of the electoral votes, far more than the Constitutionally-required majority. The Republican
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Party, born from outrage against the Kansas–Nebraska Act and boosted by Bleeding Kansas, had triumphed. Kansas free-staters rejoiced. One praised God for granting Lincoln a victory and joyfully predicted that Kansas would soon become a state.39 White Missourians’ responses were mixed, foreshadowing their bitter internal struggle during the Civil War. Missouri was the only state that Stephen Douglas won outright, but it was also home to thousands of Republicans, particularly in St. Louis, and gave significant support to Bell and Breckinridge as well. A proslavery Missourian reported to the governor that Lincoln’s election, achieved by a “fanatical section of the Country, has thrown a gloom over the people,” and urged him to prepare for war.40 A Kansas City Republican, on the other hand, attempted to calm slaveholders’ concerns that Lincoln threatened their interests.41 Caught in between were people like Calvin Iserman, who observed that secessionism was raging in Independence and Republicans were being chased out of town. He feared that disunion would trigger a “civil war . . . [and] if there is woe unto the border state of Missouri. Kansas will have a sweet time revenging their [w]rong.” In the event of war, Iserman concluded, “I want to git out of this place.”42 By the spring of 1861, eleven slave states—but not Missouri—had seceded and the dreaded war had begun. Iserman’s predictions about its impact on the border region swiftly came true. * * * Ironically, one of the first consequences of secession was Kansas’s admission as a free state. Throughout 1860, southerners had enough clout in the Senate to block Kansas statehood. But as slave states seceded, their senators resigned and returned home. This tilted the balance of power northward, allowing a statehood bill to pass. Kansas entered the Union on January 29, 1861. Free-staters’ triumph was complete when Charles Robinson— the New England Emigrant Aid Company agent who spearheaded the Topeka movement—became Kansas’s first governor. Like Lincoln, Robinson took office amid threats of war, and was equally determined to defend the Union. In his inaugural address, Governor Robinson pledged that “Kansas, though the last and the least of the States in the Union, will ever be ready to answer the call of her country.”43 Kansans entered the Union just in time to fight for it. When the Civil War’s first shots were fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, in April 1861, most white Kansans were northern-born and pro-Union. They rapidly mobilized for war. “The daily war news . . . are pretty exciting to our Kansas people,” wrote a Topeka resident. “Preparations are being made here, to be in a position for self-defense,” with recruits eagerly joining
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local infantry, cavalry, and artillery units.44 Most volunteers expected to stay in Kansas, but some Kansans wound up protecting the national capital. Dozens of Kansans traveled with their newly-elected senators, James Lane and Samuel Pomeroy, to Washington, D.C. to seek public offices. After Virginia seceded in April, Unionists feared that Confederates would capture the nearly defenseless capital. Senator Lane organized fellow Kansans into a company of “Frontier Guards” and offered their services to President Lincoln. For two weeks, they manned Washington’s defenses and camped inside the White House. The Guards disbanded when other troops arrived, but Lincoln never forgot Lane’s assistance.45 Within Kansas, many Union recruits had a defensive mindset in early 1861. At that point, it was unclear how Missourians and Native Americans would respond to the outbreak of war, and many white Kansans worried about being attacked by both of these potential enemies. “We are all excitement here,” wrote one Kansan. “War. War is the cry. [W]e are organizing throughout the state for home Defence” against “troublesome” Indians to the south and west, and Missourians to the east.46 Most Kansans hoped that Missouri would not secede, but they were determined to fight Missouri rebels if necessary. “I feel as though I could fight when I read of the outrageous conduct of the South,” Sarah Fitch confided to her mother. Her neighbors in Lawrence, who organized military companies, were equally ready. Missourians “had better let Kansas alone I think,” Fitch concluded, “or they will get into trouble.”47 Kansans prepared for war even as they talked of peace, and war would soon reach both sides of the border. Throughout that war, Missouri was a wildcard. Fitch viewed it as the land of Border Ruffians, but Missourians had a wide range of political views. Missouri boasted great commercial cities like St. Louis, rich plantations, small farms, and a growing population of German immigrants. These varied people did not speak with one voice. As the war brought Kansans together, it tore Missourians apart. Missouri’s internal civil war began during the secession crisis. Upon taking office in January 1861, Missouri’s passionately proslavery governor Claiborne Fox Jackson proclaimed that all slave states shared a common destiny and urged Missourians to “stand by [their] sister slaveholding States” across the South.48 Not surprisingly, he rejected Lincoln’s call for volunteers in April. His hopes for leading Missouri into Over 20,000 soldiers served in Kansas the Confederacy, however, were regiments during the Civil War, disappointed when a state convenproportionately more than any other tion, elected to consider secession, Union state. voted overwhelmingly to stay in
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the Union. Similarly, Governor Jackson’s attempt to seize a federal arsenal in St. Louis was thwarted by U.S. troops commanded by Captain Nathaniel Lyon. In May, Lyon attacked secessionist militiamen outside St. Louis, took them prisoner, and escorted them under guard into the city. A secessionist mob harassed the federal soldiers and someone fired a shot; the soldiers returned fire, killing twenty-eight people. Anticipating further bloodshed, Jackson and the state legislature established a pro-Confederate state militia called the Missouri State Guard. It quickly mobilized under the command of General Sterling Price, a Mexican War veteran, slaveholder, and former Missouri governor. Lyon’s Unionists counterattacked in June and seized the capital, Jefferson City, forcing Jackson and other secessionists to flee to Missouri’s southwestern corner. Jackson spent much of the conflict there, leading a pro-Confederate government which lacked effective power in most of the state. Meanwhile, Unionists established their own government in Jefferson City. Just as territorial Kansas sprouted rival governments in the 1850s, Missouri passed the Civil War with two governments dueling for legitimacy.49 Most white Missourians probably supported the Union; historians estimate that three quarters of those who fought wore blue.50 But the complexity of Missouri’s Civil War history makes it difficult to generalize accurately. The war put thousands of Missourians on the move: slaves ran from their masters; Unionists took refuge in Kansas; secessionists waged a guerrilla war against U.S. soldiers. Moreover, Missourians had diverse motivations. Some were determined to preserve the Union or win Confederate independence. Others simply wanted revenge and plunder. These motives and loyalties could change over time. A Missourian who cautiously supported the Union in 1861 might change sides after losing property, including slaves, to raiding Kansans. Together, thousands of individual choices provoked a ferocious conflict on both sides of the border, with especially devastating consequences in Missouri. * * * In terms of the setting, participants, and tactics, the Civil War in Kansas and Missouri was closely related to Bleeding Kansas. Slavery and liberty remained crucially important, and opportunities for slave liberation multiplied. But the 1860s struggle was also very different. The scale was much larger: the Civil War unleashed far more death and destruction than Bleeding Kansas did. Moreover, old ideological battles were tied to new questions of national allegiance. Border Ruffians and free-staters had shared a common identity as Americans. But secessionists and Unionists did not. Support for slavery looked downright treasonous in the eyes
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of Unionists. Opposition to slavery looked dangerously foreign to Confederate sympathizers.51 The result was a vicious war that shattered families and communities. “[M]en who have lived as neighbors” have “become enemies,” wrote a frightened Kansan, and now wait for “an opportunity to shoot each other down as dogs.”52 The description captures the casual brutality of the war in Kansas and Missouri. Films and monuments usually commemorate the Civil War’s grandest battles and leaders. Gettysburg and Shiloh, Grant and Lee; all are important, but tell only part of the story. West of the Mississippi River, there were fewer dramatic battles. Large-scale combat between regular armies, such as the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which secured Confederate control of southwestern Missouri in August 1861, was not the norm. Instead, soldiers and civilians suffered through a bitter war of guerrilla raids by both sides, counterinsurgency campaigns by the Union army, and occasional invasions by conventional forces. Guerrillas and raiders justified their actions by claiming loyalty to the United States or the Confederacy. But their attacks and counterattacks grew out of the bloody events of the 1850s. As a Kansas Unionist recalled, Revenge was the watchword. Old scores from the early Kansas troubles had to be settled. The war was not commenced at Fort Sumter; it started in Kansas in 1856, and the fires had been kept bright until the Fort Sumter breeze had fanned the entire border counties into a flame.53
Unionists and Confederates blamed each other for starting the cycle of violence. But what kept it going was their shared thirst for revenge. Allen T. Ward described the “predatory or guerrilla bands” as the “worst feature in this war.” Kansas guerrillas would “dash over into Missouri” to steal property, including “Negro’s, horses, cattle, sheep, & hogs,” food, and clothing. In retaliation, “a party of Missourians will make a raid on some unprotected places in Kansas, plunder the stores, & take off whatever they can that is valuable. And so it goes.” Some guerrillas stole from people on both sides. Ward safeguarded his valuables, but soldiers took crops from his farm and goods from his store. He spoke from experience when he declared that “of all wars that ever a country was cursed with a civil war is the worst.”54 After the war began, Kansans struck first with raids into Missouri. Many Kansas fighters were veterans of earlier border conflicts. Known as “Jayhawkers,” they fought under the Union flag but did not follow the regular rules of war. In the summer and fall of 1861, James Montgomery, James Lane (recently returned from Washington), and Charles “Doc”
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Jennison led preemptive strikes into western Missouri. They were motivated by desires for revenge and plunder, hostility to secessionists and slavery, and fears of invasion. Dashing across the border, Jayhawkers skirmished with Confederate soldiers, robbed suspected secessionists, and liberated enslaved people. One Kansan saw more than 200 freed slaves cross the border in October 1861. When they entered Kansas, a Union Army chaplain announced that they were free. But there was a darker side to Jayhawkers’ raids. In theory, they distinguished between Unionists and Confederates. In reality, they often burned and plundered indiscriminately, devastating much of western Missouri. In September 1861, after skirmishing with Sterling Price’s Missouri State Guard, Lane’s Jayhawkers pillaged Butler, Papinsville, Harrisonville, and Clinton. Then they struck Osceola, a town of 3000 people in St. Clair County. Jayhawkers looted homes, liberated slaves, blasted the courthouse with cannon, and set fires. Lane carried off a piano.55 Kansas Unionists justified the “Sack of Osceola” as a significant military victory. “It seems barbarous and cruel to sack and burn towns,” wrote one soldier, “but I cannot tell how the rebels can be subdued by any other process.”56 Most Kansans agreed, in part because they wrongly assumed that all white Missourians were pro-Confederate. But Jayhawking alarmed Union officers who were trying to keep order in the sharply divided border state of Missouri. In early 1862, Union officials removed Kansas regiments from Missouri and ordered them not to return without authorization. Union soldiers from other states, however, continued to “Jayhawk” throughout the war.57 Union leaders were right to worry: many Missourians did respond to Jayhawking raids by taking up arms against the United States. Some joined the Confederate army or the Missouri State Guard, while others became guerrillas, often called “bushwhackers.” They were known for lawlessness, but bushwhackers, like Jayhawkers, had complex motivations. Bushwhackers were more likely to own slaves than Unionists were. This gave them a compelling reason to resist the raids led by Lane, Montgomery, and Jennison.58 The bushwhackers and celebrity outlaws Frank and Jesse James, for instance, hailed from strongly proslavery Clay County (also home of David Atchison), where their father owned seven slaves in 1850.59 Many Missourians also resented the misbehavior of Union soldiers. The James brothers saw local Unionist militiamen torture their stepfather.60 Driven by varied impulses, bushwhackers attacked enemy soldiers and civilians. Their Civil War was a brutal and deeply personal struggle. The most infamous bushwhacker was William Clarke Quantrill. An Ohioan who moved west in the 1850s, Quantrill originally sympathized with the free-staters. By 1860, Quantrill had changed sides. He later
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claimed that a Jayhawker murdered his brother, though Quantrill’s true reason for becoming a Confederate bushwhacker is less clear. But by 1862, he had become a prominent guerrilla leader. He raided Union army camps, attacked Missouri Unionists, and occasionally pillaged Kansas communities. In the spring of 1862, Quantrill’s men attacked Olathe, Kansas, where they robbed stores, killed Unionist sympathizers, and captured U.S. soldiers.61 Like other guerrillas, Quantrill’s men avoided fighting major battles, preferring to scatter and then reorganize after the coast was clear. “They never stood to fight,” a Union soldier complained. Counterguerrilla warfare was frustrating. The Union army established outposts along the Kansas–Missouri border and launched patrols to locate and destroy guerrilla bands. In a pattern that would be familiar to U.S. troops in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Missouri guerrillas mingled with the local population, making it difficult to distinguish civilians from soldiers, and enemies from friends.62 Civilians offered bushwhackers crucial aid, providing food, horses, shelter, medical care, and information. Their close connections were embodied in the colorful homemade shirts worn by many bushwhackers. These “guerrilla shirts,” sewn by wives, mothers, or sisters, revealed the emotional and material bonds between guerrillas and non-combatants. Missouri women were not simply victims of guerrilla warfare; they were participants as well.63 Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr. recognized that bushwhackers depended on civilian support. Born in Ohio, Ewing, who was William T. Sherman’s brother-in-law, moved to Kansas in 1856. He had opposed the Lecompton Constitution and in 1861 recruited a regiment of Kansas volunteers. In March 1863, General Ewing took command of Union forces in Kansas and western Missouri. This made him responsible for policing what he called a “hornet’s nest of a District.”64 Ewing decided to crack down on secessionist women. That summer, he arrested female relatives of key Missouri guerrillas and detained them in Kansas City. Then, on August 18, he announced that civilians who aided guerrillas must leave Missouri. Soldiers enforcing this order were supposed to distinguish between Missourians who willingly supported bushwhackers and those who did so out of fear. But the policy outraged many Missourians, particularly because of its timing. Just days earlier, the building in which bushwhackers’ female kin were incarcerated collapsed, killing four women and seriously injuring many others. Among the dead was a sister of William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, one of Quantrill’s closest comrades. Rumors circulated that General Ewing had intentionally caused the disaster. It was actually a tragic accident, but bushwhackers wanted revenge.65 Quantrill was already planning an attack on Kansas before Ewing issued his removal order and before the catastrophe in Kansas City. Soon after,
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Quantrill led 450 men across the border toward the Union stronghold of Lawrence. The town had prospered during the Civil War, thanks to the soldiers and government contractors who pumped money into the local economy. Residents had always feared an attack, but so far the horrors of war had not reached their homes. Now they were in Quantrill’s sights.66 Around dawn on August 21, 1863, Quantrill’s men thundered into town, shouting “Osceola!” and unleashing the rage that had built up over years of bitter warfare. Back in 1856, the “Sack of Lawrence” had fizzled out. But Quantrill’s attack, remembered as the “Lawrence Massacre,” exploded like a bomb, levelling buildings, slaughtering civilians, and shattering lives.67 Mary Savage, the second wife of free-soiler Joseph Savage, described the massacre in vivid detail. Early on the 21st, she heard hundreds of men ride past their home a half mile from town. One bushwhacker knocked on the door but Joseph refused to answer. That probably saved his life. When the raiders reached town, “they commenced firing as fast as they could and we heard the cries of the frightened people running in every direction to make their escape” as Quantrill’s men shot into homes and at men on the street. Buildings went up in flames. Mary and Joseph fled for their lives.68 Quantrill’s men sought loot and revenge and found plenty of both. They plundered indiscriminately but were more systematic in choosing human targets. In fact, they arrived with a list of men to kill. Their toppriority target was James Lane, the man responsible for the Sack of Osceola and the liberation of hundreds of slaves. Lane escaped by fleeing into a cornfield, wearing only his nightshirt, but Quantrill torched his newlybuilt house. Many others did not survive. Among the dead was Edward Fitch, who had endured the 1856 attack and was a close friend of Joseph and Mary Savage. Twenty raiders entered Fitch’s home and demanded to see him. As he descended the stairs, the bushwhackers shot him repeatedly in front of his wife, Sarah, and three young children. Before Sarah could remove his body, the bushwhackers set the house ablaze, leaving her and the children on the street to watch it burn.69 Luckily, Fitch was already dead; some injured men were burned alive. Some witnesses reported that Quantrill’s men also singled out African Americans. Lawrence’s black population grew rapidly during the war as freed slaves arrived from Missouri. Perhaps twenty African Americans, including two ministers and several elderly men who could not flee, died in the massacre. The bushwhackers generally avoided killing white women and children, but this chivalry did not cross the color line. One black victim was an infant, killed when a bushwhacker, who knew she was inside, set fire to her house.70
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Figure 4.1 This illustration of the Lawrence Massacre was published in Harper’s Weekly, an influential periodical based in New York City. Source: “The Destruction of the City of Lawrence, Kansas, and the Massacre of Its Inhabitants by the Rebel Guerrillas, August 21, 1863” (1863). Courtesy of the Library of Congress. Available at http:// loc.gov/item/2004669987/#about-this-item
After five hours, Quantrill’s men departed and Lawrence residents began to assess the damage. Between 150 and 200 people were dead. Corpses littered the streets, some scorched beyond recognition. Witnesses estimated that several hundred children were fatherless and eighty women were widowed. Ninety-six businesses and over 100 homes were destroyed. A resident lamented that “the old Citadel of Freedom . . . was a heap of smoldering ruins.”71 Survivors remained on edge, panicking at any hint of danger. Two nights after the raid, someone mistakenly reported that the bushwhackers were coming back. The alarm, wrote one resident, “was terrific—women men & children flying as for life.” Some hid all night in the fields outside town.72 Others moved away for good. Inevitably, many Kansans craved revenge. James Lane told a cheering crowd that the government had been too soft on the bushwhackers. He proclaimed that “there should be an extermination of the first tier of counties” across the border in Missouri.73 Other voices echoed this ominous language. An Oskaloosa writer called Quantrill’s men “hell-deserving
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wretches” and challenged General Ewing to subdue them. If Ewing “will exterminate these miserable wretches . . . we are for him.” Otherwise, he should be replaced by a more aggressive general.74 Despite an official order against it, around 3500 Kansans gathered at Paola and prepared to invade Missouri. Lane talked them out of it, but the cycle of violence was escalating again.75 General Ewing responded with one of the war’s most controversial acts. On August 25, 1863, he issued Order No. 11, an attempt to stop bushwhackers by depopulating much of western Missouri. The order applied to residents of Missouri’s Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties, and part of Vernon County. (It exempted people living near military outposts at towns like Kansas City and Independence.) Everyone in the designated area had to leave by September 9. Unionists could move to the military outposts or to selected portions of Kansas. Those who could not prove their loyalty had to leave the area altogether. The military would forcibly remove those who did not obey.76 Ewing’s order displaced at least 20,000 people. Refugees poured out of the four counties. “Never can I forget the many scenes of misery and distress I saw,” wrote a Missouri woman. The road from Independence to Lexington was crowded with women and children, women walking with babies in their arms, packs on their backs, and four or five children following after them—some crying for bread, some crying to be taken back to their homes.
Like victims of the Lawrence Massacre, some of them stayed in the area, while others left permanently, resettling in Texas, California, or elsewhere.77 Critics denounced Ewing’s order as a crime against innocent civilians. A St. Louis newspaper condemned it as “inhuman, unmanly, barbarous,” while the New York Times wondered if Ewing had made things worse by provoking resentment against the U.S. government.78 Some historians, however, interpret it differently. They argue that Ewing sought to prevent violent retaliation by angry Kansans and halt the unending cycle of warfare. It was Ewing’s last resort. Arrests, military patrols, and confiscation of secessionists’ property had not stopped the bushwhackers. If forced relocation was necessary, Ewing concluded, so be it. At least it was more humane than the “extermination” called for by Lane.79 Order No. 11 was temporary and only partly successful. In November, Ewing began to allow proven Unionists to return. Then in January 1864, another Union general announced that all Missourians who swore an oath
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of loyalty to the U.S. could come home. Some did return, though many found their crops stolen and their houses destroyed. Ewing’s order had a lasting impact on their lives and their memories of the war. Its effect on the bushwhackers was more difficult to evaluate. It did help push them eastward, away from Kansas. There were a few more raids into Kansas, but nothing on the scale of the Lawrence Massacre. Moreover, Ewing’s order did prevent mass retaliation by outraged Kansans. They were not ready to forgive or forget what happened at Lawrence, but their calls for “extermination” quieted down.80 Bushwhackers remained active, but by 1864 they were no longer the most serious threat to Kansas. In September, Confederate General Sterling Price, leading an army of 12,000 men, launched a desperate invasion of Missouri. He hoped to recruit volunteers, disrupt the Union war effort, and strike at Jefferson City and St. Louis. After a bloody defeat at the Battle of Pilot Knob (also called the Battle of Fort Davidson) in southeastern Missouri on September 27, Price moved westward. He marched to the Kansas border, causing many Kansans to panic. At the Battles of Big Blue and Westport on October 22 and 23, Price’s men clashed with Kansas militia and federal troops. After some initial success, Price found himself outnumbered and nearly surrounded as Union reinforcements arrived from the east. He retreated southward through eastern Kansas, western Missouri, and Indian Territory, pursued closely by U.S. forces until he reached Arkansas. Price had failed to take Missouri, and lost at least half his army. Kansas leaders quarreled over who deserved credit for the victory. But they had the luxury of fighting each other because they no longer had to fight Confederates.81 * * * Lane, Quantrill, and Price played prominent roles in the Civil War along the Kansas–Missouri border. But the conflict was never limited to white people. As in the 1850s, enslaved Missourians (like slaves across the South) seized wartime opportunities to liberate themselves, often with help from Union soldiers. Kansas led the way toward an all-out assault on slavery. This attack began long before the Emancipation Proclamation. Some Civil War narratives imply that slavery was irrelevant until Abraham Lincoln single-handedly transformed the war with his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862, and his final Proclamation of January 1, 1863. But the Proclamation didn’t apply to Missouri. More importantly, enslaved Missourians and Kansas Unionists did not need Lincoln to tell them to fight against slavery. Their story reminds us that emancipation was a long process, not a single event, and that it involved many people, black and white.
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When the war commenced, some Kansans already itched to strike against slavery. (Indeed, people like James Montgomery had been doing this for years.) Two weeks before the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Governor Charles Robinson told the state legislature that if secessionists would destroy the Union to preserve slavery, then it was “time to ask if the existence of the Union does not require the destruction of slavery.”82 Edward Fitch hoped that northerners would not stop fighting “as long as there is a Slave in the country.”83 A Bostonian urged James Montgomery to spark a slave rebellion that would demolish slavery, crush the rebellion, and “destroy all cause of further war.”84 By September 1861, many Kansans were beginning to agree. When the war started, wrote one editorialist, most Unionists wanted to suppress the rebellion while “avoiding the Slavery issue.” But recently “there is an evident change in public feeling on the subject of Slavery,” and a “growing desire to have the institution, which is either the real cause of the rebellion, or the instrumentality used by ambitious demagogues to carry out their treason, put out of the way.”85 Of course, enslaved people were determined to gain freedom no matter what white Unionists said or did. Through rumor and eavesdropping, slaves gathered information about the war and seized opportunities to free themselves. In the fall of 1861, a twelve-year-old Missouri slave named George was ordered to hide himself and a mule in the woods near his home. His master did not want Federal troops to “steal” either piece of property. But George knew that other slaves had fled to Union lines and he decided to follow in their footsteps. So, he rode the mule fifteen miles to the camp of the Third Kansas Volunteers, and freed himself. Thousands of other Missouri slaves did the same thing, well before the Emancipation Proclamation.86 Some reached Kansas on their own, but many others, like George, found allies among Union soldiers and Jayhawkers. “[W]here the Kansas men march,” reported a New York Times correspondent, “Slavery disappears.”87 In theory, Union soldiers were to distinguish between slaves belonging to secessionist masters and those owned by Unionists. In practice, many soldiers preferred to help, rather than recapture, any fugitives they encountered. In December 1861, one soldier noted that his unit had provided 129 slaves with horses, mules, carriages, and wagons to aid their journey to Kansas. The column of emancipated refugees was over a mile long.88 Congress supported these decisions with legislation. In a series of laws passed in 1861 and early 1862, Congress authorized military commanders to confiscate slaves employed in the Confederate war effort; prohibited soldiers from returning fugitives to their masters; and decreed that slaves who reached Union lines were free. The effect of this collaboration between slaves, soldiers, and lawmakers was powerful. In October
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1861, a Lawrence resident reported that freedpeople arrived every day. “Slavery,” he concluded, “is fast disappearing in Missouri.”89 But Missouri masters did not give up their human property without a fight. Some joined the Confederate army or became bushwhackers. Others relocated slaves to more secure areas. Many took slaves to Texas, intending to bring them back after the war. Still others sold slaves to buyers in other states. Perhaps a thousand Missouri slaves were auctioned off in Lexington, Kentucky. Whether accomplished through sale or relocation, these transfers disrupted slaves’ families and friendships. But slaveholders were determined to protect their investments, regardless of the emotional cost to enslaved people. Missouri masters also disciplined slaves more severely, increasing the use of violence that was always a central part of slavery. When a Pike County mother of three was recaptured after trying to escape, her master demanded to know where she had hidden her children, who were also his property. She refused to tell him, so he stripped her naked and whipped her to death with a saw blade. Proslavery Missourians also strengthened the slave patrols, often with the help of guerrillas. While campaigning with Sterling Price in October 1864, “Bloody Bill” Anderson terrorized white and black enemies alike. He singled out Benjamin Lewis because Lewis, a Unionist, had voluntarily emancipated his slaves. According to some accounts, after beating Lewis with his fists, feet, and pistol, Anderson raped a twelve-year-old girl who remained in Lewis’s household as a paid servant.90 Despite these dangers, Missouri slaves became free by the thousands and many relocated to the comparative safety of Kansas. As a result, Kansas’s African-American population skyrocketed from just 816 people in 1860 to nearly 13,000 by 1865. Most settled in towns. In Lawrence, African Americans built a vibrant community of 1400 people, almost all of them ex-slaves from Missouri. By war’s end, they had constructed two churches and begun educating their children in a school founded by sympathetic whites. Kansas was no paradise; racism, among other problems, remained widespread. An effort to educate black and white children together, for example, provoked outrage among whites near Topeka. White students threw rocks at their black classmates and white parents insisted on segregated facilities. Topeka-area schools remained segregated until the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which grew out of a Topeka lawsuit. Still, most white Kansans accepted the black refugees. Many farmers depended on black wage workers for labor, particularly after so many white men had joined the army. Some residents supported charities like the Kansas Emancipation League, which helped impoverished former slaves get on their feet. The influx of freedpeople remained steady, sometimes reaching 50 to 100 people per day.91
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Kansas Unionists also spearheaded the recruitment of black Kansas’s African-American population men into the U.S. Army. Around rose during the war, but Missouri’s fell 200,000 African Americans wore dramatically, as freedpeople left the state. Union blue during the war. Between 1860 and 1863, around 41,000 Three-quarters were former slaves, black people departed from Missouri. and their service was one of the war’s most revolutionary features. The first effort to recruit ex-slaves occurred on the South Carolina coast in early 1862, but the regiment was quickly disbanded. That summer, however, it became clear that the thousands of African Americans in Kansas provided another likely pool of soldiers. It was the ambitious James Lane who dared to recruit them. He established a recruiting office in Leavenworth, hired idealistic white men to serve as officers, and began accepting black volunteers. Lane clashed with federal officials who warned him that black enlistment had not been authorized. For a while, Lane’s new regiment was supported with state rather than federal funds. By October, however, the First Kansas Colored Infantry (1st KCI) was ready for action. Lane stationed the untested soldiers at Fort Lincoln in southeastern Kansas.92 The men of the 1st KCI were eager to fight and soon got their chance. Late in October, they crossed the border into Bates County, Missouri, to fight bushwhackers. Along with a contingent of white Kansans which brought their numbers up to about 250, they established an outpost named Fort Africa and prepared to confront 800 Confederate guerrillas who were nearby. On October 29, they came under fire at the Battle of Island Mound, the war’s first battle involving a black military unit. It began when a few black soldiers ventured out to attack some guerrillas stationed nearby. As they traded shots, racial hostilities surfaced as the guerrillas cursed the black infantrymen as “damned niggers” and their white officers as “damned nigger-stealers.” But the guerrillas retreated and the men of the 1st KCI returned to their fort, exhilarated by their success. Later that day, a larger Confederate force counterattacked and stormed the fort, triggering brutal hand-to-hand combat. Despite being outnumbered, the 1st KCI fought off the attackers, losing nine men killed and eleven wounded. It was a small battle, but Lane saw it as a moral victory that proved that black men could fight. He celebrated it in a Senate speech the following January, just after the Final Emancipation Proclamation had authorized black enlistment. On January 13, the 1st KCI was formally accepted into federal service. Captain William D. Matthews, a company commander, became the first black commissioned officer of the war.
