Geary and Kansas by John H. Gihon, M.D.



Removal of Colonel Sumner and appointment of General P. F. Smith.--Free-state refugees driven from Fort Leavenworth.--Immigration from the North.--Destruction of pro-slavery forts by free-state bands.--Murder of Major Hoyt.--Defeat of the pro-slavery forces at Franklin.--Colonel Titus captured by Captain Walker, and his house burned.--Alarm at Lecompton.--Governor Shannon makes another treaty with the Lawrence people.

    COL. SUMNER, in consequence of the strict impartiality with which he discharged his duties, failed to give satisfaction to the pro-slavery party, who having all the official power in Kansas, backed up by still greater power at Washington, had no difficulty in effecting his removal from the territory. He was superseded in July, 1856, by General Persifer F. Smith, whose quarters were at Fort Leavenworth. The general was born in Pennsylvania, but has spent much of his time in Louisiana, and is decidedly a pro-slavery man in feeling and sentiment. His appointment was highly gratifying to those who had so strongly desired to get rid of Sumner. Soon after his arrival, General Smith, whose health had been failing for some time, became quite ill, and until the time that he left Kansas in February, 1857, was closely confined to his apartments, so that he was not able to take any active part in the affairs of the territory. Hence, after the removal of Shannon on the 21st of August, when Secretary Woodson became acting governor, until the arrival of Governor Geary in September, the belligerents had matters pretty much their own way, and the ruffians improved the time, under pretence of authority from Woodson, to perpetrate with impunity the most shocking barbarities. During this period Gen. Smith received much censure from the free-state people. Emory, Wilkes, Stringfellow, and others, were driving these from their homes at Leavenworth and other places, and many of them hastily fled in terror for protection within the enclosures of the fort; when the general caused hand-bills to be posted over the grounds commanding them to leave before a certain specified time, and gave orders to his subordinates to enforce this command. These unfortunate people, among whom were men of the highest respectability, and even women and children, were compelled, some of them without money or suitable clothing, to take to the prairies, exposed at every step to the danger of being murdered by scouting or marauding parties, or at the risk of their lives, effect their escape upon the downward bound boats. Some of these were shot in the attempt upon the river banks, whilst others were seized at Kansas City and other Missouri towns, brought back as prisoners, and disposed of in such a manner as will only be made known at that great day when all human mysteries will be revealed. There is many an unhappy wife and mother in the states looking anxiously, and hoping against hope, for the return of an adventurous husband or son, whose bones are bleaching upon the prairies or mouldering beneath their sod.

    In August the troubles had reached their culminating point. The free-state immigrants had opened a new route into the territory through Nebraska and Iowa, and large and well-armed companies came pouring in, many of them of irreproachable character, who came to the relief of the oppressed; and others of desperate fortunes, eager to take part in the disturbances from a spirit of revenge or a love of the excitement; and still others, perhaps, for the sole purpose of plunder. These bands were generally under the direction of Lane, Redpath, Perry, and other prominent free-state leaders.

    The pro-slavery marauders south of the Kansas River had established and fortified themselves at the town of Franklin; at a fort thrown up near Osawattomie; at another on Washington Creek, twelve miles from Lawrence; and at Colonel Titus's house, on the border of Lecompton. From these strongholds they would sally forth, "press" horses and cattle, intercept the mails, rob stores and dwellings, plunder travellers, burn houses, and destroy crops.

    The fort near Osawattomie, in consequence of outrages committed in the neighborhood, and at the solicitation of the settlers, was attacked by a company of free-state men from Lawrence, on the 5th of August. A party of Georgians who held this position, upon the approach of the enemy, fled without firing a gun, leaving behind a large quantity of plunder. The fort was then taken and demolished.

    The defeated party retreated to the fort at Washington Creek, and thence continued their depredations upon the neighboring inhabitants. On the 11th the people of Lawrence sent Major D. S. Hoyt, a peaceable man, who was greatly respected, to this camp to endeavor to make some sort of armicable arrangement with Colonel Treadwell, the commander. On his way home he was waylaid and shot, his body being fairly riddled with bullet holes.

    This news so enraged the people of Lawrence, that on the 12th they attacked the pro-slavery post at Franklin. The enemy was strongly fortified in a block-house, and had one brass six-pounder. This battle lasted three hours, and was conducted with great spirit on both sides. The free-state men, at length, drew a wagon load of hay against the house, and were about to set it on fire when the inmates cried for quarter. They then threw down their arms and fled. In this engagement the free-state men had one killed and six wounded. The other side had four severely wounded, one of them mortally. The cannon taken was one that had been used to batter down the walls of the Lawrence hotel.