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William D. Matthews In early 1865, abolitionist and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony visited Kansas to see her brother, Daniel, who had moved there in 1854 with an emigrant aid society. On March 26, Anthony visited Fort Leavenworth and ate Sunday dinner with Lieutenant William D. Matthews. There was nothing unusual about this—except that Matthews was a black man. For Anthony to eat at his table was a radical act. But perhaps Kansas was different. After recapping the day’s activities, Anthony noted in her diary that “here black & white are equal.” This was an exaggeration: Kansas schools remained segregated for nearly another century, and Matthews served in a U.S. military that did not integrate until after World War II. But, as Matthews knew, Kansas did offer African Americans opportunities not available in many other places. Matthews was born free in 1827 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and worked as a sailor. But he resented racial discrimination and, as he put it, “determined to find a place freer” than Maryland. He headed for Kansas, where he “found a great fight for freedom in progress” upon arriving in 1856. He joined the struggle. After opening a restaurant in Leavenworth, he used his new prosperity to assist runaway slaves. Matthews collaborated with John Brown, Daniel Anthony, and other white abolitionists to help fugitives make it to Iowa. In 1862, Matthews and other members of the Kansas Emigration League aided thousands of recently-freed slaves gain land and education. But Matthews wanted to fight. As he later declared, it was African Americans’ “time to strike.” “If we fight” in the war, “we shall be respected.” Matthews’s first offer to lead a company of volunteers was rejected, but when James Lane began organizing the First Kansas Colored Infantry, Matthews pitched in and recruited at least eighty-one men. Many leading Kansans wanted Matthews to receive a captain’s commission and command one of the regiment’s companies. At first, federal officials refused to comply. Matthews, supported by his white comrades, protested, and eventually his commission was granted. The news never reached him, however, so Matthews—who was technically the Civil War’s first black commissioned officer—never took command of his company. Instead, he returned to Leavenworth and eventually became a lieutenant of artillery. One of his superior officers praised him as “a model of proper discipline” and “strictly attentive to duty.” Matthews remained politically active in Kansas until his death in 1906.
The 1st KCI served honorably in Missouri, Indian Territory, Arkansas, and Louisiana. They fought in several crucial battles, including the Battle of Honey Springs (July 1863), which strengthened Union control over Indian Territory, and the Battle of Poison Spring (April 1864) in Arkansas. At Poison Spring, the 1st KCI fought desperately to protect supply wagons
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against a powerful Confederate attack. After the regiment was forced to retreat, the Confederates were left in control of the battlefield. In one of the war’s most disturbing incidents, some Confederates roamed the field, shooting and bayonetting wounded black men, and taunting them by asking “Where is the First Nigger [i.e., the First Kansas Colored Infantry] now?” Other Confederates crushed the heads of dead and dying black soldiers under the wheels of their wagons. “Our men is determined not to take negro prisoners,” one Confederate soldier wrote home.93 The war in the far west was always fiercely personal, but racism provoked even greater cruelty. The stakes were clearly very high for the men of the 1st KCI. They could expect to be killed if taken prisoner, and many had family members who were still enslaved. But they fought well and earned considerable praise from white officers. Following the Battle of Honey Springs, Union General James G. Blunt applauded the 1st KCI in his after-action report, noting that the men “fought like veterans” and displayed “coolness and bravery” under fire that he had “never seen surpassed.”94 Union officials were impressed enough that they organized the Second Kansas Colored Infantry in the summer of 1863. By war’s end, the 1st KCI numbered only 521 men, out of some 1505 who had served in its ranks. Most of them had been slaves just five years earlier. * * * The Civil War transformed the border region. Most obviously, it had been dreadfully destructive. More than 8000 Kansans died while serving under the Stars and Stripes, proportionately the highest of any Union state.95 Residents of Lawrence and other towns labored to rebuild after bushwhacker raids. The psychological scars of a decade of conflict, stretching back to the earliest days of Bleeding Kansas, took longer to heal. In Missouri, the war years had been even more devastating. Thousands of people were uprooted from their homes. Thousands more lay dead. Ruined buildings and desolated fields dotted the landscape. Lawlessness and violence remained widespread for many years. Slavery, of course, had also been destroyed. It began to collapse in 1861 under pressure from Union soldiers and enslaved people. It received its death-blow in January 1865, when Missouri’s pro-Union government passed a law abolishing slavery statewide. Missouri slaveholders’ worst fears came true. The war also unleashed creative forces. Slavery’s death allowed 115,000 black Missourians to build families, careers, and futures on a solid foundation of freedom. Among them was Absalom Dimery, who settled in Lawrence in 1865. Born a slave in Louisiana, Dimery had fled to Illinois
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after the war broke out and moved to Kansas in 1862, where he enlisted in the First Kansas Colored Infantry. By the 1870s, he had established a blacksmith shop, taken an active role in local politics, and raised five children with his wife.96 As a warrior, businessman, and father, he achieved incredible success, living the dream that Napoleon Simpson had died for.
3 4 5
7 8 9 10
Joseph Gardner to Geo[rge] L. Stearns, May 29, 1860, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show_ transcript&document_id=100486SCREEN=keyword&submit=&search=&start searchat=0&searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=&document_id= 100486&selected_keyword=Gardner,%20Joseph (December 17, 2015). Joseph Gardner to G[eorge] L. Stearns, June 9, 1860, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show _transcript&document_id=100490SCREEN=keyword&submit=&search=&start searchat=0&searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=&document_id= 100490&selected_keyword=Gardner,%20Joseph (December 17, 2015) (quotations); Richard B. Sheridan, Freedom’s Crucible: The Underground Railroad in Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1998), 60–63. Theodore Gardner, “The Last Battle of the Border War,” Kansas Historical Collections 15 (1919–1922): 92–102. Nicole Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2004), 190, 8. Abraham Lincoln, Second Annual Message, December 1, 1862, American Presidency Project, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29503 (September 20, 2015). “Leavenworth Constitution,” Kansas Historical Society, www.kansasmemory.org/ item/207410/text (September 20, 2015); Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 176–179, 189; Ian Michael Spurgeon, Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War’s First African-American Combat Unit (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 2014), 15–16. Brian R. Dirck, “By the Hand of God: James Montgomery and Redemptive Violence,” Kansas History 27, no. 1/2 (Spring/Summer 2004), 105–107. Richard Cordley, “Lizzie and the Underground Railroad,” in Sheridan, Freedom’s Crucible, 75. Sheridan, Freedom’s Crucible, vii, 53, 160; Spurgeon, Soldiers in the Army of Freedom, 18–21. “Reminiscences of Mrs. J.B. Abbott, De Soto, Sept. 1, 1895,” Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN= show_document&document_id=102318&SCREEN_FROM=keyword&selected_ keyword=Abbott,%20Mrs.%20James%20Burnett&startsearchat=0 (September 20, 2015). Spurgeon, Soldiers in the Army of Freedom, 21. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 212.
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13 14 15 16
21 22 23 24 25
My account relies on Robert E. McGlone, John Brown’s War against Slavery (New York: Cambridge University, 2009). R. Blakeslee Gilpin, John Brown Still Lives! America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2011), 11. McGlone, John Brown’s War, 12–13. John Brown, Speech, ca. March 1857, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorial kansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show_transcript&docu ment_id=102588SCREEN=keyword&submit=&search=&startsearchat=0&search for=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=&document_id=102588&selected_ keyword=Brown,%20John,%201800–1859 (September 27, 2015). John Brown, “To the Friends of Freedom,” ca. 1857, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=view_ image&document_id=102550&file_name=k303246 (September 27, 2015). John Brown to Gents, January 3, 1859, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorial kansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show_transcript&docu ment_id=102716SCREEN=keyword&submit=&search=&startsearchat=0&search for=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=&document_id=102716&selected_ keyword=Fugitive%20slaves (September 27, 2015); Gilpin, John Brown Still Lives, 32–33; McGlone, John Brown’s War, 210–211. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 202–203; McGlone, John Brown’s War, 211–212. “A Declaration of Liberty by the Representatives of the Slave Population of the United States of America,” Digital History, www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/active_ learning/explorations/brown/planning3.cfm (September 29, 2015); “John Brown’s Provisional Constitution,” Famous Trials: The Trial of John Brown, http://law2. umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/johnbrown/brownconstitution.html (September 29, 2015) (quotation). McGlone, John Brown’s War, 220–245. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 207–211; McGlone, John Brown’s War, 1, 246–306. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 209. “John Brown’s Address to the Court,” Africans in America, www.pbs.org/wgbh/ aia/part4/4h2943t.html (November 21, 2015). James Hanaway to R.J. Hinton, December 5, 1859, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php?SCREEN=show _transcript&document_id=103065SCREEN=keyword&submit=&search=&start searchat=0&searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=&document_id =103065&selected_keyword=Brown,%20John,%201800–1859 (November 22, 2015). George H. Hall to Dear Lydia, November 17, 1859, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/george-h-hall-dear-lydia (November 22, 2015). “Minority Report of Senate Committee Investigating the Attack at Harper’s Ferry,” Trial of John Brown, http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/johnbrown/ minoritysenatereport.html (November 22, 2015). “What Shall the South Do?” (Wilmington, NC) Daily Herald, December 5, 1859, Secession Era Editorials Project, http://history.furman.edu/editorials/see.py? sequence=jbmenu&location=%20John%20Brown%27s%20Raid%20on%20Harper %27s%20Ferry&ecode=ncwhjb591205a (November 22, 2015).
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34 35 36 37 38 39
[Charles Gustavus Memminger], The Mission of South Carolina to Virginia (Baltimore: James Lucas & Son, 1860), 10. “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” Avalon Project, http://avalon.law.yale. edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp? (November 22, 2015). Abraham Lincoln, “Speech at Leavenworth, Kansas,” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/lincoln3/1:166?rgn=div1;view=full text (November 22, 2015). Daniel Mulford Valentine, diary entry for December 3, 1859, in M.H. Hoeflich and Virgil W. Dean, Eds., “‘Went at Night to Hear Hon. Abe Lincoln Make a Speech’: Daniel Mulford Valentine’s 1859 Diary,” Kansas History 29, no. 2 (Summer 2006), 114–115. Jonathan Earle, “‘If I Went West, I Think I Would Go to Kansas’: Abraham Lincoln, the Sunflower State, and the Election of 1860,” in Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border, Eds. Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti Burke (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2013): 119–130. “Republican Party Platform of 1860,” American Presidency Project, www. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29620 (November 22, 2015). “Freemen Win When Lincoln Leads,” in Hutchinson’s Republican Songster, for 1860, Ed. John W. Hutchinson (New York: O. Hutchinson, Publisher, 1860), 34. “Republican Nomination,” White Cloud Kansas Chief, May 24, 1860. “Democratic Party Platform of 1860,” American Presidency Project, www. presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29577 (November 24, 2015). “Democratic Party Platform (Breckinridge Faction) of 1860,” American Presidency Project, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29614 (November 24, 2015). J.W. Robinson to Dear Friend [Isaac] Goodnow, November 12, 1860, Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index.php? SCREEN=show_transcript&document_id=102416SCREEN=keyword&submit= &search=&startsearchat=5&searchfor=&printerfriendly=&county_id=&topic_id=& document_id=102416&selected_keyword=Lincoln,%20Abraham,%201809-1865 (November 24, 2015). David M. Fox to Robert M. Stewart, November 27, 1860, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/david-m-foxrobert-m-stewart (November 24, 2015). John Johnson, “A Defense of Republicanism,” Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/defence-republicanism (November 24, 2015). Calvin Iserman to Brother William, January 20, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/calvin-iserman-brotherwilliam (November 24, 2015). Francis W. Blackmar, The Life of Charles Robinson, the First State Governor of Kansas (Topeka: Crane, 1902), 267. A.J. Huntoon to My Dear Lizzie, April 26, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/aj-huntoon-my-dear-lizzie-0 (November 25, 2015). Albert E. Castel, Civil War Kansas: Reaping the Whirlwind, 1854–1861 (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1997), 34–39.
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48 49 50 51 52
57 58 59
60 61 62 63
W.W. Phillips to John B. Ward, May 21, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/ww-phillips-john-b-ward (November 25, 2015). Sarah A. Fitch to My Dear Mother, April 24, , Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/sarah-fitch-my-dear-mother (November 25, 2015). Thomas L. Snead, The Fight for Missouri from the Election of Lincoln to the Sudden Death of Lyon (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1886), 21–22. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 224–225; Castel, Civil War Kansas, 44–45. James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University, 1988), 293. Jeremy Neely, The Border between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas– Missouri Line (Columbia: University of Missouri, 2007), 98–99. Allen T. Ward to My Dear Sister, October 21, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/allen-t-ward-my-dear-sister (November 29, 2015). Neely, Border between Them, 104. Allen T. Ward to My Dear Sister, October 21, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/allen-t-ward-my-dear-sister (November 29, 2015). Castel, Civil War Kansas, 44–46, 51–63; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 227–228; Spurgeon, Soldiers in the Army of Freedom, 31–41; Neely, Border between Them, 104–105. Daniel L. Chandler to John Stillman Brown, September 28, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/daniel-lchandler-john-stillman-brown-1 (December 8, 2015). Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 228. Neely, Border between Them, 108–109. William A. Settle, Jr., Jesse James Was His Name; or, Fact and Fiction Concerning the Careers of the Notorious James Brothers of Missouri (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1966), 7. Castel, Civil War Kansas, 104. Ibid, 102–106; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 232–235. Neely, Border between Them, 112–113 (quotation on p. 112). Joseph M. Beilein, Jr., “The Guerrilla Shirt: A Labor of Love and the Style of Rebellion in Civil War Missouri,” in Earle and Burke, Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri, 169–186. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 235. Castel, Civil War Kansas, 121–123; Paul B. Hatley and Noor Ampssler, “Army General Orders Number 11: Final Valid Option or Wanton Act of Brutality? The Missouri Question in the American Civil War,” Journal of the West 33, no. 3 ( July 1994): 77–87. Castel, Civil War Kansas, 124–125, 137–138n22; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 235–236. For overviews, see: Castel, Civil War Kansas, 124–141; and Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 235–238.
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73 74 75 76
77 78 79 80
81 82 83
85 86 87 88
Mary Savage to Jane Simpson, November 29, 1853, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/mary-savage-jane-simpson (December 14, 2015). Mary Savage to Dear Mother and Sister, October 10, 1863, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/mary-savage-dearmother-and-sister (December 14, 2015). Richard Cordley, A History of Lawrence, Kansas from the First Settlement to the Close of the Rebellion (Lawrence; Journal, 1895), 218–219; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 237. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 238–239; Fred N. Six, Ed., “Eyewitness Reports of Quantrill’s Raid: Letters of Sophia Bissell and Sidney Clarke,” Kansas History 28, no. 2 (Summer 2005): 94–103 (quotation on pp. 101–102). John Stillman Brown to John L. Rupur, September 1, 1863, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/john-stillmanbrown-john-l-rupur (December 15, 2015). Hatley and Ampssler, “Army General Orders Number 11,” 86. “Our Position on Men,” (Oskaloosa, KS) Independent, September 5, 1863. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 239–240. Thomas E. Ewing, “General Orders, No. 11,” Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/general-orders-no-11-0 (December 15, 2015). Neely, Border between Them, 123–125. Charles R. Mink, “General Orders No. 11: The Forced Evacuation of Civilians During the Civil War,” Military Affairs 34, no. 4 (December 1970), 133. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 240–241; Castel, Civil War Kansas, 142–145; Hatley and Ampssler, “Army General Orders Number 11,” 86. Neely, Border between Them, 127–128; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 242; Castel, Civil War Kansas, 152–153; Hatley and Ampssler, “Army General Orders Number 11,” 86. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 242–245; Castel, Civil War Kansas, 184–202. Blackmar, Life of Charles Robinson, 422. Edward Fitch to Dear Parents, May 5, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/edward-fitch-dear-parents-8 (December 15, 2015). W.W. Thayer to James Montgomery, April 16, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/ww-thayer-james-montgomery (December 15, 2015). “The Current of Public Opinion,” (Oskaloosa, KS) Independent, September 28, 1861. Spurgeon, Soldiers in the Army of Freedom, 41. “Affairs in Kansas,” New York Times, November 11, 1861. D.R. Anthony to Dear Father, December 22, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/dr-anthony-dear-father (December 16, 2015). George Collamore to G.L. Stearns, October 23, 1861, Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/george-collamore-gl-stearns (December 16, 2015).
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92 93 94
Diane Mutti Burke, “ ‘Slavery Dies Hard’: Enslaved Missourians’ Struggle for Freedom,” in Earle and Burke, Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri, 157–159; Michael Fellman, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri during the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University, 1989), 211; Albert Castel and Thomas Goodrich, Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998), 120–122. Castel, Civil War Kansas, 208–210; Katie H. Armitage, “ ‘Seeking a Home Where He Himself Is Free’: African Americans Build a Community in Douglas County, Kansas,” Kansas History 31, no. 3 (Autumn 2008): 154–175; Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 229–230. My account relies on Spurgeon, Soldiers in the Army of Freedom. Ibid, 215. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901), ser. 1, vol. 22, pt. 1, p. 448. Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas, 247. Armitage, “Seeking a Home,” 161–162.
Remembering the Bloodshed
n Thursday, August 21, 1913, crowds gathered in Lawrence to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre. Several hundred survivors were present; many had been children in 1863, but William Quantrill’s attack was fresh in their minds. After paying their respects at a monument to the victims, attendees filled the Bowersock Opera House to hear speeches about Lawrence’s bloodstained history. One speaker was Topeka businessman Charles Sumner Gleed. Originally from Vermont, Gleed was born in 1856, the same year that Lawrence was first attacked and Gleed’s namesake was caned by Preston Brooks. He began with some conciliatory comments. He admitted, for instance, that the Confederate government was not responsible for the massacre. But he could never, never forgive William Quantrill. Gleed called him a “thin, cold, bloodless man with great personal vanity” who was “cruel and relentless in all his methods.” Quantrill was not an honorable soldier, but a “dryland pirate with plunder his object and murder his pastime.” Gleed went on to list Quantrill’s terrible deeds, including the murder of Edward Fitch.1 The next speaker placed the massacre in a broader context. William Connelley, recently elected president of the Kansas State Historical Society, emphasized Lawrence’s role in the struggle for human freedom. The city was a “stronghold of liberty” which had bravely resisted “those barbarous hordes that crossed our borders to force upon us human slavery.” The triumph of liberty over slavery was a victory for Kansas and for the nation. Connelley hoped that children would learn from this glorious and patriotic history.2 Together, Gleed and Connelley crafted a Civil War narrative that centered on Kansas. In it, Kansas and its antislavery headquarters of Lawrence had been the key to the prewar antislavery movement, the Confederacy’s defeat, and slavery’s destruction. This interpretation was popular among their closest neighbors.
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But they had competition. Also in 1913, another group gathered fifty miles east of Lawrence near Independence, Missouri. They were veterans of Quantrill’s band. Approximately 40 ex-guerrillas convened, as they had every year since 1898, to remember the border war. Among the speakers was William H. Gregg, a veteran of the Lawrence raid and one of Quantrill’s earliest allies. As he chewed on a cigar and poked the dirt with his cane, Gregg recollected how Quantrill’s men had convinced their leader to strike Lawrence. They didn’t care that Lawrence was a refuge for fugitive slaves, Gregg insisted, and they were not murderous bandits. They were honest “farmer boys” who wanted revenge against the Jayhawkers who had burned their homes, violated their women, and stolen their property. “[N]ot one of us has ever regretted” the raid, Gregg declared. “We are proud that we were able to revenge our fathers and mothers and sisters.”3 At other guerilla reunions, often held on the anniversary of the Lawrence
Figure 5.1 This photograph was taken at the ninth annual reunion of the veterans of William Quantrill’s guerrilla company. Note the portrait of Quantrill, who died in 1865, at the center of the group. Source: “Reunion of William Quantrill’s Band” (ca. 1897). Courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum. Available at https://trumanlibrary.org/photographs/view.php?id=29193
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raid, some veterans were still more defiant. One reportedly declared that Quantrill should have “wiped out the whole damn town.”4 Kansans resented the guerrilla reunions. In 1905, Douglas County attorney Sam Riggs tried to have surviving bushwhackers prosecuted for their participation in the massacre. The effort failed but gained considerable public support. Kansas Governor Edward Hoch endorsed it, denouncing Quantrill’s veterans for making threatening remarks, and arguing that their method of warfare was “a disgrace to civilization.” Newspapers as far away as Honolulu reported on the controversy.5 In 1913, some Kansans talked of taking the law into their own hands. Speakers at the Lawrence gathering hinted that they would still listen to a proposal to swoop down upon the reunion of the survivors of Quantrell’s [Quantrill’s] band, now in progress in Missouri, and wreak a belated vengeance for the blood which was shed in Lawrence fifty years ago.6
These stories reveal much about American memory of the Civil War. Historical memory is not a simple act of recalling facts. Rather, it is an active, collective process, in which people craft narratives that fit their present needs and future goals. Historians have argued that, in the case of the Civil War, many white northerners and southerners reconciled by commemorating the war as a noble conflict in which both sides fought bravely and in which slavery and emancipation were unimportant. As whites made peace, they pushed blacks out of the story. By the early 1900s, they remembered wartime glory, while forgetting much of the suffering and most of the politics.7 The ongoing conflict over the Lawrence Massacre, however, suggests that the Kansas–Missouri struggle does not fit perfectly into this larger interpretation. Half a century later, wounds from the border war were still painfully raw. Survivors and their descendants battled over how to commemorate Bleeding Kansas and their local Civil War. Neither side seemed willing to forget past differences or salute a brave foe. Charles Gleed’s reference to the “death knell of slavery,” moreover, suggests that white Kansans had not forgotten about the importance of slavery and emancipation, even if William Gregg denied it.8 Memories of Bleeding Kansas and the border war illustrate the limits of postwar reconciliation. This distinctive commemoration matched the Kansas–Missouri struggle’s unique features. Remembrance of the border war reflected the conflict’s bitter and deeply personal character. Also notable was the prominence of non-combatants. Back east, Civil War reunions put soldiers at center stage by featuring elderly veterans. The 1913 Gettysburg reunion,
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held one month before the Lawrence survivors’ gathering, is famous for the oft-photographed handshakes between aged Union and Confederate soldiers. In Lawrence, however, civilians and veterans gathered together to remember the massacre. This was natural: in the border war, the line between civilian and soldier was always blurry, and most of the victims in August 1863 were non-combatants. Men, women, and children alike were veterans of the brutal struggles of the 1850s and 1860s. Their collective commemoration reflected the border conflict’s ferocity and indiscriminate damage. It’s time to carry the story past 1865. We have seen that Bleeding Kansas helped provoke the Civil War. It proved that popular sovereignty could not resolve the conflict over slavery expansion, shattered the Democratic Party while boosting the Republicans, and spawned political violence. We have also traced the destructive history of the Civil War in the border region. But the significance of the Kansas–Missouri struggle did not end in 1865. Ever since, it has been a controversial symbol of the issues and hatreds that divided Americans in the 1850s and 1860s. This chapter explores how survivors and later historians have remembered Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War that followed. It begins in the late 19th century, when the border war was still in living memory. The earliest histories of the border conflict were crafted by participants, who used monuments, memoirs, speeches, and reunions to tell their stories. These were highly partisan accounts, meant to praise or blame rather than to understand. But they tell us much about the border conflict’s lasting significance. The second half of the chapter examines debates among more recent scholars. They have tried to be less biased, but reasonable people can disagree. There are always new things to say because our perspective on past events continues to change. As long as people care about freedom and slavery, violence and power, nationalism and sectionalism, they will study Bleeding Kansas. And as long as they study Bleeding Kansas, they will debate its meaning. * * * For participants, remembering Bleeding Kansas was both a personal and public activity. It was also hard work. People made the effort for several compelling reasons. It helped them process traumatic experiences and attempt to heal. But it also allowed them to influence how other Americans remembered the bitter struggle. Commemorators were often motivated by public concerns. Were their former enemies winning the battle over commemoration? Would their children and grandchildren learn the proper lessons from history? Commemorative activities—everything from writing
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a memoir to joining a veterans’ group—were as much about shaping the future as honoring the past. Participants on both sides worried that their wartime foes would control postwar remembrance. Many also felt neglected because of the public’s fixation on the grand battles fought in eastern states like Virginia. In response, individual participants often wrote memoirs. These were easy to publish because of the tremendous popular demand for veterans’ writings, and they allowed common people to shape public memory. Historians must use them carefully because most are extremely one-sided. But this also makes them useful sources: they reveal exactly how survivors wanted the border war to be remembered. Union veteran Thomas M. Goodman’s memoir is a good example.9 Goodman served in a Missouri regiment as a sergeant. While returning home on leave in September 1864, his train was intercepted by “Bloody Bill” Anderson as it passed through Centralia, Missouri. After disarming the prisoners, Anderson’s men killed twenty-four of them in cold blood. They spared Goodman’s life and held him as a captive for nine days before he escaped. Three years after the war, Goodman published a brief account of his capture, the massacre, and his time as Anderson’s prisoner. He hoped to make money, but Goodman also wanted to document the sacrifices of Union soldiers in Missouri. Moreover, he worried that images of Confederate guerrillas as dashing knights or modern Robin Hoods were becoming too popular. Goodman presented a dramatically different perspective on Anderson and his men. After slaughtering their captives, Goodman wrote, the guerrillas “gloated over the bodies of the slain,” uttering “horrid oaths” and flashing “wild, fierce looks.” In camp, they drank excessively and behaved like “the most blood-thirsty and inhuman gang of wretches that ever infested Missouri.”10 In sum, Goodman sought to preserve the memories of Union soldiers in the border war, while debunking romanticized portrayals of the bushwhackers. Ex-Confederates had similar incentives to write memoirs. Missouri Confederates were in the uncomfortable position of having served in a less famous theater of the war and being from a state that never seceded. They struggled to establish their place in Confederate history, while countering Unionist writers like Goodman, and even some Confederate critics who were uncomfortable with guerrilla warfare. Among the exguerrillas who wrote memoirs was William H. Gregg, one of Quantrill’s closest associates and a frequent participant in reunions. Written in 1906 under the title “A Little Dab of History without Embellishment,” Gregg’s memoir depicted Missouri guerrillas as heroes. As he did in his remarks at the 1913 reunion, Gregg defended guerrilla activity, including the attack on Lawrence, as a justifiable response to “dastardly acts” committed by
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Union soldiers and Jayhawkers in Missouri. Gregg argued that Lawrence residents were complicit in these acts, having received stolen property which rightfully belonged to Missourians. During the August 1863 raid, Gregg stated, he found dozens of shacks in Lawrence containing goods, from quilts and blankets to bookshelves and pianos, pillaged from Missouri households. Lawrence was a legitimate target, Gregg concluded, and guerrillas were genuine soldiers, not lawless crooks.11 Individual commemorators could increase their influence by joining an organization. Nationwide, Civil War participants founded many of these groups, especially in the 1880s and 1890s. The timing is significant: by then, participants were starting to pass away and a new generation, which had not experienced the war, was coming of age. Veterans, civilians, and their descendants wanted to make sure that their particular interpretations of the Civil War era dominated monuments, textbooks, and other public arenas. Hence the wave of groups founded after 1880: Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (1881); United Confederate Veterans (1889); United Daughters of the Confederacy (1894); and Sons of Confederate Veterans (1896). Several Kansas and Missouri organizations fit this pattern. One was the Quantrill veterans’ group, which met yearly between 1898 and 1929 in order to commemorate themselves “not as thieves and robbers, but as devoted and patriotic soldiers that fought, bled and died for what they thought was right.”12 Similarly, the Missouri Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy advocated a positive memory of the state’s female Confederates and their cause. Members published a volume of wartime recollections in order to teach “the youth of the future” a proConfederate version of history. The book praised Missouri’s Confederate women for being “as brave as lions when the necessity arose, but always pure and gentle as the dove,” and sought to teach future generations “to love and reverence the memories of the South and to become imbued with the right emotions, sentiments and principles.”13 Contributors denounced General Orders No. 11, accused Jayhawkers of forcing slaves to leave their masters, and defended the guerrillas.14 Like all reminiscences, these were carefully selected memories. By excluding the words of white Unionists and enslaved women, the book allowed former Confederates to speak for all “Women of Missouri.” Of course, Unionists promoted their own historical narratives. Among the most important Union organizations was the association of Lawrence Massacre survivors that hosted the semi-centennial anniversary gathering in 1913.15 Prior to 1891, survivors met informally on August 21 to honor the victims. But they did not hold official ceremonies on the massacre’s anniversary. Instead, they combined massacre commemoration with other public events, including Independence Day or Decoration Day, which was
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established in 1868 to remember fallen Civil War soldiers. (Observed by former Unionists and Confederates alike, Decoration Day later became Memorial Day.) By decorating the graves of civilian victims of the Lawrence Massacre as well as those of Union soldiers, Kansans blurred the civilian-soldier distinction in their memory of the border war. In 1891, massacre survivors met, enjoyed refreshments, and created the “Association of Survivors of Quantrell’s Massacre, of the Citizens of Lawrence, Douglas county, Kansas, August 21, 1863.” Thereafter, they held annual meetings in Lawrence’s South Park. Their decision to create a formal association was clearly motivated by concern over how future Americans would remember the border war. As a Lawrence newspaper put it, the Association was necessary so that “the young generation should learn of the patriotism that actuated those who saved Kansas from the invaders and made it, by their heroism, what it is today.”16 Organizations like the Lawrence survivors’ group made lasting marks on the landscape by building monuments. Like speeches or books, these massive memorials tell very specific stories about the past. Most emphasize soldiers and military history. There are, for instance, over 1300 monuments at the Gettysburg battlefield; most mark the positions of combat units and honor their service. But the Lawrence survivors took a different approach. In 1894, they established the Lawrence Monument Association and began raising funds to construct a memorial for the massacre’s victims, most of whom were non-combatants. It was unveiled on Memorial Day in 1895. Placed near the graves of massacre victims in Lawrence’s Oak Hill Cemetery, the granite monument is more than eight feet tall and bears an emphatic inscription:
In 1913, supporters raised $1500 to pay for the Lawrence Massacre monument. Today, that would be about $36,000.
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF THE ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY CITIZENS WHO DEFENCELESS FELL VICTIMS TO THE INHUMAN FEROCITY OF BORDER GUERRILLAS LED BY THE INFAMOUS QUANTRELL IN HIS RAID UPON LAWRENCE. AUGUST 31ST, 1863. ERECTED MAY 30TH, 1895.
The Lawrence Monument Association remembered the border conflict in terms that could have been written amid the wartime hostilities of 1863. This was Goodman, Gleed, and Connelley’s narrative, etched in stone. * * *
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History is not solely written by the winners. Pro-Confederate books and memorials proliferated after the war and continue to be published to this day. But history is usually written first by participants, who write it for the same reason that they publish memoirs, form associations, and build monuments: to influence public memory. The first formal histories of Bleeding Kansas and the border war demonstrate this. They were written by people from both sides who had lived through the era. Though some of them were professional historians, their writings were often just as partisan as monuments, speeches, or other commemorations. But they are important because they form a direct link between participant memory and more recent scholarship. Thus they can help us connect our study of history (what happened in the past) with our study of historiography (what historians have said about the past). Given the border war’s bloodiness, it is no wonder that early historians focused on violence and debated the righteousness of violent deeds and individuals. Who used violent force most effectively, and who used it for the most virtuous cause? These issues shaped early historians’ writing about John Brown, the most divisive figure from Bleeding Kansas. Predictably, writers who had supported the Confederacy condemned Brown. Edwin A. Pollard, a Virginian who coined the phrase “Lost Cause,” described Brown as “a horse-thief and an assassin” who acted with “visionary recklessness” in Kansas and at Harper’s Ferry.17 But Brown was quite controversial among pro-Union, antislavery Kansans as well. They all agreed that Kansas had saved American freedom, but they disagreed over who deserved credit for that victory. Veterans of the free-state movement debated two interrelated questions. Had Brown’s violent deeds helped their cause or hindered it? Had Brown saved Kansas from slavery, or were conventional political leaders more important? Among those who defended Brown’s memory was Franklin G. Adams, who moved to Kansas in 1855, helped write the Leavenworth Constitution, and became secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society in 1875. Some of Brown’s actions, especially the 1856 Pottawatomie Massacre, made Adams uncomfortable. But he considered Brown a star of the free-state movement, not a lunatic or a criminal. In order to publicize this view, Adams invited Mary Brown, John’s widow, to visit Topeka in 1882. He honored her with a reception at the state capitol and used the occasion to praise her late husband. Adams downplayed Pottawatomie but decorated the hall with artifacts celebrating Brown’s violent life and death, including battle flags, sabers, and a piece of the gallows on which Brown was hanged. Speakers at the reception argued that Brown was a champion of human liberty and a Kansas hero. One described Brown as “the man who had done more to make Kansas a free state than all men living or dead.”18
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But other early chroniclers of Bleeding Kansas rejected this interpretation. One of the most important was Sara Robinson, widow of Charles Robinson, who had led the Topeka movement, served as Kansas’s first state governor, and passed away in 1894. After his death, Sara worked hard to publicize a narrative of the free-state movement in which Charles and his political associates, not Brown, were the heroes. Like the founders of the Lawrence survivors’ association, Sara sensed that her generation was fading away and she wanted younger people to hear the “real” story of Kansas.19
Sara Robinson Never merely the wife of a powerful man, Sara Robinson participated in the freestate movement, became one of its first historians, and guarded its memory. Sara Tappan Doolittle Lawrence, a distant relation of Amos Lawrence, was born in Massachusetts in 1827. Like Clarina Nichols, she was unusually well educated and mastered several classical and modern languages. Sara first met Dr. Charles Robinson when he treated her for a back injury she suffered when she fell down a flight of stairs. After Charles’s first wife died, he and Sara revived their friendship and married in 1851. Their marriage was a true partnership; before moving to Kansas, they ran a newspaper together in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Sara moved to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1855, to join Charles who migrated the previous year. The Robinsons lost their home in the Sack of Lawrence and Charles spent several months incarcerated with other free-state leaders. During Charles’s captivity, Sara mobilized her literary talent by writing Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life (1856). Part history and part political platform, the book vividly narrated the territorial conflict from the viewpoint of a committed antislavery activist. Sara closed with an “Appeal to the American People” in which she denounced proslavery violence and the federal government’s unwillingness to stop it. Pledging that “the people of Kansas will arise to do battle for liberty,” Sara challenged “Men of the North” to join the struggle. She also took direct action by traveling east to ask Congress and the New England Emigrant Aid Company to help secure Charles’s liberation. It was Sara’s historical writing, however, that made the most lasting mark. In the 1850s, Kansas strengthened northerners’ interest in Bleeding Kansas and sympathy for the free-soil faction. After the Civil War, Sara continued to fight in the Kansas “history wars”—intense disputes over historical memory that often pitted former free-state allies against each other. Appalled by what she saw as the distortion of history by proponents of John Brown and James Lane, Sara worked to protect Charles’s reputation as a free-state hero until her death in 1911. Sara and Charles are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, site of the Lawrence Massacre monument. Most of their estate was bequeathed to the University of Kansas.
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Sara Robinson, like most free-staters, despised the Border Ruffians, but she also protested against the veneration of Brown. “I am always sorry when outsiders attempt to [recount] what John Brown did for Kansas,” she wrote privately in 1910. Pottawatomie was, she argued, “the one blot cast upon the state. Otherwise we had a clean record.”20 Political leaders like her husband had stayed on the moral high ground, but Brown tried to drag the free-state movement down to the Border Ruffians’ level. Ultimately, her husband’s political skill had succeeded even though Brown’s violence had unleashed chaos in the territory. In order to broadcast this message, Robinson turned to history. In 1898, she secured the republication of a book written by Charles several years earlier, entitled The Kansas Conflict. In the Preface, Charles asserted that he never allowed “personal feelings” to influence his writing of history.21 But it was clearly written from his point of view, a perspective that Sara wanted to share widely. Charles argued that the free-staters had beaten the proslavery forces by May 1856 and that the Pottawatomie Massacre unnecessarily reignited the guerrilla war. He concluded that, without Brown, Kansas would have become a free state with less bloodshed.22 Charles celebrated the “crowning glory” of Kansas history—the defeat of proslavery invaders and the triumph of freedom—much as Gleed and Connelley did.23 But he also contended that moderate antislavery activists, not radicals like Brown, won that victory. Sara Robinson ensured that this argument remained in circulation long after her husband’s death. Despite Sara and Charles Robinson’s efforts, Brown is far better known than any moderate free-stater. But Americans’ discomfort with Brown suggests that the Robinsons didn’t simply lose the battle over public memory. Rather, Brown remains closely associated with Bleeding Kansas, but sometimes in a negative way. These persistent mixed feelings appear in the massive John Brown mural at the Kansas state capitol. In 1937, Kansan John Steuart Curry was hired to paint murals on the second floor of the statehouse. He painted several historical scenes, including “The Tragic Prelude,” which places Brown, literally and figuratively, at the center of Bleeding Kansas. Bible in one hand and rifle in the other, Brown strides toward the viewer as men fight and die around him. The background imagery, including a prairie fire and a tornado, is similarly destructive. Together, these images reflected Curry’s decidedly negative view of Brown’s influence on history. “I portray John Brown as a bloodthirsty, godfearing maniac,” he wrote. Working in the late 1930s as another war loomed overseas, Curry used Brown to issue a warning about the devastation caused by self-righteous fanatics.24 Early historians also focused on Confederate guerrillas—who, like Brown, raised challenging questions about violence. Not surprisingly, early
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interpretations of guerrillas, even those written by professional historians, were just as partisan as other types of commemoration. Two examples— one pro-Confederate and one pro-Union—show how early writers shaped historical memory of the guerrilla war for their own purposes. One of the most important participant-historians was John Newman Edwards.25 Born in Virginia in 1838, Edwards, like Samuel Ralston and many other upper southerners, moved west to Missouri. In 1855, he was working for a newspaper in Fayette County when raiding Kansans destroyed the printing press. Around that time, he also befriended Joseph “Jo” Shelby, a wealthy hemp planter, businessman, and slaveholder who had migrated to Missouri from Kentucky and led a group of Border Ruffians. This was an important friendship for Edwards because in 1862 he joined Shelby’s famous cavalry unit, known as the Iron Brigade. Shelby cooperated with bushwhackers during his raids and campaigns in Missouri, allowing Edwards to meet many of the famous guerrillas he wrote about later. As the Confederacy collapsed in 1865, Edwards and Shelby fled to Mexico, intending to rebuild their lives and fortunes. But the venture failed and in 1867 Edwards returned to Missouri, where he launched another newspaper, the Kansas City Times. Edwards had lost the war, but now he entered the politically charged battle over commemoration. Like most exConfederates, Edwards resented the postwar program of Reconstruction. By 1870, victorious northern Republicans had not only abolished slavery but also enfranchised black men, barred some Confederate leaders from political office, and begun to build their party in the South with help from white Unionists and African Americans. In response, opponents of Reconstruction used a variety of tactics, including the formation of terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, to restore white supremacy. In this context, disputes over Civil War memory were more than academic squabbles; they were high-stakes battles for political legitimacy. Edwards jumped into the conflict with his newspaper editorials. He raised guerrillas to the status of folk heroes whose strategies could be used to defeat Reconstruction. In the early 1870s, he celebrated the exploits of Frank and Jesse James, guerrillas who became outlaws after the war. Denounced as criminals by their opponents, the James brothers were, in Edwards’s narrative, modern Robin Hoods who courageously resisted oppression by robbing banks and eluding lawmen. Edwards also printed letters supposedly written by the James brothers, including an 1872 message in which Jesse denounced Republican President Ulysses S. Grant as a thief. Grant and his cronies, Jesse insisted, “rob the poor and rich, and we rob the rich and give to the poor.”26 Edwards’s newspaper coverage made the James brothers into the legends they remain to this day. Jesse returned the favor by naming his son after Edwards.
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Edwards shaped popular memory of Missouri guerrillas as a historian as well as a journalist. In 1877, he published Noted Guerrillas, or the Warfare of the Border, a massive tome which commemorated the wartime careers of men like William Quantrill, “Bloody Bill” Anderson, and the James brothers. Edwards wrote it with two goals in mind: to defend guerrillas by portraying them as heroes who fought solely to protect home and family; and to establish Missouri’s place within Confederate memory. A slave state that never seceded and provided far more Union soldiers than Confederates, Missouri seemed at risk of being forgotten by northerners and southerners alike. By romanticizing Confederate guerrillas, Edwards created a local version of the “Lost Cause” to strengthen Missouri’s Confederate credentials. He maintained that guerrillas had battled at least as hard as Robert E. Lee’s renowned Army of Northern Virginia. True, their tactics were different. But the essential task of the soldier is killing, and guerrillas had done that. And unlike Lee, many guerrillas had never surrendered. Not only had they fought for the Confederacy longer than anyone else, but perhaps they had fought better as well. Noted Guerrillas helped “Missouri establish [a] bond with the ex-Confederacy” and made the author “the architect of the state’s own irregular Lost Cause.”27 Edwards also justified guerrillas’ controversial method of warfare. Guerrilla violence, he argued, was legitimate because it was a rational response to outside aggression. People like Goodman and Gleed had denounced Confederate guerrillas as fiends or criminals, but Edwards (like Gregg) insisted that they were decent citizens who were provoked by the brutality of Union soldiers and Jayhawkers. “Not naturally cruel, and averse to invading the territory of any other people,” Edwards wrote, the guerrilla “could not understand the patriotism of those who invaded his own territory.” Raised in a quiet agrarian world, “he knew nothing of the tiger that was in him until death had been dashed against his eyes in numberless and brutal ways,” including the murder of his friends and relatives. The guerrilla’s tactics were definitely ruthless, but he killed only “in the name of God and his country.”28 Edwards’s account of the Lawrence Massacre reflected this interpretation. He did not deny that men were killed, houses burned, and property looted in August 1863. But he also never doubted that the attack was justifiable. The massacre took place during a clash between two “civilizations” separated only by “that imaginary thing, a state line.” Kansas represented the North and Missouri the South. According to Edwards, it was Kansans who started the border war. Envious of Missouri’s prosperity (which, Edwards admitted, depended on “African slavery”), James Lane and other Jayhawkers invaded. After these “brigands,” “land pirates,” and “pilferers” plundered their way through western Missouri,
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it was no wonder that Missourians responded by joining guerrilla bands. “Is it any wonder,” Edwards asked rhetorically, “that the Missourian whose father was killed should kill in return? Whose house was burnt should burn in return? Whose property was plundered, should pillage in return?”29 Of course, Jayhawkers also claimed to be acting in self-defense. But for Edwards, Confederate guerrilla warfare was righteous because it was “the offspring of the fury and the agony of invasion.”30 Edwards’s book made a powerful impression on later scholars and on public memory of the border war. Historians still rely on Noted Guerrillas as a source of information, though they use it with caution. Elements of Edwards’s interpretation—including the guerrilla as a victim of cruel invasion—also live on in popular culture, especially in films like The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). The fact that Josey Wales was based on a novel written by Asa Earl Carter, a segregationist, anti-Semite, and member of the Ku Klux Klan, should remind us of the darker side of the guerrilla war and some of its admirers.31 Edwards (like Carter during the Civil Rights Movement) was horrified by efforts to extend voting rights and other basic liberties to African Americans. His references to “semi-barbaric negroes” and his support for restoring white supremacy were closely tied to his veneration of guerrillas.32 Edwards’s historical scholarship was meant to shape the future as well as document the past. The same was true for Edwards’s fiercest rival: William E. Connelley.33 For Edwards, Confederate guerrillas were heroes and Unionists were villains. Connelley spent his scholarly career telling the opposite story. Born in eastern Kentucky in 1855, he grew up in a deeply divided border slave state. While his father was away serving in the Union army, Connelley’s mother died and his home region was ravaged by a brutal guerrilla conflict. Connelley blamed Confederates for his family’s misfortunes and based his writings about Missouri guerrillas on his experiences in Appalachia. Moving to Kansas in 1881 only deepened his Unionist sentiments. Connelley began writing history in the 1890s and eventually served in several leadership positions within the Kansas State Historical Society. (He was the Society’s president when he spoke at the 1913 Lawrence Massacre commemoration.) He was well aware of Noted Guerrillas and was Among the artifacts donated to the determined to debunk Edwards’s Kansas State Historical Society was a pro-Confederate narrative. tenor horn owned by Joseph Savage, Connelley had a stroke of who played in Lawrence’s first town good luck when he met a former band. Quantrill’s raiders stole it in 1863 bushwhacker in 1902. The veteran but it was later recovered and given to was none other than William H. the Society by Mrs. D.S. Alford. Gregg, the outspoken member of
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Quantrill’s band who regularly attended reunions near Independence. Gregg, as we have seen, penned a handwritten memoir to provide readers with the “truth” about Quantrill. When he sold Connelley the exclusive rights to publish it, Connelley gained access to an invaluable primary source. Scholars dream of finding gold mines like this. But, as historian Joseph M. Beilein, Jr., has shown, Connelley already knew what kind of story he wanted to tell. He had a thesis in mind—that guerrillas were bloodthirsty criminals—and searched for evidence to prove it. This research method does not produce very thoughtful history. Connelley never published Gregg’s memoir. Instead, he mined it for quotations that supported his thesis and left out conflicting details, such as Gregg’s claims about finding stolen property stashed in Lawrence. The product of Connelley’s research was a lengthy rebuttal of Edwards’s work. Published in 1910 as Quantrill and the Border Wars, the book reiterated the pro-Kansas sentiments expressed by Lawrence massacre survivors and other Unionists, but in a scholarly style, complete with footnotes and primary source quotations. Connelley painted a horrifying portrait of Quantrill. Cruelty and criminality, he argued, were in Quantrill’s blood. Relying on the now-discredited notion that character traits are inherited, Connelley argued that Quantrill’s parents “endowed him with depravity” which only worsened during the war.34 According to Connelley, relying on dubious sources, Quantrill’s vicious nature appeared early in his childhood, which he spent torturing small animals and terrorizing his peers.35 In sum, Quantrill’s guerrilla career stemmed neither from political principles nor even from a desire for revenge. Instead, he was an opportunistic sadist who took advantage of wartime chaos to act on his depraved impulses. Connelley found much to praise in white Missourians, but he argued that their deeply-held convictions made their internal Civil War a terrible one.36 Not all bushwhackers were as evil as Quantrill, but the war allowed men like Quantrill to gain influence. Connelley directly refuted Edwards’s argument that guerrillas were motivated by Unionist brutality. Calling out his rival by name, Connelley pointed out that Quantrill and other bushwhackers were as cruel to Missouri Unionists as they were to outsiders from Kansas or Iowa. Hatred of the Union and dedication to defending slavery, he concluded, motivated guerrillas.37 Connelley’s account of the Lawrence Massacre brought these themes together. He characterized Lawrence as a strategic stronghold in the long battle against slavery and argued that this made it an irresistible target for Confederate bushwhackers. When led by a man as wicked as Quantrill, they were capable of incredible violence. The 1863 massacre, Connelley argued, grew directly out of Bleeding Kansas and the “spirit of slavery”
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which inspired the first attack on Lawrence seven years earlier. Lawrence was “the embodiment of the anti-slavery sentiment of the North” and, as such, was hated by proslavery Missourians, who believed that if they destroyed the town, they could protect their “favorite institution.” Quantrill personally cared little about slavery, Connelley said, but he knew how to channel proslavery Missourians’ “malignant hatred” of Lawrence into a devastating raid which would “gratify his thirst for blood and greed for spoil and plunder.”38 Quantrill’s degeneracy, coupled with proslavery ideology, made the Lawrence Massacre possible. Was the massacre a reasoned act of retaliation or a crime against humanity? A careless reader might not realize that Connelley and Edwards were writing about the same event. In fact, they were engaging in an ongoing conversation about the past and its relationship to the present. Along with William Gregg, Thomas Goodman, Sara Robinson, and many other participants, Connelley and Edwards debated the lessons that should be drawn from Kansas and Missouri’s Civil War-era history. Each had personal and political reasons for believing that his or her historical narrative must be accepted as the truth. The product of their extended debate was the first draft of border war history. It was up to later scholars, who were more distant from the subject (though not necessarily less passionate about it) to refine their arguments, strive for greater accuracy, and take the discussion in more constructive directions. * * * John Edwards and William Connelley’s interpretations were polar opposites: bushwhackers were good or bad; Unionists were wrong or right. More recent historians have been influenced by these arguments, but they have asked more sophisticated questions about Bleeding Kansas and the border war. Rather than condemn or praise, the best modern scholarship seeks to understand the past. Rather than argue about absolutes (good/bad, hero/villain), innovative historians investigate why or how history unfolded as it did. This historiographical overview samples some of the major debates about Bleeding Kansas and the border war. Recent scholarship is less polarized, but there is still plenty of disagreement. Historians of Bleeding Kansas continue to study the age-old question of what exactly was at stake in the conflict.39 What motivated settlers to move to Kansas, and why did they fight when they got there? These issues remain closely tied to broader questions about the causes of the Civil War. Did it erupt out of serious, perhaps unresolvable differences between North and South? Or was the war preventable, perhaps even unnecessary?