    A general panic seized the Missouri and other southern intruders on learning these repeated free-state successes. On the 15th the Georgian camp at Washington Creek broke up in great confusion, its occupants flying in hot haste as the Lawrence forces approached. This fort was entered without resistance; large quantities of provisions and goods taken at Lawrence were recovered; the building was set on fire and entirely consumed.

    The next blow was struck at Colonel Titus's fortified house, near Lecompton. This was one of the boldest strokes of the Kansas war. Lecompton was the stronghold of the pro-slavery party. It was the capital of the territory, the headquarters of Governor Shannon, and within two miles of the house of Titus a large force of United States dragoons was encamped. Captain Samuel Walker, a Pennsylvanian, and as brave a man as ever lived, commanded the attacking army. With about four hundred men and one brass six-pounder, he took up a position upon an elevated piece of ground near the house soon after sunrise on the morning of the 16th of August. The fight, which was a spirited one, immediately commenced, and resulted in the capture of Titus, Captain William Donaldson, (who also had rendered himself notorious at the sacking of Lawrence and elsewhere), and of eighteen others. Five prisoners, previously taken by Titus's party, were released, one of whom had been sentenced to be shot that very day. One of his men was killed in this engagement and several others wounded. Titus was shot in the shoulder and hand. Walker's cannon was loaded with slugs and balls cast from the type of the Herald of Freedom, fished out of the Kansas River, where it had been thrown on the day that Lawrence was sacked. Walker set fire to the house of Titus, which was completely destroyed, and carried his prisoners to Lawrence.

    The time occupied by this battle was greatly magnified by Titus in his account of the affair, as he maintains that he held out for six hours, and did not surrender until a wagon load of hay was brought up to burn the building. He says that he came out to capitulate with Walker when he received his wounds. On the other hand, Walker thinks the action lasted short of half an hour, which was also the opinion of Woodson, whose house was but half a mile distant, and of Major Sedgwick, of the United States dragoons, who hastened to the rescue as soon as he heard the firing, but did not reach the scene of action until the assailants had retired. Walker also states that Titus was found hid under the floor when his party surrendered.

    Nothing could exceed the consternation that prevailed in Lecompton during this engagement. A universal stampede succeeded the firing of the first gun. The stoutest and most noisy boasters of the town rushed to the river, some on foot and others on horseback, and in their fright and hurry jumped into the water to swim across. Governor Shannon, when Major Sedgwick arrived, was sought for, and after considerable difficulty was found concealed in the bushes on the river bank. He was prevailed upon to accompany the dragoons in pursuit of Walker, and after proceeding a few miles, he saw him and his army leisurely crossing the prairies. Major Sedgwick asked for orders to make an attack and rescue the prisoners. But the governor, looking at the formidable force before him, thought it better not to venture an engagement, and gave orders for an immediate return to Lecompton.

    He thence proceeded to the house of General George W. Clarke, a short distance from the capital, to ascertain whether that had also suffered damage. He found that the general had rapidly fled with his family, not taking time to remove an article or even to fasten or close his doors. Ever since the murder of Barber, Clarke has evinced an almost painful nervousness. He is exceedingly restless, and terribly alarmed at the slightest appearance of danger. Is it the ghost of the murdered man haunting the guilty soul? His house was fortified, a large number of arms collected there, and guards stationed during the nights. He was in everlasting fear of an attack from some unknown source. On one occasion, his wife had sent for a party of neighbors to protect them from some imaginary danger. It was dark when they arrived. Clarke hearing them coming, rushed out of the back door with a loaded gun, fired it at the party, and lodged its contents in the leg of one of his own friends. This is his statement of the affair. Others assert that he accidentally wounded his friend in an attempt to shoot a free-state man.

    Titus had been one of the most active of the assailants in the sacking of Lawrence. On that occasion he rode through the town, giving his orders in a loud voice, and urging on his men to the work of destruction. When Walker brought him into that town, a wounded prisoner, he compelled Titus to sit up in the wagon and look around him, and as he carried him past the ruined buildings, would stop and ask him to contemplate his work. At length, when they reached the spot where the hotel had stood, Titus was informed that they intended to put him to death, when no man ever supplicated more pitifully to be spared. After being sufficiently tormented, he was conveyed to a place of confinement and attention given to his wounds. Captain Shombre, of the free-state party, was wounded in the attack upon Titus, and died on the evening of the 17th of August.

    On that day, it being Sunday, Governor Shannon, Dr Rodrique and Major Sedgwick, visited Lawrence, as a committee from Lecompton, to make a treaty; when the terms submitted to must have been most humiliating to his excellency. It was agreed that no more arrests should be made of free-state people under the territorial laws; that five free-state men arrested after the attack on Franklin should be set at liberty; and that the howitzer taken by Jones from Lawrence, should be restored; upon which degrading conditions, Titus and his band were released, and permitted to return to Lecompton.


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