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Many early historians used Bleeding Kansas to depict the Civil War as an inevitable conflict between a free-labor North and a slaveholding South. This view was predominant around the turn of the 20th century. Led by James Ford Rhodes, they portrayed Bleeding Kansas as a collision between proslavery and antislavery forces which helped trigger the Civil War. Most of these scholars favored the North and celebrated the victory of the free-state forces in Kansas. The antislavery triumph was, they believed, essential to the nation’s future progress.40 Rhodes acknowledged that antislavery settlers were not perfect, but he contended that they were “immeasurably superior to the pro-slavery partisans in everything that goes to make up industrious, law-abiding, and intelligent citizens.”41 Rhodes sympathized with free-staters and saw their battle against Border Ruffians as a necessary prelude to an inescapable civil war. After World War I, however, this interpretation was challenged by so-called “revisionist” historians. Deeply disturbed by the Great War, revisionists denied that the Civil War was unavoidable. Instead, they argued that it was a tragic mistake caused by overly emotional fanatics, which could (and should) have been avoided. Slavery, they insisted, was not worth fighting over, and was not a legitimate issue in the 1850s and 1860s. In this narrative, Bleeding Kansas did not live up to the hype: it was merely a routine frontier struggle, not a clash of ideologies or civilizations. Rhodes saw Bleeding Kansas as proof of the profound importance of the sectional struggle over slavery. Revisionists saw it as a trivial skirmish that had been blown out of proportion by extremists. University of Kansas graduate James Malin advanced this interpretation in the 1940s and 1950s. Malin’s argument went like this: because antebellum slavery was doomed by technological innovation and had no chance to expand, Bleeding Kansas was a needless struggle. It became a national issue only because self-interested politicians and self-righteous fanatics—particularly abolitionists—made it one. Missourians had little interest in spreading slavery and only took up arms because they felt threatened by free-state settlers. Most conflicts in Kansas grew from competition for natural resources, especially land, or other economic rivalries. But antislavery agitators injected slavery into their coverage of Kansas events, distorting the conflict for their own purposes. Malin criticized extremists on both sides but was especially scornful of “antislavery-abolition propaganda,” which had “creat[ed] a false issue” and misled contemporaries and historians alike.42 He also debunked what he considered the mythology surrounding John Brown, arguing that Brown had annoyed free-state leaders until the Harper’s Ferry raid, at which point Kansans embraced him as a martyr.43 By the 1950s, Malin’s revisionist view was widely accepted. Other historians followed his lead, focusing on
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land, timber, and water, rather than slavery, as the key to the violence in Kansas.44 At their best, revisionists contested the Unionist and antislavery biases of earlier scholars, emphasized the complexity of human motivations, and reminded us that not all Kansas settlers were New England abolitionists. But their insistence on slavery’s insignificance led them to ignore considerable evidence that people on both sides believed that slavery could go into Kansas and that it was worth fighting over. Malin and other revisionists could not explain the actions of people like Eli Thayer or David Atchison, except by denouncing them as troublemaking radicals. Revisionists were so certain of slavery’s irrelevance that they made little effort to understand why so many antebellum Americans thought otherwise. The revisionist interpretation was shattered by later historians, beginning with those who wrote during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The Movement encouraged scholars to take slavery seriously. The result was a new wave of scholarship that examined the motivations and beliefs of antislavery and proslavery participants in the struggle over western expansion. In 1968, for example, Charles Desmond Hart analyzed Congressional debates over the Kansas–Nebraska Act to show that many participants believed that slavery could expand into Kansas Territory. Far from being an artificial or trivial issue, slavery expansion was hotly contested because contemporaries thought it was possible.45 Similarly, James A. Rawley emphasized the importance of racism in the political conflict over slavery expansion. He recognized that most white northerners, like their southern rivals, were intensely prejudiced. But racists do not always agree with each other. Proslavery racists were determined to protect and extend property rights in slaves, while antislavery racists wanted to reserve Kansas for white people. Anti-black bigotry prevented partisans on either side from dealing rationally with their dispute. They paid for it later, in the bloodshed of the 1850s and then in the Civil War. Racism “caused men to become fanatical, to discard compromise, and to march blindly toward secession and a brother’s war.”46 Rawley brought slavery back into Bleeding Kansas without claiming that northern settlers were racial egalitarians. More recent scholars have built on this foundation to study both sides of the slavery expansion issue in greater detail. Many historians have continued to study why prejudiced northerners cared about blocking slavery’s westward growth. In 1996, Gunja SenGupta argued that freestaters were motivated by a mixture of religious and economic ideals, including devotion to free labor and evangelical Protestantism. They were determined to transplant the North’s prosperous and godly society into Kansas. This meant keeping slavery, which they considered backward and
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immoral, out. Rather than distinguish between moral and economic motivations like the revisionists did, SenGupta showed how they were intertwined—and how they encouraged northern resistance to proslavery rivals. The resulting bloodshed “paved the path to the Civil War with compelling public images in the free states of civilization and savagery, freedom and dependence, North and South locked in mortal combat.”47 These images, as H. Craig Miner demonstrated, made an impression on people nationwide. Regardless of settlers’ motivations, the fact that Bleeding Kansas looked like a showdown between rival civilizations made it a key factor in the coming of the Civil War.48 Nicole Etcheson contributed to this scholarship by reminding readers that slavery involved more than race relations alone. The possibility of slavery’s expansion into Kansas raised questions about economics, political power, and individual rights. Even fiercely racist northern settlers resented efforts to force slavery into the territory, while southern settlers insisted on their right to hold slaves as property. Few combatants in Bleeding Kansas cared about the suffering of enslaved people, but they did care deeply about their own liberties. They fought a violent struggle over “the meaning of liberty in a slave-holding republic.”49 Together, SenGupta and Etcheson’s books explained precisely what pro- and antislavery partisans meant when they talked about “freedom” in Kansas. Recent scholars have also challenged the revisionists’ argument that proslavery Missourians were unenthusiastic about introducing slavery into Kansas. R. Douglas Hurt found that slavery was thriving in Missouri in the 1850s and that local prices for slaves were boosted by expectations that Kansas would be a slave state. Profit-seeking masters wanted their labor system to expand westward.50 Similarly, Diane Mutti Burke refuted the notion that nonslaveholding Missourians had no interest in maintaining or spreading slavery, pointing out that hiring or purchasing slaves was an important means of upward mobility.51 These studies suggest that slavery was neither marginal nor dying out in Missouri and make the “Border Ruffians” and “bushwhackers” easier to understand. Historians have also begun to explore slavery from a perspective that the revisionists never considered: that of the slaves themselves. Diane Mutti Burke examined how slaves in Missouri’s small-slaveholding households raised families, built communities, and resisted their masters. “Missouri slaves,” she concluded, “adapted and fashioned strong bonds of family and kinship despite the limitations of their separate living situations.”52 They used these networks to carve out autonomy within a system that was supposed to deny them any opportunity for self-determination. They also engaged in a level of resistance—from theft and work slowdowns to running away or killing whites—that deeply alarmed Missouri masters and
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their allies.53 Revisionists and other early scholars seldom thought of enslaved people as politically active or influential. But Mutti Burke’s findings revealed that we must consider slave resistance if we want to understand the actions of proslavery Missourians. If slaves had been perfectly obedient, would David Atchison have been so worried about antislavery migration to Kansas? Studies of enslaved people are part of a broader scholarly effort to expand the cast of characters in the history of Bleeding Kansas. Early studies focused on formal political and military history and typically excluded people who were not adult white men, thereby leaving out a majority of the population.54 Among other problems, this scholarship overlooked the continuing presence of Native Americans. But historians have started to fill this gap in the literature. In 1978, H. Craig Miner and William E. Unrau analyzed the displacement of thousands of Indians from Kansas during its territorial and early statehood periods. Broken treaties, legal trickery, and brute force combined to “open” the land for exploitation by white farmers, railroad builders, and other newcomers.55 Later scholars, including Joseph B. Herring, challenged this interpretation by showing that some Indians managed to adapt, without abandoning their traditions entirely, and remain in Kansas.56 This debate over a previously neglected subject is healthy. Recently, scholars have started to incorporate Native Americans more thoroughly into the story of Bleeding Kansas, rather than treating whiteIndian relations as a separate topic. In Bleeding Borders (2009), Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel showed that diverse Indian groups, including long-time residents and relatively recent arrivals, shaped the history of Kansas before, during, and after the territorial period. Indians participated in Bleeding Kansas in diverse ways, doing everything from catching runaway slaves to assisting abolitionists. Moreover, their resistance to displacement proved that Kansas was not a “white” territory, no matter what slavery’s ultimate fate might be. Oertel found that white settlers tended to unite across sectional and political lines against Native Americans. They disagreed more about slavery than about the defense of white supremacy.57 Recent studies have also demonstrated that disputes over slavery in the future Kansas Territory began well before 1854 and centered on the presence of slaves at mission settlements run by whites. Indians debated slavery long before New Englanders founded emigrant aid societies or Missourians formed Blue Lodges.58 Scholars have also begun to incorporate women, particularly northernborn white women, into the story of Bleeding Kansas. Far more is known about antislavery women than their proslavery counterparts, but recent research shows that we have much to learn by considering women’s
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participation in the territorial struggle. Studies of individual women, including Sara Robinson and Clarina Nichols, have revealed their active roles in Bleeding Kansas and the postwar battle over commemoration.59 Broader histories of free-state women have suggested that the harshness of western life made it difficult for them to carry out the social roles expected of them. But they also took on dramatically new duties, from smuggling weapons to harboring fugitive slaves.60 Historians of gender have also reminded us that there is more to learn about men in Bleeding Kansas. Northern and southern migrants brought conflicting beliefs about masculinity to the territory and these were reshaped by the violent struggle that unfolded there. “In the context of fighting about slavery and free labor,” Oertel noted, “Northerners and Southerners also argued about what kind of men they were.”61 Because notions of proper masculinity and femininity are interrelated, the more we learn about women in Bleeding Kansas, the more we will know about men, and vice versa. Of course, not all women in the border region were white, free, antislavery, or living in Kansas. We have learned about the vital roles played by Confederate women in Missouri’s guerrilla war, but we know much less about the proslavery women who migrated to Kansas in the 1850s.62 How did their experiences of Bleeding Kansas compare to those of freestate women like Sara Robinson? And what about white Unionist women in Missouri? Similarly, we have much to learn about how enslaved women experienced the turmoil of Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War on the border. Thanks to pioneering studies of court cases, including Celia’s famous murder trial, historians have gained insight into the lives, sufferings, and resistance of enslaved women in antebellum Missouri.63 But because male slaves were more likely to run away, and because military service was open only to men, women’s roles in the collapse of Missouri slavery and the development of free black communities in Kansas have received less scholarly attention. We need to know more about what the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of the men in the First Kansas Colored Infantry did before, during, and after the war. In sum, the scholarship on Bleeding Kansas has diversified, even as historians continue to debate key questions about settlers’ motivations and the consequences of their actions. The result is a more complex and comprehensive portrait of antebellum Kansas’s political, economic, social, and cultural history. Hopefully, historians will continue to broaden and deepen our understanding of the diverse people who played a part in Bleeding Kansas—not merely for the sake of inclusion, but also of completeness. The early histories of Bleeding Kansas were misleading not only because of their biases, but also because they overlooked most of the participants.
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* * * Historians of the Civil War on the Kansas–Missouri border have also moved away from purely partisan studies. But they continue to focus closely on the guerrilla war and their debates generally center on two key questions. The first relates to motivation. Why did some Missourians become guerrillas? The second relates to significance. How much, and in what ways, did guerrilla warfare shape the course and outcome of the Civil War? We have seen that the first question stirred up tremendous controversy among early historians of the guerrilla war. Confederate sympathizers like John Newman Edwards insisted that guerrillas fought solely to protect their families and homes against cruel invaders.64 Critics like William Connelley rejected this explanation and maintained that guerrillas, particularly leaders like William Quantrill, were naturally vicious and took advantage of the war to act out their depraved desires.65 Edwards’s interpretation focused on external (political) factors, while Connelley’s emphasized internal (psychological) dynamics. Both were overtly partisan. Since then, scholars have taken this debate in new directions. The basic distinction between external and internal motivations, however, remains visible. A key supporter of the “internal” thesis has been Michael Fellman, whose Inside War (1989) revived the study of Missouri’s brutal Civil War history.66 Deeply influenced by the trauma of the Vietnam War, Fellman saw war—including the often romanticized Civil War—as the clearest illustration of humans’ capacity for brutality. His account of the guerrilla conflict emphasized atrocities, sadism, and senseless violence. Like Connelley, Fellman developed a psychological interpretation of the guerrilla war. Rather than take sides, however, Fellman wanted to highlight the potential for cruelty that all people share. Whether Confederate or Unionist, guerrillas acted on the same ferocious impulses. Their utter rejection of social norms was an appalling demonstration of how war unleashes the worst in human nature. Participants were ordinary people, as Edwards insisted, but their behavior was neither chivalrous nor rational. Missouri’s Civil War consisted of “thousands of brutal moments” in which guerrillas terrorized and tortured, looted and burned, killed and dismembered their enemies.67 Missourians had not expected to suffer, or to commit, these acts, but the war shattered prewar codes of conduct. The process was psychological and the result was terrifying. Noting that some of “Bloody Bill” Anderson’s men decorated their horses with human scalps, Fellman concluded: “Drenched in the endless terrors of a guerrilla war, combatants sought release in the annihilation of the face of the Other.”68 Fellman used the guerrilla struggle to explore the darkest aspects of the Civil War, of warfare itself, and of the human psyche.
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Fellman shattered the image of the knightly guerrilla, but his psychological interpretation left questions unanswered. Why did some Missourians become guerrillas while others did not? Why did some support the Confederacy, while others (indeed, most) defended the Union? To tackle these issues, other recent scholars have used the methods of economic, social, and political history, rather than a psychological approach, to identify external factors that promoted guerrilla warfare. These studies carefully analyze Confederate guerrillas’ ideas, loyalties, and economic interests in order to understand their actions. Protecting slavery was undoubtedly an important motivation. In an influential 1977 article, Donald R. Bowen used census records to show that secessionist guerrillas from Jackson County, Missouri, tended to come from wealthy, slaveholding households. Neither impoverished nor isolated, they came from some of the county’s leading families. Bowen’s numerical evidence was compelling. In 1860, one in four white families in Jackson County owned slaves. Among young men who did not participate in the Confederate guerrilla uprising, 19 percent came from slaveholding households. Nonslaveholders were underrepresented among guerrillas. But nearly 50 percent of guerrillas owned slaves or came from families that did, making slaveholders highly overrepresented in that group. Slaveholding guerrillas also tended to own more slaves than was typical in Jackson County. In 1860, the average Jackson County master owned four slaves, but the average among guerrillas was around seven.69 The timing of major guerrilla activity also underscores slavery’s importance. Christopher Phillips pointed out that the escalation of guerrilla activity in 1863 followed the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1. “[S]lavery and emancipation,” he concluded, “provided a collective ideological basis” for Confederate guerrilla warfare.70 These studies suggest that Edwards was right to see guerrilla activity as a rational response to outside threats—but that the defense of slavery was far more important than Edwards admitted. Well-to-do Missourians owned land and other forms of property, of course, and these interests also motivated guerrillas. Mark W. Geiger has identified a previously hidden economic aspect of Missouri’s devastating Civil War. After exhaustive research in court cases, Geiger uncovered a large-scale financial conspiracy involving Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson and other Missouri secessionists. In 1861, Jackson funneled money into the heavily slaveholding areas of Little Dixie, where Confederate sympathies were strong. The plan was to use the money to arm and equip the Missouri State Guard, and local slaveholders eagerly promised to repay the loans if the Confederate government did not. But the conspiracy backfired: Missouri never seceded, the Confederacy never coughed up the money,
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and the conspirators were stuck with the debt. Many of them lost their land to foreclosure. Bitter and destitute, they turned to guerrilla warfare to retaliate against the U.S. government they blamed for the disaster.71 Unlike the highly polarized Connelley–Edwards debate, current interpretations of guerrillas’ motivations are not mutually exclusive. All probably contain a kernel of truth. Geiger, Bowen, and Phillips help us understand the tangible interests at stake for secessionist Missourians. Their ideals and property were threatened and they responded with violence. The ferocity of that violence, however, is difficult to explain without some reference to psychological factors. Here, Fellman’s work is useful. Together, these studies have painted a portrait of the Confederate guerrilla that is more complex and detailed than those sketched by Connelley or Edwards. Hopefully, future studies will consider Missouri Unionists in similar depth. But how much did guerrilla warfare impact the Civil War? Historians disagree. Traditionally, military historians concentrated on the grand battles and campaigns fought east of the Mississippi River. Recently, however, they have taken greater interest in the war’s unconventional operations, perhaps partly because of America’s extended counter-guerrilla campaigns in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Guerrilla studies have flourished. Among the most important is Daniel E. Sutherland’s A Savage Conflict (2009). Sutherland analyzed Missouri bushwhacking alongside guerrilla warfare across the South. Wherever Union forces operated, guerrilla bands resisted them. According to Sutherland, they had a complex but decisive impact on war’s outcome. On the one hand, guerrillas frustrated Union commanders by tying down soldiers, disrupting supply and communication lines, and slowing Union advances. Federal troops responded by destroying private property and cracking down on civilians. On the other hand, guerrillas also frequently preyed upon Confederate citizens. Amid the chaos of the Confederate home front, guerrilla activity spiraled out of control, undermining civilian morale and convincing many people that the Confederate government could not keep order. Thus, guerrillas ended up damaging their own cause. Regardless of whether they extended or shortened the Confederacy’s life, Sutherland asserted, guerrillas “helped decide the outcome of the Civil War.”72 Other historians remain skeptical about this emphasis on guerrillas and the darker aspects of the Civil War. Among the most important critics is Mark E. Neely. In 2007, Neely published a provocative book with an equally provocative title: The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction. Compared to other conflicts, particularly U.S. wars against Native Americans, Neely argued, the Civil War was notable for its scarcity of atrocities against civilians and for commanders’ adherence to laws of war. He was, moreover, not convinced that Missouri’s guerrilla warfare and resulting repression of
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civilians had transformed the Civil War into a “hard” war waged against noncombatants. Indeed, Neely was not persuaded that Missouri was decisive at all. He argued that Missouri’s guerrilla conflict “had no discernible effect” on local Union commanders, who managed to fight against bushwhackers while dealing with conventional Confederate invasions, including Sterling Price’s 1864 campaign. And when they did fight guerrillas, Union commanders didn’t throw out the laws of war; rather, “the principal direct effect of the Missouri experience” was to push Union civilian and military leaders to “commission, codify, and publish rules to limit the destructiveness of war.”73 Missouri was neither a decisive theater of the war, Neely concluded, nor a breeding ground for uniquely destructive or indiscriminate policies. Historians will continue to debate the origins, consequences, and significance of Missouri’s guerrilla war. What is most important about the recent discussions is that they have been much more constructive than the early, highly polarized, arguments. By focusing on questions of cause and effect, degrees of significance, and change over time, recent scholars have reached far more insightful findings than their predecessors, who concentrated on defining who the “good guys” were. * * * In 1879, thousands of African Americans migrated to Kansas from the South. Pushed from their homes by racial violence and poverty, they were attracted to Kansas in part because of its image as a stronghold of liberty and equality. The land of John Brown, James Lane, and the First Kansas Colored Infantry seemed like a promised land for these “Exodusters,” whose journey was named after the Book of Exodus’s account of the Jews’ flight from Egypt. “I am anxious to reach your state,” wrote a Louisiana Exoduster to Kansas governor John St. John, because “of the sacredness of her soil washed by the blood of humanitarians for the cause of freedom.”74 Governor St. John responded by urging Kansans to welcome and assist the often impoverished migrants, reminding them that “Kansas has a history devoted to liberty.”75 The Exodusters did not always find what they were looking for in Kansas. Many remained stuck in poverty, farming poor soil or toiling in low-wage jobs. But the Exoduster migration reminds us of why historical memory matters. Not only does it shape our sense of identity, individually and collectively, but it also informs our present actions and our goals for the future. The triumphant narrative of Kansas history, publicized by people like Charles Sumner Gleed and William E. Connelley, reached a wide audience. Ultimately, it helped spark the first mass migration of African Americans out of the South.
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Benjamin “Pap” Singleton The “Exoduster” phenomenon did not happen spontaneously. One of its key promoters and organizers was Benjamin “Pap” Singleton. He helped turn memories of Kansas as a land of freedom into a mass migration of thousands of people. Kansas’s African-American population more than doubled between 1870 and 1880, partly because of Singleton’s efforts to establish black communities throughout the eastern portion of the state. Singleton had considerable experience with migration in search of freedom. Born a slave in Tennessee, Singleton escaped in 1846 at age thirty-seven. He settled in Detroit, where he helped other fugitive slaves preserve their newly-won liberty. Singleton returned to Union-occupied Tennessee during the Civil War, determined to help former slaves prosper. But by the 1870s, bitter opposition from the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists convinced Singleton that African Americans had to leave the South to enjoy true freedom. Like many other Americans of that era, Singleton saw the West as a place of opportunity. Cheaper land and growing railroad networks made Kansas economically attractive to Singleton, while its history of antislavery activity made it seem like a likely place for blacks to build flourishing communities. Singleton visited Kansas’s southeastern corner and liked what he saw. Upon returning to Tennessee, he coordinated with ministers and other influential people to encourage African Americans to move to Kansas. He held picnics, printed fliers (one entitled “The Advantages of Living in a Free State”), and published newspaper advertisements to encourage westward migration. The first proposed African-American “colony” in southeastern Kansas never materialized, but between 1877 and 1881, tens of thousands of blacks from Tennessee and other southern states relocated to Kansas. Some settled in separate towns, such as Nicodemus in Graham County, which is now a National Historic Site. Others moved to predominantly black neighborhoods, such as Topeka’s “Tennessee Town.” The massive wave of migration, which peaked in 1879, attracted considerable attention, including a Congressional investigation. When he was called to testify to the investigating committee, Singleton proudly reported having helped more than 7,000 people move to Kansas. By the 1880s, however, Singleton had grown disillusioned with Kansas and the rest of the United States and began to promote black migration to Africa. Still, Singleton did not regret his leading role in the Exoduster movement. His Congressional testimony clearly reflected his satisfaction in being, as many contemporaries believed, the “Father of the Negro Exodus.”
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Memories of Bleeding Kansas continue to inspire people in the Don Fambrough, University of Kansas football coach in the 1970s and 1980s, 21st century, in all kinds of ways. used the Lawrence Massacre to fire up Perhaps most famously, they bethe team long after he formally retired. came embedded in the cultural “They started the war!” he shouted in a phenomenon of “The Border 2009 pregame pep talk. “They sent that War”: the sports rivalry between (expletive) (William) Quantrill over here! the University of Kansas (located in That (expletive) killed all the men, raped Lawrence!) and the University of all the women, burned the town down!” Missouri. According to promoters, the fierce competition between these schools stems directly from the bloody battles of the 1850s and 1860s. Kansas fans who hold up pictures of John Brown while rooting for the Jayhawks (shortened from Jayhawkers) make this seem plausible. So do the Missouri fans who cheer for the Tigers while wearing shirts proclaiming that “William Quantrill Is My Homeboy.” No one who has attended one of these games can deny history’s modern-day relevance. (Alas, Missouri’s 2011 transfer into the Southeastern Conference may spell the end of the rivalry.) The real history of the Kansas–Missouri collegiate rivalry is not so simple. The Missouri Tigers, for one thing, are named after a Unionist militia unit that protected Columbia, Missouri (home of the university), against Sterling Price’s Confederate invaders. Moreover, despite the longstanding rivalry, which dates back to 1891, the first clear reference to a Kansas–Missouri game as a “border war” was not made until 1990, and the schools did not officially adopt the title of “The Border War” until 2002. (Two years later, it was renamed “The Border Showdown.”) The notion that the rivalry grew straight out of the Civil War is, one historian has concluded, “a lesson in historical memory, how quickly it can be shaped and transformed, and how eagerly the public will grab onto a good history story, regardless of its accuracy.”76 It is also a lesson in the commercialization of history. “The Border War” was good advertising for ticket sellers, T-shirt vendors, and everyone else invested in the business of college sports. Most importantly, “The Border War” reminds us that the past, as we choose to remember it, is always present in our lives. Bleeding Kansas, like the Civil War, left scars that still have not healed. Those who forget the past might not be doomed to repeat it. But they risk being deceived by those who manipulate historical memory for selfish purposes.
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6 7 8 9
14 15 16 17 18
Richard H. Sheridan, “‘A Most Unusual Gathering’: The 1913 Semi-Centennial Memorial Reunion of the Survivors of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence,” Kansas History 20, no. 3 (Autumn 1997), 186. Ibid, 188–189. “Lawrence Raid for Revenge,” Kansas City Post, October 4, 1913, in Donald R. Hale, The William Clarke Quantrill Men Reunions, 1898–1929 (Independence, MO: Blue and Gray Book Shoppe, 2001). “After Quantrell Raiders,” Omaha Daily Bee, August 31, 1905. “After Quantrell Raiders,” (Washington, D.C.) Evening Star, September 1, 1905; (Honolulu) Hawaiian Star, September 14, 1905; Jeremy Neely, “The Quantrill Men Reunions: The Missouri-Kansas Border War, Fifty Years On,” in Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri: The Long Civil War on the Border, Eds. Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti Burke (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2013), 254. Sheridan, “Most Unusual Gathering,” 189. Contemporaries often misspelled Quantrill’s last name this way. David W. Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2001). Sheridan, “Most Unusual Gathering,” 188. For analysis, see Matthew C. Hulbert, “The Business of Guerrilla Memory: Selling Massacres and the Captivity Narrative of Sergeant Thomas M. Goodman,” in The Civil War Guerrilla: Unfolding the Black Flag in History, Memory and Myth, Eds. Joseph M. Beilein, Jr., and Matthew C. Hulbert (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2015): 123–144. Thos. M. Goodman, A Thrilling Record: Founded on Facts and Observations Obtained during Ten Days’ Experience with Colonel William T. Anderson (The Notorious Guerrilla Chieftain) (Des Moines: Mills & Co., 1868), 24–25, 27, 30. Joseph M. Beilein, Jr., “‘Nothing but Truth Is History’: William E. Connelley, William H. Gregg, and the Pillaging of Guerrilla History,” in Beilein and Hulbert, Civil War Guerrilla, 207–229, esp. pp. 215–217. See also Daniel E. Sutherland, “Memories of a Rooted Sorrow: The Legacy of the Guerrilla War,” Civil War History 62, no. 1 (March 2016): 8–35. Paul R. Petersen, Quantrill of Missouri: The Making of a Guerrilla Warrior: The Man, the Myth, the Soldier (Nashville: Cumberland House, 2003), 435. Missouri Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Reminiscences of the Women of Missouri during the Sixties (Jefferson City: Hugh Stephens Printing Co., n.d.), 4, 5. Ibid, 27, 91, 124. On survivors’ commemoration of the massacre, see Sheridan, “Most Unusual Gathering.” Ibid, 180. Edwin A. Pollard, The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates (New York: E.B. Treat & Co., 1867), 70. Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz, “‘The Noble Wife of the Late Champion of Freedom’: Mary Brown’s 1882 Visit to Topeka and John Brown’s Enduring Legacy,” Kansas History 35, no. 4 (Winter 2012): 218–233 (quotation on p. 230).
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20 21 22 23 24
26 27 28 29 30 31
32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46
Julie Courtwright, “‘A Goblin That Drives Her Insane’: Sara Robinson and the History Wars of Kansas, 1894–1911,” Kansas History 25, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 102–123. Ibid, 110–111. Charles Robinson, The Kansas Conflict (Lawrence: Journal Publishing Company, 1898), vii. Ibid, 265–301. Ibid, 475. R. Blakeslee Gilpin, John Brown Still Lives! America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2011), 144–157 (quotation on p. 154). This account relies on Matthew C. Hulbert, “Constructing Guerrilla Memory: John Newman Edwards and Missouri’s Irregular Lost Cause,” Journal of the Civil War Era 2, no. 1 (March 2012): 58–81. James M. McPherson, This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War (New York: Oxford University, 2007), 90–91. Hulbert, “Constructing Guerrilla Memory,” 62. John N. Edwards, Noted Guerrillas, or the Warfare of the Border (St. Louis: Bryan, Brand, 1877), 19–20. Ibid, 190. Ibid, 446. Dan T. Carter, “The Transformation of a Klansman,” New York Times, October 4, 1991, www.nytimes.com/1991/10/04/opinion/the-transformation-of-a-klans man.html (December 23, 2015). Edwards, Noted Guerrillas, 277. This account relies on Beilein, “Nothing but Truth.” William Elsey Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars (Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch, 1910), 41. Ibid, 42–44. Ibid, 206–207. Ibid, 207–208. Ibid, 284–285. For an excellent overview, see Gunja SenGupta, “Bleeding Kansas,” Kansas History 24, no. 4 (December 2001): 318–341. James Ford Rhodes, History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850: Vol. II: 1854–1860 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), 78–301. Ibid, 217. James C. Malin, The Nebraska Question, 1852–1854 (Lawrence: n.p., 1953), 15. James C. Malin, John Brown and the Legend of Fifty-Six (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1942). Paul W. Gates, Fifty Million Acres: Conflicts over Kansas Land Policy, 1854–1890 (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1954). Charles Desmond Hart, “The Natural Limits of Slavery Expansion: KansasNebraska, 1854,” Kansas Historical Quarterly 34, no. 1 (1968): 32–50. James A. Rawley, Race and Politics: “Bleeding Kansas” and the Coming of the Civil War (Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1969), 271.
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47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58
64 65 66
Gunja SenGupta, For God and Mammon: Evangelicals and Entrepreneurs, Masters and Slaves in Territorial Kansas, 1854–1860 (Athens: University of Georgia, 1996), 2–3. H. Craig Miner, Seeding Civil War: Kansas in the National News, 1854–1858 (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2008). Nicole Etcheson, Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2004), 5. R. Douglas Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery in Missouri’s Little Dixie (Columbia: University of Missouri, 1992), 226, 236–237, 294. Diane Mutti Burke, On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small-Slaveholding Households, 1815–1865 (Athens: University of Georgia, 2010), 51, 107–118. Ibid, 201. Ibid, 173–186. Jonathan Earle and Diane Mutti Burke, “Introduction: Revisiting the Long Civil War on the Border,” in Earle and Burke, Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri, 5. H. Craig Miner and William E. Unrau, The End of Indian Kansas: A Study of Cultural Revolution, 1854–1871 (Lawrence: The Regents of Kansas, 1978). Joseph B. Herring, The Enduring Indians of Kansas: A Century and a Half of Acculturation (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1990). Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009). Kevin Abing, “Before Bleeding Kansas: Christian Missionaries, Slavery, and the Shawnee Indians in Pre-Territorial Kansas, 1844–1854,” Kansas History 24, no. 1 (March 2001): 54–70; Kristen K. Epps, “Before the Border War: Slavery and the Settlement of the Western Frontier,” in Earle and Burke, Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri, 39–46. Courtwright, “Goblin That Drives Her Insane”; Marilyn S. Blackwell and Kristen T. Oertel, Frontier Feminist: Clarina Howard Nichols and the Politics of Motherhood (Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2010). Oertel, Bleeding Borders; Nicole Etcheson, “‘Labouring for the Freedom of This Territory’: Free-State Kansas Women in the 1850s,” Kansas History 21, no. 2 ( June 1998): 68–87; Margaret M.R. Kellow, “‘For the Sake of Suffering Kansas’: Lydia Maria Child, Gender, and the Politics of the 1850s,” Journal of Women’s History 5, no. 2 (Fall 1993): 32–49. Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel, “‘The Free Sons of the North’ versus ‘The Myrmidons of Border-Ruffianism’: What Makes a Man in Bleeding Kansas?” Kansas History 25, no. 3 (Autumn 2002), 176. LeeAnn Whites, “Forty Shirts and a Wagonload of Wheat: Women, the Domestic Supply Line, and the Civil War on the Western Border,” Journal of the Civil War Era 1, no. 1 (March 2011): 56–78. Melton A. McLaurin, Celia, a Slave (Athens: University of Georgia, 1991); Wilma King, “‘Mad’ Enough to Kill: Enslaved Women, Murder, and Southern Courts,” Journal of African American History 91, no. 1 (Winter 2007): 37–56. Edwards, Noted Guerrillas. Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars. Michael Fellman, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri during the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University, 1989).
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67 68 69
71 72 73 74 75 76
Ibid, 24. Ibid, 189. Don R. Bowen, “Guerrilla War in Western Missouri, 1862–1865: Historical Extensions of the Relative Deprivation Hypothesis,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 19, no. 1 (January 1977): 30–51. Christopher Phillips, “The Hard-Line War: The Ideological Basis of Irregular Warfare in the Western Border States,” in Beilein and Hulbert, Civil War Guerrilla, 13–41 (quotation on p. 31). Mark W. Geiger, Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861–1865 (New Haven: Yale University, 2010). Daniel E. Sutherland, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2009) (quotation p. xiii). Mark E. Neely, The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2007) (quotation on p. 206). Nell Irvin Painter, Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction ( New York: W.W. Norton, 1992), 159. Ibid, 231. Jennifer L. Weber, “‘William Quantrill Is My Homeboy’: Or, The Border War Goes to College,” in Earle and Burke, Bleeding Kansas, Bleeding Missouri, 259–275 (quotation on p. 259).
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An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas (1854) Note: The original spelling, grammar, and punctuation of the primary documents have been preserved. Editorial changes to clarify or condense the original text appear within brackets.
ome of the controversy over Kansas stemmed from conflicting interpretations of the law that created the territory. These selections cover the most politically significant elements of the Kansas–Nebraska Act, including those related to the territorial government, voting rights and requirements, Indian policy, and, of course, slavery.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all that part of the territory of the United States included within the following limits . . . is hereby, created into a temporary government by the name of the Territory of Nebraska; and when admitted as a State or States, the said Territory or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of the admission [. . .]. SEC. 19. And be it further enacted, That all that part of the Territory of the United States included within the following limits, except such portions thereof as are hereinafter expressly exempted from the operations of this act, to wit, beginning at a point on the western boundary of the State of Missouri, where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude crosses the same; thence west on said parallel to the eastern boundary of New Mexico; thence north on said boundary to latitude thirty-eight; thence following
said boundary westward to the east boundary of the Territory of Utah, on the summit of the Rocky Mountains; thence northward on said summit to the fortieth parallel of latitude, thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the State of Missouri; thence south with the western boundary of said State to the place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby, created into a temporary government by the name of the Territory of Kansas; and when admitted as a State or States, the said Territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union with or without slavery, as their Constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission: Provided, That nothing in this act contained shall be construed to inhibit the government of the United States from dividing said Territory into two or more Territories, in such manner and at such times as Congress shall deem convenient and proper, or from attaching any portion of said Territory to any other State or Territory of the United States: Provided further, That nothing in this act contained shall be construed to impair the rights of person or property now pertaining to the Indians in said Territory, so long as such rights shall remain unextinguished by treaty between the United States and such Indians, or to include any territory which, by treaty with any Indian tribe, is not, without the consent of said tribe, to be included within the territorial limits or jurisdiction of any State or Territory; but all such territory shall be excepted out of the boundaries, and constitute no part of the Territory of Kansas, until said tribe shall signify their assent to the President of the United States to be included within the said Territory of Kansas, or to affect the authority of the government of the United States to make any regulation respecting such Indians, their lands, property, or other rights, by treaty, law, or otherwise, which it would have been competent to the government to make if this act had never passed. SEC. 20. And be it further enacted, That the executive power and authority in and over said Territory of Kansas shall be vested in a Governor, who shall hold his office for four years, and until his successor shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the President of the United States. The Governor shall reside within said Territory, and shall be commanderin-chief of the militia thereof. He may grant pardons and respites for offences against the laws of said Territory, and reprieves for offences against the laws of the United States, until the decision of the President can be made known thereon; he shall commission all officers who shall be appointed to office under the laws of the said Territory, and shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed. . . . SEC. 22. And be it further enacted, That the legislative power and authority of said Territory shall be vested in the Governor and a Legislative Assembly.
The Legislative Assembly shall consist of a Council and House of Representatives. The Council shall consist of thirteen members, having the qualifications of voters, as hereinafter prescribed, whose term of service shall continue two years. The House of Representatives shall, at its first session, consist of twenty-six members possessing the same qualifications as prescribed for members of the Council, and whose term of service shall continue one year [. . .]. SEC. 23. And be it further enacted, That every free white male inhabitant above the age of twenty-one years, who shall be an actual resident of said Territory, and shall possess the qualifications hereinafter prescribed, shall be entitled to vote at the first election, and shall be eligible to any office within the said Territory; but the qualifications of voters, and of holding office, at all subsequent elections, shall be such as shall be prescribed by the Legislative Assembly: Provided, That the right of suffrage and of holding office shall be exercised only by citizens of the United States, and those who shall have declared, on oath, their intention to become such, and shall have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of this act: And, provided further, That no officer, soldier, seaman, or marine, or other person in the army or navy of the United States, or attached to troops in the service of the United States, shall be allowed to vote or hold office in said Territory by reason of being on service therein [. . .]. SEC. 28. And be it further enacted, That the provisions of the act entitled “An act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from, the service of their masters,” approved February twelfth, seventeen hundred and ninety-three, and the provisions of the act entitled “An act to amend, and supplementary to, the aforesaid act,” approved September eighteenth, eighteen hundred and fifty, be, and the same are hereby, declared to extend to and be in full force within the limits of the said Territory of Kansas [. . .]. SEC. 32. And be it further enacted [. . .].That the Constitution, and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect within the said Territory of Kansas as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March sixth, eighteen hundred and twenty, which, being inconsistent with the principle of nonintervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of eighteen hundred and fifty, commonly called the Compromise Measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void;
it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to revive or put in force any law or regulation which may have existed prior to the act of sixth of March, eighteen hundred and twenty, either protecting, establishing, prohibiting, or abolishing slavery [. . .]. SEC. 37. And be it further enacted, That all treaties, laws, and other, engagements made by the government of the United States with the Indian tribes inhabiting the territories embraced within this act, shall be faithfully and rigidly observed, notwithstanding any thing contained in this act; and that the existing agencies and superintendencies of said Indians be continued with the same powers and duties which are now prescribed by law, except that the President of the United States may, at his discretion, change the location of the office of superintendent. Source: “An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas,” The Avalon Project, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/kanneb.asp (accessed January 2, 2016).
To the People of Ohio (1854)
he following appeal appeared in Ohio shortly after passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act and was reprinted in the National Era, an antislavery newspaper based in Washington, D.C. (Three years earlier, the National Era had published a serialized version of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.) Its indignation at the Kansas–Nebraska Act, warnings about the national influence of the “slave power,” and call for northerners to unite across party lines, make this a good example of how activists mobilized voters against slavery expansion.
FELLOW CITIZENS: The consummation of the first great act of the stupendous scheme for the extension of Slavery, and the establishment of the Slave Dominion over the North American continent by the repeal of the Missouri Prohibition, and other threatened future acts, part and parcel of the same scheme, such as the proposed expenditure of millions in the purchase of territory from Mexico, utterly worthless except as a basis for the operations of the slave interest, and the proposed waste of millions upon millions more in the re-establishment of Slavery in Cuba, in case of the enfranchisement of the bondmen of that island by its present Government, call loudly upon all true patriots to forego past political differences, and unite as a band of brother-freemen in defence of our own rights, and the rights of human nature. God forbid that our country should alone, among the nations of the earth, take upon herself the hateful reproach of Slavery Propagandism! But if this odium is to be averted, the People must themselves take the matter in hand. Let it ever be remembered, that while the contest
between Freedom and Slavery—between the advocates of a great public wrong and the maintainers of Public Faith was going on in Washington, not a word of remonstrance against the meditated iniquity was uttered by either branch of the Legislature recently assembled at Columbus. The partisans of the existing National Administration, availing themselves of their majority in the Legislature, not only thwarted every effort to express the honest indignation of the People of the state against the wrong, but elected to the Senate of the United States a known supporter of the repeal of the Missouri Prohibition, thus placing the moral weight of Ohio in the scale of Slavery Extension. We, by no means, charge the members of the old Democratic Party with approval of this conduct; but we earnestly invite them to consider whether there is any mode of manifesting their just indignation, in view of these great wrongs, except by repudiating the present National Administration, and the Political Leaders through whose influence these shameful results have been accomplished. At all events, it cannot be doubted that these things demand the promptest intervention of the WHOLE PEOPLE; and not these things only, but many other matters, both of National and State concern. The time has passed for half-way measures in respect to Slavery. The repeal of the Missouri Prohibition has demonstrated the utter futility of all legislative compromises. It is necessary now to recur to the Constitution. In that instrument, it will be vain to seek for any recognition of Slavery, even as a fact, outside of Slave States, or for any power given to Congress to legislate in its behalf. Outside of Slave States, then, there must be no Slavery. There must be no slave-selling, slave-catching, or slave-holding, under National legislation. The Slave Power must be overthrown, and the influence of the National Government must be placed on the side of Freedom [. . .]. In view of these things, we invite our fellow-citizens, who, without regard to former party distinctions, are willing to unite in the organization of a DEMOCRACY OF THE PEOPLE, against the supporters of Slavery and unjust and unequal laws, by whatever name they may call themselves, to assemble in Convention, at Columbus, on the 13th day of July, 1854, the anniversary of the Ordinance of 1787, for the purpose of consultation upon the momentous aspects of public affairs, and of taking such action as circumstances require. Source: “To the People of Ohio,” National Era, June 22, 1854.
Negro-Slavery, No Evil (1854), Benjamin F. Stringfellow
his excerpt from a long pamphlet written by Benjamin F. Stringfellow for the Platte County Self-Defensive Association clearly expresses the proslavery position on Kansas. Some white Missourians thought Stringfellow went too far later in the pamphlet when he proclaimed the superiority of slave over free society. But this passage, which expresses alarm at the prospect of abolitionists swarming into Kansas—and beyond—reflects a widely shared sentiment. These later promoted the preemptive actions of the Border Ruffians.
In obedience to a resolution adopted by the Platte County Self-Defensive Association, we proceed to lay before the public the immediate causes which led to the formation of the Association; to explain its purposes, and to suggest the means, which seem to us proper to be adopted by the citizens of the slaveholding States, to defeat the designs of the abolitionists [. . .]. The purpose of the Association in adopting this resolution, was to expose fully the dangers to which slave-property in Missouri, and especially on the borders of Kansas, is subjected; to arouse the attention of all good citizens, not of slaveholding States alone, but of the whole Union, to the results which must follow, if the abolitionists succeed in their purposes; and, if possible, to suggest means by which those results may be prevented. It is known, that on the passage of the bills for the organization of Kansas and Nebraska, the leading abolitionists of the Eastern cities organized associations under the name of “Emigration Aid Societies,” the avowed purpose of which is to throw into Kansas a horde who shall not only exclude slaveholders from that Territory, but in the end abolish slavery in Missouri. Were these miscalled “emigrants” poor and honest farmers, seeking a home and the advantages of a new country for themselves and families,
we might applaud the charity of those who originated the scheme; were these associations fair means of deciding the contest between the friends and opponents of negro-slavery, we might admire the energy of the abolitionists: but when we find these miscalled emigrants really negrothieves, their purpose not to procure a home in Kansas, but to drive slaveholders therefrom; that they are not freemen, but paupers, who have sold themselves to Ely Thayer & Co., to do their masters’ bidding; who hesitate not to proclaim that they are expert in stealing slaves; that they intend to follow their calling, self-defence requires that means equally active, equally efficient, should be adopted by those who are threatened. Situated on the border of Kansas, we were the first to receive the attack. Those among us, who had hitherto been restrained by fear, emboldened by the prospect of such efficient aid, begun openly to avow their sentiments; the timid, became freesoilers; the bold, abolitionists. The emissaries of the “Emigration Aid Societies” were arriving; they were boasting that “they would shortly be the strongest, and then they would drive slaveholders from Kansas!” They declared that “they had run off slaves, would run off more, and would, finally, drive slaveholders from Missouri!” In our streets, one of the least prudent proclaimed, that he would “willingly help to burn the d---d slaveholding town.” It seemed as if Weston were about to become the head-quarters of their operations. It was feared, and subsequent events have vindicated, that our fear was not without foundation, that among our traders and merchants there were those who at heart were against us; others who loved money so much more than their country, they would, for the gain from the abolition trade, encourage them to come among us. There were among us, too, a large number of free negroes, most of them, as usual, of bad character; their houses, the natural places of resort for abolitionists, at which to meet, and tamper with slaves, corrupt them, entice them to run away, and furnish them facilities for escape. About this time, a large number of slaves made their escape: three, from the neighborhood of Weston, were taken to Iowa, and free papers, with full instructions as to their route, were found upon them. Abolitionists were not content to confine their efforts to the expulsion of slaveholders from Kansas, but were evidently already at work in “abolishing slavery” in Missouri. The law, seldom sufficient to punish, was wholly inefficient to prevent their crimes. It was evident, that the active, individual efforts of all good citizens would be needed to aid the law in the protection of our rights, in the preservation of our property. The security of our slave-property was not alone involved; our very lives were endangered. The negro-thief, the abolitionists, who induces a slave to run away, is a criminal of a far more dangerous character than the
house-breaker, or the highway robber,—his crime of a far higher grade than that of the incendiary—it ranks, at least, with that of the midnight assassin. To induce a slave to escape, involves not merely to the master the loss of that slave, of that amount of property; but it brings in its train far more serious consequences. Other slaves are thereby induced to make like attempts; a hatred for their masters, whom they begin to regard as their oppressors, is thus begotten; and this, too, often is followed by arson and murder. To guard as far as possible against such fearful evils, was the immediate cause of our organization. Not only was the immediate pressing necessity such as to compel our organization, but the future consequences which must follow the success of the schemes of the abolitionists, are such as to awaken the fears, and to call for the active and continued efforts of all good citizens. Even in the future, we are more immediately interested than those who are more removed from the field of their operations. Already the effect of the coming of such a band of abolitionists to our border, has been not only to reduce the value of our slaves, but of our land. Slaveholders fear to come among us; good men who are opposed to slavery, will not come; and should Kansas be made a harbor for negro-thieves, curs, now the most prosperous portion of our State, will in a short time become a desert waste. We must at once sell our slaves, abandon the culture of hemp, our great staple; suffer our fields to lie idle, until slaveholders driven from our State, Missouri shall fall into the hands of freesoilers, and a new people be brought to take our places. Not less is the interest which other slaveholding States have in the end, though seemingly it be less in the beginning of this struggle. The abolitionists are fully awake to the true nature, the future consequences of this struggle. They proclaim the purpose of their efforts to be, to surround Missouri with non-slaveholding States; force her to abolish slavery; then wheel her into their ranks for an attack upon the States south of her. Missouri vanquished, Arkansas and Texas are looked upon as easy victims. Slavery then restricted to a small space, they rejoice in the contemplation of an early exhibition of another Haytian liberation. Let not our friends in the other slaveholding States fold their arms, and by their supineness suffer us to fall victims to abolition energy. If they do, the day will come, and that not far distant, when they, too, will have a battle to fight at home, at their very doors. The plan of our Association is not aggressive, but as our name imparts, truly self-defensive. We are pledged diligently to investigate and promptly bring to punishment every violation of the laws which have been enacted for the protection of our slave-property.
We have determined to adopt all proper means to rid ourselves of the free negroes, who are unfit and have no right by law to remain among us: and to prevent all such as are not members of some white family, and subject to their control, from residing in our county. We have also pledged ourselves to expel from our county all who shall be found proclaiming principles which tend to induce our slaves to escape, and lead them to insurrection and rebellion. Though we fully recognise the duty of all good citizens to obey the law, to rely upon the law; where there is no law, the right of self-defence requires that we should resort to the strong hand for self-protection. We have no law by which the expression of abolition sentiments is made a penal offence, and yet it is a crime of the highest grade. It is not within even the much abused liberty of speech; but in a slaveholding community, the expression of such sentiments is a positive act, more criminal, more dangerous, than kindling the torch of the incendiary, mixing the poison of the assassin. The necessity for a law punishing such a crime, has not, until now, been felt in Missouri. Until such a law is enacted, self-protection demands that we should guard against such crimes. Such are the means we propose to adopt for the immediate protection of our property. Source: Negro-Slavery, No Evil; or The North and the South. The Effects of Negro-Slavery, as Exhibited in the Census, by a Comparison of the Condition of the Slaveholding and Non-Slaveholding States. Considered in a Report Made to the Platte County Self-Defensive Association, by a Committee, Through B.F. Stringfellow, Chairman (St. Louis: M. Niedner & Co., 1854), 3–6.
Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company, Plan of Operation (1854)
ater renamed the New England Emigrant Aid Company, the MEAC was organized by Eli Thayer while the Kansas–Nebraska Bill was under debate in Congress. This “Plan of Operation” explains the motivations and goals of the group’s founders and outlines how the Company would operate. Its mixed origins as a business venture and antislavery campaign are clearly visible in this document.
Mass. Emigrant Aid Co. Purpose—To organize emigration to the West & bring it under a system Benefits arising from this arrangement—1st. to the Emigrants 2nd. To the Country 3rd to the Company 1st to the Emigrants— 1st by diminishing the expenses of the journey & protecting from fraud & delay by providing food & shelter at the lowest price while they are constructing their habitation saves them & their families from exposure in the wilderness by the Co. being the real Pioneer. 2d is advise & assistance of the Co’s agents in securing a good location in the West. 3d by the immediate introduction of the mechanical arts of all kinds among them. 4th by the immediate advantage of the press the school & the church— so that the morals & intelligence of their children shall not be forfeited by a life of semibarbarianism as often happens to settlers in the West.
2d to the Country 1st by extending the area of freedom by creating new free states a cordon of the sons of liberty to the Gulf of Mexico 2nd by reducing the poorer population of our Eastern Cities—necessarily vicious here probably will be virtuous there—vice often comes from poverty 3. by increasing the Commission of the East by making Free States in the South West- Statistics It is recommended by your Committee that the first Settlement made by this Company bear the name of that City in this Commonwealth which shall have subscribed most liberally to the capitol stock of the Company in proportion to its last decennial valuation & that the 2nd Settlement be named from that City next in order so subscribing 3rd to the Co. [1.] The pleasure of founding new & free states which bless every body & injure nobody & of binding them forever to Massachusetts by the strongest ties of gratitude & filial love securing to us in all coming time a Commercial Benefit—Daughters of Massachusetts 2d by the direct profit to the Co. from the sale of lands increased in value by the Settlement about them a thousand force Plan of operation (recommended) 1st to organize the Co. for one year subject to the Confirmation of the stock holders at a meeting held for that purpose on the 2nd Monday in June next 2nd That the board of Directors advertise immediately for the lowest proposals for conveying 20,000 Emigrants from Boston to the place which the Directors may select for their first settlement 3rd That the Directors construct at such point a boarding House capable of accommodating 300 persons as expeditiously as shall consist with permanency & economy 4th That the Directors procure & send forward a steam saw mill a grist mill & such other machinery as shall be of constant service in a new settlement & which individual Emigrants are unable to purchase That these machines may be leased or run by the Co’s agents
5th that the directors establish as soon as they shall have suitable room for the same a weekly paper devoted to Liberty, Liberation & good morals— which shall be open to letters of the Co’s exploring agents for unfolding to the people the resources of the new country & aiding in various ways the interests of the new settlement 6th That whenever the Territory has become a free state the directors shall dispose of all the Co’s interest therein [xxx] the money paid out & declare a dividend to the stockholders7th That they then select a new field & prepare for the union another free state in the same way Source: “Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company, Plan of Operation” (ca. 1854), Kansas Historical Society, New England Emig. Aid Co. Coll. #624, Box 7, Folder 14; available online at Kansas Memory, www.kansas memory.org/item/2236 (accessed January 3, 2016).
Journey from Massachusetts to Kansas, Chestina Bowker Allen
hese diary entries recount the experiences of Chestina Bowker Allen, a fortysix-year-old woman who moved to Kansas with her husband, Asahel Gilbert Allen, and their five children in 1854. Originally from Roxbury, Massachusetts, the Allens joined the third group of settlers sponsored by the New England Emigrant Aid Company. Allen commented on the difficulties of the journey and life in Kansas Territory, her views of Native Americans, slavery, and violent encounters with proslavery settlers. The entries cover much of the early “Bleeding Kansas” struggle, including a brief reference to the Sack of Lawrence in May 1856. Note that Allen smuggled bullets into Kansas.
Journey from Mass. To Kansas. Oct. 17, 1854. After dining with Mrs. Robert Ames left Roxbury in omnibus for Worcester depot Boston, Mass. Cars started at 2 1/2 Oclock, taking us from friends and home. Arrived in Albany, N. Y. at midnight, left the cars and walked to the Hudson river, crossed on a ferry boat, walked to the Delevan hotel and remained ‘til 8 Oclock A. M [. . .]. 18th. Took the cars for Buffalo, made slow progress, not having sufficient steam for the heavy load. Mr. Lemuel Knapp joined our party at Schenectady with his large family, lost his pocketbook, but it was found, but no money in it. . . . We had a pleasant passage and arrived in Detroit on the morning of the 20th. Breakfasted at a Hotel at 25 cts. each. Took the cars at 9. A. M. for Chicago, arrived to late for the night train. After standing awhile at the depot to find what we should do,—the women and children were permitted to return to the cars and remain over night as best they could, a few ungallant, selfish men crowded in, to the
inconvenience of the weaker party. the cars stood over water so that should any step off the cars they would take a bath [. . .]. 23rd. boarded the Sam Cloon for Kansas City, Mo. After a slow but comfortable passage up the Missouri of five days we made the City and began to see some of the methods of proslavery We had made purchases in St. Louis, one thing was 25 lb. of shot,— now it was reported we were not to be allowed to take anything with us as we left the boat and some of the passengers did not take even a hand satchel. Our family, seven in number, each carried a satchel, bucket or whatever was convenient, I wore a cloak, placed the 25 lb. of shot on my arm under my cloak, took a bandbox in my hand,—some one made as if to take my box,—in my best mood I politely told them it contained a ladies bonnet; they acted ashamed and we were no further molested. After landing our menfolk relieved me of my secret bundle and we climbed the hill through the mud to the hotel owned by Sam Pomroy and managed by Mr Morgan. Here we were packed for the night, The room I occupied afforded lodging for twelve, vis. one feather bed three straw beds and two bedsteads, were the chief materials we had for furniture, my fortunate place was the feather bed on the floor; my husband and two daughters on the same, Wm. and Chas. at the barn and John on the bare floor in the lower room. Hear we were charged 75 cts. a day each one [. . .]. 12th. A cold severe snow storm, house quite open. This night our imigrants, who were in pursuit of a City yet to be, camped on the ground some of the Committee had apparently chosen; they suffered in the morning were homesick and scattered. Mr Knapp one of the Com. had been to the Blue river and wished Mr A. to go with him there, they with Chas. went, They considered the land near the mouth of the river two low for farms and they wanted some farms; found the very prairie and timber desired on the wildcat creek, there they cast the tent and began to build together just to winter in. . . . Mr A. concluded he had better build on land by himself so left that located and built a regular log house and wrote for his family to come. Many of our party unite and hire an Indian to take our goods up the Kansas to Rock creek in a flat boat for $1.50 per hundred and Wm. is to go with them and see to the goods [. . .]. 16th. A party comprising five families started in two wagons. in one Mr Bisbee wife and 4 children, Mr Ryan, wife, mother and three children, Ours was a hired team driven by a Missourian, two miserable looking mules took us along better than I expected for I was much discouraged with the prospect of accomplishing our journey. Our load consisted of Mr Tabor, wife and one child Cary, wife and three children also myself
and three Chil. Each family had a trunk to sit on, Cary tried to get ours because it was low and our schooner cover was anything but high. We arrived at the Quaker Mission that night, nine miles from the City of Kan. Paid $1.50 for our entertainment. The house seemed to be full of travellers & boarders besides quite a school of Indian boys and girls. They were kind and accommodating to us and seemed to have the Christian spirit. 17th. While journeying today met perhaps fifty Kaw Indians. They were the most savage men & women I ever saw; begged of us but got little. Mr Bisbee and Cary had stopped at a bakery and were out of sight. The Indians surrounded Cary and frightened him by their savage gestures, got his wallet and took three half dollars all he had, as Bisbee came up he gave them ten cts. they began to follow him, he shook a stick at them and the cowards retreated. Poor Cary was wofully scared. We continued to meet squads of them for some time, men loaded their guns, but our driver expressed much bravado. This night we camped out near an Indian hut in the Shawnee land; slept in the wagon. 18th. Arrived in Lawrence about 2 P. M. wind blew hard and cold, one of the mules was sick,—our driver backed out and left us in Lawrence. We took up our lodge in the meeting house which was made of polls slanting from the ground to the ridgepole, covered with straw and turf, windows in the end—(guess the door was to.) floor of straw hay on the ground on which many slept [. . .]. [March] 18th  Cold and clear, no meeting, more boils on my neck. Electioneering takes precedence of preaching, a caucus meeting is to be held at Mr. Childs to nominate one Councilman and two Representatives for the Territory, to be elected by this district. The family are all convened around the stove. We are baking boiled corn and pork to take the place usually assigned to pork and beans; there is quite a difference in the relish. 19th. piercing cold through the day and very uncomfortable. Booth Fox with his slave woman passed by to day. The poor creature had no covering for her head but picked up a cast off cap while in the neighborhood and went off running after her master and his ox team [. . .]. 26th. It was a cold blustering day, but we moved into our new house, it consists of two rooms on the lower floor and the attics, we nailed up quilts to make it more comfortable, it has a puncheon floor and the roof is called extra good for this place. 30th. The much talked of Election came off to day. I have not heard of any bloodshed though it was somewhat announced to be. M. Conway, Councilman and I. D. Huston, Representatives both Free State men. Think they did not have material for the second Rep. Further I do not know. If the women had been there I might have known. Mr Park’s City site
at the mouth of the Blue has been taken possession of, by Mr. A. Martin by breaking into the house thereon. Congress had refused to grant any City Charters, by some this was not considered lawful. Imigrants from Mass. pitched their tents and thought they had possession, but to day a party of Missourians went there armed, the Mo’s. shot a ball into the tent nearly hitting a yankee, and tis said the yankees agreed to decamp tomorrow [. . .]. Dec. 2nd. Before sunrise was called to go 4 1/2 m. to Mr Main’s. about noon Mrs M. was mother of a stillborn child, deformed, its hands where its elbows should have been, minus a thumb, hands ill formed and small. Rode there horseback, but walked back overtook Mr H. Martin with an ox team, heard him say “go long d_n you,” did not think he was talking to me for he had not seen me, so I asked for a ride, rode 1/2 mi. called at Mr Stewarts, and walked home. Mr M. brought Abbie a cat. A collision between the Northern & Southern Methodist. The Northites requested permission to preach at our house—Mr Allen gave them leave [. . .]. Heard that Mr Colman formerly of our party of Lawrence shot and killed a man who was driving him from a claim he had jumped. The proslavery party got him, but the Freesoilers got him away. Strife appears to be rife. 8th. A circular was received from Lawrence asking aid from our Freesoilers to protect them in their rights as citizens of K. T. signed by Dr. Roberson and others. Mr Parks has returned to Parkville, Mo. by request of the good citizens thereof. A Collision is expected at Lawrence [. . .]. [May] 14th  At eve as Abbie was going after the cows that were in sight, she stepped on a snake, it bit her leg and run off, we were much frightned as we did not know what kind it was. I sucked the bites it had bit twice, washed it in saleratus1, put on sweet oil and gave her whiskey. No signs of poison appeared. 16th. It is reported that a lot of Missourians and Georgians have besieged Lawrence with intent to destroy the place. That Gen. Pomroy started for Ossawatomie and it is not known what has become of him. That Gov. Roberson had been arrested while travelling [. . .]. 31st. Heard the hotel at Lawrence had been blown up by the proslaveryites, the printing presses were destroyed, the inhabitants made to leave the place, money and goods stolen, that a man who was moving into the Ter. was robbed of $400. and his provision taken. O: President Pierce of Granite state Wo! Wo!! Wo!!! be unto thee. This professedly in consequence of an unknown person shooting Jones who had been acting Sheriff of L. and had made himself obnoxious by violating the ballot box, threatening to slaughter the Free State men, &c.
Source: Chestina Bowker Allen, “Journey from Massachusetts to Kansas,” Kansas Historical Society, available online at Kansas Memory, www.kansas memory.org/item/6839 (accessed January 3, 2016).
Saleratus is the common term for potassium bicarbonate, a precursor to baking soda that was used in the mid-nineteenth century to leaven baked goods.
The Sacking of Lawrence (1856), Sara Robinson
his account, taken from Sara Robinson’s Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior Life (1856), describes the first proslavery attack on Lawrence in May 1856, from the perspective of an eyewitness who lost her home in the raid. Her description of the perpetrators as vile criminals acting under the cover of the law would have resonated with northerners who feared that the “slave power” was trying to rule the nation. Mt. Oread is a hill in Lawrence on which the University of Kansas now stands.
[W]hen the morning sun arose on the 21st of May, 1856, hordes of men, armed with United States muskets, were marshalled upon Mt. Oread. While wronged innocence had slept quietly, they in the darkness had gained the height. The fair summit of Oread never before witnessed such an assemblage of creatures calling themselves men. Humanity stands aghast at the idea of brotherhood with such a ragged, filthy, besotted set. But it is only tools the slave power wants, and these could steal, plunder and kill [. . .]. Between the hours of eight and nine o’clock a part of this band moved down from Capitol Hill, above our house, nearer the town, upon the table land where the house stood [. . .]. The five hundred men on Mt. Oread had divided into two parties, one of which surrounded our house; the other planted their cannon on the brow of the hill [. . .]. The Free State office was first destroyed, the press being thrown into the river, while exchange papers and books were thrown into the street, and destroyed. The types of the Herald of Freedom office were also put into the Kansas, and the press broken. The red flag of the South Carolinians was first hoisted upon this office, and in about fifteen minutes was removed to the hotel. The building was fired several times, but put out by the bravery of some of the young men in Lawrence, who were not deterred
by the threats of the mob. Sheriff Jones placed two companies to carry the types of the offices to the river, and break the presses. After the red flag had been hoisted upon the hotel, four cannons were stationed about one hundred and five feet distant from it, and pointing towards it[. . .]. Thirty-two balls were fired, doing little damage to the hotel, the balls easily going through the concrete. Was the number significant of the admission of Kansas into the sisterhood of states? The walls of the hotel stood firmly, almost uninjured, and the patience of the posse, at so slow a progress, was getting weary [. . .]. [Then followed] a general plunder of private houses, and as the drunken gang rushed from place to place, they took anything of value upon which their eyes fell. They rifled trunks, taking letters, money, drafts, apparel, both ladies and gentlemen’s, and destroyed anything that would break, even to daguerreotypes and children’s toys [. . .]. In many houses, whatever they left was mutilated and defaced, and the people, on returning to their homes, found only a wreck of those things which had conduced to their comfort [. . .]. Some ladies, sitting upon College Hill west of the town, during the cannonading, were fired upon by a party of Buford’s men, who came from town [. . .]. The balls went whizzing through the air near the ladies. South Carolina’s gallant sons then threw down their guns and shouted, while swinging their hats, “Hurrah for South Carolina! Down with the abolitionists! Slavery in Kansas, by G–d!” Source: Sara T.L. Robinson, Kansas, Its Interior and Exterior Life (Boston: Crosby, Nichols and Co., 1856), 240–241, 245, 246, 247.
Testimony Concerning the Pottawatomie Massacre (1856)
issouri Border Ruffians could be extremely violent, but some antislavery settlers had blood on their hands, too. The most notorious episode of antislavery violence was the massacre of five proslavery settlers near Pottawatomie Creek, led by John Brown in May 1856. The following accounts come from a Congressional report in Kansas. Congressman Mordecai Oliver of Missouri, a member of the investigating committee, insisted that these statements from relatives of Brown’s victims be included in the report, even though the massacre took place after the committee was appointed. The report reflects the divisiveness of Bleeding Kansas within Congress and offers eyewitness testimony about what happened at Pottawatomie Creek.
The majority of your committee having presented, in their report, scarcely anything but what is favorable to the abolition party in Kansas and prejudicial to the law and order party, the undersigned [Mordecai Oliver] deems it a duty, no less to the House than to the country and the cause of truth, to give some facts on the other side favorable to the other party in Kansas, so that in presenting both sides, the world may have a fair chance to get at the truth, and arrive at a just conclusion [. . .]. First in order of time are the murders committed on the night of the 24th of May, 1856, on Pottawatomie creek. In this massacre, it is known that five persons were killed in one night, viz: Allen Wilkinson, William Sherman, William P. Doyle, father, and William and Drury Doyle, sons. The undersigned begs leave to refer to various affidavits which he appends to and makes a part of his report [. . .].
Mahala Doyle’s affidavit. The undersigned, Mahala Doyle, states upon oath: I am the widow of the late James P. Doyle; that we moved into the Territory, that is, my husband, myself, and children moved into the Territory of Kansas sometime in November, A.D. 1855, and settled on Mosquito creek, about one mile from its mouth, and where it empties into Pottawatomie creek, in Franklin county; that on Saturday, the 24th day of May, A.D. 1856, about 11 o’clock at night, after we had all retired, my husband, James P. Doyle, myself, and five children, four boys and one girl [. . .] we were all in bed, when we heard some persons come into the yard and rap at the door and call for Mr. Doyle, my husband [. . .]. My husband got up and went to the door. Those outside inquired for Mr. Wilkson, and where he lived. My husband told them that he would tell them. Mr. Doyle, my husband, opened the door, and several came into the house, and said that they were from the army. My husband was a pro-slavery man. They told my husband that he and the boys must surrender, they were their prisoners. These men were armed with pistols and large knives. They first took my husband out of the house, then they took two of my sons—the two oldest ones, William and Drury—out, and then took my husband and these two boys, William and Drury, away. My son John was spared, because I asked them in tears to spare him. In a short time afterwards I heard the report of pistols. I heard two reports, after which I heard moaning, as if a person was dying; then I heard a wild whoop. They had asked before they went away for our horses. We told them that the horses were out on the prairie. My husband and two boys, my sons, did not come back any more. I went out next morning in search of them, and found my husband and William, my son, lying dead in the road near together, about two hundred yards from the house. My other son I did not see any more until the day he was buried. I was so much overcome that I went to the house. They were buried the next day. On the day of the burying I saw the dead body of Drury. Fear of myself and the remaining children induced me to leave the home where we had been living. We had improved our claim a little. I left all and went to the State of Missouri. Affidavit of John Doyle. The undersigned, John Doyle, states, upon oath, that [. . .] a party of men came to our house; we had all retired; they roused us up, and told us that if we would surrender they would not hurt us. They said they were from the army; they were armed with pistols and knives; they took off my father and two of my brothers, William and Drury. We were all alarmed [. . .].
The next morning was Sunday, the 25th of May, 1856. I went in search of my father and two brothers. I found my father and one brother, William, lying dead in the road, about two hundred yards from the house; I saw my other brother lying dead on the ground, about one hundred and fifty yards from the house, in the grass, near a ravine; his fingers were cut off, and his arms were cut off; his head was cut open; there was a hole in his breast. Williams head was cut open, and a hole was in his jaw, as though it was made by a knife, and a hole was also in his side. My father was shot in the forehead and stabbed in the breast. I have talked often with northern men and eastern men in the Territory, and these men talked exactly like eastern men and northern men talk, that is, their language and pronunciation were similar to those eastern and northern men with whom I had talked. An old man commanded the party; he was a dark complected, and his face was slim [. . .]. The complexion of most of those eight whom I saw in the house were of sandy complexion. My father and brothers were proslavery men, and belonged to the law and order party. Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Report of the Special Committee Appointed to Investigate the Troubles in Kansas; with the Views of the Minority of Said Committee, 34th Congress, 1st Session, Report No. 200 (Washington: Cornelius Wendell, Printer, 1856), 105, 1194–1195.
To the Women of the State of New York, (ca. 1855–1857), Clarina Nichols
n this public letter, women’s rights activist and antislavery settler Clarina Nichols appeals to New York women to provide aid to free-staters in Kansas. It demonstrates how Nichols used prevailing ideas about women’s domestic roles and natural virtue and tenderness to mobilize them for political action.
Sisters: – Your hearts have been stirred by tales of Kansas outraged, wronged; the Constitutional rights of her people struck down; ‘the enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ made treasonable; and all the Godgiven means of subsistence and general prosperity perverted from the dwellers in that beautiful land, by the iron heart and strong hand of tyrant power! Government heeds not, hears not, the cry of the afflicted. Good men may struggle in vain to rescue the victims by the speedy election of righteous rulers, and the wealth, locked in the treasuries of the Free States and rich men’s coffers, may be too tardy or insufficient to save the suffering, starving inhabitants of Kansas from death upon her soil, or the necessity of returning to the Free States to be fed. Supported they must be, either in Kansas or out of it; for they have expended, or been robbed, of their all in the struggle for free homes. The question, in a pecuniary point of view, then, is, where shall they be fed? Humanity–struggling for freedom to be in the image of its Maker–cries, in Kansas, where, to hold free homes, is to ensure the cause of Freedom and stay the waves of oppression.
Are you mothers? Let me speak to you for the mothers of Kansas. I am one of them. My sons are among the sufferers and the defenders of that ill-fated Territory; their blood has baptized the soil which they yet live to weep over, to love, and to defend. I ask of you, mothers of New York, but a tithe of the sacrifices and devotion of the mothers of Kansas. Their “jewels,” more precious than silver, or gold, or houses and lands, are already laid a sacrifice upon the altar. Can you withhold from them the bread that shall win to you the blessing of those ready to perish? Look upon your sons, secure in the pursuit of all that is ennobling–look upon your fair daughters, safe from the outrages of a degraded and ruffian soldiery–look upon your infants, smiling in the sweet security and sunshine of homes running over with comfort and happiness and plenty, and from your stores give to those who have none of all these but the mother-love, which, in the absence of every means to succor and save, is crushing the over-taxed heart into the blackness of despair! Are you wives? Brave, loving men have tracked the prairie paths to bring bread, and never returned; have turned to the fields of their labor, and, with the last fond kiss yet warm upon their lips, been felled by the stealthy foe. Brave, loving men are now tracking the prairies with unshod feet and bleeding hearts. Brave, loving women weep, and pray, and toil to wipe away their tears and smile a welcome to the husbands that come sad and empty-handed back! Wives of New York, will you fill the empty hands and win the speechless gratitude of these suffering ones? Are you sisters? Fond, noble brothers appeal to dear sisters in the East for help in their need. Your sympathy cannot comfort them, even, in their distress. The appeal of such an one lies before me now. “Nothing to eat; no money; nothing but ‘sympathy!’ Oh, don’t ever mention the word again if you love me. Don’t ever tell me ‘your eastern friends sympathize with you in your noble struggle for liberty.’ Such friends, if one were hanging to a rope for dear life, would look over from the ship’s side and cry, ‘my sympathies are with you, hang on till you drown!’ Sisters of New York, will you send out the life-boat to save these sinking, struggling victims of foul oppression? Words are too poor to give expression to my deep sense of the peril, the suffering, the need, which is weighing upon the hearts and shutting our sunshine and health from the homes of the people of Kansas. I leave my appeal with you, women of New York, confident in a generous response and an earnest cooperation. To many of you I may speak as personal friends and former co-workers in the cause of Humanity. I know your zeal. I know your labors. I count upon your utmost efforts in this the crisis hour of the accumulated oppressions of the past–in this the grey dawning of a resurrection day for
Humanity, such as the world has never seen, which the past has promised without comprehending, and groped after without the strong faith that alone can win it. Source: C.I.H. Nichols, “To the Women of the State of New York,” Kansas Historical Society, available online at Kansas Memory, www.kansas memory.org/item/90483 (accessed January 3, 2016).
Col. Fremont’s Letter of Acceptance (1856)
he Republican Party was born out of the territorial conflict and Republicans made full use of “Bleeding Kansas” in the presidential campaigns of 1856 and 1860. When John C. Frémont accepted the Republican nomination in 1856, he urged the admission of Kansas as a free state and called upon nonslaveholders nationwide to join the Republicans against the slave power. Frémont came within two states of winning the election.
Nothing is clearer in the history of our institutions than the design of the nation in asserting its own independence and freedom to avoid giving countenance to the extension of slavery. The influence of the small, but compact and powerful class of men interested in slavery, who command one section of the country, and wield a vast political control as a consequence, in the other, is now directed to turn back this impulse of the revolution, and reverse its principles. The extension of slavery across the continent is the object of the power which now rules the government, and from this spirit has sprung those kindred wrongs in Kansas [. . .]. It would be out of place here to pledge myself to any particular policy that may be suggested by political animosities operating on a powerful class, banded together by a common interest. A practical remedy is the admission of Kansas into the Union as a free State. The South should, in my judgment, earnestly desire such a consummation. It would vindicate its good faith; it would correct the mistake of the repeal, and the North, having practically the benefit of the argument between the two sections, would be satisfied, and good feeling restored. The measure is perfectly consistent with the honor of the South, and vital to its interests [. . .]. If the people entrust to me the administration of the Government, the laws of Congress in relation to the Territories will be faithfully
executed. All its authority will be exerted in aid of the National will to re-establish the peace of the country [. . .]. Such a policy would leave no aliment to that sectional party which seeks its aggrandisement by appropriating the new territories to capital in the form of slavery, but would inevitably result in the triumph of free labor, the natural capital which constitutes the real wealth of this great country, and creates that intelligent power in the masses alone to be relied on as the bulwark of free institutions. Source: Republican Campaign Edition for the Million (Boston: John P. Jewett & Co., 1856), 26–28.
George E. Young’s Account of the Lawrence Massacre (1863)
or adult men, surviving the Lawrence Massacre required quick thinking and a large dose of luck. George E. Young was passing through town on the day of Quantrill’s raid but lived to tell the tale and even participated in the pursuit of Quantrill’s men as they left town. He recounted his near-death experience in a letter to his father in Massachusetts two days later.
My Dear Father I sent you a paper yesterday day with some accounts of the burning of Lawrence I was there at the time and came very near being killed, all the Business part of town is burnt. also a great many of the best Dwelling Houses, over one hundred & forty killed. they gave no quarter shot every man that they could get a shot at. I got into town the night before with my mowing machine farm Horses Wagon &c on my way to Lecompton where I had taken a job of mowing, and stop[p]ed at the Johnson House. just as I was getting up in getting up in the morning some one run by the House saying that Bush Wha[c]kers were coming into town and the next thing I heard was the firing of guns, and was not ten minutes before they had full possession of the town, in fact the place was taken by surprise and they had everything their own way. They first shot every body that they could find in the streets and then put a guard over the Hotels and a great many private Houses, at same time robbing the stores, banks of all money and goods that they could take away with them and then set fire to all the stores on [Massachusetts] St[reet] and killing every man that came out of the burning building. they gave no quarter, they came to the Johnson House and after ordering out all the women and children commenced shooting the men as they let them out of the House, they took me and
four others up between two buildings on Massachusetts St and then commenced firing at us three was shot right side of me, (on one side of us was a new Building only partly finished) I run as they fired at me and got into the cell[a]r of the new building. I then thought they had got me shure, as they saw me go into the building and was after me. I did not have much time to consider what to do as I was looking around to see what next was to be done I saw a small draine whole in the cell[a]r just large enough for me to lay down in I got into the draine as my last chance and as luck would have it there was two boards laying nearby which I covered myself with. I had not been covered up a Second before two men came in looking after me, they passed through with out finding my hiding place. I was in there over a hour and I could all the time hear them shooting people in the street, I was there all the time the Buildings were burning on [Massachusetts] St. the only thing that saved me was that the Building was new and lumber green so that it would no[t] burn very fast buildings on both sides of me were burnt to the ground. as soon as I got out I went around to the Johnson House stable and found it standing found three of my Horses running in the street near by my mowing machine Wagon &c all safe, and my other Horse came home to [illegible] during the next day with part of a harness on him. they rob[b]ed me of my Watch ab[ou]t two hundred fifty Dollars in money that I had in my pockets, ab[ou]t 200 Dollars worth of goods burnt and ab[ou]t Eight hundred Dollars from the bank I dont expect to get one cent from the Bank. I don’t know how Herb Wiswall will feel about standing half the loss as we had not finished the contract with him. I had writing a letter the day before to Will telling him to Except the money at Wiswalls [illegible] if he could not do better, but expect that was [destroyed?] in the office, as I wrote it only the day before. I wish Will would write me at once after seeing Wiswall. If I have to stand the loss, let Will take me a long time to make it good but still I could do it if I had time enough but it would ab[ou]t use me up. R.S. Stevens arrived in town the night before I understand but got away all right have not seen him but think he is in Leavenworth,—as soon as I got a Horse and saddle pistols &c I started with Gen Lane and party after the Bush W[h]a[c]kers after running our horses fifteen miles we came up with there rear guard and had three or four little fights with them killing two or three of them I went with the party forty miles when my horse gave out dead Lane and I had to return if my horse had shoes on I should have gone on with the party. the last accounts ten had been killed horses and goods have been picked up all along the road. I am going to Lawrence to day and will send you full account as soon as I can get there, one hundred & Eighteen was buried Saturday, and large numbers yet in the burnt buildings. I saw McCracken
and others from Leavenworth making arrangements for poor that was suffering for food. Yours in Haste [P.S.] I have not see[n] Ed Chapman I think he was at Lecompton at the time. He must have lost considerable in the Bank. will write again from Lawrence Source: George E. Young to My Dear Father, August 23, 1863, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, available at Civil War on the Western Border, www.civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/ george-e-young-my-dear-father (accessed January 3, 2016).
Mattie Jane Tate’s Account of General Order No. 11 (1864)
attie Jane Tate lived in Jackson County, Missouri, and was required to leave her home when General Order No. 11 was issued in August 1863. When Kansas soldiers arrived to enforce the removal, they took away Tate’s husband and four other men and shot them, leaving Tate to care for three children. In this letter to her cousin written more than a year later, Tate recounts her sufferings and survival strategies. She bitterly blames African-American slaves, along with antislavery whites, for the war and her misfortune, and comments on the flight of slaves from Missouri to Kansas.
Dear Cousin Mary no doubt you will be surprised at the name at the bottom of this sheet if it is ever so fortunate as to reach you which is uncertain those times and it is only by request that I attempt to reach you by letter now at this [time] your Pa and I have been corresponding for over [a] year and he has asked me frequently to write to you [to] tell you some of my troubles that I have seen and undergone within the last year and, as I am not one who loves to tell my trials to one and everybody and to those I never saw I have been delaying from time to time until the present. In the first place I am the wife of Calvin Tate who was in Indiana Terr[itory] years ago when you was quite small I have often heard him speak of you and your Pa when he was there But alas I never shall hear his lovely voice again on Earth for he is gone from me for ever and I am left with three small children to take care of and am not able a great part of my time to take care of myself and what is to become of them I cannot tell But the Lord has said I will be a Husband to the widow and a Father to the Fatherless and I hope he is such to me and mine for if ever a poor family needed his help it is mine and not mine alone for there are many
these war times that need a great deal of help from above such is and has been the case with me and six other familys all related to my Husband now one and all living within one mile of each other and although I say it myself a better set of men never lived or died than they were in September 1863. Ewing made the Order No 11 to devastate the Countys of Jackson—Cass Bates and part of Vernon [page torn] people had but nine [days] to get out of those Countys [page torn] a Mil[i]tary Post [page torn] were all trying to get out [page torn] County and the Men would have started in one hour on Sunday Morning But before they got off some Soldiers from Kansas came and taken My Father Brother and my Husband and five others two Hunters Brothers and one by the name of Lowe Brotherinlaw to the Hunters and one Boy 17 years old named Owsley Nephew to the Hunters and one old man 60 years old by the name of Potter Fatherinlaw to one of the Hunters and taken them something over half mile from home and shot them all But Father and Brother they were released and came home and had just got home when the guns were heard that made four widows and 26 Fatherless Children and Oh what a sight to Behold they were shot all to pieces most and left on the ground by them to stay there Forever for what they cared there was but three Men left to Bury them my Father Brother and Uncle John Hunter 70 years old the Father of the two that was killed everybody was gone but those familys and one other woman and we had to just dig a hole and put them all six in without any Coffins or Boxes nothing But Blankets and right where they were Massacred by a band of Murderers and a set of Blood thirsty — —— None of those men had ever been in arms on either side except Davie Hunter who was in the [militia] at Kansas City about two weeks they were all at home and have Been and was minding their own Business they were killed in the Morning about 10 Oclock and we left home about 4 in the evening that home that was to be home no more for me we went to Ray Co[unty] on the North side of the [Missouri] River and staid all winter and came back in the Spring when we left home we all had to leave all our stock and left with one wagon apiece and what could Be put in them Mr Hunters familys and Lowes have not come home yet they live near Dover Lafayette Co[unty] there is four families of them and But one man among them and that is Uncle John Hunter the women has all the work to do in and out of the house they have all got good homes here and good houses and have had several Blacks but they have all gone to Kansas to get their Freedom (do you think they will get it) for my part I wish they were all in Africa if it had not been for them and Negro loving white men I might have had my husband with me now as it is I never can have any love for any of that side or stripe again perhaps I am too hard but if I have not had enough to make me so I do not know who has I live
with my Father but it is a pretty hard live For he is on one side and me on the other and it is not a pleasant way of living my husbands Mother lives in North Carolina if times ever get so I can I expect to go to her As I live Cousin I have written a very long letter much longer than I expected to when I commenced but I have not told you the half of what I could if my paper would hold out or I could see you and talk with you but perhaps you are tired of reading my few remarks if so excuse me and let me know and I will trouble you no more But if that is not the case it is useless for me to attempt to give you the general news of the Country suffice it to say that War cruel War absorbs all things else Please write soon and let me hear from you and if there is any there that calls themselves my friend give them my love and except a due portion for yourself May god be with us all guide protect and strengthen us in every good word and work is the unworthy prayer of your Devoted Cousin Mattie Jane Tate PS address me at Pleasant Hill Cass Co, Mo. (my childrens names John Martin, Mary Matilda, Nancy Rosalie [)] Source: Mattie Jane Tate to Cousin Mary, December 14, 1864, Lone Jack Historical Society, available at Civil War on the Western Border, www. civilwaronthewesternborder.org/content/mattie-jane-tate-cousin-mary (accessed January 4, 2016).
Report of Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing, Jr., U.S. Army, Commanding District of the Border (1863)
very different perspective on General Order No. 11 is presented in this report by General Thomas Ewing, the Union officer who issued it. Written at Ewing’s headquarters in Kansas City, the lengthy report details the Lawrence Massacre and Ewing’s response. The excerpt below begins by recounting the origins and dangers of the guerrilla threat, which had increased in mid-1863, and then explains the rationale for General Order No. 11. Note Ewing’s emphasis on the relationships between guerrillas and civilians and on the difficulty of patrolling the territory under his authority.
Since the fall of Vicksburg [in July 1863], and the breaking up of large parts of Price’s and Marmaduke’s armies, great numbers of rebel soldiers, whose families live in Western Missouri, have returned, and being unable or unwilling to live at home, have joined the bands of guerrillas infesting the border. Companies which before this summer mustered but 20 or 30 have now grown to 50 or 100. All the people of the country, through fear or favor, feed them, and rarely any give information as to their movements. Having all the inhabitants, by good will or compulsion, thus practically their friends, and being familiar with the fastnesses of a country wonderfully adapted by nature to guerrilla warfare, they have been generally able to elude the most energetic pursuit. When assembled in a body of several hundred, they scatter before an inferior force; and when our troops scatter in pursuit, they reassemble to fall on an exposed squad, or a weakened post, or a defenseless strip of the border. I have had seven stations on the line from which patrols have each night and each day
traversed every foot of the border for 90 miles. The troops you have been able to spare me out of the small forces withheld by you from the armies of Generals Grant, Steele, and Blunt, numbering less than 3,000 officers and men for duty, and having over twenty-five separate stations or fields of operations throughout the district, have worked hard and (until this raid) successfully in hunting down the guerrillas and protecting the stations and the border. They have killed more than 100 of them in petty skirmishes and engagements between the 18th of June and the 20th instant. On the 25th instant I issued an order requiring all residents of the counties of Jackson, Cass, Bates, and that part of Vernon included in this district, except those within 1 mile of the limits of the military stations and garrisoned towns, and those north of Brush Creek and west of Big Blue, to remove from their present places of residence within fifteen days from that date; those who prove their loyalty to be allowed to move out of the district or to any military station in it, or to any part of Kansas west of the border counties; all others to move out of the district. When the war broke out, the district to which this order applies was peopled by a community three-fourths of whom were intensely disloyal. The avowed loyalists have been driven from their farms long since, and their houses and improvements generally destroyed. They are living in Kansas, and at military stations in Missouri, unable to return to their homes. None remain on their farms but rebels and neutral families; and practically the condition of their tenure is that they shall feed, clothe, and shelter the guerrillas, furnish them information, and deceive or withhold information from us. The exceptions are few, perhaps twenty families in those parts of the counties to which the order applies. Two-thirds of those who left their families on the border and went to the rebel armies have returned. They dare not stay at home, and no matter what terms of amnesty may be granted, they can never live in the country except as brigands; and so long as their families and associates remain, they will stay until the last man is killed, to ravage every neighborhood of the border. With your approval, I was about adopting, before this raid, measures for the removal of the families of the guerrillas and of known rebels, under which two-thirds of the families affected by this order would have been compelled to go. That order would have been most difficult of execution, and not half so effectual as this. Though this measure may seem too severe, I believe it will prove not inhuman, but merciful, to the non-combatants affected by it. Those who prove their loyalty will find houses enough at the stations, and will not be allowed to suffer for want of food. Among them there are but few dissatisfied with the order, notwithstanding the present hardship it imposes. Among the Union refugees it is regarded as the best assurance they have ever had of a return to their homes and permanent peace there. To obtain
the full military advantages of this removal of the people, I have ordered the destruction of all grain and hay, in shed or in the field, not near enough to military stations for removal there. I have also ordered from the towns occupied as military stations a large number of persons, either openly or secretly disloyal, to prevent the guerrillas getting information of the townspeople, which they will no longer be able to get of the farmers. The execution of these orders will possibly lead to a still fiercer and more active struggle, requiring the best use of the additional troops the general commanding has sent me, but will soon result, though with much unmerited loss and suffering, in putting an end to this savage border war. Source: “Report of Brig. Gen Thomas Ewing, Jr., U.S. Army, commanding district of the Border,” in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the War of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880–1901), Series 1, Volume 22, Part I, pp. 583–585.
The New Man (1895), by Henry Clay Bruce
orn a slave in Virginia in 1836, Henry Clay Bruce was sold to a Missouri master in 1844. Like many other Missouri slaves, Bruce and his wife freed themselves during the Civil War by fleeing to Kansas. Bruce became a small business owner and was chosen to be doorkeeper of the state senate. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1881 after his brother, Blanche (the first African American to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate), got him a job with the Post Office. This excerpt, which describes wartime Missouri, slavery’s collapse, and Bruce’s quest for freedom, comes from his 1895 autobiography, The New Man.
During the years of 1860 and 1861, the slaves had to keep very mum and always on their masters’ land, because patrols were put out in every township with authority to punish slaves with the lash, if found off their masters’ premises after dark without a written pass from them. Patrol duty was always performed by the poor whites, who took great pride in the whipping of a slave, just as they do now in lynching a Negro [. . .]. The Colored people could meet and talk over what they had heard about the latest battle, and what Mr. Lincoln had said, and the chances of their freedom, for they understood the war to be for their freedom solely, and prayed earnestly and often for the success of the Union cause. When the news came that a battle was fought and won by Union troops, they rejoiced, and were correspondingly depressed when they saw their masters rejoicing, for they knew the cause thereof. As I have stated before, slaves who could read and could buy newspapers, thereby obtained the latest news and kept their friends posted, and from mouth to ear the news was carried from farm to farm, without the knowledge of masters. There were no Judases among them during these exciting times.
After the war had commenced, about the spring of 1862, and troops of both sides were often passing through that county, it was not safe for the patrols to be out hunting Negroes, and the system came to an end, never to be revived. The regular confederate troops raised in that and adjoining counties went South as fast as recruited, so that only bushwhackers remained, and they were a source of annoyance to Union men and Union troops of that county up to the fall and winter of 1864, when they were effectually cleared out. Many of these men claimed to be loyal, especially so in public and at their homes in the day time, in order to be protected, while at heart they were disloyal, aiding bushwhackers not only with ammunition, rations, and information as to when and where Union troops would pass, but with their presence at night on the roadside, shooting at Union citizens and soldiers while passing [. . .]. Excitement, such as I had never seen, existed not alone with the white people, but with the slaves as well. Work, such as had usually been performed, almost ceased; slaves worked as they pleased, and their masters were powerless to force them, due largely to the fact that the white people were divided in sentiment. Those who remained loyal advised the slaves who belonged to those called disloyal, not to work for men who had gone or sent their sons South, to fight against the government. Slaves believed, deep down in their souls, that the government was fighting for their freedom, and it was useless for masters to tell them differently. They would leave home in search of work, and usually found it, with small pay, with some Union man, and often without pay for weeks at a time, but his master had to clothe him as he had always done, and in some cases pay his own slave for his work [. . .]. Our owner did not want us to leave him and used every persuasive means possible to prevent it. He gave every grown person a free pass, and agreed to give me fifteen dollars per month, with board and clothing, if I would remain with him on the farm, an offer which I had accepted to take effect January 1, 1864. But by March of that year, I saw that it could not be carried out, and concluded to go to Kansas. I might have remained and induced others to do so and made the crop, which would have been of little benefit to him, as it would have been spirited away. I made the agreement in good faith, but when I saw that it could not be fulfilled I had not the courage to tell him that I was going to leave him. I was engaged to marry a girl belonging to a man named Allen Farmer, who was opposed to it on the ground, as I was afterwards informed, that he did not want a Negro to visit his farm who could read, because he would spoil his slaves. After it was known that I was courting the girl, he would not allow me to visit his farm nor any of his slaves to visit ours,
but they did visit notwithstanding this order, nearly every Sunday. The girl’s aunt was our mutual friend and made all arrangements for our meetings. At one of our secret meetings we decided to elope and fixed March 30, 1864, at nine o’clock, P.M., sharp, as the date for starting. She met me at the appointed time with her entire worldly effects tied up in a handkerchief, and I took her up on the horse behind me. Then it great haste we started for Laclede, about thirty miles north of Brunswick, and the nearest point reached by the Hannibal and St. Joe Railroad. This town was occupied by a squad of Union Troops. Having traveled over that country so often, I had acquired an almost perfect knowledge of it, even of the by-paths. We avoided the main road, and made the entire trip without touching the traveled road at any point and without meeting any one and reached Laclede in safety, where we took the train for St. Joe, thence to Weston, where we crossed the Missouri River on a ferry boat to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I then felt myself a free man. I learned soon afterwards that Jesse Boram, Allen Farmer and as many other men as could be hastily gotten together started in pursuit of us, following every road we were supposed to take, and went within six miles of Laclede, hoping to overtake us. Of course they would have ended my earthly career then and there, could they have found me that night. But I had carefully weighed the cost before starting, had nerved myself for action and would have sold my life very dearly had they overtaken us in our flight. How could I have done otherwise in the presence of the girl I loved, one who had forsaken mother, sister and brothers, and had placed herself entirely under my care and protection. I am satisfied, even now, that I was braver that night than I have ever been since. I was a good shot and knew it, and intended to commence shooting as soon as my pursuers showed up; but it was a Godsend to all concerned, and especially to myself and bride, soon to be, that we were not overtaken; for I was determined to fight it out on that line, as surrender meant death to me. I had buckled around my waist a pair of Colt’s revolvers and plenty of ammunition, but I feel now that I could not have held out long before a crowd of such men, and while I might have hit one or two of them, they would in the end have killed me. Source: H.C. Bruce, The New Man. Twenty-Nine Years a Slave. TwentyNine Years a Free Man (York, PA: P. Anstadt & Sons, 1895), 96, 99–100, 103, 107–109.
A Little Dab of History without Embellishment (ca. 1906), William H. Gregg
his excerpt from William H. Gregg’s handwritten memoir demonstrates his efforts to preserve a positive memory about pro-Confederate guerrillas. Written early in the twentieth century, Gregg’s account provides an insider’s view of William Quantrill’s band. Along with Gregg’s active involvement in veterans’ reunions, the memoir reflects Gregg’s appreciation of the importance of historical memory and his determination to counter the writings of Union veterans, such as the account in Document #15. This excerpt discusses guerrillas’ motivations and their attack on Lawrence in 1863.
History after history has been written of Quantrill and his men, none of which can be characterized as true. And that which is not true, is not history; About the 25th day of December 1861. James A. Hendricks, John W. Koger and myself joined Quantrill’s command then consisting, all told, of eight men, We three swelling his force to eleven, We found Quantrill at Mrs. Samuel Crumps place, on Independence and Blue Springs road, and this was the nucleus to the greatest guerrilla band the world ever produced. Quantrill at that time was about twenty four years of age. Blue gray eyes. red beard. And hair so light that, many of the boys denominated him “Tow head” but as the years rolled on his hair acquired a more sandy cast [. . .]. Quantrill and his men have been unjustly slandered by the people of the North, a people who, even to this day, know nothing of them, except what they have read in irresponsible books and, newspapers. The time has come when their minds should be disabused, Quantrill’s command was composed principally of men and boys, from the very best families of Missouri, and, now, at this writing, many of them are honored citizens
of Missouri and other states, many of whom have been honored with high political positions, not in Missouri alone, but, other states also and, none of them have ever defaulted a record of which I am exceptionally proud You must not infer that I make this claim for all men who chanced to be with Quantrill, It would be a miracle if such was the case, It was the Kansan who hated and berated Quantrill and his men, more zealously than any other people, but, admit that Quantrill and his men were the very greatest demons, and, sprang from the very depths of degradation, they could not have been any worse than the Kansan, so that, for the Kansan to berate them, I would liken to the “Pot” calling the “kettle” black [. . .]. Why we made the raid to Lawrence, Jennison, Lane, Burrus and, many other marauding bands under leaders of lesser border fame had visited various Missouri border counties, and never left the state without murdering, plundering and devastating the houses of a greater or less number of our citizens, and to kill, it was only necessary to know that a man sympathized with the South, but, as to robbing, they robbed everybody without distinction, and they often laid waste whole districts. I counted thirteen houses burning at one time on the 28th day of January 1862. This burning was done by Jennisons men, although government officials said Jennison was not a U.S. officer and had no authority, yet he carried the U.S. flag, and, was often assisted in his forays by troops stationed at Independence and, other stations in Jackson and adjoining counties. These parties until early in sixty three did not haul away much household plunder, contenting themselves with such as blankets, quilts, wearing apparel and jewelry. Such articles as they could carry on their horses, but, they usually went back to Kansas, well loaded with such articles as I have mentioned. . . . It was such dastardly acts as the foregoing that caused the raid on Lawrence [. . .]. Having entered the Wakarusa timbers and, within four or five miles of Franklin, the crowing of the cock warned us of the near approach of daylight, and, it being our desire to reach Lawrence not later than sunrise, the horses were hurried to a long trott, reaching Franklin just at dawn, as we yet had five miles to cover, the men were thrown into column of fours and, put to a gallop, on reaching the summit of a ridge lying midway between Franklin and, Lawrence, Quantrill ordered Lieut Gregg to advance with five men and learn if there was any considerable force to oppose us, on reaching a suburb South of the main town Lieut Gregg and his party came upon a camp of about forty tents, waiting for the main command to come up, Lieut Gregg and his party killed several soldiers, among them, a boy about eighteen years of age, and supposed to be orderly to some General, on arrival of the command, Lieut Gregg fell in beside Quantrill who was
at the head of the column, pointing to the camp, Quantrill and Lieut. Gregg did not stop at the camp but, turned to the east to Mass. Street up which they bolted at breakneck speed, the command on reaching the open space in which the tents were standing deployed right and left and, charged the camp, and, in three minutes, there was not a tent standing nor a man alive in camp Quantrill’s order was to kill, kill, and you will make no mistake, Lawrence is the hotbed, and should be [thoroughly] cleansed, and the only way to cleanse it, is to kill. The killing finished, the men were ordered to burn the town, Quantrill said, give the Kansas people a taste of what the Missourian has suffered at the hands of the Kansas jayhawker. Lieut Gregg relates this story of what he saw and burned at Lawrence. He said when the order was given to burn, I repaired to the southern portion of the main town, where I found about forty shanties, built, three sides boards, the fourth a hay stack and covered with hay, all of these shacks were filled with household effects, stolen from Missouri, much we recognized, many of these had feather beds, quilts, blankets +c stacked in them higher than I could reach, fine bedstands, bureaus, sideboards, bookcases and pianos that cost thousands of dollars, many of these shacks were in charge of negro women, many of whom we recognized, one negro woman, I recollect distinctly, was the property of Col Steel who lived near Sibley Jackson County Missouri Source: William H. Gregg, “A Little Dab of History without Embellishment,” Western Historical Manuscript Collection, State Historical Society of Missouri.
The Gun and the Gospel (1897), Hugh Dunn Fisher
ethodist minister Hugh Dunn Fisher moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, from Ohio in the late 1850s. A staunch Unionist, Fisher served as chaplain of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry Regiment until he became ill and returned home. Fisher was in Lawrence during Quantrill’s raid, but his wife hid him in a cellar and tricked the guerrillas who were searching for him. Some three decades later, Fisher dedicated his memoir, The Gun and the Gospel, to her in honor of her “wonderful heroism and self-possession.” The memoir presents an exciting, highly partisan, narrative. Its emphasis on Lawrence as a stronghold of liberty makes it a good example of early Kansas historiography. As a proponent of John Brown and James Lane, Fisher also battled against Sara Robinson in the “history wars” of the 1890s. Like other autobiographers, Fisher was determined to make his mark on Americans’ collective memory of Bleeding Kansas. Here, he reflects on the significance of the Kansas struggle, applauds James Lane’s leadership during the 1855 Wakarusa War, and describes assisting fugitive slaves during the Civil War.
The careful reader of history cannot have failed to discover that from the earliest dawn of human society there has been an almost unintermittent struggle between the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, for equality—social and religious—before the law. Oppression by the strong was the source of human slavery, which has darkened and blighted almost every continent and realm, as well as cursed almost every tribe and nation and people [. . .]. During the revolutionary war the colonies were holding slaves, and when the war ended and a national constitution came to be framed the most stubborn difficulty that confronted the patriots who had gained American independence was the problem, What shall be done with American slavery? [. . .] The agitation spread. Slavery became arrogant and
dictatorial. It controlled the dominant party. It held executive, judicial and legislative control [. . .]. All remaining territory was free under the Missouri Compromise. Part of this must be overwhelmed by slavery, or all would be lost to the slave power. Herein lay the importance to civilization of the struggle for supremacy in Kansas [. . .]. More than two hundred patriot lives were sacrificed on freedom’s holy altar to make Kansas free, and hundreds of other loyal, liberty loving men lost all they had in the strife. “Bleeding Kansas” was no unmeaning phrase, and but for this sacrifice Kansas, fairest of the fair, would have been blighted and seared and scorched by slavery [. . .]. On March 30, 1855, a regular invasion of ballot-box stuffers and repeaters from Missouri and other Southern states took place, when at Lawrence, Leavenworth, Kickapoo, Atchison and elsewhere a pro-slavery legislature was chosen by the boldest and most wicked assault ever made on the ballot-box in the name of popular suffrage. Loyal men were disfranchised, border-ruffians were triumphant. They passed a code blacker than barbarity itself. In such an emergency free-state men needed a leader, and in Jim Lane they found one whose name was worth a thousand men, and whose bugleblast became a terrifying tocsin to the enemies of freedom. Up to this date he had simply tried to organize the democracy, but now his lion-heart revolted from the unprecedented crimes of the slave oligarchy [. . .]. His energy was unflagging, his presence an inspiration everywhere. The free-state forces were less than half the number of the invading enemy. Breastworks and rifle-pits were speedily constructed in regular military style under Lane’s supervision, so that the fortifications and earthworks could have resisted an invading force four times the strength mustered by the invading border-ruffians. Every man did his part well, and the name of Jim Lane was now, as ever afterward, a terror to his enemies [. . .]. To indicate the spirit of the times, two brave boys brought a howitzer to Lane’s camp and two loyal women brought kegs of powder under a buggy seat to aid in defense of their homes [. . .]. Lane’s management of local affairs won the approval of all the freestate men, and the invading ruffians were compelled to leave the territory, while the Wakarusa war was the initiation of a victory for freedom [. . .]. All the while Lane scrupulously avoided conflict with United States laws, and the governor issued an order that Lane’s men should defend the town, the people and their lives and property [. . .]. While camped at Springfield [Missouri in 1861] and, on our return march, via Lamar, our camp was the center of attraction to multitudes of “contrabands” [runaway slaves] and refugees, so that they cumbered our
camp and movements, and became at last so numerous as to threaten our subsistence. On the march to Lamar General Lane sent an orderly to notify me that he wished to see me as we marched. I rode to the head of the column and was at once asked by him: “Chaplain, what can we do to relieve the army of these contrabands, without exposing them to their enemies?” My advice was that they be sent to Kansas and provided with labor and homes to help save the crop and provide fuel, as most of the men were in the army. When we went into camp the general issued an order that all the contrabands and refugees should be reported to headquarters, and ready to move by eight o’clock next morning [. . .]. Next morning early there was a stir in the camp. Fourteen men were detailed as an escort to save us from falling into the hands of the guerrillas. We had a wagon load of almost useless guns. I picked out about thirty negroes and armed them, the first negroes armed during the rebellion [. . .]. Such a caravan had not moved since the days of Moses. We traveled day and night, not stopping to cook, only eating what cold food might chance to be on hand [. . .]. When we reached Kansas I halted the command, drew them up in a line and, raising myself to my full height on my war horse commanded silence, and there under the open heavens, on the sacred soil of freedom, in the name of the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, and by authority of General James H. Lane, I proclaimed that they were ‘forever free.’ Their mouths flew open and such a shout went up as was never heard. Men and women who had been sighing for liberty during many long unrequited years of toil now felt and knew they were free. They jumped, cried, sang and laughed for joy. These were the first slaves formally set free. It occurred in September, 1861, long before Mr. Lincoln’s proclamation had been issued. I made my proclamation effective by giving to everyone of them a new name. Many of them still live to confirm the story of their emancipation. Source: H.D. Fisher, The Gun and the Gospel: Early Kansas and Chaplain Fisher, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Medical Century Company, 1897), 9, 11–12, 14, 30–31, 34, 35, 166–168.
Archival Sources Clements Library, University of Michigan Lydia Maria Child Papers Massachusetts Historical Society Massachusetts Kansas Aid Committee Records Rubenstein Library, Duke University Joseph Howe Papers South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina Samuel Gilman Papers Papers of the Norris and Thompson Families Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Stephen A. Douglas Papers State Historical Society of Missouri William H. Gregg, “A Little Dab of History without Embellishment,” Western Historical Manuscript Collection
Published Primary Sources An Act to Punish Offences Against Slave Property, Passed by the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Kansas August 14, 1855. Shawnee M.L.S.: John T. Brady, 1855. Address to the People of the United States, Together with the Proceedings and Resolutions of the Pro-Slavery Convention of Missouri, Held at Lexington, July, 1855. St. Louis: Printed at the Republican Office, 1855. Barry, Louise. “Scenes in (and En Route to) Kansas Territory, Autumn, 1854: Five Letters by William H. Hutter.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 35, No. 3 (Autumn 1959): 312–336. Beecher, Henry Ward. Defence of Kansas. Washington: Buell & Blanchard, 1856. Bruce, H.C. The New Man. Twenty-Nine Years a Slave. Twenty-Nine Years a Free Man. York, PA: P. Anstadt & Sons, 1895. Child, [Lydia Maria]. An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans. Boston: Allen and Ticknor, 1833.
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Forbes, Robert Pierce. The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath: Slavery and the Meaning of America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2007. Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion, 2 vols. New York: Oxford University, 1990–2007. Gates, Paul W. Fifty Million Acres: Conflicts over Kansas Land Policy, 1854–1890. Ithaca: Cornell University, 1954. Geiger, Mark W. Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri’s Civil War, 1861–1865. New Haven: Yale University, 2010. Gerteis, Louis S. The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2012. Gienapp, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852–1856. New York: Oxford University, 1987. Gilpin, R. Blakeslee. John Brown Still Lives! America’s Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2011. Ginzberg, Lori D. Women and the Work of Benevolence: Morality, Politics, and Class in the Nineteenth-Century United States. New Haven: Yale University, 1990. Grant, Susan-Mary. North over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2000. Guasco, Suzanne Cooper. Confronting Slavery: Edward Coles and the Rise of Antislavery Politics in Nineteenth-Century America. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, 2013. Hale, Donald R. The William Clarke Quantrill Men Reunions, 1898–1929. Independence, MO: Blue and Gray Book Shoppe, 2001. Harrold, Stanley. Border Wars: Fighting Over Slavery before the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2010. Herring, Joseph B. The Enduring Indians of Kansas: A Century and a Half of Acculturation. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1990. History of Lafayette County, Mo. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Company, 1881. Hurt, R. Douglas. Agriculture and Slavery in Missouri’s Little Dixie. Columbia: University of Missouri, 1992. Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas. New York: Oxford University, 1973. Johnson, Samuel A. The Battle Cry of Freedom: The New England Emigrant Aid Company in the Kansas Crusade. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1954. Klunder, William Carl. Lewis Cass and the Politics of Moderation. Kent, OH: Kent State University, 1996. Malin, James C. John Brown and the Legend of Fifty-Six. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1942. ——. The Nebraska Question, 1852–1854. Lawrence: n.p., 1953. Martin, George W. The First Two Years of Kansas. Topeka: State Printing Office, 1907. Mason, Matthew. Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2006. McGlone, Robert E. John Brown’s War against Slavery. New York: Cambridge University, 2009. McLaurin, Melton A. Celia, a Slave. Athens: University of Georgia, 1991.
McPherson, James M. The Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University, 1988. ——. This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War. New York: Oxford University, 2007. Miner, H. Craig. Seeding Civil War: Kansas in the National News, 1854–1858. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2008. Miner, H. Craig and William E. Unrau. The End of Indian Kansas: A Study of the Cultural Revolution, 1854–1871. Lawrence: Regents of Kansas, 1978. Mullis, Tony R. Peacekeeping on the Plains: Army Operations in Bleeding Kansas. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2004. Mutti Burke, Diane. On Slavery’s Border: Missouri’s Small-Slaveholding Households, 1815–1865. Athens: University of Georgia, 2010. Napier, Rita, Ed. Kansas and the West: New Perspectives. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 2003. Neely, Jeremy. The Border between Them: Violence and Reconciliation on the Kansas– Missouri Line. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2007. Neely, Mark E. The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2007. Oakes, James. The Scorpion’s Sting: Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War. New York: W.W. Norton, 2014. Oertel, Kristen Tegtmeier. Bleeding Borders: Race, Gender, and Violence in Pre-Civil War Kansas. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2009. Painter, Nell Irvin. Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas after Reconstruction. 1976. Reprint, New York: W.W. Norton, 1992. Parrish, William E. David Rice Atchison of Missouri, Border Politician. Columbia: University of Missouri, 1961. Petersen, Paul R. Quantrill of Missouri: The Making of a Guerrilla Warrior: The Man, the Myth, the Soldier. Nashville: Cumberland House, 2003. Pierson, Michael D. Free Hearts and Free Homes: Gender and American Antislavery Politics. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2003. Ponce, Pearl T. To Govern the Devil in Hell: The Political Crisis in Territorial Kansas. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University, 2014. Puleo, Stephen. The Caning: The Assault that Drove America to Civil War. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, LLC, 2012. Quitt, Martin H. Stephen A. Douglas and Antebellum Democracy. New York: Cambridge University, 2012. Rakove, Jack N. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. Rawley, James A. Race and Politics: “Bleeding Kansas” and the Coming of the Civil War. 1969. Reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1979. Ray, P. Orman. The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise: Its Origin and Authorship. 1909. Reprint, Boston: J.S. Canner, 1965. Rhodes, James Ford. History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850: Vol. II: 1854–1860. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893.
Richards, Leonard L. The Slave Power: The Free North and Southern Domination, 1780–1860. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2000. Rothman, Adam. Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2005. Sacher, John M. A Perfect War of Politics: Parties, Politicians, and Democracy in Louisiana, 1824–1861. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2003. Scroggins, Mark. Hannibal: The Life of Abraham Lincoln’s First Vice President. Lanham: University of America, 1994. SenGupta, Gunja. For God and Mammon: Evangelicals and Entrepreneurs, Masters and Slaves in Territorial Kansas, 1854–1860. Athens: University of Georgia, 1996. Settle, Jr., William A. Jesse James Was His Name; or, Fact and Fiction Concerning the Careers of the Notorious James Brothers of Missouri. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1966. Sheridan, Richard B., Ed. Freedom’s Crucible: The Underground Railroad in Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1998. Silbey, Joel H. Storm over Texas: The Annexation Controversy and the Road to Civil War. New York: Oxford University, 2005. Snead, Thomas L. The Fight for Missouri from the Election of Lincoln to the Sudden Death of Lyon. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1886. Spring, Leverett Wilson. Kansas: The Prelude to the War for the Union. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1894. Spurgeon, Ian Michael. Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War’s First African-American Combat Unit. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 2014. Sutherland, Daniel E. A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2009. Waugh, John C. On the Brink of Civil War: The Compromise of 1850 and How It Changed the Course of American History. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc., 2003. Zilversmit, Arthur. First Emancipation: The Abolition of Slavery in the North. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967.
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Courtwright, Julie. “‘A Goblin That Drives Her Insane’: Sara Robinson and the History Wars of Kansas, 1894–1911.” Kansas History 25, No. 2 (Summer 2002): 102–123. de la Cova, Antonio Rafael. “Samuel J. Kookogey in Bleeding Kansas: A ‘Fearless Vindicator of the Rights of the South.’” Kansas History 35, No. 3 (Autumn 2012): 147–163. Deitreich, Kenneth A. “‘The Sly Mendacity of Hints’: Preston Brooks and the War with Mexico.” South Carolina Historical Magazine 113, No. 4 (October 2012): 290–314. Dirck, Brian R. “By the Hand of God: James Montgomery and Redemptive Violence.” Kansas History 27, No. 1/2 (Spring/Summer 2004): 100–115. Etcheson, Nicole. “‘Labouring for the Freedom of This Territory’: Free-State Kansas Women in the 1850s.” Kansas History 21, No. 2 (June 1998): 68–87. Fischer, Roger A. “The Republican Presidential Campaigns of 1856 and 1860: Analysis through Artifacts.” Civil War History 27, No. 2 (June 1981): 123–137. Fleming, Walter L. “The Buford Expedition to Kansas.” American Historical Review 6, No. 1 (October 1900): 38–48. Hart, Charles Desmond. “The Natural Limits of Slavery Expansion: KansasNebraska, 1854.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 34, No. 1 (1968): 32–50. Haskell, John G. “The Passing of Slavery in Western Missouri.” Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society 7 (1902): 28–39. Hatley, Paul B. and Noor Ampssler, “Army General Orders Number 11: Final Valid Option or Wanton Act of Brutality? The Missouri Question in the American Civil War.” Journal of the West 33, No. 3 (July 1994): 77–87. Hay, Robert. “The Great Seal of Kansas.” Transactions of the Kansas Historical Society 8 (1904): 289–299. Hulbert, Matthew C. “Constructing Guerrilla Memory: John Newman Edwards and Missouri’s Irregular Lost Cause.” Journal of the Civil War Era 2, No. 1 (March 2012): 58–81. Huston, James L. “Democracy by Scripture versus Democracy by Process: A Reflection on Stephen A. Douglas and Popular Sovereignty.” Civil War History 43, No. 3 (September 1997): 189–200. Kellow, Margaret M.R. “‘For the Sake of Suffering Kansas’: Lydia Maria Child, Gender, and the Politics of the 1850s.” Journal of Women’s History 5, No. 2 (Fall 1993): 32–49. King, Wilma. “ ‘Mad’ Enough to Kill: Enslaved Women, Murder, and Southern Courts.” Journal of African American History 91, No. 1 (Winter 2007): 37–56. Laughlin-Schultz, Bonnie. “‘The Noble Wife of the Late Champion of Freedom’: Mary Brown’s 1882 Visit to Topeka and John Brown’s Enduring Legacy.” Kansas History 35, No. 4 (Winter 2012): 218–233. Lee, Juliet A. “Badgers for a Free Kansas: The Wisconsin Kansas Emigrant Aid Society.” Milwaukee History 2, No. 3 (September 1979): 65–84. Malin, James C. “The Proslavery Background of the Kansas Struggle.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 10, No. 3 (December 1923): 285–305.
Meerse, David E. “The 1857 Kansas Territorial Delegate Election Contest.” Kansas History 4, No. 2 (June 1981): 96–113. Mink, Charles R. “General Orders No. 11: The Forced Evacuation of Civilians during the Civil War.” Military Affairs 34, No. 4 (December 1970): 132–136. Napier, Rita G. “Origin Stories and Bleeding Kansas.” Kansas History 34, No. 1 (Spring 2011): 28–39. Oertel, Kristen Tegtmeier. “ ‘The Free Sons of the North’ versus ‘The Myrmidons of Border-Ruffianism’: What Makes a Man in Bleeding Kansas?” Kansas History 25, No. 3 (Autumn 2002): 174–189. Phillips, Christopher. “‘The Crime against Missouri’: Slavery, Kansas, and the Cant of Southernness in the Border West.” Civil War History 48, No. 1 (March 2002): 60–81. Pierson, Michael D. “‘All Southern Society Is Assailed by the Foulest Charges’: Charles Sumner’s ‘The Crime against Kansas’ and the Escalation of Republican Anti-Slavery Rhetoric.” New England Quarterly 68, No. 4 (December 1995): 531–557. Russel, Robert R. “The Issues in the Congressional Struggle over the Kansas– Nebraska Bill, 1854.” Journal of Southern History 29, No. 2 (May 1963): 187–210. SenGupta, Gunja. “Bleeding Kansas.” Kansas History 24, No. 4 (December 2001): 318–341. Sheridan, Richard H. “‘A Most Unusual Gathering’: The 1913 Semi-Centennial Memorial Reunion of the Survivors of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence.” Kansas History 20, No. 3 (Autumn 1997): 176–191. Shoemaker, Floyd C. “Missouri’s Proslavery Fight for Kansas, 1854–1855 [Part 2].” Missouri Historical Review 48, No. 4 (July 1954): 325–340. Sutherland, Daniel E. “Memories of a Rooted Sorrow: The Legacy of the Guerrilla War.” Civil War History 62, No. 1 (March 2016): 8–35. Watts, Dale E. “How Bloody Was Bleeding Kansas? Political Killings in Kansas Territory, 1854–1861.” Kansas History 18, No. 2 (Summer 1995): 116–129. Whites, LeeAnn. “Forty Shirts and a Wagonload of Wheat: Women, the Domestic Supply Line, and the Civil War on the Western Border.” Journal of the Civil War Era 1, No. 1 (March 2011): 56–78.
Internet Resources Africans in America, www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/home.html The American Presidency Project, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ Avalon Project, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/ biosearch/biosearch.asp Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri Kansas Conflict, 1854–1865, www. civilwaronthewesternborder.org/ Digital History, www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/ Famous Trials: The Trial of John Brown, http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ ftrials/johnbrown/brownhome.html
Kansas Memory, www.kansasmemory.org Secession Era Editorials Project, http://history.furman.edu/editorials/see.py Territorial Kansas Online, www.territorialkansasonline.org/~imlskto/cgi-bin/index. php
Adams, Franklin G. 131 American Party 77 Anderson, William (“Bloody Bill”) 108, 114, 128, 144 Anthony, Susan B. 116 Atchison, David 16, 19, 20, 30, 33, 34, 35, 37, 47, 50, 65 Beecher, Henry Ward 40 Bell, John 102 Blue Lodges 34, 37, 62, 65; see also Border Ruffians; Platte County SelfDefensive Association Blunt, James G. 117 Bond, Edwin 38 Border Ruffians 3, 35, 65–66, 76; see also Blue Lodges; Platte County SelfDefensive Association “Border War” (sports rivalry) 149 Bowen, Donald R. 145 Breckinridge, John 21, 102 Brooks, Preston 73–75; see also Sumner, Charles Brown, George 49 Brown, John 51, 52, 66, 95–100, 131–133, 139, 177–179; see also Harper’s Ferry Raid (1859); Pottawatomie Massacre Brown, Lois 44 Brown, Mary 131 Buchanan, James 77–79, 80–82, 99 Buford, Jefferson 48–50
Burke, Diane Mutti 141–142 bushwhackers: see guerrillas and guerrilla warfare Butler, Andrew P. 47, 72, 73 Carter, Asa Earl 136 Cass, Lewis 10 Celia 17, 72 Centralia Massacre (1864) 128 Cherokee 12 Cheyenne 11 Chickasaw 12 Child, Lydia Maria 61, 64, 65 Choctaw 12 Comanche 11 Compromise of 1850 8–11, 22 Connelley, William E. 124, 136–137, 144 Constitutional Union Party 102 Curry, John Steuart 133 Daniels, Jim 96–97 Davis, Jefferson 9, 35, 54 Decoration Day 129–130 Delaware (Indian tribe) 11 Democratic Party 11, 25, 41, 67–68, 77–79, 80, 82, 85, 101, 162 Denver, James W. 85 Douglas, Stephen A. 14, 19–23, 71, 72, 82, 85–86, 102 Douglass, Frederick 97 Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) 81–82, 93
Edwards, John Newman 134–136, 144 elections, presidential (1856) 61, 64, 70, 75–80, 183–184; (1860) 101–102 elections, territorial (1854) 36–37; (1855) 37–39, 172–173; (1857) 84 Emancipation Proclamation 93, 112, 114, 145 English Bill 86 Etcheson, Nicole 93, 141 Ewing, Jr., Thomas 108, 111, 191–193 Exodusters 147 Fambrough, Don 149 Fellman, Michael 144–145 First Kansas Colored Infantry 115–118 Fitch, Edward 1, 36, 50, 63, 80, 109, 113, 124 Fitch, Sarah 104 Flenneken, Robert P. 37 free labor 5, 68, 69, 139 Free State Hotel 33, 44, 49, 175–176 Frémont, Jessie Benton 76 Frémont, John C. 69, 76–79, 183–184 Fugitive Slave Act (1850) 10–11 Gardner, Joseph 92 Geary, John W. 54–55 Geiger, Mark W. 145–146 Gleed, Charles Sumner 124, 126 Goodman, Thomas M. 128 Gregg, William H. 125, 128–129, 136–137, 197–199 guerrillas and guerrilla warfare 52–54, 106–110, 127–128, 132–138, 144–147, 191–193 Hamlin, Hannibal 68 Harper’s Ferry Raid (1859) 95, 96, 97–99, 131, 139 Hart, Charles Desmond 140 Herald of Freedom (newspaper) 33, 40, 44, 49, 52, 175 Herring, Joseph B. 142 Honey Springs, Battle of (1863) 116 Hurt, R. Douglas 141 Indian Country 12–13 Indian Intercourse Act (1834) 12 Island Mound, Battle of (1862) 115
Jackson, Andrew 12 Jackson, Claiborne Fox 104, 145 James, Frank and Jesse 107, 134 Jayhawkers 106–107, 113, 125, 129, 135–136, 149 Jefferson, Thomas 8, 12 Jennison, Charles 107 Johnson, Thomas 12–13, 39 Jones, Samuel J. 38, 43, 48–49 Kansas Emancipation League 114 Kansas Legion 42 Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) 4, 12, 20–25, 62, 67–68, 82, 157–160 Kansas State Historical Society 124, 131, 136 Kansas statehood: achievement of 102–103; Congressional debate on 70–75, 85–86 Kansas Territory: African Americans in 12–13, 32–33, 36, 39, 40, 93–94; government of 23, 45; population of 11, 37, 46, 47; press coverage of 45, 49, 65–67, 140; slave code of 39–40; slavery in 12–13, 36, 37–39; women in 44–46, 142–143; see also elections, territorial; Kansas–Nebraska Act Kaw 11, 12, 172 Kenekuk 13 Kickapoo 11, 13 Kookogey, Samuel J. 84 Lane, James 41, 49, 54, 70, 104, 106–107, 109, 115, 201–202 Lawrence, Amos A. 32 Lawrence (KS): founding of 32–33; massacre in (1863) 107–110, 124, 125, 129–130, 135–136, 137–138, 185–187, 198–199; sack of (1856) 48–50, 172, 175–176; siege of (1855) 43–44, 46 Lawrence Massacre Survivors Association 129–130 Lawrence Monument Association 130 Leavenworth Constitution 93–94 Lecompte, Samuel 49 Lecompton (KS) 47, 84 Lecompton Constitution 83–86
Lincoln, Abraham 93, 97, 100, 101–102, 112 Little Dixie 15–16, 145 Louisiana Purchase 7, 8, 12 Lyon, Nathaniel 105 Malin, James 139 Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company: see New England Emigrant Aid Company Matthews, William D. 115, 116 Mexican War 8, 74, 76 Miner, H. Craig 141, 142 Missouri: divisions within 102–104; slavery in 2–3, 5, 14–19, 92–93, 94–95, 96–97, 112–114, 141–142, 145, 163–166; wartime emancipation in 106, 112–117, 194–196, 200–202; see also Little Dixie; Missouri Compromise Missouri Compromise 7–8, 9, 10, 13, 14–15, 19, 20–22, 35, 81 Missouri River 14, 15, 16, 18, 35 Missouri State Guard 105, 107, 145 Montgomery, James 94, 106–107 Native Americans 4, 11–14, 41, 104, 142 Nebraska Territory 22, 157 Neely, Mark E. 146–147 New England Emigrant Aid Company 32–34, 167–169, 170 Newsom, Robert 17 Nichols, Clarina 44–45, 63, 180–182 Northwest Ordinance (1787) 6, 10 Oertel, Kristen Tegtmeier 142, 143 Order No. 11 (1863) 111–112, 188–190, 191–193 Osages 11 Osceola (MO) 107 The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976 film) 136 Parrott, Marcus 79, 84 Pawnee 12 Phillips, Christopher 145 Phillips, William A. 38, 62 Pierce, Franklin 23, 39, 41, 54
Platte County Self-Defensive Association 3, 34, 163–166; see also Blue Lodges; Border Ruffians Poison Spring, Battle of (1864) 116–117 Pollard, Edwin A. 131 popular sovereignty 9–10, 20–23, 25, 41, 47, 54, 78, 81–82, 84–86, 101, 157–160 Pottawatomie Massacre (1856) 51, 131, 133, 177–179 Pottawatomies 11 Price, Sterling 105, 112 Price’s Missouri Invasion 112 Quantrill men reunions 125–126, 128 Quantrill, William Clarke 107–110, 124, 136–137, 197–199 Ralston, Samuel 1–3, 15, 18, 34, 35–37, 43 Rawley, James A. 140 Reeder, Andrew 36, 37, 39, 40, 49 Republican Party 25, 68–70, 75–78, 82, 85, 101–102 Rhodes, James Ford 139 Robinson, Charles L. 40, 41, 46, 49, 51, 67, 84, 103, 113, 132–133 Robinson, Sara 44, 49, 132–133, 175–176 Savage, Joseph 1–3, 30, 32, 63, 136 Savage, Mary 109 SenGupta, Gunja 140–141 Seward, William 26, 71 Shannon, Wilson 39, 41, 42, 46, 48–49, 50, 53–54 Shawnee 12–13 Shawnee Manual Labor School 12, 39 Shelby, Joseph 134 Simpson, Napoleon 92–93 Singleton, Benjamin (“Pap”) 148 slavery: expansion of 5–11, 14, 42, 68, 76, 81–82, 139, 140; fugitive slaves 18–19, 32–33, 92, 94–95, 96–98, 113–114; master-slave relations 16–19; slave resistance 2–3, 17–19, 92–93; see also Fugitive Slave Act (1850)
Starr, Frederick 34 Stringfellow, Benjamin 34, 39, 47, 163–166 Stringfellow, John 39 Sumner, Charles 72–75; see also Brooks, Preston Sumner, Edwin 54 Sutherland, Daniel E. 146 Taney, Roger 81–82 territorial system 6–7 Thayer, Eli 32–33, 96; see also New England Emigrant Aid Company Toombs, Robert 71–72 Topeka (KS) 33 Topeka Constitution 41, 47, 70–75, 76, 83; see also Topeka Movement
Topeka Movement 41, 49; see also Topeka Constitution Unrau, William E. 142 U.S. Army 53–54 Wakarusa War (1855) 42–43, 44–46, 48 Wakefield, John A. 37 Walker, Robert J. 83–84, 85 Weston (MO) 34, 38 Whig Party 11, 25 Whitfield, John 36, 37 Wilmot Proviso 8–10, 69 Wilson’s Creek, Battle of (1861) 106 Wood, Margaret 44 Wood, Samuel 48–49 Wyandotte Constitution 45